Monday, December 28, 2015

The Point

Sometimes we miss the point.  I sure do!  We get caught up in the process and forget that the way things end might be more important.  I was watching a football game yesterday.  One coach had a plan to impose his team's will on the other team.  The other team had a plan to both oppose and confuse the first coaches plan.  The second team's plan worked like clockwork.  But the first team's coach stubbornly continued to apply his plan even when it didn't work.  That team lost in a landslide!

We get beliefs in our heads.  We have been told things since we were children and believe hanging onto those beliefs have virtue within themselves.  We fail when it comes to looking at those beliefs as they relate to Scripture and we find that our game plan seems lacking and dysfunctional.  This happened many years ago when generations were told that slavery, prejudice, sexism, the murder of Bible translators, the Crusades (you get the point) were somehow sanctioned by God's Word.  We are still paying the societal price for those blunders.  Our playbook and God's playbook didn't match.

Sunday (as we examine Revelation 7:1-17) we will examine several end-times options. Some will be what you have been taught for generations (this will be different for different people in the congregation).  Some options will make you feel good and give you hope that you will be spared from tribulation suffering.  Others will ignore the tribulation as symbolic.  After we look at these troubling ideas I hope you will understand what that first coach forgot.  The point of the game is to be prepared to do whatever God calls us to do so that we end up on the winning side.  In other words ... BE READY.  What I present Sunday will be interpretations of the end-times that have been constructed by people.  Each one of these people is sure that their "plan" is right and consistent with Scripture.  But let's apply some basic logic ... they can't all be right.  So our call, I think, is to know that God's Word, through the Revelation, gives us hope and assurance that God will end this world at some point and that God will call His people home (however that happens).  Let's hang our hats on following that God's Great Commandment ... "love God with your heart, soul, mind and strength, and your neighbor as yourself."  Seems to me that this game-plan will get us safely home to the best victory of all.  Not the victory of being right but the victory of belonging forever to Christ.  That end-game is worthy of pursuit!  Randy

Sunday, December 20, 2015

What If?

That's the question we will ask on Christmas Eve ... What if?  It is a good question but tonight I want to approach this question from a vastly different direction than you might expect.  Here goes ... what if God can be trusted?

I ask this question on an evening when I have shared some difficult news, anger and tears with some of my faithful during the past few days.  And I ask this question remembering one of the most amazing Christmas miracles I have ever experienced.

In the hustle and business of the Christmas season one of my member's 6-year old son got off the school bus and was promptly run over by an SUV.   The driver was in too much of a hurry to slow down.  A woman prayed for Chase at the scene.  A sister claimed she sent an angel to accompany Chase on his scary trip in the helicopter. Chase (the boy) was airlifted to Pensacola and when his mother arrived she saw her son with tire tracks across his back.  Three days of diagnostics, tests, poking and probing yielded a clear diagnosis ... Chase had a bruise and some soreness but there was absolutely nothing else wrong with him.

How and why was Chase healed?  Why have others not received that healing? Why did illness visit our family when we are getting ready for Christmas events?  Why did friends die this year?  Why is my father no longer with us?  Why did other friends receive such great news and diagnosis?  What if, in the midst of all of these events, God can be trusted to sort things out in a perfect way?

I think this question and (at least my answer) is why one of my favorite hymns at memorial services is "Now Thank We All Our God."  Here are some of the words ...

Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done, in Whom this world rejoices;
Who from our mothers’ arms has blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.

The song reminds us we are "on our way" from one place to another.  God can be trusted to be our guide on that trek and to get us to our destination perfectly.  Whether the world throws us something our body can't handle, whether God answers a healing prayer with a miraculous "yes" or whether His bigger picture gives me an answer I really don't like, I am sure of one thing.  I can trust God ... completely, eternally and joyfully.  Randy

Monday, December 14, 2015

Special Appearance

On a Dillard's ad for the Christmas Season the words read ... "From December 14-21 Dillard's will be having the largest sale of the year ... just in time for Christmas! There will be a special appearance by Satan between the hours of 5pm and 9pm for your kids!"  Now THAT is truth in advertising!

I wonder ... do we wade into the Christmas chaos, kids in tow, and expose them to a level of materialism, greed, envy of what other people have, overspending, overeating (I am soooo guilty), over-stressing and over-reacting?  In a sense, we take them (and ourselves) into a place where we expose them to a "special appearance by Satan" ... all in the name of Christmas (note that Christ word in that larger word).

Christmas comes from the Old English words Cristes moesse, 'the mass or festival of Christ'. The first celebration took place in Rome about the middle of the fourth century.  Note that this is the festival of Christ!  It might be a good time to remind ourselves it is about Jesus!

Here's what I am going to pray and ask for your thoughtful reflection.  "Lord, please allow your Spirit (not the spirit of this world) to fill us up this Christmas.  Teach us that this is a time to excel in giving, serving, loving, caring, laughing and receiving your blessing of peace.  What we see at malls and the excesses of this season is not peace ... it is an open invitation for all the wrong things to fill our hearts and lives.  Send these negative things away and bring in the baby of the manger, the simplicity of the stable, the quiet of the night, the peace of being thankful, the good weariness of hands busy doing your work and the light of the God who brings life and light to everyone.  Let us compare our daily lives and actions to your call to a place and life of peace ... and let us choose wisely.  Give us more of You and less of anything that will pull us away from this time when we remember your great gift and ultimate sacrifice for us.  Thank you for being God With Us, Mighty God, Wonderful Counselor, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace.  May You govern us and may we rest our burdens on Your shoulders.  May Your governance of us never end.  Amen!"

Monday, December 7, 2015

Everlasting Father

It's still a mystery to me
That the hands of God could be so small
How tiny fingers reaching in the night
Were the very hands that measured the sky
Hallelujah, hallelujah
Heaven's love reaching down to save the world
Hallelujah, hallelujah, son of God, servant King
Here with us, You're here with us
This Joy Williams song (done by the praise band Sunday) expresses some of the same ideas we find in the 1st Chapter of John when John tells us the Word (Jesus) was there from the beginning and that the Word was both with God and God.  John goes on to say that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

This passage is both remarkable and challenging to me.  It is remarkable because the beautiful transcendence of God is shown by His ability to enter our situation and wrap Himself around our frailty, our poverty, our uncertainty and our problems.  Yes, it is amazing that the tiny hands of Jesus measured the sky but it is even more amazing that God, in Christ, became small enough to come into the lives of people like you and me.  He truly walks with us because He lives in us!

The passage is challenging because I have a tendency to lower God to my position and status.  This is partly because God does truly care about my individual issues and problems, but I drift attitudinally toward the natural conclusion that life is somehow me-focused.  "God wants what is best for ME!" ... is very true, but never forget that what is best for me is for God's kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven.  My needs, my "good" is under the overall umbrella of God's overall plan.  Never forget that the servant king that is here with us serves a master higher, greater and more worthy than my petty needs.  Jesus serves the Father in purpose, direction and eternal destination.  My part in this is to make sure, by emulating His servanthood, I am on His path toward that purpose, direction and eternal destination.  Our Everlasting Father was here in the beginning, is here in the present and will be here even after this patch of dirt and this frail body becomes dust.  

Monday, November 30, 2015

Mighty God

We heard last week that we, as God's Kingdom people, have a wonderful counselor that is able to guide us through this world in a way that leads us home to God's place.  This week we will learn that we have a Mighty God that changes everything in a profound and wonderful ways.

God appeared to Joseph (Matthew 1:18-23) and led Joseph into viewing his life and situation differently.  He reminded Joseph that followers of Christ don't avoid issues ... they confront them.  Joseph faces his fears, his untrue expectations and his internal emotions and makes a decision that follows God into His plan.  God gives Joseph new possibilities and new purpose, founded in God's ultimate purpose and covenant.  God also changes Joseph's position from one wandering through life without a shepherd to a man who can truly say "The Lord is my Shepherd!"

I pray for these changes as we go through this Christmas season.  I pray you will face your problems and issues face on and allow God to lead you to a solution.  I pray that you will have open eyes to see the possibilities and purpose of God and the feet to follow God where He leads.  I pray that you will accept the position God offers you as part of a Church that Jesus sends out to offer hope, peace, grace, power, love and the true joy of Christmas.  I pray that you will, as Joseph did, see Jesus' arrival as a fulfilled promise of a perfect God.  Randy

Monday, November 23, 2015


OK ... this effort is a little rabbit trail from my usual blogs, but I wanted to make sure I thanked you for your generosity on this week when we give thanks to God for His provision.  Did you  know that when God gives and provides for his people, God often uses something very special as the delivery mechanism?  That very special thing is God's people planted in this fertile soil to grow and become blessings.

