Monday, July 30, 2018


Over the last week we did a lot of driving.  It is amazing the level of congestion on the interstates and other roads I traveled.  I was pleasantly surprised and glad that coming from Charlotte to Abbeville on Saturday we only had 3 brief traffic jams.  Everyone is going somewhere, everyone seems to be in a hurry and everyone seems a bit impatient.  As I observed all of this I wondered ... "Do all these people truly have a destination that is good?"

I ask this question for a reason.  It is interesting how many of our current health/safety problems relate to behaviors that are lifestyle-related and discretionary.  Lung issues, heart issues, STDs, AIDS, alcohol-related issues, texting-related auto accidents, opioids, stress, food addictions ... I could list these for a long time.  But you get the point.  These are not good or healthy destinations.  It is like many of us are searching for something to cling to, and often we grab onto the wrong things.  In Matthew 9:36 it says, "When he saw the crowds he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd."

Two points regarding these observations.  First, to begin the process of healing and wholeness, there is something we must do.  That thing is turn.  I missed my exit from Hwy. 74 in Charlotte and had to reset my navigation and turn.  My first action was the realize I was not going in the right direction.  One recovering alcoholic said to me, "While I was falling I didn't realize there was a problem.  But when I hit hard on the 'bottom of the barrel' it woke me up."  We need to wake up, take a deep breath and turn away from the precipice that we are rapidly approaching.

But that's only half the issue.  What good is it to turn when you still don't know where you are going?  In Acts 3:19 Peter has just given God the glory for healing a lame man.  The man, lame from birth, was brought daily to the temple gate where he begged for sustenance.  Did Peter say, "Dude ... you should go to the other gate ... those people are wealthy and you will get more money!" No!  Peter, through God's power told the man to get up and walk.  Then he said some very specific and directional things to all who would listen ... "Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away.  Then times of refreshment will come from the presence of the Lord, and He will again send you Jesus, your appointed Messiah."  1) Turn from your sins, 2) Turn to God, 3) You need your sins wiped away, 4) You will be refreshed, 5) Your refreshment will happen because of God's presence, 6) God will send you Jesus, 7) Jesus IS your savior.

Turn away from the things destroying you.  Turn to God who will refresh and heal you.  Jesus is your savior and He will come to you and walk with you and open your eyes to a better view of yourself, your environment and your destination.  You will still be a sheep, but you will have the Great Shepherd to guide you.  That'll preach!  Randy

Monday, July 23, 2018

Something's Wrong!

In a world where all of us have anxiety about the happenings around us, it is not a stretch to assume we are saying "something is wrong!"  Whether you are concerned about presidential politics, the widespread epidemic of cancer, the opioid crisis or racial tensions, it seems that something is out-of-whack.  I remember one of Gary Larson's Far Side comics where the doughnut shop owner is in a quandary.  He is telling his assistant (the 500 lb guy sweeping the floor) "Well shoot!  I just can't figure it out?  I'm moving over 500 doughnuts a day and I'm just squeaking by!"  Someone is eating our joy, our patience, our peace and our doughnuts!  What to do?

Thomas Merton said, "And to try to be happy by being admired by men, or loved by women, or warm with liquor, full of lust, or getting possessions and treasures, that turns you away, soon, from the love of God; then men, women, and drink and lust and greed take precedence over God; and they darken His light. . . . And then we are unhappy and afraid and angry and fierce, and impatient, and cannot pray, and cannot sit still. That is the bitter yoke of sin; and for this we leave the mild and easy yoke of Christ."  Merton is saying that our first problem is our propensity to sin.  Paul said, in Romans 3:23, "all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God."  The first someone eating up our joy in life is us!  Our choices, our schemes, our fallenness, our motives, our following of our feelings, and our addictions are all the first problem we face when we walk out of the door each morning.  One of Philip Yancey's friends put it this way ... "Will God forgive me for what I am about to do?"  His friend was walking straight into the joyless and insatiable grip of sin.  THAT, is our first problem.  Jesus' advice is simple ... "Come to me all who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28)."

But there is another consumer of our joy ... a very active, present and persistent evil that leads others to take actions that might hurt me.  John Wesley said there was evil with intent to harm both in the person of Satan and in our corporate schemes that cause grief and pain.  Job says Satan "goes to and fro upon the earth walking up and down (Job 2:2)."  Job implies and active and prowling evil presence.  But corporate evil is real and pervasive.  Whether it is a North Korean government that runs headlong to build its military while people starve, whether it is financial institutions that make loans that require "no income and no job" (part of the real estate crisis of 15 years ago),  whether it is a church leader who tells an associate pastor "you need a better car to project the image of affluence," or whether it is a corporation that sends asbestos roofing to 3rd world countries because "they" do not have consumer protection laws, corporate evil is alive and well. 

