Sunday, March 25, 2012

You Tube

Last evening I found a new and great use for You Tube.  Every night my grand kids stay with us I have the honor of playing my guitar for them and singing them to sleep.  Some of you might consider this abusive, but I do better in the setting at the foot of a little boys bed.

Anyway, last night we were able to find some of the original artists that sing the songs I sing to them.  There is "Puff the Magic Dragon (Peter Paul and Mary)", "I Will Rise (Chris Tomlin)", "There is a ship (various)"  ... "Shout to the Lord", "Pony Man (Gordon Lightfoot)" and "Farewell to Tarwathie (Judy Collins).  These songs come from our past and present and represent concepts we want to instill in the boys.  They and I love this special time of music (a love of music is something I would love for them to have all of their lives).  This gift of songs and music is such a great gift that both services this coming Sunday will be filled with music.

But seeing these songs presented by the original artists.  Seeing their faces as they were taken on the musical journey I first embarked on as a child.  THAT is priceless.

It is a reminder of the Proverb that says "Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will remember it."  That word again ... REMEMBER!  This season of Easter and Lent when we remember Jesus' life, death and resurrection.  We remember (as He tells us that first time He offers up the Eucharist) that He loves us.  We remember that we are forgiven.  We remember that He had a mission and a message that we take to heart.  And ... it is music to our ears.  Pastor Randy

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


This is a question that can either free us or imprison us.  Why did I end up in this situation?  Why did I make that choice?  Why did a God of goodness and grace allow that to happen?  The permutations of this question can be as numerous as our fleeting thoughts or our deepest hurts.  Why?

I won't attempt to completely answer this question today.  Anyone who would tackle the 'why' question and say they have it solved is, I believe, delusional.  But what I will do is take some personal shots at sorting out some things I have had to face.

Why did I end up in a bad situation when I was trying to help another Christian?  The answer to this one is remarkably easy.  First, when we immerse ourselves in the dangerous water of relationships we might get hurt, persecuted, misunderstood and just plain in 'over our heads.'  Yet, we minister, love and serve anyway.  Being in ministry is dangerous ... Jesus knew this well.  Second, we can control our own choices but not those of others.  Other people make choices that might seem good to them but might harm me.  So, as Christians, we love them through the danger if we can.  Finally, while God keeps His promises, people are fickle.  I wish I could explain this but I will leave it as I say to myself ... "they just are ... deal with it."

Why does God let bad things happen?  This is a big one and I will only touch on an answer.  What comforts me about this one is to realize God's agenda and my agenda are different.  I desire smooth sailing, no pain and total victory over ever problem I face.  God is into growing us up so that when we come to live with Him we will be good citizens of our real home (read 1 Peter 2:2-5 and Hebrews 13:14).  There is an old theory about "why is evil in the world?" called the Irenaean theodicy.  It describes God's purpose as 'soul-making' in this world so that people will be prepared for, happy in and expectant of our eternal home with God.  C.S. Lewis touches on this in a book called the Great Divorce.  It, for me, is comforting to know that this world isn't all there is and that I can have a better tomorrow if I (as John describes it) abide in Jesus.

So ... why did this day not go like I planned?  Maybe I am needing a lesson.  Maybe a bad person placed me in a bad situation.  Maybe I made a bad choice and am living in the throes of consequences.  What I do know is I should look around me ... observe what is happening ... look for evidence of God's hand ... and see the roses blooming in the wasteland.

Thursday, March 15, 2012


Visiting the hospital reminds me that people deal with pain in a variety of ways.  Some grin and bear it.  Some complain.  Some bark at the caregivers.  Some suppress the pain.  Some speak about it and others are silent.  Pain is a very strange thing ... a reminder of our humanity.

Michael Card writes a lullaby about the Revelation.  It is called "He Wipes Away Our Tears."  Some read this (Revelation 21:4) to believe that pain is never present in heaven, but if this is so, where did the tears come from?  In the passage there is no more pain from that point (glad of that!) but we often enter God's presence (and I think we will on that last day) carrying burdens that bring us pain. Here are a few observations about pain:

Pain is a sign of life.  We hurt because we are living humans who naturally feel pain.  There are medical conditions (such as CIPA and even diabetes) that mask or cause total insensitivity to pain.  The inability to feel pain in these conditions is dangerous and even life-threatening.  Pain is a warning and a sign that we have stepped over the limit and should stop.  This is not just true for physical pain, but other pain warns us to do something ... take some action ... take inventory of our situation.

