Monday, August 27, 2018


The parable of the Sower comes to my mind often.  The parable is more complex than we often think as it reflects both present and end-times teachings.  But I want to make it pretty simple today.  I believe the two words that best represent the parable are the Sower and Fruit.

The first, the Sower, is all about the nature of God.  The Sower (God) is all about sowing seed.  It is His nature.  He sows glimmers of His Kingdom.  He sows the dreams that old men will dream (Joel 2:28).  He sows the visions that young men see (Joel 2:28).  He sows His Spirit into the world filled with people He loves.  He gives us seeds of hope and wholeness in a world that tries to destroy both.  And sometimes WE are the seeds.

That is so evident in the missions of Abbeville UMC.  We go out into all types of soil.  Some people listen.  Some people ignore us.  I think some people even think we are misguided by the emphasis we place on giving, going and doing.  But I believe our missional focus is the lifeblood of our church because it involves us being immersed in the work of Jesus.  We are part of the sowing that is God's nature!

But there is a 2nd part of this parable ... fruit.  God doesn't sow without expectation.  His desire is for the seed to bear fruit.  And it can bear fruit anywhere!  There is an Old Testament parable of an eagle and a cedar sprig.  The eagle (representing Jesus) plants a cedar sprig (representing rebellious Israel) in a very unlikely place ... high on a lofty mountain.  Because God is in the sowing and planting of this sprig, it grows ... and oh, how it grows!  It becomes a place where "birds of every kind find shelter in its branches!"  The Sower is using us to sow.  We plant Christ in the work of our missions.  We are sown into the soil of many places.  This coming Sunday we will find out about what God is doing in His garden in Belize ... a garden in which He has sown us as seed.  I think you will find that lives are being changed ... God's Word is going out, and we know God's Word will not fail to produce His desired purpose.  Much fruit is being produced in Belize because of our/your obedience.  And I believe the Sower is honored.  Randy

Tuesday, August 21, 2018


It's preseason football in the NFL and we are reaching the last few days before the college football season begins.  Many in the south (and really the entire nation) are hyped-up and excited.  Coaches, coordinators and personnel specialists have been evaluating film, watching preseason games and scrutinizing practice sessions.  They are looking for those players that have reached the very highest competence levels for their respective positions.  They all want to put the very best team on the field.

If this is true in football, do you think it might be true for something much more important?  Do you think God evaluates His team and knows who has reached the highest levels of proficiency for His purposes?  Do you think Jesus sends out (and calls out) those who are gifted by the Holy Spirit to bear fruit for His plan and kingdom?  I sure do!

Sunday begins Missions Month.  We will have a weekly testimony from seven of our missions teams. That testimony will, hopefully, give you a glimpse of the work of God happening in our midst.  Through our missions people are clothed, fed, visited, equipped, nourished, healed and (especially) loved.  I am excited to hear about God's work here at Abbeville UMC.

This Sunday our Benevolence mission will be highlighted.  This includes the Abbeville Christian Benevolence Fund (Calvary, 1st Baptist, AUMC and other congregations give to this), our food pantry and other budgetary line items.  During each year over $22,000 flows to these special community needs with funds from AUMC coming from the regular budget ($2,500), the Missions Auction, the Race to Be Fed (between $3,500-4,000 each year) and gifts from individuals in our congregation (including gifts at 5th Sunday gatherings).  While all of these giving options might seem a bit disjointed this is probably the largest single amount given to local missions in the Abbeville community.  This happens through hard work of those involved and your gifts that happen almost unconsciously.

In Matthew 25 the people being sent off to eternal life with Jesus ask, "Then the righteous ones will apply ... 'When did we ever see you hungry and feed you?  Or thirsty and give you something to drink?  Or a stranger and show you hospitality?  Or naked and give you clothing?  When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?'  And the King will say, "When you did it to one of the least of my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!"  (Matthew 25:37-40). 

They didn't realize what they were doing.  They gave, served, visited, helped, healed and loved with unconscious-competence.  As our football culture, meaningless in eternal context, seeks players who are so good at their positions they can perform without thinking (unconsciously-competent), maybe we should invest ourselves in becoming unconsciously-competent servants of our King!  Randy

Monday, August 13, 2018

Really Good!

I am going to ask you to do something today.  It won't come natural.  It won't be status quo.  It won't be upheld by the powers that be.  It won't be affirmed by talk radio, the news media or even our political leaders.  In fact, what I am asking you to do will be opposed by all of these things.  But ... let's do it anyway!

