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