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