Monday, April 24, 2017

What We Can Be

I see it in relationships.  I see it in churches.  I see it everywhere!  A barrier.  A stumbling block.  Something that stops greatness in its tracks.  An unasked and unanswered question.  "What would Jesus want this to be?"

In Matthew 16 Peter is having an intimate conversation with Jesus.  He confesses that Jesus is "the Christ ...  the Son of the Living God!"  Jesus says (paraphrased) "Great!  You go Peter!  I can build the lived-out body of Christ on that confession and even the gates of hell cannot prevail against that kind of power!"  If that conversation doesn't get your blood going, you might check your vital signs!  That is verse 18.

By verse 22 we begin to see the problem.  Jesus tells the disciples what must happen for God's plan to be fulfilled and Peter responds ... "Lord, this shall no the unto thee!"  Jesus says, "Satan ... get thee behind me" to Peter.  The change in tenor is the reason for this blog today.  Peter's comment was the reason why we encounter the barrier, the stumbling block ... the thing that stops greatness in its tracks.  We want what we want rather than wanting (and actively seeking) what Jesus wants.  We want our plan ... because God's plan is hard, painful, dangerous struggle.  How do we live out our faith beyond this barrier?

Tony Evans says the solution is pretty simple.  Tony suggests we start adopting Jesus' model of the Church if we want to be part of a Church that prevails against the gates of hell.  He remembers the words "Without me you can do nothing!"

Last Sunday I walked down the hall to what I pray will be a revamped Sunday School class having power, influence, prayer, love and life.  We were going to discuss how the class would move forward and become the very best it could be.  There were some technical issues discusses, but those can always be solved pretty easily.  The human issues are the more complex ones.  As I walked I thought about this question ... "What would Jesus want this to be?"

Jesus' answer was a class full of eclectic people form all walks of life, coming together so they could learn about Jesus' plan for their group.  It reminded me that in Matthew 16 Jesus talks about the Church being an amalgamation of little rocks bound together for the work of God that will not be stopped by the gates of hell.  I am excited that these "little rocks" have come together and are listing for marching orders from Jesus.  I got one email and another call that has added 3 people to the class just today!  I hope they will ask every week ... "What would Jesus want this to be?"  That plan will work for the class, for their daily issues, for their relationships and for their lives!  Randy

Monday, April 17, 2017


The real question from Jesus to the rich young ruler is pretty simple.  "What are you willing to trade for life in God's kingdom?"  In Mark 10:17-27 a man runs up to Jesus.  There is urgency and expectation in his voice.  "Good teacher ... what shall I do to inherit eternal life?"  The ensuing conversation is one of those watershed moments in the Gospels.

Here's the gist.  The young man desires to "inherit" God's kingdom. This is the first point ... to inherit you must be related.  Maybe he should have asked ... "Jesus ... how do I become your relative."  Jesus has already answered this question pointing out that those that are related to Him are those that follow what He says.  The young man responds that he has kept the commandments of the law of Moses.  Here is his (and sometimes our) first mistake.  Only Jesus can truly fulfill the law of Moses but Jesus calls us beyond those laws.  "The law says ___ but I say ___ ."  Jesus fills in those blanks with some pretty difficult things.  One of those things is what Jesus says about what we possess.  I wonder if Jesus is thinking ... "Why are you wanting to inherit more ... you have everything anyone could possibly want?  Do you intuitively know that something is lacking and that there is an emptiness in you?"  Jesus looks at the man and points out "One thing you lack ... you are possessed by your possessions.  So choose your inheritance.  Will you attach your life to the stuff you have or will you attach yourself to me as your relative?  Will you trade your stuff for a relationship with me?"

Many of us look at this story and say, "Yea ... that's right!  The rich young ruler goes away sad because his possessions own him!"  Since we view ourselves as having little then we are able to look down on the rich young ruler and judge him harshly.  Let's take an honest  step back.

We all have things we can trade in for a better and more Biblical relationship with God.  How about our time we spend addicted to our devices?  Do we think it honors God that we take hours daily on all the "apps" that have a hold on us?  I just blocked several people on Facebook because 90% of my notifications came from them.  I like them and love them as friends but really ... should I care that they are chillin at the mall?  By the number of posts I can see (and really everyone but them can see) that they are addicted to their devices, their apps, their games and their digital interaction.  How about trading some of that time in for Godly interactions like mission, church, family and watching your kids grow?

And while I am pointing fingers I can turn that around and point at myself.  Sports?  Fishing?  Football?  Hunting?  Television?  You can add any time-killer you like.  But I hope you get the point.  The rich young ruler is being asked to trade in the worthless for the worthwhile.  He is being asked to trade the temporal for the eternal.  He is being asked to become a full and alert participant in life the way God intends ... not the way Google, Facebook, TV Networks, Advertising Agencies, Political Parties, Governments and Special Interests intend.  Becoming a trader is waking up and seeing the world as it is ... not as we are led to think.  That's my take ... what do you think? Randy

Monday, April 10, 2017


It has gotten cooler over the last few weeks.  Yesterday it was 45 degrees when I set foot in the door of the church.  It is great weather with cool mornings and warm days.  Last night I even had stew, a winter meal.  As I ate I thought about the goodness of the mixture of meat, vegetables and seasonings.  Since I cook with "a little of this and a little of that" no batch of stew is quite the same.  But it is good.

