Monday, December 30, 2019


One of my friends is a doctor.  He has been drifting into the holistic medicine realm because he believes that caring for the whole body and mind will yield the best care for his patients.  While I don't buy in to all he recommends, I do agree that looking at the big picture and seeing the whole person is a good thing.  This brings us to a very Biblical and holistic concept.  It is found in the Hebrew idea of God and in Jesus' affirming the Greatest Commandment.  Both of these ideas are highlighted in the 6th Chapter of Deuteronomy.  "Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord, is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength (Deut. 6:4-5)."

The 1st part of this passage is called the Shema.  It is one of the holiest and most foundational statements in Jewish thought because it encompasses the idea of the oneness of God.  God is not many things.  God is not all of our little compartments,  God is not fragmented.  God is not confused by the complex little parts we try to fit together and call it life.  Because, in Jewish thought (affirmed by Deuteronomy 30:20) "the Lord IS your life."  The Shema is to be carried, worn, posted on the doorframes of houses ... ever present and ever before us.  It is a great place to begin the new year.

The 2nd part of this passage from Deuteronomy 6 is what Jesus called the Greatest Commandment.  It is a beautiful expression of what God desires from us and what we owe to a God who loves and sustains us.  It says we are to love God with all we have and all we are.  God says 1) invest your life completely, 2) give me free reign in all of the parts of your life, 3) like the unity of the Trinity, I want you to be one beautifully-complex person.

I can't think of a better way to begin a new year!  When my vacuum cleaner got all filled with cat hair (go figure) the motor got too hot.  I had to clean it out ... get rid of all of the obstructions ... purge the dust balls ... clean out the filter ... let it cool down and push the reset button.  My life gets all clogged with things that don't belong.  I get anxious ... I worry ... I let the fear of the future and the failures of the past become present realities.  God says ... "Get rid of that stuff!  Let me help you clean out the junk.  Let me lead you so that your heart, soul and strength are spent on a worthwhile pursuit ,,, the one, complete God.  Knock down the walls.  And let's get busy ... I want you closer to me and I want others to be brought closer because they know you and Me through you!"

How's that for a plan to begin our new year?  And let's learn, love and live together.  God's plan is perfect and good.  Hey ... we've tried our way ... let's try God and see if Deuteronomy 30:20 is true .. "The Lord IS your life!"  AMEN

Sunday, December 22, 2019


In the Old Testament prophecy (Isaiah 7:14) God's sign of love, fidelity and power comes in the virgin birth of a baby Isaiah calls Emmanuel.  The word means "God with us."  Another way to say this is to say, "God is present ... here!"

For those who love the darkness, revel in evil and thrive by taking life from others, this is bad news.  Because God is light, life, justice and good.  But for those who seek God's kingdom, God's plan, God's purpose, God's mission and God's leading, this is very good news indeed.  In fact, that is what Gospel really means in the Greek ... the good news!

Isaiah spoke the words God had given him when he used the word Emmanuel.  The God that is here is in stark contrast to a God that is distant or disassociated.  For us this should tell us something about both the nature and purpose of God.

God's nature is to be part of the ongoing drama of life.  His presence with us should lead us, comfort us and embolden us as we do life.  If God is here, I am never alone!  I have spoken to many who are serving our sentences in jail who have told me that they feel and experience God's presence.  Many say that they know God is there and that His presence is greater than when they were outside.  Good news indeed!

But God's presence is also manifested as God's purpose is sent into the world.  Moses said God was bringing people "to Himself."  God draws, leads, drags (with me I have personally felt this), invites and beckons His children.  The Wesleyan belief is that God is doing this to everyone ... not just an entitled few.  And we, as the Church, are one of the ways God "sends" His purpose.

My urging to you, as Christmas is upon us, is to be ready to be called and used by the God that is here.  We will celebrate this with a trip to Tent City (NOON till 2 pm) on Christmas Eve.  We will invite all Christ followers to Come-And-Go Communion from 4-7 pm on Christmas Eve.  We will sing and enjoy music and message as we gather for the beauty of the Christmas Eve Candlelight Service at 7 pm.  But we will remember that events are not our purpose ... our purpose is to be used by God so that people will be led to God ... into His perfect and relevant presence ... into being sons and daughters in His Kingdom.  For God is with us ... present ... here!  AMEN

Monday, December 16, 2019

According to Your Word!

The words above are powerful words.  They set into motion all of the vast and life-changing possibilities that God sees and imagines for your life.  They are submission.  They are trust.  They are giving to God everything including self.  They are uncomfortable.  And, they are beautiful.

In Luke 1:38, we hear these words from a teenager that is filled with fear and expectation, terror and awe, unworthiness and honor.  She is wise beyond her years as she responds to the calling of God, spoken through the angel Gabriel.  I might have bolted out of the door.  I might have been incapacitated by sheer terror.  But Mary says those beautiful words ... "Behold the maidservant of the Lord.  Let it be to me according to your word (Luke 1:38)."

Let's see how these words can lead us to both obedience and the full blessing of God.  First, they are words of submission.  To follow God, we must allow God to be in control.  We must not ask "what do I want?" or "How can this benefit me."  We must, instead, ask "What does God want?"  or "How can I react to benefit God and God's Church?"  Daily decisions, large and small, are entwined with these questions.  How will I answer them?

Second, these words imply a trust of God's direction.  Last Sunday at the 1st service I had planned a short homily that I was ready to deliver.  During the music and preparation time God was speaking and leading in another direction.  I threw those notes away and hopefully followed where and how God was leading.  It is always about God's message, direction and God's Word.

Finally, on a very musical note, Mary's words express the tune (attitude) of her life.  In the 1st service we discovered that the weather and humidity changes had caused the piano to be about 1/2 step low.  Since we can't tune a piano on the fly, all the guitars, the cello and the bass had to tune down a bit so that all of us were tuned together.  Often, we ask God to change to accommodate our "tuning."  God does not do that.  Mary's words here are all about the tune of her life.  She wants to be in tune with God and asks God to change her to conform to the perfect plan God has in mind for her.  Maybe I, our church, our denomination and our nation can learn something from a little, scared teenager ... "Behold the maidservant of the Lord.  Let it be to me according to your word (Luke 1:38)." AMEN

Monday, December 9, 2019


In the old Star Trek series, the concept is to discover, explore and invest people, starships and training into seeking out the unknown … to 'boldly go where no one has gone before.'  And just maybe, this 'concept' is a snippet of what Christmas is all about.

I started down this train of thought last week when I heard a contemporary song about how the singer needed a savior that met his/her list of specific requirements.  Some of the requirements were 'easy to love', 'easy to follow' and 'easy to praise.'  As I listened, I reflected that wouldn't we all love a god that met our self-defined needs.  Judas wanted a conqueror.  Martha wanted a focus of her worship.  Mary wanted someone she could serve.  Paul wanted a missional god.  Barnabas wanted support in encouragement.  Moses wanted a deliverer.  And I could go on for each of us.  But Jesus didn’t come to meet our self-defined needs and then walk off into the sunset.  Jesus came to teach us, lead us, show us and grow us in our idea about who God really is.  Because God is in all of those needs and many more!

Here is where I am going with this.  Our God is not the God if the expected.  God is not the God who follows us into our comfortable concept of who and what God should be.  Our God is worth investing people, stuff, training, time, service, prayers, patience and life.  When we enter life with God we are boldly going into the unexpected and the unknown.  God is beyond our expectations and beyond our wildest dreams.  In Michael Card’s song, The Promise he writes, “the promise showed that our wildest dreams, had simply not been wild enough.”  Jesus is that promise lived-out.

If we define god, our definition is not god at all.  Psalm 113:1-4 says it this way … “God is higher than anything and anyone, outshining everything you can see in the skies.  Who can compare with God, our God, so majestically enthroned, surveying his magnificent heavens and earth? He picks up the poor from out of the dirt, rescues the wretched who’ve been thrown out with the trash, seats them among the honored guests, a place of honor among the brightest and best.”  THAT is only one grain of sand in the universe of defining God!  This Christmas, let God be who God is.  Get out of the way.  Get into God’s Word.  Get out of the fray of franticness.  And look for God beyond your dreams, expectation and boundaries.  God is ‘beyond’ so boldly go where you have never gone before!  Randy  

Monday, December 2, 2019


During the Christmas and Thanksgiving season we drive a lot.  Trips to see kids and grand kids ... trips for shopping ... trips to missional activities (like Christmas Eve at Tent City, NOON to 2pm).  We are going, going, going!

In the busyness this year, take a look at the roads you travel.  Because this time of year is filled with bumps and potholes.  When we lived in Louisiana we would travel Interstate 20 from Vicksburg through Birmingham, Atlanta (to I-85) and to Greenvile all the way to Charlotte.  We have a few family stories about that trip.  It was a long haul, filled with lots of bumps and potholes.  But we made the trip to see our family in Charlotte.  We had laughs, arguments, tears and a few memorable happenings.  There were ups and downs, curves and hills ... and through it all we did life.

When Isaiah wrote chapter 40 of his prophecy, he knew we all had bumps and potholes in the road of life.  Hezekiah (chapter 39) had been healed of a great illness and had been granted 15 years of life by God.  Hezekiah was feeling so blessed that when envoys from Babylon came bearing gifts he gave then the 'top secret' tour of all that was in the temple.  God was not pleased and told Hezekiah that all of the 'stuff' he was so proud of would be hauled off to Babylon, along with some of his descendants.  But as a comfort to the people, Isaiah writes his famous prophecy about God's ultimate deliverance of the people saying, "A voice of one calling 'in the desert prepare the way of the Lord.  Make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God.  Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low.  The rough ground will become level, the rugged places a plain.  For the glory of the Lord will be revealed and all mankind will see it!" (Isaiah 40:3-5).