In the face of these two evils and in the face of the infirmity (storm, disease, accidents) we face in a fallen world, Romans presents the unlikely life of Abraham.  Abraham has faith that God will keep His promise and he becomes a great nation, though the journey from Ur to Canaan is long, dangerous and filled with pitfalls (including his own bad choices).  In the song from 12 Strong (It Goes On by Zac Brown) Brown writes "I don't make promises I don't keep."  Unfortunately people DO make those promises.  But God does not.  Abraham doesn't ever see the end of his blessing (Jesus, who becomes a blessing to the whole world) but he has faith and a sure hope that God will bring things around to their rightful place.  Yes we will have burdens ... but Jesus said, "My yoke is easy and my burden is light (Matthew 11:29)."  Let's claim that promise in the midst of a world that would eat up our joy, peace and patience! Randy

Sunday, July 15, 2018


Abraham Maslow (1943) posed a very famous theory of human motivation that contained a heirarchy of needs.  Maslow said that we tried to meet our physical needs (food, water, air, health), our security needs (shelter,safety, stability), our social needs (being loved, belonging, inclusion), our ego needs (power, influence, recognition, prestige) before we were motivated to meet the need of self-actualization (beauty, creativity).  Maslow's theory is required reading for the social sciences and for those pursuing higher education in many fields.

I have another theory about needs.  I believe God created us with desires, needs and instincts that are tied to the physical.  But I think there are other more powerful needs that relate to a statement from Ecclesiastes.  In Ecclesiastes 3, Solomon writes "and God has placed eternity in our hearts."  I think this is related to how we were created.  God breathed life and spirit into us and placed in people something of the divine that longs for things beyond the physical.  Every society (even people who are dealing with infirmity and physical/mental limitations) seeks the spiritual.

Our problem is we try to fill our lives with the physical that we can see, touch, feel and manipulate.  All the while, I think God is pointing out the beauty, grace and wonder around us every day.  I wonder if we are getting more and more imbalanced in pursuing the physical world?

I ride my bicycle often.  When I ride on my indoor bike I don't really worry too much about being balanced because it would be difficult (though not impossible) to fall off.  My indoor bike is safe, effective,climate-controlled and I can watch TV when I ride there.  When I ride outside I must be more attuned to my surroundings.  I have to watch for cars.  I must keep tabs on the weather.  I can't be distracted by my devices.  And I must make sure I keep my weight balanced, for if I do not, I will fall.  And these days, I don't heal quite as fast from those events where "the road rises to meet me."

Maybe we can take this analogy into our daily life.  I think God wants me to be much more focused on the spiritual world.  Our society pushes us to the material and physical.  Catch this new show.  Watch this sporting event.  Check on your Facebook page and see if your are getting enough "likes."  Ride inside where it is safe and climate-controlled.  God is telling us, "come out of that world."  See the beauty of nature.  See the people around you.  Go to the Food Giant and experience the good and bad of interacting with your neighbors.  Jump into life instead of asking God to give you a safe, secure, antiseptic setting that will always be protected but dull.  Get your life into balance and you might just find life abundant!

Monday, July 9, 2018


In his book Rumors, Philip Yancey makes a wonderful observation about people.  He states that we (humans) are really amphibians.  In nature amphibians are creatures that live their lives in 2 realms.  part of their life is spent breathing through gills in water.  During the adult part of their lives they breathe air into their lungs.  Yancey's comment poses that we live our lives in both the physical and spiritual realms.  In one realm we are physical beings.  In the other we are spiritual beings.

The Bible is rife with references to these two realms.  Elisha's servant believed all was lost as he and Elisha were about to be attacked by an enemy (1 Kings 17:2).  The servant was living in the physical real.  He only believed the things he saw with his eyes.  Elisha prayed to God asking that the servants eyes would be opened so that he could see the provision of God.  God said "yes" and the servant saw "chariots of fire" surrounding them and the enemy (yes, it is where the movie title came from).  The lesson?  Elisha's reaction to the enemy and the impossible situation was to pray and ask God to do His thing!  Maybe if we prayed for God's will and jumped into that will, we could follow God out of the oppressive and impossible situations in which we find ourselves.  God's help is already available and there.  So ask God to let you see the spiritual realm.  For seeing with the eyes of the Spirit reveals the true reality of life.

Another story finds Elijah holed-up in a cave, hiding from King Ahab and Queen Jezebel (1 Kings 19).  Elijah sees the impossible task of escape and the obvious (to him) reality that he is alone in his work of being God's prophet.  God sends him out to the cave entrance.  God shows Elijah a fire, a whirlwind and an earthquake.  God is not in any of them.  Then God sends a gentle whisper and God is inside the whisper.  God reminds Elijah that He has all of this under control.  Elijah is not alone.  There are others who are "zealous for the Lord."  At the beginning of this cave story God asks Elijah "What are you doing here?"  I think this is one of the lessons from this passage.  The question can be read, "What are YOU doing here?" "Elijah, YOU don't belong in a cave filled with fear, doubt and uncertainty!  You will find me out there in the danger and beauty of doing my will."  The question could also be, "What are you doing HERE ?"  "Elijah ... you are here in the physical realm.  Don't you know I have created you to live, love, work and see in the spiritual realm!?  You are an amphibian, spending too much time worrying about your physical needs.  Get up, get out and get to work!"

