Monday, April 30, 2018


This coming Sunday (at 9am) we will have the blessing of a testimony from a person God is leading from the throes of addiction.  Teresa Anne Garrard-McGuire from Broken Chains JC Motorcycle Club will share about her journey battling addiction, fear and abuse.  We will be celebrating how God breaks the chains that bind us and how we can invite God deeply into our hearts, our lives and our bodies.

"Gviyah" is the Hebrew word for body.  In 2016 deaths in America attributed to opioids (just one drug grouping) totaled 42,000.  In America 88,000 people die each year from alcohol-related causes.  When you see these statistics (both from the CDC) you realize that they dwarf reported deaths from things more "popular" such as military deaths in Afghanistan or deaths from 'active shooters.'   I am not saying we shouldn't be concerned about these other things.  I am just asking ... are obscure deaths related to these issues less popular because they are less important or do they happen in places where cameras and reporters would not dare to come?  Yet, God says all these people (the world and the fullness thereof) are His!

I hope we will all come to pray, worship, celebrate and listen to what God is doing in lives of people all around this country.  Remember that God cares about the places His Spirit resides (He literally lives in this temple called 'Gviyah).'  God created the people who are represented by those statistics and He did not make them flippantly or carelessly.  Their loss is a loss to humanity and to us.  Their victories are also ours.  So when we share testimony about saved lives, broken chains and redemption, we share about God's amazing work and His passionate love for us ... a love that follows us to the very gates of hell to bring us out of that dark place. 

Charles Wesley wrote, "Long my imprisoned spirit lay, fast bound in sin and nature's night; Thine eye diffused a quick'ning ray, I woke, the dungeon flamed with light ... My chains fell off, my heart was free; I rose, went forth and followed Thee ... My chains fell off, my heart was free; I rose, went forth and followed Thee."  Go thou, and do likewise!  Randy

Monday, April 23, 2018

What Kind of Goose?

Geese are trashy birds in my estimation. One of the funniest things I ever saw happen to my father involved a goose.  Dad was wander around the perimeter of a lake we were fishing and he was looking for a good place to go down to the edge of the lake.  He saw a place he thought was good and started for the water when a giant goose raised up out of the cattails and hissed, aggressively lurching at him with that long neck.  Dad thought he was being attacked by a snake and he made short work of backing back up the bank of the lake.  I was watching and laughing.

"An geadh-glas" was the Scandinavian word for it.  It means "wild goose" but the Celtics used the word for the Holy Spirit.  What a perfect thought as we approach Pentecost and the "flight" of the Church.  For that is a perfect description of what happened.  The Church flew off in multiple directions, taking flight to land in places all over the world.  It was a wild Church .... it was a free Church ... it was ordained and filled with the Spirit of God.  Soren Kierkegaard writes a story about geese ... here it is ...

"A certain flock of geese lived together in a barnyard with high walls around it.  Because the corn was good and the barnyard was secure, these geese would never take a risk. One day a philosopher goose came among them. He was a very good philosopher and every week they listened quietly and attentively to his learned discourses. 'My fellow travellers on the way of life,' he would say, 'can  you seriously imagine that this barnyard, with great high walls around it, is all there is to existence?
I tell you, there is another and a greater world outside, a world of which we are only dimly aware. Our forefathers knew of this outside world. For did they not stretch their wings and fly across the trackless wastes of desert and ocean, of green valley and wooded hill? But alas, here we remain in this barnyard, our wings folded and tucked into our sides, as we are content to puddle in the mud, never lifting our eyes to the heavens which should be our home.

The geese thought this was very fine lecturing. 'How poetical,' they thought. 'How profoundly existential. What a flawless summary of the mystery of existence.' Often the philosopher spoke of the advantages of flight, calling on the geese to be what they were. After all, they had wings, he pointed out. What were wings for, but to fly with? Often he reflected on the beauty and the wonder of life outside the barnyard, and the freedom of the skies.

And every week the geese were uplifted, inspired, moved by the philosopher's message. They hung on his every word. They devoted hours, weeks, months to a thoroughgoing analysis and critical evaluation of his doctrines. They produced learned treatises on the ethical and spiritual implications of flight. All this they did. But one thing they never did. They did not fly! For the corn was good, and the barnyard was secure!"  