I hope that we, this Christmas season, will be a voice calling in our 'wilderness' saying, 'prepare the way for the Lord.'  Get ready.  God has a good plan for you.  God will lift you up out of the valleys and potholes you have fallen into.  God will level you out and bring you down to reality when you get too proud, to high on yourself and too important.  God will allow life and gentle sanding to smooth out the rough spots.  When you face those rugged places God will grade them down by giving you the perspective of what is really important.  God can do these great things and keep these promises if only you would look, listen, see and hear!

One Thanksgiving I sat with a family at the Celebrate Recovery dinner.  It was the first time in 3 years that this particular family had been able to have a meal together.  That is the leveling, smoothing and lifting up the God does through ministries like Celebrate Recovery.  It happens because God uses people like you and me to make this prophecy a reality.  In a small way, God's glory was revealed and God's deliverance was highlighted.  And THAT is a blessing you should want to be part of!  AMEN ... Randy

Monday, November 25, 2019

A Great Place To Start

This coming Sunday begins Advent.  Wikipedia calls Advent "a time of expectant waiting and preparation for both the Birth of Jesus and the return of Jesus at the 2nd Coming."  Pretty cool and pretty amazing!

For our congregation there will be lots happening over the next few weeks.  We will have lots of work (you will see notices about decorating, helping with CR Thanksgiving [this Thursday], participating in missions [Angel Tree for prisoner's children, feeding and clothing people at Tent City on December 24th noon-2pm], much music (Choir Cantata on December 8th 11am, Praise Cantata on December 15th at 9am, Special Musicians [Christy Garrett, violinist, on December 1st, Rachel Cole, cellist, on December 15th and 24th at Christmas Eve Communion], food (please plan to come to the parsonage on December 7th from 10am till NOON for Christmas Brunch), Community Events like the Christmas Tree Lighting on December 4th at 6pm, and just bussiness/fun/friends.  Please make plans to be part of everything!

But to enjoy and embrace Advent we need to start at the right place.  That place is Jesus.  Jesus will meet us where we are.  Many struggle with this time of the year.  I struggle with business.  Some struggle with losses that have happened during the year.  Some fight addictions that seem especially strong during Thanksgiving and Advent.  Depression looms for some of us.  Finances are a concern for many.  And some just worry about what is happening in our country and the world.  Where do we start so that we can enjoy 'the light of the world' we sing about?  This year lets start with a Psalm.  We will have plenty of time to savor the Christmas story.  Sermons and devotionals will tell us about the prophecies that foretold Jesus' coming.  But this Psalm is about who Jesus is ... what Jesus is ... why Jesus is one we can count on.  Psalm 95:3 says "For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods."  Simple ... concise ... true ... and able to be carried in our hearts every day of this busy season.  Our God is able to carry us through whatever we face, enter wherever we are and overcome whatever opposes us.  That is the 'why' we sing and the 'who' we sing to/about.  He is so worth the preparation and expectation of Advent!  AMEN

Monday, November 18, 2019


So many Biblical passages relate to that little word ... all.  "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind and love your neighbor as yourself. (Luke 10:27)"  Psalm 150 tells us to praise God with all we have (including some instruments that are not on our preferred list).  Then, as he instructs stiff-necked people that are being sent to take the land they have been given, Moses reminds the people of truth that will empower and strengthen them for the days ahead: "For the Lord IS your life (all your life) and He will give you many years in the land He swore to give your fathers ... (Deuteronomy 30:20)."  God is into this ALL thing!

I remember playing football as a youth and I heard these words over and over again ... "Leave it ALL on the field."  The coach meant all of my focus, all of my effort and all of what I had to give on a particular day.  When you read this you say, "of course the coach wanted and expected that of his players.  Why would anyone think otherwise?"

But (contrary to many who are pretty focused on their teams) there is a bigger, more important and more meaningful game afoot.  Deuteronomy 30 tells is all.  The game of life in which the Lord is life itself.  Matthew knew it as he quoted Jesus saying, "Fear the one who can destroy (who has power over) body and soul in Gehenna (Matthew 10:28)!"

Here's a novel thought about whether you are into this ALL thing.  What occupies your worries?  What occupies your spending?  What occupies your time?  What do you talk about the most?  What do you pray about?  This may look a bit like the vows new members make as they join the Methodist Church ... "I will support the church with my prayers, my presence, my gifts, my service and my witness."  Luke, Deuteronomy, Matthew and the Psalms all agree ... "leave it all on the field!"  Love intensely, give generously, talk passionately, pray without ceasing and serve with joy.  For the Lord is your life! And He will give you many years in the land that He swore to give your fathers!  AMEN

Sunday, November 10, 2019


I like this word, especially when we have so much negativity swirling around us.  So many causes.  So many victims.  So much negativity (and I can get caught up in that).  I prayed this morning for God to deliver us from all of the 'isms' that divide us.  And, as I walked with my friends Freddie and Tanner on Saturday I thought of this little word ... FOR.

If you watch talk TV you will quickly find out what people are against.  It seems that shrill voices speak out against almost everything.  Jesus reminded us that one of those things was His followers.  In John 17:14 Jesus says that "I have given them your word and the world has hated them."  Yes ... we are opposed, persecuted and even hated.  This world is against us because powers, principalities and evil forces cannot tolerate who we worship and what we represent.  But as we walked Saturday I am sure people thought we were marching because we were against something.  We weren't!

So we started thinking ... how could we turn this negativity around?  My idea was a T-shirt that said FOR ...  Family Of the Redeemer.  It may not be the best acronym ever, but I hope you can catch on to the general concept.  What if we became known for what we are for?  What if we claimed as family everyone who called on the name of Jesus as their Lord, Savior and Redeemer?  Would that have a power to change our community, our neighborhoods, our State and our Country?

If you haven't figured this out, we have some massive problems, and many stem from our national pension (and respect) for stubbornness over listening and ideology over our Christian faith.  James reminds us that 'faith without works is dead' (James 2:14).  And this aspect of our faith (love as Jesus has loved) is vital if Jesus is going to become an ever growing and positive part of life in America.

What are you for? What am I for?  What did Jesus call us to be for?  What say you?  Randy

Monday, November 4, 2019


In the second half ... after Half Time ... we/I/you must begin to consider what is really central to life itself.  Jesus knew this.  He made several statements that challenged us to decide what is really central.  He confirmed that the most important commandment is to love God, others and (with painful honesty) ourselves (Matthew 22:37-39) LOVE.  He said that if we were to come after (follow) Him we must decide the cross we must bear for Him (Matthew 10:38) LIFT. He said we must look to Him and not look back at other things, responsibilities or excuses LOOK. And He said if we would follow Him we must leave the things that keep our hearts away from Him (Luke 18:22) LEAVE.  Loving, lifting, looking and leaving are central things to the mission God has planned out for us.

There is an interesting thing happening in the rap/hip hop world.  Kanye West, noted for music, bad-boy comments and some pretty bizarre outbursts, has (in his words) changed.  He has decided to follow Jesus and has even published a 9th album called Jesus is King (true whether Kanye says so or not).  On a talk show he was asked whether he was a Christian artist. Kanye replied "I am a Christian everything!"  While I know exactly nothing about West, his music or his passion for Jesus, I truly love this answer.  Kanye West is, at least in words, drawing a line in the sand that describes what is now central in his life.  He expresses love, work (our daily heavy lifting), seeing (what he looks for/at every day) and (in his response to the talk show question) what he is leaving.  Paul summed all of this up in 2 Cornithians 5:17, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone and the new has come!"  That is the gist of deciding what is central to our lives.

Over the past few weeks I have shared a few stories of the Iranian Church.  It is an amazing story of visions, discipleship, redemption, danger and God's power in the midst of oppression we, here in America, cannot even imagine.  God's Spirit is changing people in very unorthodox ways.  While doctrine, church polity and the normal process of inviting people 'to' church are largely ignored, people are asked if they would like to learn about a God of love, grace, light and life?  People do not enter as converts but as seekers who may, at a later point, become followers, after knowing the cost of discipleship and the story of Jesus.  They are taught, as Matthew 28 says, to follow and obey the things that Jesus said.  And they are choosing Jesus in droves, even knowing that this God is one who 1) loves all, 2) leads us to lift a cross (a burden He says is an easy, light yoke), 3) points us to a life of looking to Jesus as our center and 4) calls us to leave things that are toxic to our faith.  And, like Kanye West, they are saying "I am a Christian everything" who chooses the inconvenience and danger of meeting with broken people who are different, high-maintenance and hard-shelled.  It amazes me!  How about you?  Randy

Monday, October 28, 2019


"Something by which a person or event will be remembered." That is the definition of epitaph.  It is a good word.  A reverent word.  A word that is sometimes not well-documented in a funeral service.  It is a reminder of goodness and grace and the eternal impact of love, life and God.

November 3rd shouldn't be best known for the day when (at 2 am) we set the clock back and get that extra hour of sleep.  This November 3rd is All Saints Sunday when we remember names, faces, and (more importantly) lives of people who have passed away during the previous year.  It is both somber and celebratory.  The names will be read and at communion we will remember the greatest life ever lived, poured out for you and all who call upon the saving name of Jesus.  We will have lots to remember!

In Bob Buford's book Half Time the word epitaph is used as a reflection.  Buford invites each of us to ask the question, "What would we like to be remembered for?"  I think of two passages when I mentally stroll down the path of reflection of my life and the lives of others.  They are 1 Peter 2:5 "you also, like living stones are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." and Galatians 5:22-23, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control."  Both have lots to say as we reflect upon life and love.

