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.