The simplicity, wholesomeness and basicness of stew is something I relish.  When I was in North Carolina last month I marveled at the consumerism, the competition and the glitz of many of the churches I passed.  I know during Easter it will be a full-on push to provide the entertainment that our society so craves.  Last night I watched a special segment of 60 Minutes about how the consumer electronics industry is totally focused on capturing and keeping our attention on our devices, using hi-tech methods such as gaming-technology to basically addict us to our electronics (cell phones, computers, gaming devices).  I'm sure none of you have seen this trend.  But as I drove by those churches I wondered if the church is any different?  There is nothing basic, wholesome or Biblical about some of the consumerism we encourage as Christian congregations.  I wonder why we are so caught up in the "show" that we seek another show rather than the reason for the show?

During Holy Week, the week before and including Easter, I will relish another kind of stew.  I will enjoy our people at AUMC and all of our interactions.  I will enjoy the simplicity and wholesomeness of our Maundy Thursday Service (7pm Thursday) where we remember the first communion that Jesus called a "New Commandment."  As we worship there will be a "stew" of people from all walks of life, perfectly seasoned and mixed by God's hand.  On Friday (7pm) that mix will continue as we ask a musical question, "Were you there?" at the Tenebrae Service.  We will do our best in both of these pure worship times to tell the story of the Cross and allow you to experience the highs and lows of this very Holy Week.  I hope simplicity and purity of intent continues on Easter morning as we approach the level ground of the Cross.  We want to be that place (the Church) Paul was a true "stew" where there are no distinctions among people ... just a rag-tag gathering of fellow beggars looking for the bread of life.  And we will find that bread in Jesus ... a perfect compliment to the stew of the Church!  Randy

Monday, April 3, 2017


One of the traditional songs of the Easter season (especially Palm Sunday) is what most deem a children's song.  "Tell me the stories of Jesus, I love to hear!"  The song, written by William Henry Parker was inspired by a question of a child in a Sunday School class that said, "teacher ... tell us another story."  The song is a reminder of the power of song and story as children from 5 to 95 can readily sing this catchy tune.  The story of that 1st Palm Sunday is both joyful, poignant and troubling.

People welcome their "king who comes in the name of the Lord" into Jerusalem.  There are disciples that obediently go ahead of Jesus to secure the services of a donkey's foal from an owner who loans out the foal on the word of scrubby disciples who say "The Lord needs it." People spread palm branched down in the street and spread their cloaks on the road to welcome one who has filled their minds with expectations (mostly way off base).  The Pharisees are troubled and ask Jesus to tell the people to stop (bad politics you know).  Jesus tells the Pharisees that if the people were silent that the rocks would shout out.  Jesus weeps over a city that has missed the point and proceeds into the temple driving out the cheating merchants.  By the end of THIS story Jesus has managed to either confuse or enrage most everyone in town, all in a matter of 18 verses of Scripture.  It was a solid days work for the Son of God ... whew!

Like most Biblical stories we see this one through simplistic glasses and with the same critical analysis we would employ to watch a television show.  Meanwhile we do what the people of Jerusalem had done for Jesus' entire ministry ... we miss the real story and the deep things that are going on here.

There is the story of Jesus' expectation as he, and some of the disciples, know that this situation is both dangerous and deadly.  The religious leaders are locked and loaded to destroy Jesus and have been waiting for this moment.  The Romans are at the end of their patience with the turmoil and rebellion happening in Jerusalem ... the Homeland Security Advisory System is on red alert.  The people are expecting mighty and powerful acts of God because they have listened to leaders who have either misinterpreted or ignored prophecy.  The disciples are afraid and confused and, I'll bet, very uncomfortable with all the attention, especially when Jesus ups the ante by poking a sharp stick in the eye of the powers that be.  And even Jesus' expectations are tempered by the human longing for a way that avoids what He knows will be painful, embarrassing an lethal.

The point is, I could write volumes on each of the subjects above.  The story is complex and convicting of almost every human character.  And what's worse, all of the negative behaviors in this story are behaviors we must share and own.  We are those that misunderstand Jesus wanting a God that does what we think is good and right.  We are those that praise Him one day and betray Him the next.  We are the ones who watch by the Via Dolorosa confused about what to do for this man who calls Himself the Son of Man.

I invite each of you to come and share these stories.  We will sing the songs of the season and hear the Scriptures that tell what has been called the greatest story of all.  Come Palm Sunday (April 9) at either service and we will examine the story of the Triumphal Entry.  Come Thursday (April 13) at 7pm and we will tell again the story of the Last Supper (in this place and with your church is where you are called to be).  Come Friday (April 14) at 7pm as we reflect on that dark day on the cross.  Come Saturday (April 15) to Judi Cassidy's as we gather and fellowship with our children, expectantly waiting for Sunday.  Come Sunday (April 16, 9am or 11am) and celebrate the Risen Christ.  Let God's Word lead you to the knowledge that this story is personal.  You are in the story and your life, reaction, obedience, rebellion and (hopefully) salvation connect you to the tree of life and the God of Scripture that was, is and is to come.  Randy