We often hear these passages and apply them to the living, and I believe this is a good practice.  Both verses are guidelines about how we do life.  None of us fully achieve them.  None of us perfectly reflect them.  But all of us who claim Christ are called to these lofty life-practices.

In a private reflection I called "Left Unsaid" I reflected on a person who left us about 2 years ago.  The words below never made it to the funeral and I am sad and disappointed at my inadequacy there.  While in the life of David Hearndon there was incredible pain, severe depression and daily struggle, there was a goodness that transcended these debilitating difficulties.  Our community was and is blessed by David's kind generosity that sought to make us all better.  David loved and sought peace and loved that theme in the song Imagine.  I think he struggled with the 'whys' of life but persisted through the hurt as he was a faithful friend and business partner, a person who acted with fairness and a man who loved his children and grandchildren, even when he was in unbearable pain.  I remember the gentleness he expressed one evening as we sat across the table and ate fresh-caught bass and, for a few moments, escaped the struggles of life.  And every time I play a song on my guitar I remember David and Maribeth's generosity as they helped significantly in replacing my guitar that was stolen (a little part of every song contains that generosity).  So while that 'joy' did not come easy, David bore much fruit and he was and is a beautiful 'living stone' here in Abbeville.

In 1 Peter these two words 'living stone' are often glossed-over.  But the meaning of these two words are expressed in monuments marking milestones ... even grave markers.  In 1 Samuel 7:13-14 Samuel uses a stone marker to commemorate the Lord's help in the battle.  God's Word says, "Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and named it ebeneezer saying, 'thus far the Lord has helped us.'"  When we live life expressing the fruit of the Spirit (even when we doubt and even when life hurts) we are a living stone saying that in spite of a lost world, in spite of evil, in spite of pain, in spite of infirmity, in spite of loss, and in spite of all that evil sends against us, love, beauty, good, family, friendships, joy, peace, kindness, gentleness and God's good things can and will persist. In this life and past this life our gravestone becomes an 'ebeneezer' that God has been there to help us.  For as Romans 8 proclaims, nothing (even death) will ever separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus, our Lord.  AMEN

Monday, October 21, 2019

Belief and Blindness

The Bible is full of stories and examples of belief.  Most of these stories present some sense of struggle as people wrestle with the many aspects of believing in God.  Jonah struggled with a God who would send him to proclaim the demise of Nineveh and then forgive the entire bunch.  Jeremiah struggled with the depravity and idol worship of a people who he knew God still loved deeply.  Isaiah struggled with describing the bigness of a God who became small enough to become a suffering servant that gave His life for people like you and me.  And in the Gospel of John we find the struggle to understand blindness (physical and spiritual).

In Bob Buford's book Half Time Buford reflects about how belief and sight are essential to being fully engaged in the game.  If you watch sports you will find the talking heads speak about belief.  They don't always know they are doing it, but they talk about a team that has lost its way.  Yesterday they said this about the Atlanta Falcons (now with a 1-5 record).  I apologize for bringing this up to any of my Atlanta fans, but being real and honest is part of seeing and believing.  In the case of the Falcons, they have talent, maybe the best receiver in football (Julio Jones) and a great quarterback (Matt Ryan).  But as the announcers talked about the overall team they said two things ... "the coach has lost the locker room" and "they have lost their belief in the teams leadership."  So ... let's talk about belief and blindness.

First, belief is important to Jesus.  John 3:16 says ... "For God so loved the world that He gave His only, begotten Son, so that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."  Belief is important.  The words here don't refer to a shallow, passing whim of belief.  They mean belief into the plan, the purpose and the power of God.  If you are struggling with belief, do you trust, rely on and truly believe in God's leadership going forward in the person of Jesus?

Second, sight is important to Jesus.  In John 9 Jesus restores the sight of a man born blind and Jesus is clear to describe why this healing happened.  The disciples are told that the man is not blind because of something he or others had done.  Jesus restores the sight of the man so the 'works of God will be displayed.'  God is doing works in our midst.  Sometimes these are hard to see.  Other times we are just not looking.  God desires us to see His works on display.  Some of you might say that a beautiful sunset or a stark mountain view are manifestations of the 'artist' that painted those wonders, and I would have to agree.  But I think we most often marvel at natural beauty and miss supernatural beauty.  We miss the miracle of a young man saying 'I'm all in" to God's program ... 'put me in coach!'  We don't view the miracle of interactions with friends, family and our church as 'beauty,' 'grace,' 'presence' and 'power' of God.  We somehow place Jesus somewhere off in the future and don't see God's kingdom in the next pew over.  In John 9, Jesus is expressing God's plan for us to have restored sight!

Finally, the spiritual is important to Jesus.  We are (as one author said) spiritual beings having a human experience.  John 9 is as much about the spiritual blindness of the Pharisees as it is about restoring the sight of a man born blind.  At the end of the story the man born blind sees just fine, while the Pharisees remain sightless to the presence of the Son of God (the one in whom our belief brings everlasting life).  How is your spiritual vision?  Do you see beyond the black and white daily routine to the beautiful colors of God's kingdom?  Have you gone to the pool of Siloam (the word means 'sent') and returned seeing, sensing, seeking, serving and shouting the praises of the God who gave you that sight?  Will you respond to those who see you have changed in the same way the blind man responded ... "I was blind, but now I see!."

In Scripture belief and blindness are two sides of the same coin.  They are way too close for comfort.  Do we buy into the plan of the coach, or are we lost and blind, wandering through the game of life with only our wits, our wisdom and our own way?  That is the question in John 9 ... and that is the question for you and me.  As for me, 'put me in coach ... I'm ready to play!'  Randy

Monday, October 14, 2019

Taking Stock

Chapter 7 of Bob Buford's book, Halftime, is about taking stock of life.  He recommends several actions which will help us take stock by getting our heads and ourselves out of the rat race and into Hebrew's (12:1) "race God has set before us."   Buford says make peace, take (and value) time, be deliberate, share life, be honest, have faith and be patient.  All of these are good and worthy of a morning or two to reflect and process.  But I think Dennis Kinlaw (professor at Asbury Seminary) hit the key to being able to do all of these things in a reflection about life and evil.  Kinlaw said, "Satan disguises submission to himself under the ruse of personal autonomy.  He never asks us to become his servants.  Never once did the serpent say to Eve, 'I want to be your master.'  The shift in commitment is never from Christ to evil.  It is always Christ to self.  And instead of his will, self-interest now rules and what I want reigns.  And THAT is the essence of sin."  WOW!!!!

So ... here is my advice to me, you, all of us.  Let go of self, ego, my way, my heart, my direction, my control ... what I have defined as me. Remember how evil operates (Genesis 3:1-7).  People are portrayed as smart and self-reliant.  God is portrayed as being a liar desiring control of 'our' destiny.  Satan is portrayed as being 'wise.'  Satan turns Adam and Eve toward self and toward finding THEIR destiny.  God, knowing the answer already, asks Adam a question later in the chapter ... "Where are you?"  He might have asked ... "Adam, are you still here, living in My garden that I have provided, or are you off finding YOUR destiny?"  "Do you want to be LIKE Me (master of all you see) or do you want to be like you (a being created for God's glory and God's purpose)?" Let go of your/my ego!

Kinlaw's observation is interestingly relevant to some cutting edge science being used to deal with anxiety.  Several researchers are using psychedelic means to deal with anxiety are finding that losing anxiety is accompanied by a loss of ego.  It seems that the loss of ego (through very chemically-technical events in the brain) might result from having an experience that takes the person totally out of control, ensuring that they see their own smallness in how things really work.  I am certainly not condoning using psychedelic drugs but I have known people who would try anything to get rid of anxiety and depression.  For most of us, however, we might just be able to learn from the example of Adam and Eve.  If we want to truly take stock of where we are at halftime, we must lose our ego.  We must be honest with ourselves.  We must trust in something/someone bigger than our meager self.  We must see our smallness and how God's bigness is our path to significance.  We must embrace, see, shout and celebrate one of the most freeing things we can learn in life ... "It's not about me!"

Those 4 words (with one contraction) are the key to taking stock.  If God is the master and I am the follower, I now have a Scripturally-defined, important purpose.  In Genesis 2 God places Adam in the garden to 'tend it' and 'watch over it.'  Take stock ... how are you doing this?  Is it YOUR garden or God's garden?  Lose the ego ... grab on to all God has for you!  That's my advice!  Randy

Monday, October 7, 2019

The Realm of God

It is halftime and you realize you haven't really been engaged in the game.  You thought you knew what the scoreboard signified ... success, winning, attention, money, recognition.  But as you reflect and honestly ask 'how am I really doing?' you realize that the game, the score and the assessments might be very off target.  This is the scenario Bob Buford faced as his beautiful, successful and promising son was lost in an accident in the Rio Grande.

Albert Einstein said, "what is incomprehensible is beyond the realm of science ... it is in the realm of God."  And this realm ... the realm/kingdom of God is where we (God's people, His children, His treasured possession) are called to live.  It is the most beautiful and dangerous place ever!

If you want to know what the Kingdom of God is 'like' you can dream, imagine, make up your own truth, or you can ask an authority on the subject ... Jesus.  In Matthew 13 Jesus provides 6 Kingdom Parables.  They are provided so we can learn and know about where God desires us to live ... but if you think they are easy, they are not.  If you think they are cute stories, they are not.  They are insights that Jesus provides so we can work, think, reflect, ponder and struggle our way to understanding.  They are not science, but they are expressions of truth.  Five of the six begin with "The Kingdom of Heaven is like."

This week we will only take a snippet of truth from these parables.  Matthew 13:33 is the one-verse parable of the yeast.  There are three truths about the yeast.  First, it must be placed into the dough.  Second, a little goes a long way.  Finally, that little bit of yeast permeates the entire batch of bread.

