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

Monday, February 2, 2015


When I went to Seminary I thought I knew a lot.  Then I took the Bible Competency Exam from Asbury and realized I really didn't know anything.  Further study under some amazing teachers and Biblical Scholars affirmed my lack of knowledge.  Three years of A's in all my courses (except undergraduate Greek ... that's another story for another time) again left me believing I knew a lot.

Some of the congregations I have served in that 20 years haven't challenged that assumption of knowledge.  It is interesting that the congregations that felt they were most intellectual were actually the ones with the least actual and practical Biblical knowledge.  Those having one (maybe the best) leadership trait, humility, were the ones with the most real and actual grasp of the Bible.  Those that thought they knew the most knew the least and those that thought they knew the least actually knew the most.  Sounds a bit like "the last shall be first and the first shall be last" [Matthew 20:16]. Go figure, God was right yet again!?

What I am saying is this.  Many of you have an air and attitude of humility.  You pitch in where needed.  You serve in the lowly places.  You don't mind getting your hands dirty.  You don't mind being last.  And because of this you might be surprised to know that you know more than lots of pastors, lots of Seminary students and (pretty often) me.  Thanks for being people who allow me to cast an idea out over the living water of this congregation and see how it flows, grows and morphs into a really good plan.  You are so much smarter that I am about many things!

Thanks for being servant-minded, seeking the best for God's use of the people and facilities of this place called Abbeville UMC.  Thank you for getting Philippians 2, having the mind of Christ and hearts of humility!  Randy