Most of you know that my guitar was stolen earlier this year and I have been using a loaner instrument from Bob and Melba Lisenby as my "go to" guitar for several months.  I am very appreciative of Bob and Melba for their sharing of their abundance so that I could offer my part of the music ministry at Abbeville UMC.  Two weeks ago Lee and I were able to go and find a new guitar that replaced the old one and all of you have given either prayer or resources so that this purchase could be made.  I am writing today to say thank you for being amazing and generous people,  I will be playing the new guitar in church on Sunday mornings, in the nursing home, on Wednesday night and at other times when God grants the chance to minister through music.  This gift is such a blessing to me and the best part is the relationship I share with you (the givers) and with others who are part of the music ministry at Abbeville UMC.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart!  May you have a joyful and God-filled Thanksgiving.  Randy

Monday, November 16, 2015


The holiday season is upon us.  It has come upon us quickly, but I still have had time to reflect on the wonderful people and events that God has sent in the past year.  One of my members has been posting a daily list of things to be thankful for and I felt that I should chime in on a few things before the Thanksgiving week.  Here is an incomplete list:

1.  I am thankful for the innovative, faithful and fruitful people from Abbeville that have blessed me in so many ways.  Servants who make Thursday Nights wonderful for Celebrate Recovery ... doers who thought of a Mount Up For Missions trail ride (and then they pull off this amazing event!) ... music people who share their voices/instruments/soul as they bless us in worship of a great God ... people who invite us to serve and push us into a better understanding of what life with Jesus means ... unseen people who do things quietly yet love all of us out loud ... friends who are there in the ups and downs of life, sometimes unseen but always in my heart.

2. I am thankful for those who have bravely battled debilitating issues like cancer and death of loved ones, still serving, giving and living life forward, knowing that God has good things out there for them and those they love.

3. I am thankful for the love of family ... Lee, Stephanie, Christopher and grandkids ... all part of God teaching us to do life in the midst of struggles and challenges.

4. I am thankful that though my father left this world this year he had a place to go ... a place a loving God had prepared for him and a place of perfection, healing and eternal goodness.  And I am grateful for God's care for my mother in the days that have followed Dad's death.

5. I am thankful that you, who are reading this, have given me the grace to sometimes share a good word, knowing you have to slog through a lot of rocks to find a precious stone of some value.

6. I am thankful for Christ, who enables me to do things that are difficult (sometimes impossible) because of His power and strength and provision.

I am thankful!  Randy

Monday, November 9, 2015

75% or 100%?

I have often wondered about the pervasive negativity associated with the Revelation.  While the book contains images of tribulation, destruction and end-times happenings, I tend toward the idea that this book is the sure hope of God's victory over all manifestations of evil.  It is the unveiling (though an often symbolic one) of Jesus as the way into the Kingdom God has prepared for His people.  Yet, as we see every day in news reports, newspapers and conversations, the 75% of our rhetoric is about the bad things going on around us.  Dickens said "It was the best of times and the worst of times" but we all think our times are the very worst ever.  So it is natural that Chapter 6 of the Revelation starts with the opening of 4 seals, 3 of which (75%) are not good.

There is a white rider released ... good and redemptive in John's narrative view of the world.  Jesus is not overcome by the rebellious world ... He is victorious.  Then there are three riders that represent the destructive nature of the rebellious order.  Red is for Satan who is permitted to hold a sword for a time to remove peace from those who are part of the fallen/rebellious order, Black is for famine that represents the fallenness of the economy of the rebellious order and Green is for Death that represents the fallenness of humanity (a fallenness that can only be redeemed by the blood of the Lamb).  In each case the tribulations are only permitted by the authority of the Lamb who beacons them forth.  This passage is certainly (if taken by itself) scary and negative.

But let's keep our focus.  We live in a world, society and sometimes even church-related hype that points to the 75% bad.  But maybe we should rely on the Jesus who moved Paul to write "in al these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:37-39)."  The question is ... does God's love for us (100% of the time) sustain us through 100% of the things Revelation Chapter 6 speaks about and does God's provision trump evil's destructive last gasp before God puts an end to it forever?  For me I claim the blood of the Lamb that opens the scrolls, no matter what the scrolls unleash.  Maybe the point of this chapter is to encourage us to live in God's peace, God's economy and God's redemption. Randy

Monday, November 2, 2015

Being a Blessing

The three words above describe a God-stated, Covenant-driven purpose for God's people.  Genesis 12 describes God's view of what the children of Abraham ought to become ... "all peoples on earth will be blessed through you (Genesis 12:3)."  That was God's plan for the Jews.  That was God's plan for Jesus.  That is God's plan for the Church (that's you and me).  The next three words are how Abraham responded ... "so Abraham went."

Maybe I am a master of oversimplification, but I believe that this calling, purpose and passage are pretty simple.  God says "you will be a blessing (His idea)" and Abraham goes off to do what God has asked.  I wonder why we get confused about that?  Is it that we must construct doctrine that says, "You gotta pray this prayer," ... "You gotta believe these things that people have made foundational (though God hasn't)," ... "You must be conservative or liberal," ... "You must be part of this megachurch," ... and on and on.  All of this makes our faith, our doctrine, our "foundation" all about us.  What about God?  God says, "all peoples on earth will be blessed through you."  Abraham says, "Yes" and he went off to do what God had said.

I want to make a suggestion to you about your day today.  Ask yourself ... "How can I be a blessing to the people God places in my path?"  When you think of an answer to that, go do it.  Pretty simple?  Yep!  Randy

Monday, October 26, 2015


When the New Testament (especially Paul) makes reference to the saints I ask three questions.  Who are the saints?  What makes them saints?  How does this apply in my life?

In the movie "Saint Vincent" Bill Murray is an irreverent, cursing, seedy old man who weasels his way through life on the edge of every situation.  He gambles, drinks, chases women and doesn't mind taking money from a single mother in need.  Yet, a little boy in the movie takes the time to see past the warts and finds a war hero who had traits worthy of what the boy called "sainthood."  It was "cute" but in the church we call this works righteousness.  Biblically, the saints are those who are God's redeemed (Revelation 5 calls them "purchased for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.").  So, first clue ... sainthood is not earned, it is conveyed by the work of God.  And the saints are those who have received and acknowledged God's great gift to them.  Sorry Vincent ... you didn't mention God's work or grace a single time so (though my vote doesn't count) I wouldn't grant you sainthood even if your good works outweighed your bad works.  That isn't the point.

What makes people saints is their connection to the God that has purchased them from everywhere for God's good purpose.  The purchase was made at the cross when God's offer of forgiveness and salvation were enabled by the sacrifice of Jesus, the lamb who was slain in Revelation 5.  Again, God's work has enacted the chance for salvation, and sainthood is enabled by our acceptance of this gift.  Saints have realized their fallenness, understood their separation from God, seen God's action and plan on their (and all people's) behalf, accepted God's gift by acknowledgement to God and accepting Jesus' Lordship, repentance that leads to becoming a new creation and submission to God's sanctification (a continual process of God bringing us from who we are today closer and closer to the likeness of Jesus).

How does this apply to me?  There are several clues to this in Revelation 5.  1) There is the expectation of God bringing all things into alignment with His final plan.  John weeps when he thinks God's plan cannot proceed ... 2) There is the vision of John seeing God's work happening in spite of what we perceive from an unreal and untrue world (faith is belief in God's true but often unseen things) ... 3) There is willingness to hear and sing a new song (yep, the ultimate and permanently-appropriate music from the throne of God) ... 4) There is acknowledgement/acceptance/participation of God's sufficiency and authority to get His plan rolling and send my plan packing, ... 5) There is understanding that as God's chosen "kingdom of priests" we must continually be a place where people connect with God (those tribes, peoples and nations meet Jesus through God's saints), ... and 6) We worship (that is the reaction of the 24 elders to what is happening ... submission in worship).  So saints ... what is competing with your following the actions above?  Is it your schedule, your plans, your recreation or just your stubbornness?  For me it can be all of the above, but if I want the fullness of life in God's plan, life in sainthood seems to be a way to that plan.  And all of your movie goers ... Jesus didn't say emulate Bill Murray ... Jesus said "follow Me!"  Randy

Monday, October 19, 2015


That is how I feel a lot of the time in ministry.  It should have started sooner but I am a little dense, so when I arrived at Seminary I felt like I had a pretty good grasp on things.  My calling was clear and I was motivated to jump into studies and ministry with both feet.  Two things happened that changed my view forever.  The first was meeting Dr. Bauer.  He was teaching Matthew and as he taught I realized the vast expanse between his level of knowledge and mine.  I was completely inadequate and ill-equipped for the ministry I had jumped into.  The second thing that happened was my first church-related death.  I walked into the hospital room and everyone looked at me for what I thought were words of comfort and hope.  I was totally inadequate.

Over time I learned some things about inadequacy.  The first thing I learned is that inadequacy is a good place to look up at God.  In Revelation 4 we find worship around God's throne by a group of inadequate servants.  They are worshiping around God's throne and John (a totally inadequate scribe) is describing a scene where only one is worthy of "glory, honor and power."  They are all looking to Jesus and expectantly wait for what will happen next.

The second thing I learned about inadequacy is that when we realize we are inadequate we seek guidance, leading and help from a God who has a handle on what should/must be done.  John says, "You created all things and by your will they existed and were created."  That kind of God can give us leading during all times of our lives and can equip us for every good task He has planned for us.