The Kingdom parables all relate to God's action/activity in the world.  We are not deists who believe God is distant and disassociated with the world.  God claims this world (and everything in it, [Ps. 24:1, Matthew 28:18]).  God is active, baking the bread of life ... steering us and the entirety of existence toward His ultimate good purpose.  That is probably a challenging statement when we are confronted with a loss like the one Bob Buford faced.  But God is ultimately concerned with His Kingdom which, for God's people, is where we live now and later.  God is the 'baker' here.

I am really glad about the second part of this parable ... 'a little goes a long way.'  This morning, after a very bust week of Moonlighter-Madness I am pretty spent.  I don't have much to give, so my 'yeast' is pretty minimal.  I think the yeast in this parable represents our efforts, our goodness and our gifts we bring to the table.  For me this is not much.  But thankfully, the baker doesn't need much.  Because the Kingdom of Heaven (here and when we are with God) is a place where seed multiplies, wheat is grown among weeds, good fish are caught among bad fish, buried treasure is found in a field and pearls of great value are identified.  When we live in the kingdom our 'little' goes a long way.

Finally, the overall purpose of the parable is found in the treasure of how yeast works.  A little is placed in the dough.  It reproduces and multiplies while it is unseen.  The baker's design is that it permeates the entire loaf (the whole world).  It is not science.  It is incomprehensible that something that small will make the entire loaf beautiful, appetizing and perfect.  But it is how God works.  And it is our purpose as the 'yeast.'

"The Kingdom of Heaven is 'like' the yeast a woman used in making bread.  Even though she only put a little yeast in three measures of flour, it permeated every part of the dough. Matthew 13:33).

Monday, September 30, 2019

Paying Attention

Our 2nd week looking into Half Time activities will be spent paying attention.  In the book Half Time (Bob Buford) he said something that resonated with me.  Buford said, "I've not always paid attention to my life."  Sounds like a simple statement that could be made about most of us.  It sure fits me!  But shame on me for being so flippant about the beautiful gift of life!

In Matthew 16:2-3 Jesus comments about how we are concerned with the 'signs' that foretell the weather (which we can do little about) but we don't look around and pay attention to the signs of the times.  Maybe it's time we look around.

A new film recounts the underground church in Iran shows Muslims fleeing radical Islam and joining Christianity as the most rapidly-growing church movement in the world.  The church is mostly led by women who are observing and reacting to oppression, discrimination and gross-misinformation promulgating their plight.  These are the signs of our times.  And by the way ... the Church has always found a way to thrive in the depths of persecution and oppression.  I wonder if these places and times are where we shine our light most brightly!

Teachers and professors tell me that an increasing number of students cannot string together a series of sentences that form a coherent thought.  Interviewers tell me that people routinely show up for job interviews in shorts and t-shirts.  Parents tell me about young adults that are content to stay home, smoke pot and play on their phones and computers, rather than seeking work that will pay housing and living expenses.  Many cannot write a check or balance a checkbook.  These are the sings of the times.

Country concerts and even Justin Beiber events are being interrupted by overt and blatant worship of Jesus, about whom Beiber said, "Having trust in Jesus at your worst times is the absolute hardest, but He is faithful to complete what He started!"  These are the signs of the times.

People are complaining about politics, the environment, the medical industry, racism, self-help and depression, all of which are very real and very misunderstood.  Almost none of the information we receive about these societal issues are accurate and/or helpful.  Jesus was moved with compassion as He looked out on the multitudes (Matthew 9:36) and observed they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  These are the signs of our times.

Well ... we cant do much about the weather.  We can't control the flow of information from biased sources.  We CAN control our actions and choices.  And we CAN trust and rely on those places where God's Spirit is moving, working and doing great things.  We CAN even invite God's Spirit into our lives, our church, our homes, our actions and our community.  Sunday we will talk about ways this CAN happen right here in Abbeville!  Randy

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Half Time

Over the next few months we will embark on a journey based on Bob Buford's book Half Time:  Moving From Success to Significance.  I love the title because our world seems to be in a battle that is between these two extremes.

Of course, all of this somewhat depends on our definition of 'success' and 'significance.'  These definitions are worth asking yourself what each of these things mean for you.  Another question might be, "Why would I want to move from success?"  Our answers to these questions have a major impact on how we do life.

Jesus spoke a lot about this.  In Matthew 16:26 Jesus said ... "What good would it be for a man to gain the whole world and forfeit their soul?"  This seems to imply the soul is valued higher than 'the whole world.'  In a world that values likes on Facebook, Twitter followers and the latest and coolest devices, Jesus seems to think something else is more valuable.

I even wonder if Jesus is telling us that care for our soul ... doing things that feed, grow and uplift the soul ... are things to strive for.  In Buford's book he says that half time is when we rethink and reset our life goals.  In a football game the coach takes half time to look at what did and didn't work in the first half.  Good coaches do something that is the only sane reaction to this assessment ... they make adjustments so that the 2nd half will win the game.

This week I would like for each of us to ponder the questions above and ask some 'heart' questions.  Am I seeking success by the world's standards or significance by 'soul' standards?  What adjustments do I need to make so that my life can become vibrant, significant and worthy of a God who loves me?  What is the 'game' and am I trying to win the 'rat race' or do I "press on toward the goal to win the prize to which I am called in Christ Jesus (Phil. 3:14)?"  Are my goals, plans, days, hours, minutes 'world-focused' or 'kingdom-focused?'  Good questions I hope!  Randy

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Snakes and Weeds

The Bible has a lot to say about gardens.  There is the Garden of Eden in Genesis.  There is the return to the garden in Revelation.  Jesus talks frequently about agriculture, planting and seeds.  These subjects connect with me because I grew up helping my father in his garden.  And these subjects connect with my spirit because God is all into planting, growing and harvest.

In Matthew 13:24-30 we have the familiar story about a garden in which there are weeds.  The weeds are called tares and are a plant called bearded darnel.  The plant resembles wheat when it is young.  In the parable we are told not to pull this weed or we might just pull out the wheat too.  This is probably good advice for the farmer, but how should we apply this parable?

I think the parable is very applicable to the overall Biblical theme of gardens.  Here, in being told to refrain from pulling the weeds, I wonder if this is a parable about living life in God's Kingdom and in the Church?  All of us have people that challenge us.  Many might see these people as toxic and might be quick to leave relationship with them.  We also might be tempted to devise actions to get these people to act according to our desired behaviors.  Matthew says, leave them in the garden and tolerate them.  Because God will rightly sort them out when His Kingdom comes in the fullest.

I have three basic 'garden' rules that I think are good and Biblical.  The first is Genesis 2 ans 3 ... 'Adam ... care for the garden and keep out the snakes.'  Snakes are bad, even in the Garden of Eden.  Keep them out and, if possible, shoot the sneaky things!

The second rule is (based on Matthew 13) 'don't pull the tares.'  Often in relationships time needs to heal wounds.  Silence needs to invite non-forced conversation.  Patience needs to win out over my desire to make myself comfortable with one of those people I view as a 'weed.'  Restraint needs to allow me to grow and learn from this situation.  These are difficult things but I believe God's Word is full of wisdom here!

The third rule, and this one is hard, is 'don't plant weeds.'  When I decide to take over a situation, relationship and the behavior of another person, I am choosing to plant weeds that weren't there before.  I am very good at this when I place that 'control' hat on my head and appoint myself to an undeserved position of authority over the life of another person.  I can barely control me, and I have plenty of work doing just that.  Any other person is beyond my pay grade ... for only God can change people in a transformational way.

So ... kill the snakes, don't pull the weeds and don't plant new weeds.  Sounds simple, but it isn't!  Maybe we can all work together and make this garden called the Church a God-filled place!  Randy

Monday, September 9, 2019


This word is used in Psalm 139 (verse 16) and elsewhere in the Old Testament.  The Hebrew word is Yatsar.  Like many Hebrew words the English translation doesn't do it justice.  The words formed, woven, built, crafted and designed are all part of Yatsar.  The word implies intent, continuance and structure.  The closest image I can think of is the complex process of sermon planning and writing.  Maybe Nicey can relate to this as she works on a new book or compendium of stories.

One of the things I have worked on over the past few weeks (while I wasn't working on Charge Conference stuff) is fall and Advent sermons.  Most of you might think this is a week-to-week or even day-to-day process, but for me it is not.  The process includes prayer, mostly the listening kind.  What is God doing?  Where is God leading?  What will grow God's people?  What will build up this gathering of Christians?  What will challenge us?  What will inspire us?  What will humble us?  What will bring unity?  What will allow us to be part of God's plan?  These questions float on the wind as prayers and often the answers come like flower petals floating back on the wind to be gathered, seen and smelled.

The process of writing is multi-layered also.  There is an idea.  The idea causes further thought.  What will bring the idea to life?  What does God want the idea to look like?  How can it be structured so that the hearer can make sense of it?   Like writing a song or painting a picture, the act of sermon writing is process, art, alchemy, architecture and construction.  All of this is why the word Yatsar is used.

God's word uses the word Yatsar in multiple ways.  In Psalm 139:16 it is used to speak about the forming of an individual.  In Isaiah 43:1 it is used to describe the process of building the nation of Israel.  In Jeremiah 18:2 it describes the work of 'the potter' as God forms and directs His message through the prophets.  It is a beautifully-complex way of realizing that God is a creator, director and former of all things.  And all of those things respond to His purpose.

Where are you in that process?  Many of us think we are on the spiritual heap of pottery shards, part of an idea that just didn't pan out.  Some may think we are a beautiful work of art on a shelf to be displayed for others to admire.  My view (hopefully formed by Scripture) is that we are all part of the artistic process as God forms us as individuals, molds us collectively as a Church, writes work-order changes on our hearts, and gives us direction, purpose and functionality to be used, usable and useful in His overall plan.