What kind of geese are we?  Are we barnyard geese, domesticated and owned by all the things that give us shelter, comfort and safety?  Or, are we an geadh-glas flying free, unbound by the world but being the agents of salvation for all who live on this planet?  Good question!  Randy

Monday, April 16, 2018

Holding On

Romans 12:9 is a wonderful verse that is a simple, direct and practical rule for living life.  In The Message version of this passage Paul writes ... "Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good."  There's some good food for our daily bread in this passage.  How are we doing following this in our society?

I have to say our societal direction seems pretty reversed from this passage.  We seem to be running from the things that would save us.  We run from any mention of God in our schools. We run from societal values that our society deems 'prudish.'  We run from the people who tell us we are going the wrong direction.  We put real or perceptual distance between us and people tell us we have embedded prejudice that must be excised.  We run from truth that doesn't come in the packages we like to claim for ourselves.  We run from preachers who tell us our priorities are out of whack with Scripture.  We sometimes run from God's call to be in our church on Sunday to hear what God has to tell us through fellowship, preaching, teaching, serving and giving.  We say, "I am just needing a day to rest," forgetting that God had that figured in to His call for us to be in His house.  As I write this blog I hear our bells playing God Bless America.   And I am wondering whether we truly buy in to the lyrics we love to sing, "stand beside her and guider her, through the night with the light from above."  We SING about our guidance and light coming from above ... but do we follow our song with action?  Paul says, "run for dear life from what is evil," but do we?

Paul also gives us a very positive verse here in this short verse.  "Hold on for dear life to what is good!"  What are the things we should hold on to?  Paul said, "hold on for dear life to good." Where do we find these good things?  One place is in God's law He has written on our hearts and in our minds. "I will put My law within them  and on their heart I will write it ... for they will all know Me from the least of them to the greatest of them." writes Jeremiah (31:33-34)."  Don't claim ignorance ... God has imparted this into our very being and we know.

Another place to find good is in the truth of God's Word.  No wonder Satan whispers little things to drive a wedge between us and church where we hear and discuss God's teachings.  So when you hear those temptations to avoid corporate fellowship (and those church-hypocrites), teaching and preaching, remember what Paul says ... "run for dear life to what is good."

A final point ... in that passage from Romans Paul uses the term "run for dear life."  Do we take this seriously?  I know I am guilty of glossing over this wording, but Paul reminds me this is a life and death issue for ourselves, those close to us and our children.  Run TO those things that are guiding us by God's light from above.

I believe it is time to start claiming our inheritance, which includes God's leading through the dark places we encounter.  If we mean the words, "Land that I love," let's love her enough to become the light, the city on a hill and the followers we have been called to be.  Let's hold on to good!  Randy

Monday, April 9, 2018

The Baby and The Bathwater

All of us have heard the saying, "Don't throw out the baby with the bathwater."  This phrase, originating from a German proverb "das Kind mit dem Bade ausschütten" (1512) reminds us to keep our perspective when we are getting rid of things we think are no longer useful.  We can dehumanize people and dismiss the good with the bad.  We can try to cull out the bad and end up culling out the good.  We can pull up the tares and end up destroying the wheat crop.

Matthew 13:24-30 contains some wisdom that is hard to apply but valuable when trying to deal with an imperfect world.  In the parable a man plants a garden but as his crop of wheat grows, so do weeds that look just like the wheat.  The farmer is told to let the crop mature and at the harvest, allow the gatherers to separate the wheat from the tares.  Good advice for the farmer and good advice for us.

Three things to learn (at least) from this story.  First, there are tares growing in every field.  There are those who miss the point in every church, ministry and denomination.  I have heard concern over ministries like Samaritan's Purse because of high paid leadership.  I also know of the on-the-ground passion of Ed and Arita Lemas as they disciple tens of thousands of children through their ministry with Samaritan's Purse.  While I can't exactly tell the wheat from the tares (not in my pay grade) I know what I see and I know what is happening on the ground.  While I am here I will support Ed and Arita's ministry, knowing that tares grow in all parts of our ministries.  Let's stop the talk and focus on what God is doing ... let the wheat and the tares grow together!