Finally, I learned that my eloquence and perfect words were not what is needed in a hospital room full of hurting people.  They don't need the perfect prayer, the perfect cliche' or the perfect preacher.  They need Jesus, hopefully clothing and wrapping me in His presence as I come in and offer them the only adequate thing, Christ.  They need a Jesus that listens to them, weeps with them, places a hand on them and uses every moment to start the healing process.  They need mourning, grieving and stories shared through tears and laughter.  They need a God who is so mighty that all of His children can stare death in the face and sing, "Now thank we all our God, with hearts and hands and voices."  Paul wrote some great words on the subject ... "He said to me 'My grace is sufficient for you for power is made perfect in weakness.' So I will boast all the more gladly of my weakness, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me." [2 Cor. 12:9-10] ... I think those words say it all.  Randy

Sunday, October 11, 2015


The story of the church in Laodicea (Rev. 3:14-22) unfortunately mirrors God's understanding of a human trait that is pervasive, universal, destructive and evil.  I believe it is the reason Jesus seems so upset and angry at the people of Laodicea.  This trait is reflected on the playground where one boy lords over another saying "I am bigger, stronger or faster."  It is found in the cafeteria as girls talk about who is prettier, more cunning, more popular or just better.  It is found in corporate America and radical Islam alike as pecking orders are established for manipulative reasons.  It is in India in the caste system and Brazil as luxury high-rise apartments look out on slums of unimaginable poverty.  It is even found as street gang members one-up other members to establish superiority.  You can call it what you like.  Snobbery, elitism, prejudice ... but it lives in the back of all of our minds, trying to express itself in our daily lives.

A church in an affluent town tries to do just enough so that they can be looked at as "good."  They believe they are rich and they are sure to dress for the part.  They believe they are visionary and see their world clearly.  They have all they need.  "Church" is the thing to do and the place to be.  They are "better than" those people who are not as blessed, not as rich, not as smart, not as socially adept, not as sharply dressed and not as connected.  But Jesus says they are "poor, miserable, blind and naked."  The good news here is 1) we can learn from this church (our faith must never be lukewarm or watered-down [v.16]), 2) we can realize God's love for even these snobby pretenders ("I discipline ... everyone I love" [v. 19]), 3) we can listen for Jesus knocking on our door so we can open it and let him in ("I stand at the door and knock" [v:20]) and 4) we can learn we can only get things of eternal value from God ("I advise you to buy from me!" [v. 18]).  That is part of the good news.

The other part of the good news here is encouragement I get every week from you.  I watch many of you immerse yourselves in the lives of people who are less fortunate than you.  You don't seem to care where those people come from.  You serve them, invite them into fellowship, laugh and cry with them and I believe you show them the Jesus who loves them through you (and God loves you dearly for loving those "other" people).  New Jerusalem (the place God has made for His people) has been, is being and will be a place where you will gladly serve God and worship with fervor and favor.  For Laodicea the door is closed and Jesus is asking them to open it so He can come in (v.20).  For many of you, the opportunity to dine, fellowship and listen to Jesus is a daily blessing.  New Jerusalem is challenging, uncomfortable, beautiful, real and true life with/in Christ!  Randy

Monday, October 5, 2015

Trials and Love

In the Bible there seems to be a direct connection between the presence of trials and the assurance of God's love.  Moses experienced God's love thru the trials of his calling to lead a stubborn nation through desert, battles, 40-years of time and numerous demonstrations of faithlessness.  Gideon bravely led the deliverance of his people but he did it through the horrors of war and battle.  Disciples struggled past unbelieving people, misleading Jews, harsh Pharisees and angry politicians to travel the road God planned for them.  This is part of the reason why I appreciate the encouragement God gives the faithful churches in Revelation.  They are the most praised and yet the most persecuted. Maybe God knows something we should know but refuse to hear.

Here is my take regarding the things we don't want to hear or just refuse to see.  First, I must repeatedly remind myself that (as God tells the church in Philadelphia) there is more on God's side of the open door than there is on the world's side of that door.  Jesus tells us He has opened a door that no person will shut.  What is on God's side of the door?  For Philadelphia it is blessing that is both the struggle of the life in Christ and the joy of sharing God's love in the dangerous world of the Roman Empire and the Jewish leadership.  It is peace in the storm of a messsed-up world.  It is having Jesus both now and later.  It is living in freedom and living toward an eternity that is filled with the beauty and vastness of God.  It is Job perceiving the love of God that is high, wide, deep and unfathomable.  There is New Jerusalem both now and in eternity.

Second, there is a certainty that God is bigger than my struggles and, in fact, is glorified by our perseverance.  Jesus is proud of this little church that has little power in worldly terms but has great power from God's view.  And I will bet that the people of Philadelphia find numerous and overflowing blessings in just doing the work of God out of the limelight, immersed in meaningful relationships, involved in worthwhile ministry and in tune with God's plan which happens on God's side of that door.

Finally, it is telling that all of the accolades above (Philadelphia, Gideon, Moses, Disciples) come IN (not preventing) the crises endured by the churches and people.  We ask, as we hear the news, "What is the world coming to?" That answer is, "Our world is coming to God.  It isn't ever about us.  It is always about how God's glory happens through God's people.  It is coming to a decision at an open door.  We can live and serve and love on God's side of the door (New Jerusalem), or we can complain, isolate ourselves, protect our stuff, dole out our doctrine and pine for the 'land over yonder,' as we live in Fallen Babylon." To the seven churches God provide a chance for a decision to serve and an opportunity to repent.  But remember ... that offer has an expiration date.  Hope to see you on the good side of that door!

Monday, September 28, 2015


When I worked in Louisiana I had a shop foreman named Alfred.  Alfred could cook as well as anyone I ever met, but as a shop foreman Alfred did not bear witness to good habits.  He was cranky, lethargic and lazy.  While work went on outside of his little cubicle (cluttered, unkempt and air-conditioned) ... Alfred would live out each day in relative comfort.  Meanwhile his employees were in 98 degree heat, 98% humidity and working beside a levy of the Red River ... bugs, heat, sweat, and general discomfort.  The employees (though not stellar themselves) resented Alfred.  But the worst thing Alfred was prone to do was take numerous daily naps.  He hated to get awakened by things like broken down equipment, a mechanical crisis or a visit from the General Manager (me).  That is probably why I loved to visit Alfred frequently, usually making enough noise to wake the dead (it was sometimes hard to determine if Alfred was living or dead).  So it was with a little church in Sardis, Revelation Chapter 3, verses 1-6.  Jesus judged that little church as being dead (though they talked as if they were very alive).  I remember reading a book by Jim Cowart in which he described many of our churches as "livin the life" on a long cruise filled with food, fun and play.  In his book Jim reminded us that we are not designed to be a cruise ship.  We are structured to engage the enemy, rescue the sick and lost and be a place of healing.  We can choose to be like Alfred (asleep), like Sardis (dead), like that cruise ship (oblivious) or like Jesus' Church (engaged and involved).  It's our choice!  Randy

Sunday, September 20, 2015

From Within

It is notable that when we review history we find that the majority of civilizations don't fail because they are destroyed by some outside enemy.  They are, instead, destroyed by something that comes from within.  Growing up in the 60's I understand this as I think of the music idols that have lived and died while the world watched.  Jimi Hendrix ... a gifted and immense talent ... died from a drug overdose.  The list of other musicians dying of drugs is vast.  Rudy Lewis from the Drifters.  Jim Morrison from the Doors.  Gram Parsons from the Byrds.  Elvis Presley, the king of rock and roll.  Whitney Houston ... and I could go on and on.  Fame, money, attention, worldly honors were just not enough.  All of these musical giants were brought down from within.

 So it was with the church at Thyatira.  While it wasn't drugs, immorality and idols were the issues for Thyatira.  A woman in the church led some of the people astray by telling them she possessed "deep secrets" that were hidden to others.  This Gnostic theme would plague the Church for decades and it would bring suffering and pain to those in that congregation in Thyatira.

C. S. Lewis writes the best treatise ever about the workings of internal evil as his "Screwtape Letters" describe the daily work of a demon and that demon's apprentice.  Lewis' demon advises ... "Keep his mind on the inner life. He thinks his conversion is something inside him and his attention is therefore chiefly turned at present to the states of his own mind ..."  All of those artists, and possibly the Christians at Thyatira, were caught up in thinking about how they could feed their internal desires ... the desire to know more than the next person, the desire to allow their bodies to feel the pleasures they deserved and the desire to believe in something they could control (idols).  Maybe we should learn from them and remember that when we focus on God and others we fulfill our purpose and mission in life, and we find peace and fulfillment.  I think the Great Commandment was right!

Monday, September 14, 2015


I will admit to hating conflict to the point of sometimes failing to deal with it.  This is a hard admission for me because I love people and sometimes conflict and confrontation are the path to good outcomes.  On Thursdays our Celebrate Recovery meetings include 8 principles based on the Beatitudes.  If you read the Beatitudes closely they are immersed in the conflicts we face in life ... submission to a greater good/power, properly expressed grief, placing ourselves in a position of humility, giving up time and energy to seek God's path of righteousness, having mercy when our spirit wants revenge, choosing purity when more pleasing options exist and (a biggie) making peace when other actions are more natural.