May you be formed daily into the person and Church God is designing.  May He write you into the novel called life.  May the notes of your song rhyme with His tune.  And may your journey be always tracking toward His place.  In Jesus ... Randy

Monday, September 2, 2019


John Wesley was so impressed by God's grace that he made it a required subject for preaching.  Embedded in the 52 Sermons he gave to those serving in the original 'Methodist' church, Wesley loved and taught the idea of God's grace.  If you read the lyrics in our hymnal you will find this grace everywhere!

I have seen this idea of grace become a major subject of new songs by Hillsong United.  One of my favorite expressions of this is the song, Splinters and Stones.  The chorus says "All this time, like a river running through my failure, you carried me all this time."  It is a beautiful and lyrical statement about what Wesley would have called prevenient grace.  Prevenient grace is well-defined by breaking down the word into it's Latin roots ... 'pre' meaning before and 'veni' meaning to come.  God was there even before we knew it.  Psalm 139 says "You knew me before I was formed in my mothers womb."  Wesley read this Psalm and became assured of God's presence, His calling and His sustaining power.  God calls all of His creatures to himself.  He draws them and is there, even when we do not see.

At a memorial service for my mom and dad I remembered them and this song.  I remembered that when I was young and didn't even know I needed anything, they were there.  They remained through my successes and they stayed through my failures.  Even more than them, God is that river flowing through all of my stumbles and falls.  Jesus carried me, enduring the scars, the incredible weight of my sin and the dead weight of my inaction.  He drew me to Himself and still draws me to Him.  It is reassuring during busy weeks like this one.  "Thank you, Lord, for carrying me ... sustaining me ... loving me. AMEN!" Randy

Monday, August 26, 2019

Two New Things

Between now and the beginning of Advent I will be preaching two series that are new things for me. The first of these isn't really new since I have brushed against this subject over the past three weeks.  In September I want us to consider those God-sent things which are, by God's grace, available to us (even if we are undeserving).  This past Sunday we shared about how God writes us into His story, includes us in His plan and uses our weakness, failures, losses and struggles to steer us into a great plan way bigger than we are.  Now we will, for the next 4 weeks, look at God's gift of forgiveness (September 1st), how God's grace gives us sustenance (September 8th) , how God transforms us by molding us (September 15th) and how God enters our lives even in mundane things like our work (September 22nd).

During this time there will be another thing available.  I will be filling the trough in the Prayer Garden so that any who would like to be baptized will be able to either be baptized for the 1st time or remember their baptism.  Let me know if you would be interested in this act of submission and this opportunity to partake of one of the means of God's grace.  

From the end of September to the beginning of Advent (December 1st, 2019) we will embark on a sermon series based on Bob Buford's book, Half Time, Moving from Success to Significance.  There is a quote from this book that reminds me that God has a great plan in which I will find the meaning, purpose and significance my heart longs for.  Vaclav Havel said, "The real test of a man is not when he plays the role he wants for himself, but when he plays the role destiny has for him."  For a Christian, peace, purpose, value, centeredness, contentedness and true goodness do not come when we "find our passion."  These things come from finding God's plan and road map for our lives.  These things happen when we jump into the things God is passionate about!  When we find this beautiful thing, I believe a whole new world opens up.  Paul's "new creation" and Isaiah's "new thing" do not flow from the passions so easily directed by this world and our own inner desires.  It is when our passions are given in submission to and amplified by God that the door to our destiny is opened.  For God's destiny for us and God's plan for us is, I believe, so much bigger than the idol we often call "passion."

I hope you will journey with me and maybe even get a copy of this book.  The book can be found on Amazon by clicking this link. I hope we can seek and find God's plan together and realize that Paul (2 Cor. 5:17) was right ... "Therefore if anyone is in Christ the new creation has come: the old creation has gone and the new is here!"  I look forward to new things with you!  Randy

Monday, August 19, 2019


The word fulfilled is not hard to parse.  But I think it is a word we sometimes take for granted and don't take in its full meaning.  My favorite way of looking at the word is to flip-flop the two parts.
Filled and full are those two parts.

The entire book of Matthew, and much of the Gospel, is filled with the word 'fulfilled.'  It starts with Jesus coming into the world through a seemingly-chaotic mixture of Jews and Gentiles, as reported in Chapter one of Matthew.  Matthew says, in Chapter 1, verse 22 "All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord's message."  The world is, in Matthew's view, filled-full of God's message and plan through the birth of Jesus.  That fullness is for Jew and Gentile and it happened through the lives and actions of both.

When we are filled-full of Jesus, what should happen?  In Matthew some amazing things take place:

1.  A direct connection is made to the Abrahamic Covenant.  God, in Genesis 12, says "I will give you so many descendants that, like the dust of the earth, they cannot be counted."  Matthew 1 recounts how Jesus is connected to the completion of  God's plan.  Jesus fulfills us by completing God's plan in and through us.

2.  Matthew 1 tells a story of victory out of defeat.  David's great grandmother, Ruth, is lost, defeated and gleaning wheat in the field of Boaz.  It is a beautiful love story in which Boaz sees beauty, grace and 'fulfillment' in the person of Ruth.  Their story is a story of victory as the Gentile (a Moabite woman), Ruth, meets and marries Boaz, father of Jesse (who was the father of David).  In this story we all see how God takes the non-chosen and lifts them to a place of royalty.  I hope you can see your victory in the fulfillment of God's work in Ruth.

3.  There is wholeness and redemption in this genealogy.  Bathsheba, is named in the genealogy as the mother of Solomon, the result of an illicit affair with King David.  Rather than being left out of the genealogy, Bathsheba is named, pronouncing both honesty and directness in how God's fulfillment works.  I believe David and Bathsheba's affair is included in Jesus ancestry so that we can see the power of God's plan through our failures, the redemption that comes through God in spite of our 'messes' and so that we can see God's ability to make whole the things we break.

4.  There is a strength and grit of the people in this genealogy.  In the song Amazing Grace we all remember the verse, "Through many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come ... tis grace that brought me safe thus far, and grace will bring me home."  Those words resound through the story of God's people and the people in Matthew 1.

There are kings, consorts, warriors, beggars, Jews, Gentiles and overcomers.  We are reminded that our status in life and even our sins will not destroy or impede God's plan.  For God, His Word, and His plan will endure forever.  For us the genealogy is a call to fight, persist, allow God's redemption, participate in God's victory and realize that Philippians 1:6 is right ... "And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ returns."  I pray you will be certain, participatory and fulfilled (filled-full) of God's work as you become fully immersed in Him!  Amen!  Randy

Monday, August 12, 2019


I am reminded every day about how the good things of God are available to believers and how those things can often grow into things that are available to others through us.  Sunday, through a series of circumstances, we found that a cellist was 'available' to bless both of our worship services.  Rachel Cole, made available through her schedule and the work of Andy Martin, was available to be used by God to bring us beautiful music in conjunction with our Praise Team and other AUMC musicians (thanks to all of you!).  As I listened to I Need Thee Every Hour I was thankful that God truly is available to us every moment of every day.

Each Sunday I remind our congregation of the altar, a place of kneeling, praying, asking and interacting with God.  It is a physical reminder of God's open door and open ear to our praises and our petitions.

Over the next month or so I want a physical reminder to inform and inspire us about another thing available from God.  That available thing is the blessing of submitting everything to God.  On Thursday of this week I will, in the Prayer Garden, be baptizing one of our CR friends.  My friend will follow in the footsteps of our Lord Jesus when Jesus went down into the Jordan (Luke 3:21-22) and provided and example of submission to God the Father when He was baptized by John the Baptist.  In our Hymnal the liturgy says, "Brothers and sisters in Christ: Through the Sacrament of Baptism we are initiated into Christ's Holy Church,  incorporated into God's mighty acts of salvation and given new birth through the water and the Spirit.  All of this is God's gift offered to us without price!" It is available to all who choose to become part of the life and journey of the Church.  While baptism is not salvation, the vows said on Thursday will be giving of a new life to Jesus and submitting life to Him (which is Christ's act of salvation, being 'born again').

When I think of this young man's profession of faith in Jesus, his wanting to be 'all in' to whatever Jesus is doing in his life, his desire to 'seal' his profession of faith with baptism and desiring to become part of our fellowship of believers, I am thankful that this gift is openly, readily and universally available to every person.

So ... in a horse trough (adequately cleaned), in the Prayer Garden, inside the walls of this place we call Abbeville United Methodist Church, inside the heart of a young man ready to move from life in this world to life within the Kingdom of God, God will again do something He offers each of us.  He will keep His promise of forgiveness.  He will send His Spirit into a new heart.  He will lead, direct, inform, awaken and empower a man to do all He calls him to do.  And we will get to be a witness!  Isn't that amazing?  For that availability is the hope of every person and even the hope of creation itself.

I plan to leave the trough in the Prayer Garden over the next month or so.  If any of you want to be baptized or be reminded of your baptism let me know.  I would be honored to be part of Christ giving you a living well that will never run dry.  Randy

Monday, August 5, 2019

Spirit of the Living God

Henry Tweedy was born in 1868 and was a prolific hymn writer and professor at Yale Divinity School.  We will have the treat (Sunday) of hearing one of Tweedy's hymns with the musical combo of vocals, piano and cello.  I am looking forward to that!

The hymn to be played is called Spirit of the Living God (probably not the one you know).  It is a beautiful classical/Celtic piece that expresses a prayer for God's guidance and a unity only God can bring.  The hymn is very Wesleyan.

