Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Freedom's Source

In September, 1774, the fathers of our nation met in Philadelphia at the First Continental Congress.  It was a difficult and challenging time.  Emotions (I am sure) ran high and this time the stakes were even higher.  Would a new nation be born?  Would this land called America be a free people?  George Washington and John Adams (two future presidents) were present, along with faithful patriots who were devoted to the American cause.  In there usual practice of inviting our Creator into deliberations Dr. Jacob Duche' (an Anglican minister) was asked to pray for the proceedings.  Here is the prayer he prayed ...

"O Lord our Heavenly Father, high and mighty King of kings, and Lord of lords, who dost from thy throne behold all the dwellers on earth and reignest with power supreme and uncontrolled over all the Kingdoms, Empires and Governments; look down in mercy, we beseech thee, on these our American States, who have fled to thee from the rod of the oppressor and thrown themselves on Thy gracious protection, desiring to be henceforth dependent only on Thee, to Thee have they appealed for the righteousness of their cause; to Thee do they now look up for that countenance and support, which Thou alone canst give; take them, therefore, Heavenly Father, under Thy nurturing care; give them wisdom in Council and valor in the field; defeat the malicious designs of our cruel adversaries; convince them of the unrighteousness of their Cause and if they persist in their sanguinary purposes, of own unerring justice, sounding in their hearts, constrain them to drop the weapons of war from their unnerved bands in the day of battle!

"Be Thou present, O God of wisdom, and direct the councils of this honorable assembly; enable them to settle things on the best and surest foundation. That the scene of blood may be speedily closed; that order, harmony and peace may be effectually restored, and truth and justice, religion and piety, prevail and flourish amongst The people. Preserve the health of their bodies and vigor of their minds; shower down on them and the millions they here represent, such temporal blessings as Thou seest expedient for them in this world and crown them with everlasting glory in the world to come. All this we ask In the name and through the merits of Jesus Christ, Thy Son and our Savior. Amen"

John Adams observed that this prayer and the Scripture from Psalm 35 brought tears to the eyes of the delegates.  This Psalm calls for God to deliver His faithful from the bonds of oppression and the tyranny of evil.

I (today and on Sunday) will be asking the people called Methodists in Santa Rosa Beach to devote at least five minutes to prayer for our nation and for God's power to provide freedom, provision and protection to our nation.  Also, I will ask each of you to read the prayer contained in this blog as a remembrance of God's deliverance of our nation in 1776 and as a petition for God to again bring us to His calling nationally and individually.  May we all remember that through His creation people are equal, free and endowed with rights, opportunities, dignity and potential from the God who is the author of freedom.  As we study freedom during July (sermon series) may we look at the past, the present and the future God offers those who follow Him. In Jesus' Name, Pastor Randy

Sunday, June 17, 2012

God's Grace Is Sufficient

OK ... a Methodist primer about grace ... (really not Methodist, we Methodists are just really into the subject of grace)

Grace = getting what we don't deserve from God.

Preveient Grace - God's seeking grace that precedes our conversion. (Rev. 3:20 "“Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.")  God seeks people.  And He teaches us to be seekers (fishers of people) along with Him!

Justifying Grace -  God's grace that accepts those who accept Him (as Lord and Savior) and choose His path.  No pre-qualification here.  We come to God dirty, flawed, broken, and guilty.  Not by anything we do but by God's nature of grace, love and forgiveness, God chooses to make us justified before a righteous God (pretty good).  We know we are guilty and God declares us forgiven ... hey, He's God, He can do that kind of stuff.

Sanctifying Grace - This is the grace that grows us, makes us stronger in Christ and allows us to go deeper into God and God's kingdom 'on earth as it is in Heaven.'  Wesley also called this sustaining grace or perfecting because we are sustained by an attitude of pursuing God and God's disciplines (prayer, study, fasting, worship, giving, serving).

None of these types of grace are deserved or warranted by our good deeds, our good behavior, or our following of a set of rules.  We couldn't do enough to earn God's favor if we had the entire world at our command.  They simply flow from God's nature of being a giver ... a lover ... and a sower of seeds that He expects to grow.

