Monday, June 26, 2017

Admiration and Practice

Sacrifice and forgiveness are powerful things when mixed together.  I wonder why we have so much difficulty with both?

Here's my take on these two essential parts of our Christian walk.  There's a difference between admiring something and practicing it.  We admire sacrifice ... it is well-remembered during our patriotic celebrations.  Movies like Braveheart and The Patriot remind us that our freedoms are a very pricey commodity, bought at great cost.  Acts 7 reminds us that our freedom as Christians came at the cost of martyrs and heroes that stood tall in the face of death itself.  We admire sacrifice and consider it a virtue.  But when we come to the point of sacrifice, how do we react?  That reaction is the difference between being a fan of sacrifice and a player in the game of sacrifice.  William Wallace, Benjamin Martin (The Patriot) and Stephen, in Acts 7, were heroes ... Randy is a wimp.

And forgiveness??? ... it seems to be the same dynamic.  We marvel at how Corrie ten Boom, a Dutch watchmaker who was imprisoned for aiding Jews in WWII, forgave her captors who harmed her and her family.  In The Hiding Place she states, "there is no pit so deep that He (God) is not deeper still."  Her view of God and her faith in Christ got her past hate, fear, regret and revenge.  Her God was bigger than those things.  We admire her and we admire Stephen as he faces his accusers and follows his Master, forgiving them for actions that will bring about his death.  But when faced with the discomfort of interacting with someone who has wronged us or forgiving someone who has misused us, we let our pride overcome our actions.  Corrie ten Boom and Stephen are heroes ... Randy is a wimp.

Here is my choice.  I can keep worshiping a god who is unable to lead me into the fire of sacrifice and the humiliation of forgiveness.  I can keep following my god that tells me I cannot suppress my pride enough to sacrifice and forgive.  I can tell that god that he and I will be just fine being unforgiving of others and unforgiving (and guilt-ridden) of myself.  Or ... I can enter the freedom of life with a God that can follow me into any pit I or my world has created and lift me out, setting my feet on the solid ground of Christ.  My burden will be lifted and freedom, already bought by Jesus, will be claimed.  Randy

Monday, June 19, 2017

Salt and Slaw

Some of you know I like to cook.  It is just one of my things.  My dad taught me the love of cooking.  When I cook it is one of the ways I remember him.  One of dad's recipes that he passed down to me was cole slaw.

I like all kinds of cole slaw but my favorite is oil/vinegar-based cole slaw.  I love the tangy flavors all mixed together in what is culinarily defined as pickling.  I have some of that slaw in the fridge right now and it will not be there long!

One day I was enjoying some of my slaw and suddenly had a very salty taste in my mouth.  I had hit a little pocket of undissolved salt and it effectively ruined that bite of slaw.  Too much salt is not good in any recipe.  All you taste is salt and it fails to bring out the flavor it is made to enhance.

I believe this is why Jesus (Matthew 5:13) uses salt as a description of His people.  He tells them, "You are the salt of the earth!"  They exist to add flavor and to do what salt does best ... to enhance what is already there.  What a great analogy of the Church!  God has placed all kinds of people on this earth. They are His creations.  Our tendency is to find people like us and hang out with them, gathering a group that is homogeneous.  We get very comfortable and sometimes lethargic as we hang out with all the other "salt."  I think God doesn't like this dynamic.  He wants salt to be spread out and flavor the whole world.  So the Church, in Acts, is scattered.  God allows discomfort and hardship because God's goal is to see that salt spread out far and wide ... over the whole world.

I believe God is still doing this.  I see it in the good things happening at Abbeville UMC as we spread salt around the world ... at CR, on Wednesday night, at the Boys and Girls Club, through Backpacks for Friday, embedded in our apportioned giving, in Belize and into the very fabric of life all over the world.  We are called to be the salt of the earth.  We bring out the good taste (gifts, graces, goodness) in those people we touch with our lives and ministries.  And it tastes divine!  Randy

Monday, June 12, 2017

Byron and Bears

I went to high school with a guy named Byron Baily.  He was a really nice guy.  He was quiet.  He smiled a lot.  He didn't generate any unnecessary drama.  When I saw Byron on our football team I was surprised.  What position would this quiet, reserved and gently person play?  Middle linebacker!

I watched across the line as Byron smiled, trained and worked to become better.  When a receiver or runner went into the zone covered by Byron, watch out ... pain was on the way!  Byron was dangerous.  He hit like a truck.  He ran very fast.  He was one main reason our team only lost one game that year.

As I read Acts 5:17-26 I thought of Byron.  The Church was doing great things.  People were healed, the needy were cared for and the Word was preached.  The Church smiled a lot, and I believe God smiled along with it.  Who could have a problem with such gentle and nice people?  How about the Jews who didn't like the "People of the Way" (Christians) being the Church God envisioned (chosen people)?  How about the Romans who heard about a King and Lord who was not Caesar?  How about business people who lost profit when demon-possessed meal tickets were healed and no longer were the side-show that earned them money?  How about artisans who sold carved images of gods that were different than the God of the Christians?  To the Jews, the Romans, the business interests and the artisans, the Church was dangerous.  And so they were.

Acts, at this point, begins to tell the story of a scattered Church that becomes fragmented and threatened.  But like a bear when the cubs are threatened, the Church became something else.  It became dangerous.  Yes, dangerous to the powers-that-be.  But also dangerous to those who embrace it.  Because following Jesus and being the Church costs our connection to the world's way of doing life.  Life, liberty and freedom are always dangerous in a world that wants to direct us, control us and keep us penned-up.  But the Church is meant to live in the dangerous and unbound land where people are healed, truth is proclaimed, poor are fed, and love is lived.  AMEN!  Randy

Monday, June 5, 2017


Healing in the Scripture never ceases to amaze me with the depth and breadth of its meaning.  Jesus, as s man expects healing says "Your sins are forgiven." Job is healed in body, spirit and materially as all he has lost is restored.  But we, as the simple humans we are, seem to associate the healing (even in the Bible) with the person doing the healing (though God's word tells us otherwise).  So I prefer to think of Biblical healing as three things ... supernatural,  unidirectional and restorational.

In Acts Peter and Paul and the body of Christ (the Church) are involved in numerous healings.  some of these raise the dead. People are impressed as they always seem to be when they see 'signs and wonders.'  I have seen these in my day and we often walk away impressed but are soon puzzled when the next person we love dearly is not healed in the way we desire.  We are surely impressed, but we are quick to question God and even get angry and hurt.  We forget that part of God's supernatural nature includes our inability to understand Him.

We also forget healing happens to point in one direction.   Jesus said that direction was God.  The presence, caring, involvement and engagement of God in the world is shouted when these healings take place.  Paul and Peter talk of God's power.  Jesus said he healed a blind man so God's glory would be experienced by people.  Healing, like all miracles, points to God.

But healing also happens to bring restoration in the midst of human pain.  Rich Mullins says that we meet the real God in our frailty, our brokenness, our darkness and our exasperation.  He recounted that if God had not brought him to the edge he would have never seen or thought he needed God's restoration.  And, of course, that is a need we all have.

Thanks,  God, for your power, your direction, and your meeting us inside our brokenness.  For without that need we might never see you.  Randy