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