We (people) worship the physical.  We adore beautiful people.  We love things that feed our physical needs.  We marvel at those who can deliver words that are filled with passion, yet we fail to parse what those words are saying (because we focus on the physical).  We love beautiful music that moves us, and I believe God-inspired music does speak to our spirit, but lots of music isn't God inspired.  We revere royalty, rock stars, athletes who can jump high and run fast, actors and political figures.  We are caught in the physical realm and we cannot seem to get out.  God is asking, "What are you doing HERE?!"  In God's question is the call to get up, get out and jump into God's realm.  You will find the Spirit in worship of God, fellowship with other believers, connecting with God through the means of grace (prayer, communion, service, giving, focusing on others), being in dangerous places where God is working, experiencing the discomfort of the people God sends your way, making hard decisions that your family won't like and praying for God to let you see beyond the physical realm.  Out there you will see (if you look) a whole realm filled with God-stuff, beauty and chariots of fire.  So, what are you doing HERE?  Randy

Monday, July 2, 2018

I'm Sorry

There is a seldom-used virtue in Scripture and in the reality of life.  It is the virtue of responsibility.  You haven't seen it often because most bad actions in today's world are the result of other factors.  "My environment caused it."  "They made me do it."  "They did it so I can do it too."  "I was drinking."  "The dog ate my homework, power bill, house payment bill, appointment book, etc."  In an excuse-rich society I want to take a moment to say "I'm sorry!"

To quote Dr. Seuss "I have puzzled and puzzled 'till my puzzler was sore.'"  Why are there so many things in societal behavior that are so wrong, so 'off-the-track' and so anti-Bible?  I have decided that I will begin to accept responsibility for some of these by saying some specific "I'm sorrys."  I will be speaking to younger generations, which seems to be almost everyone anymore.  Here goes.

I'm sorry for not telling you that your specialness isn't because you are inherently good.  The Bible says our hearts are naturally deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9) and that all of us (Romans 3:23) have succumbed to our fallen nature.  Your specialness and my specialness and the specialness of those kids we have told they are 'princes' and 'princesses' is because they were 'fearfully and wonderfully made' (Ps. 139) by a God that imparts His image (Genesis 1) into our lowly selves.  Our spark of the Divine is because of the love, goodness and gift of God.  We neither deserve it nor adequately acknowledge it.  Let's stop feeding our kids, grand kids and great grand kids the idea that they are somehow worthy of royal treatment.  I wonder if this colossal error is part of why we have so much anxiety, depression and other mental disorders that arise when kids (and adults) find that their behavior (they know their own thoughts and motives) fails to ascend the false pedestal on which we have placed them.

I'm sorry for failing to lead you to God.  I have used sermons, Bible lessons and scolding to tell you the words of the faith.  Then, I have set my personal priorities which I am quick to say belong to me.  I forget one vital thing ... you are watching.  So when I have a chance to prioritize God first with money, time, talent and action, I have a propensity to 'walk on the other side of the road' (Luke 10:31).  My righteous words have too-often been followed by self-centered actions.  You see it when I spend time, money and my precious right to vote.  And I rationalize my behavior by absolving myself from the responsibility to follow my holy talk by sacrificial action.  I have placed my needs above the needs of God, speaking volumes by my actions. I am sorry!

Finally, I am sorry for showing you that we should be guided by feelings.  A person, in rationalizing their behavior, told me we should follow our feelings implying that feelings come from God and who we are.  Then I remembered a story from Scripture.  Jesus is alone in the wilderness (Matthew 4), hungry, thirsty and seemingly powerless.  Satan sees his opportunity and plays games with the feelings we all have as humans.  "Jesus, don't you feel hungry?  Why don't You turn these stones to bread?"  "Jesus, don't you feel alone and unwanted?  Why don't you test God by casting yourself off a precipice?"  "Jesus, don't you feel powerless and out of control?  I can help you GET the power you deserve."  Satan is always reminding us of our feelings and how we deserve to respond to them.  I'm sorry I have empowered and encouraged this in my kids and grand kids.

In the song "Watercolor Ponies" Wayne Watson reminds us that leading our children is not for the squeamish ... "Seems an endless mound of laundry, and a stairway laced with toys, gives a blow by blow reminder of the war, that we fight for their well-being, for their greater understanding, to impart a holy reverence for the Lord."  We are in the war and in the wilderness.  We are buffeted on every side by an enemy whose greatest tool (I believe) is to suggest that we follow feelings, personal priorities and entitlements toward a very self-focused world.  It is a war that can only be won by following the one who has preceded us in this wilderness.  He knows the enemy.  He knows us.  He knows our tendency toward self.  And He tells us (and shows us) the way forward and out of the wilderness.  I don't know who you will follow, but I will try to lead my family to follow the Lord!  And Lord, I will try to do this in a way that will not cause me to say, 'I'm sorry!"  Randy