Pain is not a respecter of persons.  It happens to rich, poor, powerful, helpless ... all of us feel some kind of pain.  How we deal with pain is another matter (note my observations from hospital encounters).  If you follow Jesus' life he experiences a number of situations that should bring pain (physical and emotional).  In His humanity He seems to deal with His painful situation in ways common to us.  Sometimes He is angry.  Sometimes He weeps.  Sometimes He removes Himself from the painful situation.

My last point (this is where I will end) is that He doesn't seem to do what our society chooses most often ... anesthetize the pain.  I am totally guilty here.  When my head hurts I look for a pill to take.  Maybe I should find a way to make my life less stressful.  When I was on a mission trip to Kentucky I had a pain of discomfort in my mid-back area, along with just a 'not good' feeling.  Like most guys I tried to "gut it out."  When that didn't work I took some aspirin (probably a good choice in the short term).  When the pain kept returning I played the last card for relief ... I went to someone who knew more than I did (a long list) ... the doctor.  I was in the midst of a heart malfunction and without help Lee would have been talking to the holders of my life insurance policy.  So ... if you have pain that keeps returning (physical or emotional) you might try talking to someone who knows more than you do.  That might be a doctor.  That may be a counselor.  It might be a friend.  And it just might be a God who will listen, give you some advice from His Word and then wipe your tears away.  That's my take ... Pastor Randy

Sunday, March 11, 2012

What If?

Our current sermon series is about a God who cold have stood back and allowed mankind to fend for ourselves.  After all ... God was perfect ... Christ was sinless ... the Holy Spirit was blameless.   Yet, as stated in the great Wesley song, "He left His Father’s throne above, So free, so infinite His grace— Emptied Himself of all but love, And bled for Adam’s helpless race: ’Tis mercy all, immense and free, For O my God, it found out me! ’Tis mercy all, immense and free, For O my God, it found out me!"  Great words about an even greater God.  What a reason for being where God has called all Christians on Sunday morning.  Yet ... as weather improves and other opportunities happen, God's people make poor excuses and plans to do what they desire ... not what God desires.

I wonder ... if I were to announce a cure for cancer ... offer a lucky person tickets to a favorite sports team ... have a sure-fire cure for aging ... have water from the fountain of youth ... what would that do for Sunday attendance?  But, of course, I offer none of these things.  Just words from a God who went on a great and noble mission into enemy territory, braving birth, death threats, childhood in flight, temptation, politics, persecution, torture and death ... for what?  For the people who place their whims, their comfort, their recreation, their 'fun,' and all the other me oriented things we place in priority before God.  Some of you are saying that you need time away ... so you take the time God calls you specifically into His house.  Some of you are saying you need your fun ... so you spend more on you than you do on God's work.

I asked, in my Facebook page, a question a few weeks back.  It asked what, financially, we placed before God.  One person sent me back (I am guessing they did not read me entire post) a response that said, "recreation of course!"  A sad and probably true answer.  So I will ask the question in a different way.  What do you place before God in how you use your time and energy?  How does your life respond to His great mission of salvation as he lived, taught, died and was resurrected for you?  Do you abide in Him or in this kingdom called fallen?  Pastor Randy

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Petition

OK folks ... I have a knack for extending my foot into my mouth and generally making myself a nuisance.  So, as I have watched some denominational agencies become active into issues I view as 'politics' I have become increasingly disturbed.  First, the rank and file members of the church do not really get to decide what these agencies advocate.  What right does an agency have to advocate for issues that I oppose?

And another thing ... if our church believes in the power of prayer, shouldn't we ask these agencies to become super prayer warriors for those things which we (in unity) believe we desire God to move in one direction or the other?  Just asking.