Our Revelation church this Sunday is Pergamum.  The people of Pergamum have many of the conflicts listed above.  They live in a place Jesus calls "Satan's home."  One would think that Satan would embrace and promote an atmosphere of conflict.  But often Satan leads us to just do nothing about issues that internally destroy us.  For example, Christian Life Resources reports that since 1973 there have been over 50 million abortions.  There have been 200,000 drug overdose deaths in the US since 2000 ... some of these have impacted people right here in Abbeville.  The US ranks (in Ranking America) 14th in Education and 23rd in Science Scores among ranked countries.  Do we ignore and tolerate these issues or do we oppose them? Pergamum chose the path of tolerating sinfulness within the midst of the Church.  Maybe they choose to say "Why can't we all get along?" or  "I just don't want to get involved."  I see a lot of that these days.  And what Jesus reminds the Church at Pergamum is that we can oppose these things now (when they are small) or have greater conflict later (when Jesus personally comes to oppose them with the "sword of His mouth"[v. 2:16]).  I remember the old Fram oil filter commercial that says "you can pay me now or pay me later." 

I wonder if we have (in our families, our state and our nation) decided that the path of no conflict is, in itself, a solution.  My dad told me something very wise about this.  He said, inaction is, in itself, a path of action.  Some things are worth conflict.  Let's remember that Jesus found our salvation and redemption worthy of conflict and a "hill worth dying on."

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Sharing Christ's Journey

How can we share Jesus' journey?  We talk about sharing the Bible ... God's Word, and that is good.  But remember what John 1 said ... "In the beginning was the Word (meaning Jesus) and the Word was with God and the Word was God."  So ... when we share God's Word, aren't we supposed to share Jesus?  And how can we share Jesus if we are only observers of His journey?  Here is my point.

I hear people say "I love the Bible!" or "He/she really loves Scripture!"  This might be true, but do you grasp what the Bible and Scripture are asking of us?  These are not words on a page to be solely read, memorized and observed.  Jesus desires that we participate and live in them.  For if we share His journey, we walk His path, live His life, see through His eyes and hear through His ears.

The people of Smyrna got this loud and clear.  They understood that God's purpose and Jesus' plan did not deliver us from suffering and struggling for our faith.  In fact, they are commended for their following Jesus (as is expressed in Hebrews 13) "outside the camp."  Here are the words of that passage ... "So also Jesus suffered and died outside the city gates to make his people holy by means of his own blood.  So let us go out to him, outside the camp, and bear the disgrace he bore!" [Hebrews13:12-13].  As I think of all of the pop-theology and "land-over-yonder" thinking about God anesthetizing our pain as a primary part of His plan, I am reminded of John 17's prayer of Jesus in which He asks God NOT to remove His followers from the world but to protect them from Satan.  In this prayer and the words before and after, Jesus tells His followers they WILL have pain, suffering and heartache, but that He has overcome all worldly things on their behalf.  There is nothing the world can throw at us that Jesus cannot redeem.

If you love the Bible and Scripture, remember that our love for God's Word means we love Jesus enough to understand that following Jesus means we do suffer, struggle and strive, because we will eventually arrive at our home with/in Him.  Thanks be to God!  Randy

Monday, August 31, 2015


I heard a message on conflict that had some worthwhile tidbits for all of us in God's Church. When Priscilla and Aquila heard a young and brash Apollos speak they did a masterful job of confronting his doctrinal failings in a beautiful and encouraging way.  They called him aside, they expressed encouragement, they did not raise a stink and they DID all they could to maintain his ability to go out and become what God had called this young man to be.  I hope we will learn from their example that the Biblical way of dealing with conflict (going straight to the person) should always be our norm.  We are to bear each other up in life's great times and life's failings.  Thanks for listening!  Randy

Monday, August 24, 2015


Our spiritual life is truly a balance.  This is true for us as individuals and as corporate bodies (congregations).  Two components of that balance are correct belief and correct action.  As Jesus speaks through John in Revelation 2 we find a description of this balance.

The congregation at Ephesus is given good marks for their attention to orthodoxy and keeping false beliefs and teachers out of the church.  They test their teachers against the foundation of God's Word and they expel falseness.  That is a good thing.

However, it appears that the church had become a bastion of doctrinal correctness but also inattentiveness to God's first priority, love.  Paul, in 1 Cor. 13 tells us that without love our prophecy, eloquence, knowledge and even our faith is lost in nothingness.  Jesus said that WITH love of God and people we would be true to all of the commandments of God.  I think they are onto what the Ephesians had lost ... the true # 1 thing.

I believe what is being said in Revelation 2, 1 Cor. 13 and Jesus' "Great Commandment" is that the flow of our faith, our ability to teach, our ability to win others to an understanding of God and our worship must necessarily flow from a love of God and people.  This is the foundation upon which our doctrine and our orthodoxy rests.  Without love it all blows away like (to quote a famous song) dust in the wind.  That is precisely why Jesus Himself tells the Ephesians that failure to get this right will result in Jesus removing their lampstand ... they would cease to be part of the Church.  WOW, love must be really important as the foundation of correct action!

Monday, August 17, 2015

The Artist

Will you watch the Potters hand moving in and through the clay
a vessel not yet born, through His gift transform, into a thing of beauty.

Do you love the way, a summer sunset’s painted on the sky
oh how the eagle dances when he flies, and if you find you’re silenced
by the beauty that surrounds us, wait until you meet the Artist.

You come from a secret place, where fear and wonder meet
woven together, in the image of our Maker, you are His masterpiece.

Do you love to hear the poetry of a mother’s lullaby, or the music in a newborn babies cry
and if you find you’re humbled by the beauty that surrounds us, wait until you meet the Artist.

Do you love the way, a summer sunset’s painted on the sky, or the music in a newborn babies cry
and if you find you’re humbled by the beauty that surrounds us, wait until you meet the Artist.

These beautiful words by Geoff Moore (The Artist) are from a wonderful, classical song in which God is viewed as an artist molding the people and world around Him.  As we prepare for God's double-edged sword of words to the 7 Churches of Asia, we see the stark contrast of how each church views their world and how God sees their life-context and their witness in the world.  Those who are proud are brought down.  Those who are tired and weary find a God who sees and praises their work.  Those who are trying to straddle the fence find a God who is angry at the clay pot he has formed.  Jesus has invested His life in forming and equipping His Church.  Let's listen together as the Master's hand forms and shapes ... encourages and warns ... reveals and exposes ... tears down and builds up.  Solomon was right ... there is a time for every purpose under heaven.  Randy

Monday, August 10, 2015

Beyond Sight

As Christians we are believers in things that are beyond what we see with our eyes.  We believe in faith, "Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see" (Hebrews 11:1).  We transcend the obvious to see people with the eyes of Jesus, seeing past their flaws and into their possibilities (Jesus told the woman caught in adultery that He didn't come to condemn her).  We believe that God can forgive and change us, claiming God's designation of us as new creations.  And, we believe that God wants us to find Him, though that search is sometimes clouded by daily events or our idols and priorities.

John (Revelation 1:10) is worshiping "in the Spirit" on the Lord's Day (Sunday for these new Christians).  John hears a voice commanding him to "Write in a book everything you see."  The vision that John experiences is vivid, textured and difficult to describe (note that John uses the term "like" often because he does not have words that adequately describe what he sees).  This vision has appeared out of a normal worship time and a normal worship experience.  But sometimes we forget something beyond our sight happens every time we gather for worship.  God is present, active and available in the context of worship.

I wonder ... what would happen to this people called Christians if we grasped this truth and lived accordingly?   What if we really believe and are really open to the God who is truly present in our daily lives and especially in our times of worship?  Would this knowledge allow us to see visions and dream dreams (Joel 2)?  Would it bring us to our knees, shunning the pride that keeps us "appropriately dignified" in our worship?  Would we or could we describe the experience?  Would we fall at the feet of this God who has come to us, emerging from the fog of this world into what we might call reality?  Or ... has He been there waiting for us to emerge from the unreality of the daily grind into His glorious presence?  I hope this is a good and piercing question for all of us.  Randy

Monday, August 3, 2015

In the Title

I have been amused at names and titles that desire to tell one story and end up saying another thing entirely.  On the way to Foley, Alabama there is a church called the "Overcoming Faith" iteration of some Christian denomination.  As I processed the name I decided I would never go there.  My faith is overcome by too many daily distractions and world events ... I certainly don't need training for my faith to be overcome.

This week we will begin our first week of the Sermon Series "A Wild Ride."  The series will explore the Revelation in depth and I will be devotion time and energy to provide some extra resources.  Most of these resources will be in blog form or will appear on the Abbeville United Methodist Church website. I invite you to look for these resources each week.

As for today, I will just remind you that John, in the Revelation, makes a point to address the main point when he says,  "The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants" (Rev.1:1, NKJV).  The book reveals the nature ... the mission ... the passion ... the cross ... the victory of Jesus Christ.  Jesus, and the story of Jesus imbedded in the Jewish narrative, is the point.  So come to hear about Jesus.  Come to learn and dialogue.  Come to hear, not about the end of all things, but the beginning of a reality that will go on for eternity.