Second, I have learned that we will drive ourselves crazy trying to separate the wheat from the tares.  People who have been vital to the work of the Church have disappointed me.  People I would have placed in the category of tares have pleasantly surprised me.  I have decided I am totally inadequate at figuring out who will ultimately be (long-term) the most effective in God's work.  So I encourage them all to jump in and see what God will do.  Because the old song of forgiveness is true ... "With arms wide open, He'll pardon you, it is no secret, what God can do!"  Let God's plans play out ... and let the wheat grow with the tares.

Finally, our 'categorizing' people into wheat and tares gets dangerously close to playing God.  I have learned that I should leave things that are God's to God.  Jesus said (regarding the Roman coin) "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's; and to God the things that are God's (Matthew 22:21)."  We sometimes forget that ministries, churches and (especially) people are God's.  We do the best we can to be discerning, efficient, productive ... all good things ... but we must never forget that God's plan is the point.  We must ask ourselves "Is God's work and mission being accomplished, sometimes in spite of flawed people and 'tares'?"  I say, let the wheat grow with the tares ... God will sort it all out in the end ... "das Kind mit dem Bade ausschütten."  As Forrest Gump said, "That's all I got to say!" Randy

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Long Line of Love

In August, 1987 the song "Long Line of Love" was the #1 country single by Michael Martin Murphy.  It was a great song that reminded me of the events of this past week.  We shared community last week as we met on Thursday for communion.  We ALL met.  Because the United Methodist table is open to all who come in the name of Jesus to share the cup of remembrance, forgiveness and love of a Savior who died for us.  We grieved Friday over the love of Jesus and Tina and I sang "How Deep the Father's Love for Us" which says, "It was my sin that held Him there, until it was accomplished, His dying breath has brought me life, I know that it is finished."  We shared the certainty of God's love and forgiveness as we waited for Sunday.  On Sunday morning we met with the Abbeville Community at the Sunrise service and we remembered the story of the Resurrection as we sat with friends and family who have shared life with us over the years.  And Monday we claimed the love, redemption and resurrection of the Cross as we remembered a friend, a son, a father and a creation of God that had returned to his heavenly Father.  All of this reminds us of the long line of love that God weaves into the tapestry we call time ... we truly do come from a long line of love!

Two thoughts about this song and the tune we call life that either rhymes with this world or with the Kingdom of God.  First, in John 21 we find the disciples returning to the familiar vocation of fishing.  This was probably good therapy after the events and confusion of Easter.  Yes, Jesus had risen and these were sightings and stories, but where was Jesus now?  So they fished and probably turned last week's events over and over in their heads.  Jesus comes to the shore and meets them in their natural setting.  And, as they meet him over a fish breakfast, He talks about love.  "Do you love me?," He asks Peter three times.  He reminds Peter that love is important ... both phileo and agape.  The first two times Jesus uses the 'agape' word (unconditional love) to ask and Peter uses the 'phileo' (brotherly love) to answer.  The third time Jesus and Peter both use the 'phileo' terminology.  Jesus is reminding Peter that the question God wants to know from each of us is, "Do you love me?"

But I wonder if a second point is being made here?  I have heard this passage preached many ways.  Some point the finger of accusation at Peter.  Some talk about Jesus' teaching on love.  Some talk about the sheep and lambs that are referenced in the passage.  I wonder if another harder point is being made?  We pigeonhole love into the traditional Greek categories that include storge' (empathy), 'phileo' (brotherly/sisterly love), 'eros' (physical/romantic love) and 'agape' (unconditional love).  I wonder if our relationship and connection to God changes all of them into something different?  We tend to say that agape love is Godly love but I am coming to believe that all of these loves are from God, invented by God and ordained by God!

At the funeral yesterday I heard many statements and conversations about love.  Some were friendship.  Some were the connection made through common empathy.  Some were in the eyes of those who had very intimate relationship with the deceased.  And some were that timeless unconditional love that spans time, events, geography and even death.  And isn't that what Jesus is saying?  That we are, by our connection with Jesus as His disciples and church, changed from the corrupt and cheap loves we spend time, energy and money pursuing?  That we become new creations able to transform all of these secular types of love and become catalysts of another love that shines beyond our mortal bodies?  That love  ... the long line of love taught, imparted and required (Micah 6:8, Luke 10:27) by God for those who are called by His name ... shines and becomes most evident at those times when things are confusing, difficult and oppressive.  I think it is why the song has the lyrics, "forever's in my heart and in my blood ... yes, I come from a long line of love."  Yes, we come from a long line of love! Randy