On Sunday the message will revolve around the Scripture embedded in this song.  Chapter 3 of the Gospel of John recounts a meeting between Jesus and Nicodemus.  Nicodemus came to Jesus by night, probably because he was a member of the Sanhedrin, the ruling council of the Jews.  Jesus conveys to Nicodemus the nature of the person of the Holy Spirit.  Here are a few of Jesus' points:

1. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is a required 'birth' of every Christian.  "No one can enter the Kingdom of God unless they are born of water [human birth] and the Spirit [spiritual birth] (3:5)."

2. This birth of the Spirit is what should be meant by the term "born again" as this passage about Nicodemus is the origin of that term.

3. This indwelling of the Spirit is God-directed and, by human standards, is a bit 'wild' ("the wind blows wherever it pleases.  You hear its sound but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.  So it is with everyone born of the Spirit" (3:8)."

Tweedy's song expresses the wildness and power of God's Spirit as we, the Church, allow the Spirit to do some amazing and God-led things.  Things like driving out the sin in human hearts.  Things like preaching to all God's great Good News, bringing 'commom-wealth' (prosperity/unity/harmony) to the Church.  Things like bringing God's goal to fulfillment ... the goal of bringing us to a perfection in love.  I love the song.  I love the prayer.  As you listen Sunday feel free to hear the Spirit-led lyrics.  If you are in the 2nd service, turn to hymn 539.  You may be surprised that this hymn is here, but it is both appropriate and fitting.  Tweedy's words are needed direly as we try to navigate the waters of all that is opposite and opposed to Tweedy's vision of God's will being done on earth as it is in heaven.

"Blow wind of God with wisdom blow, until our minds are free, from mists of error, clouds of doubt, which blind our eyes to Thee, burn winged fire inspire our lips, with flaming love and zeal, to preach to all Thy great Good News, God's glorious commonweal!"  Amen!  Randy

Monday, July 29, 2019


It is probably appropriate that 'hydrated' will be the title of my message Sunday.  Our 1st service is called "The Well" and the implication is obvious (we hope).  People go to the well to drink and be hydrated.

Water is vital to our survival.  People can go without food for weeks, but it is believed that we cannot survive without water for more than a few days ... 3-8 days specifically.  Your body is about 60% water.  When I do lawn work in the dog days of August, you can be assured that I intentionally hydrate before, during and after my work.  It is vital for our survival.

I think this might be why God's Word and the person of Jesus are expressed as LIVING water.  Jesus tells the woman at the well (John 4) that 'anyone who drinks of the water He offers will never be thirsty again.'  At the festival of Sukkot (Feast of Booths) Jesus tells the people "Anyone may come to me.  Anyone who believes in me may come and drink.  For the Scriptures declare, "Rivers of living water will flow from His heart" (a promise about the Messiah).

I have a question for Sunday and for today.  Where do we go for water?  Do we seek water ... sustenance ... from sources that are fleeting or do we seek living water from the eternal heart of Jesus?  Are we satisfied with water that interests us for a moment but doesn't satisfy ?  I ask this because I think our entire society is in a holding pattern of the non-vital.  We are intensely focused on the non-eternal, non-important, and non-life-giving.

I constantly run into people who are empty, unfulfilled and wanting.  I remember reading Haggai and I believe these words are relevant to our society today.  "Give careful thought to your ways.  You have planted much but harvested little.  You eat but never have enough.  You drink but never have your fill (Haggai 1:5-6)."  One version of this passage says we have holes in our pockets.  We want to be filled and we wonder why Game of Thrones ... Fortnite ... online gaming ... Facebook ... Instagram ... or any of our other 'recreational' pastimes leave us with an emptiness we cannot quite grasp.  Then we visit the nursing home, read to our kids, go on a mission trip or work at our church and get a profound sense of satisfaction.  Yet, rather than learning the lesson of our experience, we return to the meaningless.  Why?

I encourage you this week to think about spending time, energy, passion, money and life in those things that truly mean something.  Why not invest in the eternal?  As a spiritual being, those are the things that 'hydrate' you.  Without them your spirit will shrink and/or perish! I hope you will see me on Sunday and say, "Thanks ... I needed that!" Randy

Monday, July 22, 2019

Rules of Holes

One of the radio programs that tweaks my fancy is Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace.  It is a very utilitarian look at finances with a focus on the practical, simple things that universally work every time they are applied.  Ramsey advises hard work, spending less than you make, budgeting, steering clear of borrowing and and avoiding stupidity (that last one gives me lots of trouble).  Ramsey's advice also has a standard 'rule of holes.'  The rule is simple ... "if you find yourself in a hole, stop digging."

I love that little bit of advice!  Its implications are many.  Learn from your mistakes.  Don't keep doing the things that get you into trouble.  Be smart enough to change when your current direction isn't working.  Great advice!

The early Church, as depicted in Acts, had lots to learn.  They were doing a new thing.  And because they were people they fell into some difficulties that caused them to modify their behavior.  In Chapter 5 of Acts Ananias and Sapphira made a gift to the Church.  Then they lied about it.  Acts 5 says both of them dropped dead on the spot. They forgot the first rule of holes ... 'stop digging.'

And don't think holes can't open up even when you are doing good work, even God's work.  Peter, a staunch Jew, believed the new converts needed to adopt Jewish behavior, customs and dietary requirements.  In a vision (Acts Ch. 10) Peter hears the words ... "Do not call something unclean if God has made it clean."  Peter changed his tune regarding the gentiles and new gentile converts began receiving God's Holy Spirit.  Peter was willing to change his view to follow what God was teaching.  Peter was ready and willing to change to avoid the pitfalls of legalism and elitism.  Peter remembered the second rule of holes ... holes can/will appear anywhere and at any time.

There is a final rule of holes.  Generally holes have a way out ... up.  In Acts 12 Peter is sent to prison.  He has done just what God asked and finds himself in a hole anyway (have you ever felt that way?).  Acts said the Church prayed 'earnestly.'  The people were very afraid for Peter's safety because James had just been killed by Herod.  The story of Acts 12 is recounted in Charles Wesley's 1738 Hymn, And Can it Be That I Should Gain.  Acts says that Peter was asleep and was awakened by an angel.  Peter's chains fell off and the angel led him put of prison and to the home of Mary where the people were praying.  Peter's way out of the dungeon was up.  I tell this story because of a discussion I had with Nicey as we shared about several of our inmates who should be released from jail soon.  Many leave that place, return to their old haunts and never leave the REAL hole ... their environment.  Nicey and I recounted that to leave the dungeon ... the hole we have either dug or fallen into ... we must both look up and climb up.  C. S. Lewis told the Narnia children to go "Higher Up and Further In."  Psalm 40 says God lifted David out of the miry clay and set his feet on solid ground and gave him a new song to sing ... a hymn of praise to God.  I think both of these say what Dave Ramsey would say ... change what you are doing and who you are doing it with.  When God makes a way out of no way, take the path God provides!  Follow God's angel to a place of prayer and safety.  It doesn't matter how or why the hole appeared ... it just matters that you are there and you don't belong there.  It DOES matter that you stop digging.  And it DOES matter that you take the way out God provides.  In Wesley's song the words go like this ... "My chains fell off and I was free ... I rose, went forth, and followed thee."  Good advice!  Randy

Tuesday, July 16, 2019


Yes ... I am still talking about the traits of the early Church depicted in Acts 2.  The subject is fertile ground for growing in the faith.  And the traits are the things we should cultivate in the Church of 2019.  One of these traits is the wonder of God's work in and through His people.

The subject of wonders is like a three-legged stool.  Here are the three legs.

Awareness -  Jesus said that we should be wary of signs and wonders and the way they can draw us in to the wrong frame of mind.  Matthew 12:39 says, "Only an evil and adulterous generation would demand a miraculous sign."  Jesus is reminding us of how we equate the things that impress us with the power of God.  An orator with charisma and volume is followed by many ... we fail to sift the things being said.  A clever spokesperson uses the smoke and mirrors of speech to deceive us ... and we are impressed.  In Jesus' day He healed many, calmed storms, restored sight to the blind and raised the dead ... and He was crucified.  We should be cautious and discerning about signs and wonders.

Attribution - People often attribute signs and wonders to the person or group.  That is not the Biblical model.  Jesus, in John 14:13, tells His disciples that when He acts on their prayers it is His action and for the glory of the Father in Heaven.  Jesus repeatedly prays before performing miracles, attributing the end result to the Father ... seeking the glory of the Father.  Peter performs miracles in Acts but he is clear that this does not happen in his own power ... it is God's action through him.  So, a church that says 'holy water' can be applied to achieve healing ... another that says a ritual will result in answered prayer ... another who has a charismatic leader that professes the ability to heal on queue ... all need to be looked-at through the lens of Scripture.  Signs and wonders that are described in the early Church are from God, for God's glory and have the ultimate purpose of pointing to God's power.

Astonishment - When God works in our midst, I wonder if we make one of several mistakes.  One is, we miss it entirely.  Carolyn Arends writes (in There You Are) "I was hoping you would write to me, a message in the stars, as if the stars themselves were not enough."  Isaiah 40 says,  "Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens.  Who created all of these?"  We look at stars, sunsets, trees, animals and even people as things ... not as part of the creation of a mighty God.  The second is we see it as less that it really is. We give thanks for healing but fail to be awed by the majesty of the one who heals.  The council in Jerusalem calls Peter on the carpet for preaching and performing signs and wonders and says "Stop!"  rather than thinking through to the source of those miracles.  The third is that we have lost our sense of awe and are, shockingly, awed at all the wrong things.  We should be astonished at God every day!  Arends writes in another line, "I was waiting for a miracle and looking for a sign, as if each breath I take is not enough."  We should be astounded at the magnitude and the microscopic attention of God.  We look up, and God is there.  We look into the smallest particle of life ... and God is there too.  The tag line of Arends song might be the biggest miracle of all ... "There You are, loving me like crazy!"  God sees all of our flaws and failures and looks past them to the possibilities of the great things He can accomplish with our obedience.  Pretty amazing!