I am excited to take this journey with you.  I pray you are excited too!  Randy

Thursday, July 23, 2015

A Wild Ride

In Revelation 1 John is worshiping and "in the Spirit" when something happens. He is carried into a vision in which he receives images, commands to tell, visual actions of other characters, pictures of things no person has ever seen and direct communication from God.  John's experience, written down by God's command ["write in a book what you see"], is our book, "The Revelation of John."  One version shows this title as "The Revelation to John" (probably more correct).  But the best title is given in Chapter 1, verse 1, "The Revelation of Jesus Christ ... "  

I am amazed and amused at how many people want to know about this book.  Rooms of books and commentaries have been written down.  Millions of sermons have been preached.  An ocean full of speculation has been expressed.  I wonder if much of this is what one of my professors called, "a spiritual bubble bath a mile wide and an inch deep."

At any rate, I am in hopes we will maturely, cogently and completely delve into the Revelation, going deep to let Jesus, the Holy Spirit and the Bible reveal what is there ... not our pre-conceived notions ... not bad theology from movies and books ... not hyperbole from TV evangelists ... not even our traditions (we will examine which if these might be most valid).  I hope our spiritual bubble bath will wash away everything except Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

Over the next few months our sermons will focus on this last book of Scripture.  We will hear about witnesses, Dragons, horses, riders, bowls, sounds, smells and word-pictures of things that are vividly strange.  It will be a wild ride.  I hope you will make a point to be part of this teaching each and every week.  Pray that I will be God-led in what I say, teach and preach.  Randy

Monday, July 20, 2015

The Part We Miss

I am amazed at the depth and breadth of the Scriptures we have been studying.  Just a few words are able to tell us much about God and about a healthy relationship with God, people and ourselves.  I marvel at the Hebrew word for soul (Nephesh) which describes a God-breathed and God-imaged part of the people God made and loves.  The Hebrew concept of kindness means we treat those not related to us as if they were family.  I could go on, but rest assured I have loved this journey through the "Great things of God!"

This week we will explore the Great Commandment from Matthew 28.  I could preach about evangelism ... God commands us to GO.  I could preach about how Jesus imparts His authority to people like you and me, His Church.  I could preach about some who doubted and failed to grasp the blessing of belief.  But I will focus on something in this passage that is often overlooked.  Jesus did say "make disciples."  He did say "go."  He did say "baptize."  But He also commanded us to teach people to do the things he said.  This is often missed in the missional and evangelical parts of the Great Commission.  We are to teach!

This should energize all of you who are part of the teaching ministry at AUMC.  John teaches on Wednesday nights.  All of our Sunday morning teachers follow this command.  The times I embark on a teaching passage I am hopefully teaching the people what God has said, most times through Jesus.  The Great Commandment is part external, going and winning.  But it is also internal, teaching, growing and equipping.  Let's check it out Sunday!  Randy

Monday, July 13, 2015

Required Behavior

John was talking Sunday about the old "WHAT WOULD JESUS DO?" bracelet.  He said it had a good message and was a good reminder to think about how Jesus would walk through your day, your situation and your struggles.  The prophet Micah asks another question that, I believe, is largely ignored by Christians of our day ... "WHAT DOES THE LORD REQUIRE OF YOU? (Micah 6:8).  The question is both rhetorical and, in legal terms, asked and answered.  Micah isn't asking our opinion.  He isn't seeking today's wisdom that is different from the wisdom of his day.  He is doing what prophets do ... they tell us what God is saying word-for-word.  So, this is what the Lord says we must do (it is a requirement).

I will save the last part of the answer for Sunday but I did want to talk a bit about the first part of God's required behavior ... do justice (or do justly).  In the Hebrew context a judge is not merely judicial.  A judge presides over all aspects of governing.  We carry this forward in Alabama as we have a County Judge (ours is David Money) who presides over the governing process for the county.  God takes this to what I believe is the correct conclusion.  God's people are to conduct all life in such a way that God's order, justice and presence are manifested.  Most of us want to complain about government, politics and the political process.  God is saying that you and I are to judge (govern) our daily lives under God's rule. If we see a person in need we apply God's rule to help those in need.  If we see an injustice happen before our eyes, we take the appropriate action (we don't walk on the other side of the road).  Micah reminds us of a truth that our society has failed to grasp ... if God's people do life in God's way, it will make all the lives around us better.

I was watching 48 Hours, a TV show about police seeking the truth about a crime.  In this real-life setting it is interesting to watch the people who see the crime and when the police arrive they run for the protection of their home.  I think Micah would remind them, DO justice.  When good people fail to do this crime grows, criminals become more bold and justice does not happen.  Who is responsible for justice?  We are!  Government works when the people do justice.  Jesus said, if a friend wrongs you or does something that should be addressed you go to that friend.  If injustice happens in front of you, stop protecting the criminal ... because if you and I fail here, the crime will visit our own doorstep.  Micah is right.  Randy

Monday, July 6, 2015


Over the past few years it has been interesting to see how our sharing of faith has been viewed in America.  In my first years as a child I don't remember that "God-talk" was viewed negatively but it certainly has changed for the worse.  So, what should we do?

I think there are two very appropriate responses to negative people and negative press we seem to attract as Christians.  The first is pretty simple.  When God-talk is negatively viewed and even suppressed, we talk about God anyway.  Our passage for Sunday will include parts of Deuteronomy 6 in which God tells His people to talk about God when they get up, when they walk down the road and when they Go to bed at night.  Andy Andrews does this in a beautiful way as each night he prays with his kids and asks them, "How was your day?  Did you do anything you regret and need to confess?  Are there things you need forgiveness for?  Are there things you wished you had done?"  These questions call his children to reflect on God's activity in their day and to seek God's activity in the days to come.  Confession, forgiveness and dreams are always appropriate places for God-talk.

The second response is to think and reflect upon our actions.  How am I impacting those around me?  Is my witness reflective of Jesus or is it an expression of my self-centerdness?  Is my God-talk, as expressed through my actions, truly God-talk or is it ME-talk?  "God told me ___ !" ... "My God is like this!" ... "I don't think God meant that!"  Do you see how those statements frame God in a very me-oriented box?  Thankfully, God is not anything like me!

Mother Teresa had her God-talk and actions suppressed in India.  A group of officials gathered to determine how they could expel her and end her Christ-oriented work.  It seemed the expulsion would happen until one official said, "Expel her when you find someone else willing to do what she does!"  Her God-talk and God-action trumped their religious persecution.  May it also be so here! Randy

Monday, June 29, 2015


In a society where greatness is discussed as the athlete who excels or the business executive that makes big bucks for his/her company, I wonder if we know what greatness really is? We will look at true greatness over the next few weeks as we explore the great things of God.  What is true greatness?  What is brave, courageous, worthy?  Does society have it right or wrong?

These are good questions and they can be somewhat addressed by watching a sporting event.  The announcers will call Lebron James great because he raises the level of his team.  They will call a player courageous because he/she makes great plays and excels in athletic prowess.  They will proclaim a player the "king" because of skills, size, strength, dexterity or "having a head" for that sport.  But are any of these things really great?  Are the great pastors on TV or serving mega-churches?  A better question might be, what does God think is great, because God's opinion is the only one that really counts.

Why is God great?  What is great about the great commandment, the great commission, the great requirement and the great promises of God?

Maybe, great describes a person who places others before themselves.  As we celebrate our independence and freedom, lets ask, "Who are those great people that founded, affirmed and protected our freedom?"  And, who is the one who gives us true freedom?

"Let them know that you alone, whose name is the Lord, are the Most High over all the earth!" Ps. 84:18 NRSV

Thursday, June 18, 2015


Yesterday I went home at lunch and did an hour ride on my bicycle.  As I cooled-down I sat on the couch and found myself drifting off in a very short (10 min.) little power nap.  I wish I could say I plan and do this every day.  I think it might make me more productive, but usually I am moving form one place to another.  But since Wednesday is a long day (7am-8pm plus homework after 8pm) I didn't feel too guilty.  Sometimes sleeping is good.  But sometimes sleeping is not so good.

The New Testament talks about sleeping.  The message is pretty clear ... be alert!  "So be on your guard, not asleep like the others. Stay alert and be clearheaded. Night is the time when people sleep and drinkers get drunk. But let us who live in the light be clearheaded, protected by the armor of faith and love, and wearing as our helmet the confidence of our salvation. For God chose to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger on us. Christ died for us so that, whether we are dead or alive when he returns, we can live with him forever. So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing."  Paul writes these words to the church in Thessalonia (Chapter 5) in a time of strife, turmoil and darkness.  It is not unlike our times.  Last evening, while we worshiped God and studied His word from Philippians, a church in Charleston, South Carolina was attacked by a vicious, troubled and evil presence in the form of a young man.  Nine African-American believers were killed, including their pastor.

Two comments about this story.  First, we never know when that day is coming when Christ returns or when we will go on to be with God.  So be "clearheaded."  We serve a loving and perfect God in a fallen world where people are capable on atrocities we wouldn't ever consider possible.  We must be awake and sober to these events and be listening for how God would have us respond. The mayor of Charleston encouraged his community to embrace and uphold this little church in their grief, loss and recovery.  We can pray, be aware of our surroundings and become those people who respond by making our presence in the life and work of God's church felt, seen, persistent and awake!  Come alive Church ... now is the time for God's people to shine!

