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