"Summing it all up, friends, I'd say you'll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things that are true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious ... the best, not the worst ... the beautiful, not the ugly ... things to praise, not to curse.  Put into practice the things you have learned from me, what you heard, saw and realized.  Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into His most excellent harmonies. (Phil.4:8-9, The Message)"

This is Paul's advice to the people of Philippi.  And it is good advice for us.  Most of us dwell on things that could be summed up as "our troubles."  Yes, there is evil.  Yes, there are things every day that rail against good and against our best interests.  And both the facade of evil and the mirage of good dell in our imaginations ... not so much in reality.  Simone Weil said, "Imaginary evil is romantic and varied ... real evil is gloomy, monotonous, barren and boring.  Imaginary good is boring ... real good is new, marvelous and intoxicating."

So today, let's follow God's word as recommended by Paul.  Let's stop dwelling in both imagined and real evil.  Let's see the good things God has for us today.

Yesterday morning we had a packing party to feed our BFF (Backpacks for Friday) kids.  At least 30 of you pitched in and, in the midst of what the pessimistic observer might have viewed as organized-chaos, 400 bags were packed to feed 100 kids for an entire month of weekends.  Those kids will come to school on Mondays with energy, alertness and the ability to focus on learning.  We will refine the process over the next few months and the packing will become easier.  But your participation, prayers and giving to BFF fall into the categories of true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling and gracious.  Yesterday brought out our best, our beautiful and our praiseworthy.  We put into practice God's word and God's plan.  And I believe we were in harmony with God's excellent plan.  Let's do it again today!  Randy

Monday, August 6, 2018

Practiced Jesus

Doctors, dentists and lawyers are said to "practice" their trades.  When we follow a certain faith we are said to be a practitioner of that faith.  But what does this mean? I wonder if it means we apply our trade, faith and belief in the world in which we live?
When Solomon penned Ecclesiastes he was bewildered at how people practiced life.  He saw inequity, randomness, and "nothing new under the sun" (sameness in life).  Some think Solomon suffered from depression.  Soren Kierkegaard wrote about this attitude of futility as he tried to parody Ecclesiastes saying, "when I was older, I opened my eyes and beheld reality, at which I began to laugh, and since then, I have not stopped laughing. I saw that the meaning of life was to secure a livelihood, and that its goal was to attain a high position; that love’s rich dream was marriage with an heiress; that friendship’s blessing was help in financial difficulties; that wisdom was what the majority assumed it to be; that enthusiasm consisted in making a speech; that it was courage to risk the loss of ten dollars; that kindness consisted in saying, “You are welcome,” at the dinner table; that piety consisted in going to communion once a year. This I saw, and I laughed.”  Kierkegaard saw that if were spiritually lax,  our ambitions, our practice of our faith and our mission in life might to be boiled-down to what Solomon called "chasing after the wind."  So ... here's my question.  How do we jump into life with wildness, freedom, purpose, passion and meaning?  How do we make our days "under the sun" count?
I think Solomon, Kierkegaard and Pastor Randy would agree on this.  Why just simply talk about Jesus ... why not practice Jesus?  C. S. Lewis called this being in rhythm with God.  To Lewis this happened when we properly balanced change and permanence.  
God demands and loves change.  Change is a requirement to even be in the faith conversation.  New creations must leave old creations.  Change is a constant event and should be a constant striving of every follower of Jesus.  He (Jesus) is constantly calling us to change and Satan is constantly telling us to remain in the stasis of stagnation.  I think this is why Biblical prophecy and the Revelation use the word 'new' so often.
Yet, God is a constant in the midst of struggle, hurt, change and life.  Lewis said that the ebb and flow of the changing seasons of life shout of the constancy of God in every circumstance.  I think this is why Moses, in his last address to the Hebrew people, said, "the Lord IS your life."
Over the next several weeks we will hear a lot about how we can practice Jesus in missions.  John Wesley might have said that these weeks will offer a chance to be immersed in the grace of God, since serving is one of the means by which God sends His grace to us.  It will be our chance to hear/touch/feel the rhythm of "Practiced Jesus."  We will hear and touch it this coming Sunday when, between services (at 10 am), we will have a "Packing Party!"  Bob and Melba Lisenby will bring items to be placed into Backpacks for Friday (BFF).  Every person will get a chance to be part of packing backpacks (under Bob and Melba's direction).  We will do this once a month and we will become a practicing part of this mission.  Beginning August 26th we will hear testimony about many of the missions supported by Abbeville UMC.  This will happen each week till a grand finale on October 7th.  Make a special attempt to be here each week and practice your following of Jesus by jumping in wherever and whenever you can! Randy