Second, we (as a nation) have become asleep and inattentive to the work of Satan through drugs, alcohol, gangs and violence.  Our congregation has been hit directly by this as we have been robbed of our belongings and the memories those belongings represented.  I would be willing to bet (and I think law enforcement would agree) all of these thefts (my guitar, the Navajo mission team) are related to drugs, alcohol or the violent threads being woven through the fabric of society.  People's possessions, including precious life, have become things to be taken if the perpetrator has a need, desire or whim to take them.  Personal desires have trumped the good of society.  Wake up, especially you fathers and mothers, and tell your kids that this is not how to do life.  Wake up church and teach that the world is not about self, getting what YOU want from God ... life is about God getting what HE needs from the people HE created.  Pray ... act ... love those that have been hurt and oppressed ... teach ... learn ... become examples/witnesses ... and do what the United Methodist Discipline leads pastors/leaders to do ... oppose evil wherever it presents itself.  The violence in our society isn't against those other people ... it is against people that God created. THEY are our brothers, sisters, daughters, sons, mothers, fathers ... part of that true vine called Christ.  Randy

Sunday, June 14, 2015


Persisting is an honest and necessary attribute of the Christian journey.  Much of life isn't found in the glitzy, the glamorous, the flashy, the easy, the push-button mindset or the quick rise to the top.  Life generally doesn't work that way.  Life, instead, seems to be a constant act of persisting through, past, over and under obstacles.  Those who persist seem to get to those places where God's plan and work become more evident.  Peter knew this as he encourages us to persist when it is appropriate and wait when it is necessary.

Jimmy Rane forwarded an email to me which reflected this theme.  Someone was questioning the value of being in church for the past 30 years, yet not remembering sermons, Sunday School lessons and other "teachings" that would constitute the spiritual food of the church experience.  A wise person answered the questioner asking how many meals they had consumed during that time.  They might not remember each meal (maybe only a handful) yet each meal gave them the nourishment for that day's journey through life.  Without that food, they would not have survived to ask that theological question.

I wonder ... do we take in the lessons of the sermons, Sunday School teachings and other spiritual mentoring that feed us what we need to survive each day?  Do we notice the nourishment or do we take it for granted like those meals that have sustained us over time?  What would our lives be like without that spiritual nourishment?  And ... what would our lives be like if we had listened, savored, reflected and applied those lessons?  Randy

Monday, June 8, 2015

Wrap Me In Your Arms

On our trip to Belize this past month we were blessed to be in worship with Ed and Arita Lemas in their church.  It was a great participatory worship experience as Ed led the music and the people sang with passion.  Ed introduced us to a new song called "Wrap Me In Your Arms" which expresses God's attributes of nurture, transformation and presence in the midst of our struggles. 

If you were in our worship Sunday I believe you felt and saw passion as we sang with both joy and tears.  One of our favorite people was not with us, for she has gone on ahead to God and His glory.  But we sang remembering Jackie Leddon and her legacy of singing with us.  What I believe Jackie might say to us today, the day after her funeral, is this.  There is a point and destination to what God is doing with us.  The song Ed sang says, "take me to that place Lord ... where I am changed ... where I can become more like You."  Did you know that every experience in life points to those things?  To how God will change you through today's events.  To how God will comfort you by wrapping you in His arms.  To how God (amazing for the creator of the universe to desire this) longs for us to come to Him and be held in His perfect place, just for us.

I must end this blog today with pride for the way all of the Church followed God's lead yesterday.  You wrapped Jackie and her family in your arms.  You expressed love to Ron and his friends/family materially, verbally and physically as you shouted your love for them.  Did you know that during that process God achieved His purpose in you?  For you became His hands, feet, tears and heart as you loved like He would love.  Well done!  Thanks for wrapping this family in your arms of grace, love and comfort.  You are amazing!  Randy

Monday, June 1, 2015


Last evening, at the opening session of Annual Conference, we were ably reminded of God's activity in the world, sometimes because of our faithfulness and sometimes in spite of our faithlessness.  Bishop Lowry, from Texas, spoke from Acts 12, which finds God doing miraculous things that release Peter from prison and God's Church meeting behind closed doors.  When the Church is told the freed Peter is at the door they think the servant girl giving them the report is off her rocker.  I find this story so much like the present Church.

God is doing great things and we sometimes meet and bemoan the condition of the world and our country.  Prisoners are being freed ... addicted people are being healed ... people are coming to Christ in the middle east ... Samaritan's Purse boxes are flooding Belize (YOU are part of this) ... and yet we sit, pray for God to help our nation and believe that hiding behind our safe doors will protect us from the world out there. 

Here is where I want to give you an "attaboy."  Thank you for leaving the safe places and going to our (yes OUR) kids at the Boys and Girls Club, OUR brothers and sisters in New Mexico, OUR kindred in Appalachia and OUR community to give love and proclaim the message that God still reigns.  In 2 Peter we hear negative words about those that scoff at God's activity and God's promises.  Let's continue to be doers and not scoffers.  Yes, there is plenty of trouble and danger out there.  But let's stop and remember why Peter was imprisoned in the first place.  He was cast into jail because he was considered DANGEROUS to the Jewish leadership and Roman occupiers.  He was heavily guarded because his words ( the Gospel) challenged and confronted the leaders in charge.  He was freed because God was sending a message ... "I still reign."  Let's continue to be part of that powerful kingdom of God that is still seeing miracles!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Reflecting and Remembering

I have been taught (by some hard lessons) that people are not good at reflecting and remembering. The church sacrificially helps a family ... and the family remembers when it is time to ask for something else.  A pastor walks the road of death and loss with a family and when times get difficult or the pastor has an issue it is like nothing ever happened.  Elijah might have thought about this in his depression in a cave when he, just after destroying the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18), found himself running for his life from Ahab and Jezebel.  He is tired, beaten down and he is ready for his time of service to end.  Then God asks a question.  "What are you doing here, Elijah?"

This question is a puzzle that requires both reflection and remembering.  The reflection comes when we look at the question.  Maybe it means "Why are you in this particular place?"  Why is Elijah holed up and reclusive when God has plans for him?  The question could mean, "How is your presence here doing anything productive?"  Elijah has lived his life at the calling of God and now he may be hiding from those duties and actions.  Elijah must reflect and though he gives God his sob story God is having none of it.  God says "go back" and realize that there are 7,000 who are faithful to Him.  Reflecting on the present (things are not as bad as you think) and remembering the past (what happened on Mt. Carmel as the prophets of Baal were destroyed?) allow Elijah to walk into his future and the future of Biblical prophecy.

The remembering comes as Elijah is thinking about a God who speaks to him ... remembering the God has always been there when Elijah cried out ... knowing that the God who commissioned him is still the God of a solid remnant of believers.  Remembering re-tells the story of God's work among His people.

It's easy to feel sorry for ourselves and get caught up in self-pity.  God causes us to reflect and remember so we can get caught up in His work in the world.

Monday, May 18, 2015


I am glad God works differently than our State and National government.  I have been working on a simple insurance issue that should have taken a few minutes.  In fact, the website said "less than three minutes."  BEWARE of the claims of State government!  Three minutes can be an eternity!

Thankfully God operates differently.  First, our connection to God is direct.  We are able to contact God through prayer and the Holy Spirit 24x7 all day long.  In the story of Jesus' crucifixion the symbolic and actual message is clearly sent by God as the curtain in the temple is torn from top to bottom ... pretty cool!  God removed the man-made barrier that the Jewish had placed between people and God.

Second, God does not place us on hold, give us a series of "hoops" to jump through.  As I tried to reach a real person from the State I felt like Dorothy on the Wizard of Oz having to get the broomstick of the Wicked Witch of the West.  And that is just to talk to someone.  I am thankful I can talk to God as I go through my daily tasks.  David, in the Psalms, did just that, sharing joy and failure with his best and most faithful relationship, God.

Finally, God isn't that fake person that says, "I would like to help, BUT ... "  It is deflating when you finally get to a person and find out they really don't want to help you at all ... they just want to "process" you.  Meat is processed.  Cheese is processed.  People are worth more than that! We know God is El Roi ... the God who hears.  When God hears He takes in the entire situation and does exactly the right thing (not what we ask or want always, but always the perfect thing in His plan).

I am glad for a relationship with a God I can seek, find and place my heart in His hands!

Sunday, May 10, 2015


My life has been in a bit of disorder for the past several weeks.  There has been the three week stay of mom and dad, both a blessing and a disruption of my usual routine.  Sally has been dealing with her own issues, we have been trying to get quotes on painting the church, the storm has trashed the fence at the parsonage, I have a good friend who has been diagnosed with terminal cancer ... you get the point ... I could go on for several paragraphs.  And my situation is minor in comparison to some of you.  The world seems in chaos!

Last week I was talking to one of our members about how worldly chaos is no difficulty for God.  It even says this in the first book of the Bible as God finds a world "formless and void." God brings the formlessness into a form He says is "good" and He fills the void with everything we call "creation."  Pretty amazing I believe.

