Wednesday, May 30, 2018

El Roi

Two things are valuable to know and remember about the Hebrew name for God, "El Roi."  It means "the God who sees me."  Two things are obvious I think.  First, God does see us and God cares about our days, our decisions, our choices and how our lives unfold.  The second it a bit more ominous ... God sees and cares about what I do on a daily basis.

In this blog I will give you what I personally think about this Hebrew term.  But please remember ... it doesn't really matter what I think (or what you think) about this attribute of God.  What matters is what God thinks!  Let's cut to the chase.

On our trip I asked every member of the team to share thoughts about why they came and about their impressions of the work we did and the people we met.  We knew we left David and Pamela Knapp (Radical Life Ministries leaders) with children we had touched, loved, taught and provided for.  We knew we left them a finished roof for their workshop, a lawn mower for the property and with new relationships with a great group of people from Abbeville.  And we knew we worked very hard while we were there.  God saw every paint stroke, every drop of sweat, every hug we left those children and every thing we said and did.  God sees.

God also sees me as I struggle, doubt, and wonder "what if?"  God sees Abbeville UMC as we make decisions and I always pray our choices and directions are Jesus-centered and God-led.  God sees as our annual conference gathers (next week we will meet in Montgomery) and God will see our motives as we vote.  God sees us corporately as we either follow Him or try to appease societal norms.  God sees us as we use made-up ways to conform to society, saying (like some of our Bishops have done) "we want to contextualize."  God sees as I rationalize what is right and wrong, forgetting that Paul warned us "We are allowed to do all things, but not all things are good for us to do.  We are allowed to do all things but not all things help others grow stronger (1 Cor. 10:23)."  God's word (from the God who sees) gives us great guidance for life like ... "don't seek life from dead things" ... "don't be changed into the world but be transformed into what God is creating."  God sees!  Yes, He cares about every hair on our head.  But God also cares how we tell people about Jesus ... through our choices ... through our resources ... through our words ... through our thoughts ... through how we do life in the revealing light of God!  Randy

Monday, May 21, 2018


The word is anamnesis.  It is a simple word.  We even have a day for it.  It means "Remembrance."

Jesus and the Jewish faith holds great stock in this word.  "Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy!" is the 4th Commandment from Exodus 20.  "Remember the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt!" is a command from Deuteronomy 5.  And Jesus tells the disciples to "Do this in remembrance of me!" in Luke 22:19.  All of these relate to the idea of remembering 3 things.

The first is to remember the past event or idea that happened.  The Hebrews were rescued from Egypt by God.  They are brought out of slavery.  The Jews are reminded that God rested on the 7th day so keep that day both holy and focused on God.  Jesus reminds the disciples that He is about to pour out His blood and give up His life for them.  We remember the event.

We also remember past the event to a more global meaning of that event.  The Hebrews would have never come out of Egypt without the persistence, power and provision of God.  The Sabbath was holy partly because it represents the modeling of God and the necessity of a day/time to reflect about the happenings of the week.  The last supper reminds us and the Hebrews of the angel of death passing over the Jews and the shadow of death passing over us because Jesus' action has forgiven us.

But I think the best thing about remembering is that it removes us from self.  We remember things bigger and more important than us.  The God that brought the people out of Egypt has been there since the beginning and God will be there even unto the ends of the earth.  That God is way bigger than my issues.  The Sabbath is holy and needed much more that I need my recreation, my extra sleep and my time to be a little lazy.  The idea of focusing on a God outside myself is both healthy and structural.  It allows me to properly order myself and God, with God being above all.  And remembering Jesus allows me to think about and give thanks for the birth, life, death and resurrection of Christ ... all things bigger and more important than me.

Monday of next week is Memorial Day.  We will think of that word 'anamnesis' again.  We will remember those who considered country bigger than themselves.  We will think of specific events when our heroes sacrificed much.  We will think of the country and the idea of America ... something worth both living and dying for.  And I hope our thoughts of that day will move beyond self so we can honestly ask, "is my country more important that my petty needs?"  The song says it well ... "O beautiful for heroes proved, in liberating strife, who more than self their country loved and mercy more than life!,
America! America! May God thy gold refine.  Till all success be nobleness, and every gain divine!" 

Monday, May 14, 2018


Yep ... people have used that name when speaking about me.  I hope often!  Because Pentecost is a day for crazy people called Christians to celebrate.  In Acts,Chapter 2, some amazing things happen.  It all started in an upper room where disciples (many  more than the 12) were waiting for the next step.  They might have been saying, "OK, what are we supposed to do now ... just sit here?"  God answered this question in a rush of activity!

The Spirit stirred those people in the room.  Tongues of fire rested on the heads of the followers.  They went down to the street and began to speak in all the native tongues of the people gathered for the festival of Shavuot (the feast of the wheat harvest and [more importantly] the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai).  The Jews from every nation and walk of life were assembled to celebrate the giving of the law!  But Jesus had made a drastic change in that law.  He would speak, saying, "The law says ___ but I say."  Jesus both clarified and simplified the law so that Jeremiah's words ("I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people ... and they shall know me from the least of them to the greatest.") could be fulfilled.  That is the setting in Acts 2.