Sunday we will work some other parts of grace, particularly that God's grace is enough to get us past/over/through all we face ... whatever life brings.

As a summary ... God seeks/calls us ... God saves us ... God grows us. Today I was reading the name of one of our praise songs ... "Lord Reign in Me."  I read it wrong and read "Lord Rein Me In."  I decided that the way I read it was so appropriate to the way we can experience God's grace ... get out of God's way and let Him work.  AMEN

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The table below is from a website called Fastest Growing Religion.  I saw some shaking heads when I said that Christianity was, indeed, the fastest growing religion.  I am pretty sure that part of the reason for the doubt is that most of us see the world in the context of America ... which I continue to believe is the greatest nation on earth.  But in saying this I believe America does have some serious spiritual issues.  While Christianity is growing like wildfire in South America, Africa, Asia, and other parts of the world, in the traditional western world (America, Europe, Australia) that growth is not happening.  I know some of you would like to take me to task on this and argue the point but I will not be participating in such an argument.  The better questions might be "why?" and/or "what should we do?"  John Wesley would say "Offer them Christ."  Billy Graham would say "Stick to the essentials ... not our differences."  Michael Frost (noted author) would say "We are exiles who should be dealing in offering truth, essentials and intellectual honesty ... not cliches'".  Your pastor would offer the following advice ... 1) Love other people like Jesus loved people ... 2) Teach truth that flows from Biblical context ... not beliefs that are traditional yet are traditionally wrong when compared to Scripture ... 3) Relate to people where they live ... don't demand that they become like "us" (whoever "us" is) ... 4) Become more missional in our approach to ministry and 'go' rather demanding that "they" (whoever "they" are) come ... 5) stop trying to answer every scientific question with a book written to ancient Hebrews in their context ... let science pursue truth and science will eventually arrive at God's truth if the pursuit is genuine ...   6) let God and God's people be untamed by the shallow virtues of this world and filled with the deep virtues Jesus taught us ... and 7) when in doubt, see what Jesus said and go do it!

That's it for now ... love you!  Pastor Randy


The five fastest growing religions in terms of absolute numbers (new adherents per year, in millions):
1. Christianity 25,210,195
2. Islam 22,588,676
3. Hinduism 12,533,734
4. Chinese folk-religions 3,715,548
5. Buddhism 3,687,527      

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Plan A ... Flawed But God's

I am sending this blog from the Sanctuary in Christ UMC in Mobile.  I never cease to be amazed at the time and energy it takes to conduct the Annual Conference each year.  This annual meeting to conduct the necessary business of the Alabama West Florida Conference of United Methodists is paradoxical.  On one hand one could ask "why expend this amount of effort on boards, logistics and just getting all the work accomplished?"  On the other hand I am reminded that every bit of work, every meeting, every discussion and every car in the parking lot represents people serving God, people seeking God and people that need God.  We have been constantly reminded here that we are truly God's mission plan to a world that needs to know Jesus.  The Church, with bruises, warts and infirmity, is still in the business of doing what Moses did when God sent him ... going out to lost and broken people who are loved by a great God who will lead them across/through the wilderness to God's promises.  While I truly struggle through the lengthy meetings, the boring reports, the mundane necessities and the less-than-stellar videos, I do not struggle with the mission ... making disciples of Jesus who know, love and serve God.  I am encouraged that your conference hasn't forgotten the mission, the people and the person of God.  I am absolutely certain that God's Plan A ... the Church ... His only plan ... will be preserved and achieve it's mission with people who know that the Holy Spirit seems to be most active in places where people know they need God (they are the blessed) ... places where folks will suffer for God's Word ... places where worship is more important than convenience ... places where following is risky, so we visit those imprisoned and oppressed ... places where Jesus is more important that the negatives we seem to call essential, so the blind begin to see (though Jesus never did) ... places where loving the poor is a priority (i.e., that is how we bring them Good News).  I so desire and pray for Good News to be such a place.