Monday, August 28, 2017

Three Thankful Things

I often get caught up in the activities, the events, the obligations and the "moving parts" in my week.  It is easy to start the week on Sunday with the flurry of church-related things and then wake up sometime on Wednesday and wonder what happened.  Where did those three days go?  What did I accomplish?  Was the time expended worthy of God's view and value of time?  Hard questions for a Monday, aren't they?

This week I was wondering if I filled any of my days with something that I know God values ... giving thanks.  This is an appropriate thought for this week since we will celebrate the Eucharist this Sunday.  The Greek, eucharistia, means "giving thanks,"  always a good thing when we are remembering what Jesus has done for us.  What can I do this week to both give thanks and prepare to give thanks formally this Sunday?  I think three things are always appropriate responses to God's goodness to me.

God is honored by our worship.  When Jesus struggles with Satan (Matthew 4:10) in the wilderness [some of us are there now] He says, "worship the Lord your God and serve Him only."  Jesus was hungry, tired, hurting and He had been in the wilderness for 40 days ... and He remembers that worship in times of struggle both thank God for everything and never forget that worship is appropriate 100% of the time.  Pauley Perrette (actress on NCIS) has a special prayer that is her daily worship routine ... "God, thank you for everything ... forgive me for everything."  I think God is honored!

God is thanked when we witness our faith in Him to others.  Wednesday evening we will hear testimony from several of our brothers and sisters from Celebrate Recovery.  This testimony has been borne out of struggle, trial and hardship.  Here is the beauty in this part of God's plan ... as we share our struggles and our witness to a God who has lifted us out of the miry clay God plays out Psalm 40:3 which says "He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.  Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him."  God is honored by our witness.

And ... God is honored when we thank him by serving.  The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is already working toward responding to the epic flooding in Texas.  All of us can work toward helping God's people here in several ways.  We can keep up-to-date on the ways to help by going to the UMCOR website .  We can send or fund flood buckets  to those in need in Texas.  We can work in the many missional opportunities available at Abbeville United Methodist Church including Celebrate Recovery, Belize, Red Bird, Boys and Girls Club and many others ... see the AUMC Website . God will be honored.

Worship ... witness ... work ... let's fall into Jesus and grow close to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!  Randy

Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Otherness of Love

In my pastoral work of counseling there are many common themes, but I think the number one theme is about the subject of love.  I profess that I am like the old Conway Twitty song, "I Don't Know a Thing About Love."  But I do have a friend who knows a lot about love.  His name is Jesus and His friend, the Holy Spirit spoke through Jesus' servant named Paul.  Paul wrote this down in 1 Corinthians 13, commonly known as the love chapter of Scripture.  So I will rely on Paul's wisdom, learned through the Holy Spirit.

In the 1st three verses of 1 Corinthians 13, Paul writes ... "If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing."  Two words are repeated three times ... Love and Others. Why?

Here's what I think.  Biblical love is inexorably connected to others.  The greatest commandment is about loving God with all we have and others as ourselves. 1 John 4:8 says that if you do not love you cannot know God.  And Paul says, if we don't love others we are just noise ... gaining and being nothing.

So ... all those people come to counseling and want to talk about love and what they are not getting, what they are not feeling and how they are not being fulfilled.  And I know that love is hard (Paul tells us that later in the chapter).  But what I want to shout to the world here is that love isn't ever about what we get from others ... it is about what we give to others.  Yes ... give love to those schmucks who aren't behaving like we want them to.  Yes ... give love to those people who are undeserving.  Yes ... give love to those who seem to resist changes we know they need to make.  Yes ... give love to those who are different than us.  Because love is all about others.

Many of you say, "Pastor ... you are crazy!  You have gone too far here.  Surely God would not want us to love that way?"  John 15:12 ... "Love each other the way that I have loved you."  Because in relation to God I am the misbehaving schmuck ... I am the one who is undeserving ... I am the one reluctant to change ... I am the "different" one (some of you say, "That is an understatement!).  Yet, God chose to love me anyway.  THAT is amazing grace!  That is the reason I must respond (if I love God) with praise, gratitude, service and witness as I tell others about this amazing gift God has given me ...and you.

I think Jesus would tell to do two things.  Look at how He loved.  Go, thou, and do likewise! Randy

Monday, August 14, 2017

Most Deceitful

Being a pastor I have noticed that the biggest deceiver (a tool of the father of deceit, Satan) is the falseness of our feelings.  We feel something is true, therefore we make it true by the power we ascribe to that false feeling.