When we believe our little part of the planet and our little lives are spinning out of control, I think there is a great prayer to pray.  It is simple and faith-filled and approaches God with the belief that He can make something good out of our worst situations.  It is a prayer that claims the promise in Romans 8 that God will not allow His people (those who call upon His name) to be separated from God's love He sent us in Jesus.  In a sense God is saying that sending Jesus to us is His way of repeating the goodness and purity of creation, because God is making all things new!  So my prayer is this ... "God, do it again!"

Monday, May 4, 2015


One of my professors in Seminary rightly observed that pretty much all of the heresies available to the Christian church happened in the first 300 years of the Church.  C. S. Lewis pointed out the human capacity to take something good and distort or weaken it into something harmful.  Both my professor and C. S. Lewis were mirroring the words of Peter in his second letter about truth and knowledge in the Church.  Lewis, Peter and my teacher were all concerned that Christians today have allowed ourselves to be "led away" by false teaching and false representations of the gospel.  I could write books on this topic and still not do it justice, but I will concentrate my efforts on three modern paths that lead many Christians out of God's plan and into falseness.

The first modern heresy (I know we hate that word, but it is accurate) is a new wave of Neo-Judaisers. The Judaisers in Scripture would follow the apostles (read about them in Acts an other epistles) and attempt to "clarify" their teachings.  The Judaisers would tell their audience that they could continue to follow Christ but that they must hold to Jewish customs (food, festivals, sacrifices, traditions, etc.).  Becoming good Jews would solidify their Christian following and walk.  The writer of Hebrews and the Apostle Paul firmly and clearly preached and wrote against these false teachers saying that 1) Jesus (not law, tradition, sacrifices) is the one and totally sufficient means of salvation, 2) Jesus plus NOTHING else brings us to the place where we find God's forgiveness, grace, resurrection and eternal life, 3) Jesus is exactly who He said He was ... truth, life, the way.

The second heresy is Neo-Gnosticism.  The Gnostics in the early days of the Church said that that there was special and secret knowledge that they and their followers possessed.  Peter (Chapter 1) calls their work clever stories and "slanderers of the truth."  Many have and continue to seek truth from untested, extra-Biblical sources.

Finally, probably the most prevalent heresy is "The Prosperity Gospel."  I don't often quote Ray Stevens, but brother Stevens wrote a song in 1987 called, "Would Jesus Wear a Rolex."  It is a somewhat irreverent and funny representation of the television evangelist that asks for money and buys his/her own mega home, jet and all the trimmings of wealth.  When people ask me about this I tell them to look at the people in the Bible.  How did they live and what did they look like?  Only a few prospered materially and all were asked to make heart-wrenching sacrifices.

So ... question of the week ... what does false teaching look like?

Tuesday, April 28, 2015


As we were looking at the very solid foundation of the Shalom Mission Center in Belize I noted that the foundation and basic structure of the building is concrete reinforced by steel ... the foundation of this building will withstand a lot of stress and the wind of a major hurricane.  But how strong is our foundation regarding our beliefs?

In 2 Peter, our writer reminds his people that a foundation is important if they seek to follow God and keep from drifting away.  Peter says that we should seek, learn and pursue God's Word if we are to avoid being led away by clever stories.  In our world we are inundated with those clever stories.  There is Facebook, the Internet, YouTube and a barrage of junk emails that would tell us what to fear, what to embrace and what to believe.  All of these are Peter's "clever stories" that must be vetted by each believer.  So ... what do we do?

1) We learn, pursue and meditate on God's Word, because it is truth and God's message to us;
2) We sift the things that come our way, being unwilling to be led away by clever stories, manipulated statistics and just plain lies;
3) We compare what we read to what we know about God as presented in His Word, knowing that only God will give us the truth that sets us free from lies and misinformation.

Maybe if we spent as much time in God's Word as we spent on Facebook, YouTube or the Internet, we might have a better foundation.  Randy

Monday, April 20, 2015

Christian Character

In 2 Peter we find the Apostle Peter very interested in conveying the nature of Christian Character.  When I think about that term I am reminded of the churches I have served and the people who have been leaders, servants and participants in the life of those churches.  2 Peter urges me to think about these people and how they reflected that Christian Character.

Here is where those thoughts have led me.  When I think of the people from all of those churches my first thoughts go to the people who engaged and loved others.  These people seemed to always be serving, working and loving, usually behind the scenes.  They desired no credit, no special recognition (though a thank you is always welcome) and mostly no remuneration.  All of this makes me wonder if C.S. Lewis was right.  When he pictured heaven he envisioned gentle, happy people who spent their time with those they had helped in life.  Both the faithful servants and those they served were living in a perpetual state of blessing.  Grace and goodness flowed so strong that the light from it shone with beauty and heavenly perfection.

I like that thought.  And I thank all of you who serve your church, your community and other people.  I will perpetually look forward to the time when I can tell you, in the perfection of heaven, that you have made a difference in my life and the world in general.  Thank you for being conduits of God's grace!  Randy

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Hard Work

During my time at Asbury Theological Seminary I was in awe at the depth and breadth of proper Bible study.  My professors taught with passion and fervor because they believed in the truth they were teaching and they knew that hard work would yield better understanding.  So ... they worked us, and one long strand of that hard work was 2 Peter.  Many hours, hundreds of hand-written pages, word studies and other contextual work.  But, here's the kicker ... that hard work was a blast!

When you spend time in God's Word and are willing to let all of your senses interact with the life that bubbles up between the lines, it is wonderful, exciting and beautiful, all at once.  This is why I get excited when I can share this excitement with you.  Because God's Word is alive, open to everyone who seeks, it is a very level place.  By that I mean all people can meet at God's Word and all people can be led by God's Spirit to understand it.  Like the ground at the foot of the cross, God's Word levels life.

Try out some of that work.  Over the next few weeks read and re-read 2 Peter.  If you have questions feel free to ask me via email ( ).  I will be revisiting this old friend and I will learn lots of new things ... because God's Word is alive!  Randy

Sunday, April 5, 2015


When Pastors finish the Lenten season, which comes to a climax in the Easter Morning service, it is easy to sit back and say ... "Whew. I am glad that work is complete!"  But in reality the Easter message is all about how the work is just starting. 

Part of that work is knowing what to do.  This knowledge starts with knowing the truth and falseness in each day and in the words of advice we get from friends, family and even church.  To examine this I am asking you to join me on a journey (in messages, blogs and in your own study) which will explore the little book of 2 Peter.  This book has three basic themes ... the truth about Christian character ... the condemnation of false teachers ... the assurance of Jesus' return.

Each week we say The Apostles Creed which was created to clarify the foundational beliefs every Christian should have.  The Creeds were to make sure that we did not stray from those foundations in what we believe, what we teach and what we consider important.  It will be fun to look at God's truth from the perspective of study ... I hope you will be here every week!

Pastor Randy

Monday, March 30, 2015


"Why?" is a great Easter question.  We can ask it about lots of things.

Why did Jesus need to do this?  The obvious answer is that we aren't worthy to purchase our own redemption ... we are not blameless, we are not sinless, we are not pure.  The Psalmist (Ps. 24) says "Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart ..."  I used to think that I could be this person in my own righteousness and with my own good deeds.  But I have realized that I don't have clean hands and a pure heart except through Jesus.  Only He (as reflected in The Revelation of John) is worthy.  Jesus does this to provide His sacrifice for our sins.  Easter is about God doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves.

"Why look for the living among the dead?" The angel in Luke 24 conveys a thought from Isaiah 8:19 ... "Should the living seek guidance from the dead?"  We will explore this further Sunday but it is one of the better questions in Scripture.  God says we should seek the bread of life, living water, and the one who said "I am the way, the truth and life itself!"

Here's my favorite Easter "Why?"  Why live like nothing has happened?  I think we answer this one with a myriad of excuses.  "I am too tired to get up on Sunday morning" ... "I am a good person so what's the big deal?" ... "I am perfectly happy in my life ... " ... "I need my recreational time."  You might notice there are a lot of "I's" and "my's" in those statements.  Here's my take (and I am sorry if this might step on our collective toes) ... we might live like nothing is happened because it is still all about us, so, in fact, nothing HAS happened!

The message of Easter is to wake up, don't be afraid, come and see and go quickly and tell.  Our obedience is demanded by our so-called belief.  Our actions are imbedded in what we say we hold on to.  Nothing should ever be the same again!  Randy

Monday, March 23, 2015

Holy Week

The term Holy Week is a bit of a misstatement.  It has been used by the Church for a long time but I think God might view things differently.  It is called Holy Week because it begins with Jesus' Triumphal Entry to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday (we will have 2 services, 9am and 11am).  Then on to Maundy (meaning mandatory) Thursday which is the celebration of the Eucharist and one of Jesus' last acts before His arrest (our service is 7pm).  The Tenebrae Service of Shadows (we will worship at 7pm) reminds us of Jesus' betrayal, arrest, trial, torture, crucifixion and His  death on the cross.  Then, on Sunday morning (9am and 11am) , we do have the holiest day of the year ... for we, through Jesus, are forgiven, we are victors over hell and death and He is risen!