In Acts 2:43 it says ... "A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders."  In a society impressed with football, actors, swag and stuff, maybe the people called Christians should have a different, Biblical and better standard!  Randy

Tuesday, July 9, 2019


This week will be one of appropriateness.  It will be appropriate for our message Sunday to come from one of our Certified Lay Servants (Jane Brown) who will bring us greetings, inspiration and information from the Celebrate Recovery Summit.  Nineteen of our leaders will be making the trip to Hendersonville, Tennessee to learn and grow so they can serve better than ever here in Abbeville.

There will be another appropriate thing happening too.  Lee and I will be in North Carolina to place grave markers on her mother and father's graves.  There is a very appropriate caption on both ... "loved always."  It is an interesting two words because it can be taken in two appropriate ways.

The first way "loved always" can be taken is our view toward Roy and Maria Lineberger.  We will always love them.  We knew their nuances, quirks, flaws and talents.  We knew their moods, their joys and their struggles.  We knew their brokenness and their blessedness.  Both because of and in spite of these things, we loved them.  They will be loved always.

You could also read "loved always" as Roy and Maria's view of life.  They loved always.  They knew our nuances, quirks, flaws and talents.  They knew our moods, our joys and our struggles.  They knew our brokenness and our blessedness.  Both because of and in spite of these things, they loved us well.

I mention these because 1 Corinthians 13 describes this kind of love.  It is the 'agape' love that is our best description of how God loves us.  Agape love is persistent, profound, palpable and perfect.  Agape love is struggle, steadfast, strident and strong.  God's love sees us like we are and still seeks the best for us.  Roy and Maria loved us this way.  Their earthly love lacked the perfection that God's love exhibits, but I think it is as close as we get.  And it is a beautiful love that is expressed in our love for them and in how they loved us.

There is a passage in Scripture about markers.  1 Peter 2:5 says "like living stones, you are being built ... "  I love that!  Living stones, built by God, say that something profound and beautiful happened here.  In Roy and Maria ... in our Celebrate Recovery leaders ... in agape love ... God has 'happened.'  May God's love happen in your day today, to you and through you!  Randy

Tuesday, July 2, 2019


I love the thought of prayer as a conversation with God.  Does it inform you that God is all about relationship?  'Love God with all you got and your neighbor as yourself' ... this is the greatest commandment.  And the Acts 2 church was doing all they could to nurture, develop and grow their relationship with God and with one another.  Prayer is a foundation for this intentional relational tool.  Why?

One reason is that when we pray for each other we become connected.  Our life and the life of the person we are praying for become closer and more meaningful.  We, as Galatians 2 says, 'carry' each other's burdens.  And when we do that our relational connection becomes more evident and more meaningful.  Our life and the life of the other person overlap and in that overlap I believe God can work wonders.  The early Church prayed for one another.

Another reason prayer is relational is that prayer is often a means of thanksgiving.  When I pray for a person having surgery I pray for the person, the procedure and for God's healing.  But I also pray a prayer of thanksgiving for the skill of the doctor, the gift of medicine and God's amazing ability to do far more than any medical procedure ever could.  When we share in a spirit of thanksgiving, God is close by!

A third reason prayer is relational is it connects to God's image.  Biblically God is compassionate.  Jesus wept for Jerusalem and for His friend Lazarus.  God expresses hurt for the people He created and even in the midst of our sin God is already offering a way of forgiveness.  Maybe the most compassionate statement in the Bible is when Jesus says, "Forgive them for they know not what they do!"  Jesus, on the cross, is already speaking on our behalf for our forgiveness and re-connection to God.

Finally, that conversational thing again.  If we love ...  if we care ... if we are involved in life with someone, we converse with them.  How would it work if you treated a friend like you treat God?  What if every time I went to my friend I gave him a list of things I needed him to do?  How would that work?  But what if you had a 2-way conversation with that friend.  You just talked about stuff, life and dreams.  Might that work a little better?

I hope these ramblings stir you to do what the early Church did ... interact with each other and with God.  I think it might do what one person said when they said that prayer doesn't change God but it changes us.  Good advice!  Randy

Monday, June 24, 2019


In a generation that has mostly had everything given to it free of charge there is little connection to this term 'without.'  There are few examples or concept that connect us to the idea of sacrifice ... doing without ... giving from either scarceness or even abundance.  Yet this little term is found throughout the faith we call Christianity.  We are forgiven because God's plan was the sacrifice of His one and only Son for the atonement/forgiveness/washing of our sins.  That truth is vital, foundational and wonderful!

There is a word used to describe the early Church in Acts 2 (specifically verse 46).  The people enjoyed fellowship with 'sincere hearts'.  What does that mean?  The Biblical idea of sincerity is rooted in a phrase John Riley has used and I will attempt to convey.  It is a very practical term flowing from the practice of selling marble and marble sculptures.  In the old days when a marble sculpture was sold it was to be sold 'without wax' (the root concept for sincerity). When marble was carved there were often imperfections.  If a sculpture had an imperfection it would bring less money and might even be too defaced to sell.  So dishonest merchants would melt wax and fill in the imperfections with wax.  When it got hot (maybe if the sculpture were placed in the sun) the wax would melt and the owner would realize he/she had been cheated.  So sincere means without (sin) wax (cera).  Hopefully you get the point!

A trait of the early Church was this sincerity.  They lived life openly.  They shared meals and shared hurts, victories, pain and pretty much everything.  They shared their possessions and were willing to pitch in when needs were identified.  I believe, in those early days, there was an honesty and sincerity.  And this is a trait we should strive for.  No scheming, undercurrents or hidden agendas for us!  Because we are to be those people who are the same on Sunday, Monday and every other day.

I sometimes struggle with this.  I rationalize ... "If they knew, they wouldn't like me!" ... "If they were aware of my plans they would be against me!"  ... "If they knew my doubts they wouldn't believe or follow me!"  All of these statements have 2 things in common.  Did you see the word 'they'?  As I scheme, cover up, obfuscate, inveigle, evade and generally cover my true self with wax, the purpose isn't noble.  It is totally self-centered.  That brings us to the 2nd word ... 'me.'  Insincerity is all about me and it divides me from the other people I call they.  It breeds divisiveness, hate, dishonesty and all manners of bad things.  It should not be in the lexicon of the Church!

The early Church couldn't be self-centered and Christ-centered.  Our country's founding couldn't have been self-centered and successful.  Many people had to debate, disagree, compromise and cooperate in a setting where there was trust and focused purpose.  No wax.  "Lord ... keep our hearts sincere, open, transparent and 'without wax.'  Thank you!"  AMEN

Monday, June 17, 2019

Front Porch

What do those words bring to mind?  Front porch.  Rocking chairs ... dialogue ... quiet ... laughter ... rest ... resetting ... you can add what you will.  Joy Williams of The Civil Wars (a singing group) has named her solo album Front Porch.  In an interview she reflects ... "looking at my life, I actually have begun enjoying the little things a lot more than I had in the past. I think I always used to be racing ahead to the next big thing and now I’m more interested in watching my daughter discover what her hand looks like in the shadow."  She continues ... "Oh yeah, my face is starting to change a little bit." But I remember my mom telling me that it’s good for your face to tell a story, and so my laugh lines are getting deeper and my forehead is starting to show more signs of how much I’m squinting and thinking and, you know, chasing after my kids or reading a book at night. Those are good signs of life. Vanity would say otherwise, but I think reality might be a little bit more important than my vanity."  Where do we stop ... rest ... listen ... interact ... and live on the front porch?

The Acts 2 Church had a front porch ... places and times where interaction takes place among the believers.  We have a front porch too.  Last night, as I waited in the sound booth in the Family Life Center, I heard front porch discussions among adults and children as they sat down to a nutritious hot dog dinner.  They all stopped ... ate ... enjoyed the real things in life.  They looked at each other differently.  Non-confrontive and non-judgmental was on the menu.  Laughter was frequent.  I listened to the sounds of life.  In Acts 2:42-47 the passage twice mentions eating together and 'sharing their meals with great joy.'  The Church is doing something that has value, meaning and worth by living life together.  What a concept!

For the early Church there were difficult challenges.  Shrill, angry voices came from the Jewish church leaders calling them heretical.  Mistrust and enmity came from the Romans who saw this group as a threat.  The People of the Way (the early Church) responded by doing life, focusing on the good and real things and being 'in the world' but not 'of the world.'  

Maybe we can learn something from this.  I have heard shrill/angry voices and mistrust/enmity from people I know in the North Carolina church.  They are upset about how sexual offenders are being treated.  Other people in Atlanta are upset over the abortion debate, worried that actors and performers will boycott their state or local area.  As I read that God added to the Acts 2 church 'every day,' I see my friends in Atlanta and the Research Triangle (Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill) in North Carolina on a list of the top 100 Post-Christian cities in America.  I wonder ... is the 'cause' of Christ, the nurture of our souls, the reality of the spiritual and life in the Spirit important in our reactionary world?  Are we willing to sit on the front porch and dialogue with each other?  Are we more worried about our vanity, our swag, our devices, our stuff and our outward appearance than we are about living life 'in Christ?'  Can we recapture the joy of children eating the best food ever at Vacation Bible School, sitting on their 'front porch' and gathering to praise a God who has overcome this world?  Do we love Jesus more than our causes?  When we 'go everywhere' do we go to the front porch with our neighbor and share our meals with 'great joy?'