I was listening to sports radio on the way in to church.  They were trying to guess the top ten most dangerous animals.  The discussion was prompted by a story about Carol Kirken, a Michigan woman who was on vacation in Tanzania.  She was tragically killed by a hippo.  Yes ... those lovable "hungry, hungry, hippos" ... the animal responsible for those cute bath toys ... rank anywhere from the # 6 to # 11 animals deadliest to humans, killing between 100 and 3,000 people per year (based on the source of the data).  While we cringe and cower over shark-week, sharks kill an average of 6 people per year worldwide (of course with the exception of Sharknados).  Fact is, the most dangerous animals are mosquitos (killing between 750,000 and 1 million people per year) and people (who directly kill roughly 475,000 of their brothers and sisters per year).  So our perception and feelings about danger are all out of whack.  Why isn't there a hippo-week, a mosquito-week or a people-week?  Truth is shattered by what we feel.

In our "Falling into Jesus" series I want to address the disconnect between what we feel in our hearts ("The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?" Jeremiah 17:9) and the truth of God's Word and plan.  In a world where we are told to "follow your heart" why do we ignore God's Word on this important issue?  I believe it is because we have been taught to worship our feelings.

People enter into litigation because someone has hurt their feelings ... God's Word says to settle with your brother before you enter the courtroom (Matthew 5:25).  People are fired from their jobs because someone's feelings are hurt by what they said ... I wonder if those filing the complaint have the right to cast that stone (John 8:7)?  We protect feelings, overly value "self"esteem and rant about how our feelings have been trampled ... all the while trampling and trashing other people who we think have wronged us.  After Jesus tells how He will "suffer many terrible things" (Luke 9:22) He gives some good advice about perspective.  "Turn from your selfish ways and follow me (Luke 9:23)."  I think the gist here is that we cannot follow self and Jesus simultaneously.  We must be Jesus-focused and other-focused.  If we are all up into how we feel about everything, we begin to get into a "self-serving" and "self-saving" mentality.  We get out of a serving others and Jesus-saving mentality.  Jesus said "if you  try to hang on to your life you will lose it, but if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it (Luke 9:24)."  No matter how much I "feel" that my issues are the most important, it just isn't true.  Listen to the stories of those around us.  Read about what Jesus did as he suffered many things for me.  Think of what our lives would be like if Jesus had followed human feelings!  Think of what your life could be if you placed feelings in their proper place ... subservient to God's truth.  Just sayin!  Randy

Monday, August 7, 2017


Do you remember that team-building thing where you blindly fall back into what you hope are arms that will catch you before you hit the ground?  I never was much for those exercises.  But I get the point about needing to trust those you work with.  We all need a place to fall.

Twila Paris writes a song about trust.  It expresses the things I wrestle with daily ...

I know the answers, I've given them all
But suddenly now, I feel so small
Shaken down to the cavity in my soul ...
I know the doctrine and theology
But right now they don't mean much to me
This time there's only one thing I've got to know ...
Do I trust You, Lord? Does the robin sing?
Do I trust You, Lord? Does it rain in spring?
You can see my heart, You can read my mind
And You got to know I would rather die
Than to lose my faith in the One I love
Do I trust You, Lord? Do I trust You?
So ... would you fall into Jesus' arms, trusting Him to catch you?  Has religion given you "pat" answers and cliche's and have things in your life shaken you down to the cavity in your soul?  Are you willing to "fall into Jesus?"
That is where we will travel together during the next month, maybe longer.  The next four weeks will ask where we stand in relation to God, how we trust feelings rather than reality and/or God, how we understand love and how we thank God for what we call His blessings.  Do we REALLY trust God or do we trust in other things?
And yes ... we can trust in a God that is even more certain than singing birds, the coming of spring rains, the rising of the sun and the turning of the earth.  THAT God can see our hearts, read our minds and can be trusted when we fall.  Jesus says ... "come to me (trust Me as a destination) ... take my yoke upon you (trust me as Someone worth carrying with you) ... let me teach you (trust Me to lead your day/life) [Matthew 11:28-30 selected]."  All of this begs a question ... what do you fall into when you are "weary and heavy laden?"  Great question!  Randy