So (that foot in the mouth thing) I sent a petition to the General Conference of the United Methodist Church.  The petition is simple.  I ask, in the petition, for General Conference (the only official voice of the United Methodist Church)  to refrain from funding any and all lobbying activities of the General Board of Church and Society (the culprit in many of complaints about lobbying).

Why did I do this?  Because I have watched various branches of our denomination and other faith streams become focused on politics at the expense of the mission of the church.  Names like Rev. Wright, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rev. Al Sharpton, Rev. Pat Robertson (I could go on forever) have immersed themselves in politics and have become poor witnesses of the message of the Gospel.  Whether they are promoting liberation theology, feminist theology, or any other branch of theology, they dilute the Jesus we should all be unifying around.  Rev. Tony Evans said it like this ... any label (liberal, conservative, Jewish, post-modern, traditional, etc.) you put before the word Christian demeans and cheapens the word Christian.  How about we become just Christian?  How about we, as individuals, promote whatever political group we desire ... but don't cheapen the message, witness and work of Jesus by tying His name to our favorite political agenda.

For me, my faith will definitely inform my decision on who I vote for.  But the only candidate I will publicly endorse is Jesus ... who reigns and rules above all politics and would have serious issues with all the political parties I am aware of.  I will pray that our elections will follow God's will for America.  And I will oppose our (and other) denomination's efforts to politicize something that should never be tainted by the rhetoric, the personalities and the viciousness of our political system.  So ... I sent a petition.  Pastor Randy

Thursday, March 1, 2012

"Everybody Funny"

There is an old blues song (not a particularly great one) that does have a good tag line.  In the song the singer is trying to stay for a while with a friend but the friend's wife isn't so keen on the idea of the extra guest.  The friend remarks that the wife is acting "funny."  The singer responds, "everybody funny ... now you funny too."

Maybe it is spring fever.  Maybe it is a desire for church and faith to entertain us.  Maybe it is confusing to us when God's leading and will appear to us in conversation with others and in conflict with our desires.  Maybe we have confused God's will with what makes us feel good or what we want to see happen.  Maybe, it is just that we live in a me-focused society and a fear-driven era where our ears are tuned to things other than God.

If you have spring fever and are feeling flighty and scattered, remember Jesus said He would give you a peace that can transcend this scattered world (John 14:27).  If you want your church or your faith to entertain you, remember what Jesus said not to belong to the values of this world (John 15:19).  If God's will confuses you and if you have a hard time settling what God desires of you, remember to pray for the leading of the Holy Spirit who (as a reliable person who loves you) "will guide you into all truth (John 16:13)."  If your focus is on self-preservation or on fear, Jesus tells us to "remain in His love (John 15:9)" and be "filled with my (Jesus') joy (John 15:11)."

John 14, 15, 16 and 17 tell us much about Jesus' priorities and His work and the Spirit's work in the world.  There are attitudes and behaviors produced by a relationship with God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  The words used in this part of John are provision (Jesus is preparing a place), truth (our trust and obedience is an access to ALL truth), presence (God's presence will be with us through the work of the Holy Spirit), peace (Jesus gives a peace the world cannot give), joy (Jesus joy in the midst of toil/torture/trial is something our relationship should produce), fruit (want to be fruitful?  try Jesus!), love (do you want to experience real love ... not the facade of love this world speaks about?), persecution (remember that Jesus said it is a blessed thing to be persecuted for His cause [Matthew 5]), witness (when we have the Spirit we witness to the goodness and grace of Jesus and we go out to do the things He did), belief (all of these behaviors and Holy words come to those who have chosen Jesus ... believe into His way ... choose to love Him above this world), and I could go on.

You can continue to be 'funny' and shun the relationship that is the only path to truth, joy, peace and true love ... or you can choose a life-long relationship with Jesus who said He (not any of the other gods we place on our altar) is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6).  Read John 14-17.  Believe in the one who offers truth.  Stop seeking information about God and seek God!  Stop seeking a church that entertains and feeds you and come focused on devotion to and worship of God ... it is about Him, not you!  Stop thinking God can't communicate to you through other people (when you think about this it is the height of arrogance to think you are the only conduit for God's communication)!  And start living in God's truth, His Spirit, His will and His way.  Pastor Randy