Monday, June 10, 2019

Acting Like The Church

Our Vacation Bible School (VBS) begins next weekend (June 16, 17, 18 from 5:30 pm till 8:30 pm).  As we pray with each other about how God will show up to help us teach, lead, sing, praise and love, I can't help think about the Bible book I read from Sunday.  The book is Acts.  It is all about how God continues, after Jesus' life, to move into this neighborhood called 'the world.'  For God said, in John 3:16 (one of our VBS Scriptures), that He loved the world (people) so much that He gave His son so that whoever (that's all of the folks in that world) believes in Him would not perish but have everlasting life.  Those people who choose to believe in Jesus are called something we fail to perceive as sacred ... but it IS sacred.  It is called THE Church.  And that book (Acts) is all about the early Church.  It describes how we should act.  It gives us some examples of things not to do.  And offers us a picture of the flawed, broken Church somehow, with the Holy Spirit, moves into the known world with the message of the Gospel.  Pretty cool!

Over the remainder of the Summer that is where we will journey.  I hope you will jump into the boat with all of the messed-up Church folks who are friends, fellow travelers, companions and Christians.  Acts will be our source material.  Let's see what we can learn and how we can become more like the Church God envisioned when he told the disciples "You will be My witnesses everywhere" (another VBS Scripture from Acts 1:8).

Our first step in the journey through Acts will look at the pattern of the early Church.  It is expressed in Acts 2:42-47.  Here are the 10 things we see as the early Church starts the ministry led by the Holy Spirit.  1) devotion to being taught, 2) communion/sacraments, 3) wonders/signs, 4) shared stuff, 5) generosity, 6) meeting in the temple, 7) eating together, 8) sincerity, 9) praise of God, 10) the encouragement of shared favor.  That's a lot ... it may take us a few weeks just to get through these, so bear with me as I try to unpack this beautiful and challenging passage.  But that is what happens when we journey together and are led by a God of mystery and grace ... we just don't know where God will send us.  I hope you will join the journey and find joy in our journey together.  Thanks ... Randy

Monday, June 3, 2019


For all of the football fans in my midst there is a term you might know.  It can be applied when a turnover (fumble, interception) happens.  It can be applied when one team punts and drives the other team backwards.  It is called "flipping the field."

As we enter Acts 2 and Pentecost Sunday I want us to think about flipping the field.  When the disciples wait for the realization of God's promise of the Holy Spirit they look out on a broken society, a broken church and lots of broken people.  Add to this the chaos of many people from many nations in Jerusalem for the Pentecost holiday.  Then it happened ... the field got flipped.

As I thought about this event, which signifies for many the birth of the Church as we read about in the book of Acts, I can't help but reflect on what this flipping represents.

From the perspective of the Jewish leaders and the 'church' institution, they might have felt that their world was turned upside down.  These upstarts actually believed that the Messiah had come and had proclaimed release to the captives, sight to the blind, healing for the sick and light to those living in darkness.  But from the standpoint of God and for those who were lost, the field was flipped right side up.  In the midst of turmoil and chaos Jesus, and the presence of the Holy Spirit, turned everything right.

From the perspective of the Christians, they 'flipped' from waiting to going.  These uneducated fishermen, hated tax collectors and ne'er-do-wells barged out of that upper room and began to preach, proclaim and boldly become missionaries in a world where the 'church' said all was just fine.  That day the Church began a spread that continues today.

Don't believe these things still happen?  At Annual Conference we heard from a Tanzanian missionary who professed that they had started a church 'accidentally.'  The began a children's worship in an orphanage and the people from the town were curious and started to come.  The people began to ask how to join this group and before a few months had passed 45 people were baptized.  No training ... no plan ... no intentionality ... no direction from the institutional church.  Just people meeting and telling the Good News of the gospel to children.  I believe the Holy Spirit flipped the field.

On June 16th Vacation Bible School will begin.  We have lots of good people and even have some plans.  But I, for one, feel ill-equipped for this task that hasn't happened at AUMC in many years.  But, when I heard this story from Tanzania, I became encouraged.  What if God's Holy Spirit came like tongues of fire upon us at VBS?  What if the mighty river of God's power rushed out and took our inadequacies, our fears, our brokenness and our failings and infused His power into them?  What if God flips the field in Abbeville through the many ways we leave our upper rooms and stop waiting and start going?  What if Acts 2 becomes real in our time and in our presence?  Come, Holy Spirit, come ... we invite your presence and power!  Randy 

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

What if we wanted it all?

There are lots of songs on the 'all' spectrum.  There is Adele's song, "We Could Have Had It All."  But my favorite is John Legend's song, "All Of Me."  The lyrics go ... "All of me, loves all of you, all your curves and all your edges ... "  I like that line a lot!  Because Jesus has lot's of curves and edges!

John 21:15-19 describes one of these 'all of me' conversations.  Peter and the disciples meet Jesus on the shore of the Sea of Galilee.  They have a fish breakfast (we had catfish at the monthly Fellowship Breakfast last week) and then Jesus starts up a conversation with Peter.  "Do you love me more than these?" Jesus asks Peter.  You remember the conversation.  Peter answers Jesus three times and then Jesus ends the dialogue with two words ... "Follow me!"  Follow Jesus through the difficulties.  Follow Jesus when you are caught up in the throes of life.  Follow Jesus through the curves life sends your way.  Follow Jesus when it takes you to the very edges of your faith.  Follow!

What if we truly wanted all of Jesus?  Not just Jesus the friend.  Not just Jesus our Savior.  But Jesus, the leader of the army that will storm the very gates of hell.  Or Jesus, our Lord!

It's easy to love and like Jesus the friend.  That's what Peter does when he answers Jesus with "Yes, I 'phileo' (friend, brother) you.  That Jesus fits snugly into our comfort zone.  That Jesus is the one we chum around with.  But that Jesus is only a small part of what/who Jesus should be.  Jesus wants us to have it all.  Jesus wants us to love all of Him!

It's hard to give up control to our true commander.  That Jesus sends us into the battle that causes us to sacrifice everything, even our lives.  "For what good would it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? (Matthew 16:26)."  Jesus has unpredictable curves and hard edges.  The edges are sharp ... "For the Word of God is alive and active, sharper than any double-edged sword dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart! (Hebrews 4:12)."  Does that sound comfortable or painful?  But that is the devotion and dedication our commander asks.

And Jesus our Lord is demanding ... not docile.  I love the quote from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis as the girl Susan talks to Mr. Beaver ... "Is he quite safe?  I feel rather nervous about meeting a lion."  "Safe?" said Mr. Beaver ... "Who said anything about safe?  'Course he isn't safe!  But he's good!"  If you want a safe ... tame ... docile lord, you are not seeking Jesus.  If you want an unsafe God who looks all the way into your soul, dividing 'joint from marrow ... soul and spirit' then you are in luck.  Because that God asks ... "Do you love me?"  and then commands ... "Follow me?"

What if we wanted it all?  Randy

Sunday, May 19, 2019

What if we remodel?

I love asking "what if" questions.  They make me reflect ... think ... grow ... look forward.  They also remind me that there is lots of work for God and me to do.

The question for this week might be "what if we remodel" or, more accurately, "What if we ask God to remodel us?"  If I remodel the work won't be lasting and it will lack attention to the things I really need to change.  If God remodels, it will be perfect for me and for all of the people in my life.  So ... what might God do?

I think God, in and to me, might focus on the three things I often see on those remodeling programs on TV (Property Brothers ... Fixer Upper ... you know the ones).  They buy a house with obvious issues because it is cheap.  They decide what work will make the house functional, livable, attractive and good for the new family that will move in. Here goes.

First, almost all of the houses on TV need electrical work.  Old wiring and new appliances, devices and electronics don't mix well.  Did you know that the human brain can also be rewired?  It is called 'brain plasticity' and it is the new thing in dealing with the mess our world has made out of our minds.  The Bible said we need to have our minds transformed (Romans 12:2).  God knew this is possible and is part of our design.  Counselors, psychiatrists and mental health practitioners have discovered the 'new' science of brain plasticity and are, through MRI technology, discovering some very interesting things.  I think God already knows these things, and we see them play out when people allow God to change them.  I, for one, submit myself to this rewiring ... I hope you will too.

Second, the desired thing, in many of these remodeling projects, is the 'open floor plan.'  This means less rooms and more open space.   Let's think about this from a 'mind-centric' point of view.  I grew up in a culture that sells the idea of lots of rooms with lots of compartments.  I heard my secular bosses say, more than once, "well that's just business" to justify bad behavior and a less-than-honest way to treat an employee, a competitor or someone you wanted to pass on the ladder of success.  I have heard many people say, "I keep my faith to Sunday and church."  We have been sold the idea that we, as Christians, should separate Church and State.  This is classic western thinking ... rooms, compartments, walls.  The Hebrew mindset (as prompted in Scripture) is vastly different.  There is a concept in Hebrew faith called 'one thing.'  It is generally summed-up like this ... life is one thing.  It is why Deuteronomy 6 says that God is 'one' and that we, as people of faith are to love God as a totality with all of life ... when we wake up ... when we walk along the road ... when we lie down at night.  Loving God is something we do with the totality of our lives ... we do not place God in His room to control Him like another one of our compartments.  You get the point!

One final thing ... on TV the houses are bought cheap because they are broken.  I love that image for us as broken vessels.  But God does something amazing ... He, because He loves and values us, pays top dollar for us.  And then He invests Jesus life and His Spirit into those broken vessels, making us beautiful, whole, useful and worthwhile.  That is the amazing message of the Gospel and of life with God.  I would love for God to take me on as a remodeling project, and, in fact, He has.  "Lord ... do Your good work ... make me whole ... make me beautiful to you ... make me who/what You will!"  AMEN ... Randy