Here is what I mean by the misstatement.  While we ARE Easter people and (as Paul said) we preach Christ and Christ crucified how do you think god would view this week as we participate, celebrate and travel the road of emotions this week describes?  Would God want us to consider this week so holy that we believe if we attend worship this week we are good for the year till Christmas?  Would God think our fixation on Easter bunnies has made the meaning of the season (pardon the pun) a little fuzzy?  Or, would God tell us every day, every opportunity for worship and Christian fellowship, every Thursday at Celebrate Recovery where there is repentance/restoration/new life, every hospital visit, every prison ministry trip, every Sunday School class, every lesson at the Boys and Girls Club, every bit of time spent in the mission God has given us, every prayer prayed with/for a friend is holy?  Carolyn Arends writes "people, not God, separates secular and holy."  She is right ... maybe every week needs to be Holy Week where life, death and resurrection happen in people because of us, the Church!  Randy

Monday, March 16, 2015

Casting Crowns

In Revelation 4:10 twenty-four elders are wearing golden crowns of glory.  They have obviously earned God's favor and a place in heaven with God.  They appear, however, doing something that teaches all of us what to do with accolades, awards and "glory."  They bow down before God (the lamb seated on the throne) and they cast those golden crowns at the feet of Jesus.  Their earned and just rewards are placed at the feet of the one who deserves ALL of the glory.

Friday night the community of Abbeville, Alabama gathered at the Family Life Center at Abbeville UMC and made a decision to do something worthwhile.  In a world where most of what we see and do each day is mundane and sometimes of little eternal value, Abbeville decided to let God have the glory and the fruits of the blessings He had given us.  It was amazing and beautiful.  As the Missions Auction progressed each item expressed some blessing or giftedness of the person who donated it.  God had provided resources or talents or a business through which a donation was generated.  A hunting trip, a week in a house or condo, a service ... you name it ... was cast down at the feet of Jesus so God could use these resources for missions in foreign places, in America or right here in Abbeville, Alabama.  It was a little taste of heaven.

I think we could have said the two phrases that appear in Revelation 4 that night.  "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty - the one who always was, who is, and who is to come."  "You are worthy, O Lord our God, to receive honor and power.  For you created all things, and they exist because you created what you pleased."  I think God might have been pleased Friday night and I thank each person who had any part in what happened.  I love it when God's people live out what is wonderfully expressed in Scripture.  Keep casting those crowns down before Jesus ... He is the one worthy of our praise. AMEN

Monday, March 9, 2015


Did you ever think about the fact that Jesus had every earthly thing we value taken from him?  What little money he had was tied up in a ministry ... not really his at all.  The guards cast lots for his clothing.  His true title was mocked and became a byword and a jeer as he died on the cross.  His friends and family were scattered.  His life bled out as his health was taken. And he was even separated from his Father.  Jesus lost it all.

I wonder ... when we have nothing but God and we reach out to our only help in times of true trouble, does God take those times to grow us, lead us, hold us and embrace us?  Habakkuk was in trouble in a nation that was about to experience destruction.  They were about to lose it all.  But they never lost God.

A few weeks back I said the name Habakkuk might mean embrace or to be embraced.  As you read, which do you think?  One ... neither ... both?

May God embrace you today!

Monday, March 2, 2015

The Problem of Pride

I think it is worth a moment to talk about one of the most dangerous and debilitating things that ever entered the world.  That thing is pride.  Pride entered our world in the Garden of Eden when Satan used pride to tempt Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:1-5) ... "God is lying to you!  You won't die if you eat that fruit.  Don't you know that God just doesn't want you to be like Him? (implying WE deserve to be in God's position)."

Pride created the crucible in which murder was hatched as Cain's pride and self-focus caused him to be jealous of God's approval of Abel.  "I work hard and keep my sheep ... I deserve better treatment!" might have been Cain's mantra.

You get the point.  I could go through story after story about pride, haughtiness, narcissism and me-focused people.  We could continue with our study of Habakkuk as we see the destruction and carnage caused by pride.  God says of the Babylonians ... "the enemy is puffed up, his desires are not upright (Habakkuk 2:4)."  God goes on to describe the nature of pride and the fruit of pride.  God's word has nothing good to say about pride ... so why do we tolerate it in ourselves and in the church?

God's Word says "Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall ... (Proverbs 16:18)" but "Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor. (James 4:10)."  I believe that is great advice for a world that wants it all right now because WE deserve it!  Time to leave the entitlement generation ... pride never ends well!  Randy

Monday, February 23, 2015


God referenced the role of Old Testament prophets as watchmen in both Habakkuk and Ezekiel.  This reference fails to carry the meaning for us as it would a 6th Century BC prophet.  But events of the past week should possibly heighten our understanding of this meaning.  Last week militant Islamic groups urged home-grown terrorists in America to focus attacks on iconic sites like the Mall of the Americas.  As I heard the report I thought of the function of watchman and realized that all of us (especially God's people) should know what a watchman does.

For Americans is behooves each of us to be observant of our surroundings and our neighbors.  Rather than living in our own little worlds (something I am guilty of) we should be aware of the needs and lives of those around us.  If something doesn't look right at least give it a second look and be willing to let appropriate people know if there is a problem.  If our neighbor is hurting we should be the first to see and respond to the need.  If there is a threat, report it.

For the Old Testament prophet, a watchman was something very normal and familiar.  The watchman was to be thorough (see all that was coming and going), awake (make sure nothing is missed due to inattentiveness) and discerning (have a good idea of what was normal and what was not).  The watchman would be posted at a gate to the city and would yell down to the gatekeepers to either open or close the gates.  Pretty simple.  But not simple for God's prophets.

For God's watchmen, they were to see the agents of God's destruction coming (in Habakkuk's case the Babylonians) and see it as a movement of God.  They were to look past the present and see to the future where God's plan would be accomplished.  For Habakkuk's contemporary, Jeremiah, this meant writing a letter to his brothers and sisters in captivity and telling them that though their situation was dire they could count on God to plan a future of hope and prosperity (Jeremiah 29).

I am praying for God's protection during these uncertain times.  I am also looking forward to God's promise of a great future for those that are his people.  And I will conclude, like Habakkuk, that whatever God sends our way will have an ultimate goal of redemption and bringing us to His place.  Randy

Monday, February 16, 2015

What Up?

I know we have all thought it ... "What up with this mess in the world?"  Because there is so much negative we can get focused on it 24-7.  I was watching one of our news networks and noticed that in an hour span about 90% of the programming was from a negative, downer perspective.  What do you think happens when people ingest a steady diet of this?  After all ... you are what you eat.  Yep ... they feel hopeless, powerless and helpless to do anything about the problems that are far too prevalent.

So ... we come to Lent, a 40-day period in which we look critically at the world around us, critically at ourselves, and we reflect.  If our entire being is filled with the negativity of the world, I can almost assure you this will lead you to some level of depression.  And this is where we find the prophet Habakkuk.  He is in that conversation with God over this worldly setting of negativity.  He's fed up and he is looking for someone on whom he can unload both barrels of his complaints.

This is where I find many of my friends and companions as we run the race of faith together.  So, we can do two things.  We can keep doing reflection and life just like we always have ... and we will get the same results (believe me, I've tried!).  Or, we can decide to change up out thought process.  This is what I plan to do this Lenten season.  For the next 40 days I will commit to reflecting on God and on my faith journey.  I will avoid the swamps of cable TV news, talk radio and the negativity people want to bring into focus.  And I will do what Paul advised (Col. 2) ... "Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ.. "  And I will listen as I look up, knowing God will answer my complaints and problems and concerns in new ways I haven't even imagined.  What up?  Christ is "above" so look there!  Randy

Monday, February 9, 2015


Ok ... admit it.  Every one of us has those complaints floating around in the back of our minds.  They are sometimes suppressed but are often they come out in unhealthy ways.  We are angry because the world is going downhill in a hurry.  We are upset because we see evil people get away with their crimes.  We are puzzled why the world seems to work in a way that evil persists.  Just remember, next time you feel this way, that your feelings and your complaints are not new, unique or even uncommon.  They have existed for the entirety of human existence and they are expressed in the pages of a little Old Testament book.

There is a little book in the Old Testament called Habakkuk.  It was written (probably in Jerusalem) in the 600's AD by an obscure prophet.  It is part of the collection of books called Minor Prophets, minor because of the amount of material.  Habakkuk, the book, is a series of complaints followed by God's answers to the complaints.  The book will be the foundation for my Lenten series of sermons this year, because in this time we reflect on the nature of life, people and God.  Why doesn't God listen to our complaints?  Why does it seem that life itself is out to get us?  Why does God tolerate wrongdoing?  Hard questions and sometimes vague answers.  And they are still our questions today.

My sermon series will be called ... Even Though.  Because God is here, God and active even though I do not see Him.  Habakkuk came to this conclusion and his prayer of trust is printed on the banners in the Family Life Center.  Read them, and you will see the hope Habakkuk had for God's faithfulness.  Take these words to heart before you buy into the next episode of negativity you hear on talk radio or TV.  Because you must decide where you will live your days.  You can wallow in fear, negativity, grief or self-pity.  Or, you can do what Paul said ... set your eyes on the things above ... all that is pure, right, holy and light.

For the Easter message is that in the midst of pervasive evil, human cruelty, betrayal, torture, corrupt courts, evil church leaders and fickle people, "Sunday is a comin!"  Praise the Lord!  Randy