Now for the craziness!  When Peter and the followers came out into the street people thought they were crazy.  "They are drunk on new wine!" the people observed.  A southern translation might be what Jed Clampett would have said ... "There's something wrong with those boys!"  I have three observations about this great story.

First, the craziness and chaos of the situation would be similar today.  If what happened then would happen today, we would say similar things.  If we would run out into the streets of New York on New Year's Eve and start preaching in the languages of all the people gathered there, it would be a scene of chaos and we would probably be arrested for being drunk (though I will bet there is a healthy number of drunk people there already).  I wonder what would happen if we, as the Church, reenacted this scene?

Second, the accusation of crazy is understandable.  In 1 Corinthians 1:21-23 Paul writes "Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe. It is foolish to the Jews, who ask for signs from heaven. And it is foolish to the Greeks, who seek human wisdom. So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense."  When we preach and believe what the Gospels teach, it is foolishness and crazy to the kingdom of this world.  But THAT is what we are called to do.

And now the final point.  Have you or we been accused of being crazy for the message of the Gospel?  I hear it all the time.  "Why do 'they' go to Belize and Costa Rica when there are so many needs here. They are crazy!"  "Why do they spend time on those lost causes at CR.  They are crazy!"  "Why do they assemble backpacks and work at the Thrift Store for kids that are hungry?  Their parents should feed them!  Those Methodists are crazy!"  "Why do they see and do good in a community that seems spiritually dead?  They are crazy!"  I have heard all of these statements in the last month!

I am sure serving and sweating and working and beating our heads against the wall of American apathy seems crazy.  Am I truly crazy to think God can use me to do anything good or to  make a dent in what I see as a giant mountain of need?  Am I nuts to believe that we live not in a narcissistic, self-absorbed society, incapable of perceiving the kingdom of God, but in a "thin place" where the distance between where we are and God's blessing is so minuscule I can almost see it?  Am I guilty of being crazy and believing that God's Spirit can rush out in a moment and touch our hearts so that thousands will claim Jesus as their Savior?  Am I crazy to believe that races, motorcycle blessings, testimonies, feeding kids in Belize, home run derbies, Christmas boxes with tracts or any other human endeavor can make a difference in God's kingdom?  I hope so!  All I ask is this ... will you join in the insanity and foolishness of following a God who would rather die for us than let us perish?  Will you let the Holy Spirit bring Pentecost to you? Randy

Monday, May 7, 2018

Joining God

We all profess to want to be close to God and what God is doing.  And we all have an easier time of seeing our trouble than God's provision.  But we get caught in our uncertainty, our doubt and our lack of faith and say what David did ... "O Lord, why do you stand so far away?  Why do you hide when I am in trouble? (Ps. 10:1)."  I have said both of these things without listening for God's answer.  Today, I am going to try to hear the wind of the Spirit and the whisper Elijah heard from the cave.  What I seem to be hearing is this:

1) When I ask God, "What are you doing?" I hope I am open to a quest for truth.  It IS a really good question, if we really want God's answer.  As I write this, God seems to be conversing with me, asking "Why do you want to know? Do you really want to know what I am doing or do you just want knowledge?  Are you  asking because you are genuinely interested in joining me in what I am doing?"  WOW, God is challenging and profound.  I need to examine my motives and I guess I need to decide if I want God's truth.  "Lord, why do you make this so hard?"

2) When I ask God "Where can I join in?" do I want to join as a partner, co-worker or representative?  God is asking me, "What kind of relationship are we in?"  "When my Son, Jesus walked on the earth, He said, 'Follow Me.'  Are you all into that?"  I think God gets a lot of advice and help from those of us who want a 'friend in Jesus.'  I wonder if we have lost the concept of God as 'Lord of all' in the process?  When God shows me what He is doing and I ask how to join in, do I qualify my response?  What if God is working somewhere difficult or dangerous?  What if God blesses where I am working and I say, "Sorry ... I 'feel' uncomfortable."?  Do I want God's real answer?

3) When I ask, "How can I offer myself to be used?" do I become what the Scripture calls a 'living sacrifice' or do I ask God to give assurances of success, affirmation for my ego and safety to help my fear?  I confess that I, too often, water down God's ability to use me because I only want to be used where I feel good, get rewarded or feel safe.  I offer myself within my comfortable context.  Is that what God meant when Jesus said, "Follow me?"  Is this what Paul meant when he said, "Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice?"  Do I want God's answer?

So back to David's question ... "O Lord, why do you stand so far away?  Why do you hide when I am in trouble? (Ps. 10:1)."  I believe one reason we seem distant from God is that we don't really want to know what He is doing.   We want God to join us and we offer a meager, watered-down version of ourselves for God to use.  Maybe we should reconsider the truthfulness of some of those old songs like "I Surrender All,"  "Where He Leads Me I Will Follow" and "I Am Thine O Lord."  How about we sing (instead) "I Surrender Some,"  "Where He Leads Me I Will Consider" and "I Am Mine O Lord."  "God ... what are you doing?  Where can I join in?  How can I offer myself to be used?"  Great questions!  But do we really want to know the answer?  Randy