Sunday, July 29, 2012

Team Effort

As I watched the Olympics today I marveled at the events that involved teams.  Rowing ... volleyball ... basketball ... swimming relays ... even gymnastics.  Each person is a part of the event and each person's contribution is important.  Each person must pull their weight if victory is to be achieved.  Check this out:

"God's various gifts are handed out everywhere; but they all originate in God's Spirit. God's various ministries are carried out everywhere; but they all originate in God's Spirit. God's various expressions of power are in action everywhere; but God himself is behind it all. Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits. All kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people! The variety is wonderful" 1 Corinthians 12:4-7 The Message

As I read this passage it reminds me of the team concept.  I love the part that says "each person is given something to do that shows what God is."  As I think about this I am reminded of the team effort we saw in church this morning ... if you missed it you missed a blessing of adults, youth and children modeling worship and showing us little reflections of God.  If you were there you know exactly what I am talking about.  I wonder ... what would our team ... our expression of God's goodness ... be like if we all played our part ... were present in the place to which we are called ... were actively saying, "What can I do today to make this the most amazing Sunday worship ever!"  One of our members said to me one day "If your pastor asks you to do something , you say yes if at all possible."  OK ... your pastor is asking you to do something. Honor God by participating in your church wherever possible ...using your gifts ... asking how you can be used by God.  The old song says ... "Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me. Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me. Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me, Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me."  I think God would really be honored if we sang that song and really meant the lyrics.  What do you think?  Pastor Randy

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Thrill of Victory

This Sunday kicks off our series on looking at Scriptural references to athletics.  We are both acknowledging the Olympics and remembering the numerous illustrations in God's Word about applying athletic principles to our faith journey (or race).  But we will be careful that our words will not stray from the meaning and application of Scripture.
When I was growing up I remember the commercial for the ABC Wide World of Sports (also what they ran for the Olympics) was "The Thrill of Victory ... the Agony of Defeat."  I always liked the video they ran for the agony part of the equation.  It was a dude crashing off the end of a ski jump.  It made me always note in my mind never to get on a ski jump ... this way I would avoid the agony part.
But I want this series (which will run until the week after school begins) to be positive so I will be speaking about the things we can do to be victorious in our faith ... in our lives ... in our walk (or race) of life.  The Bible has a lot to say about this and has lots of solid advice and applications which will help those of us who run the race slow or those who run fast.  To "kick" this off I am sending a link to a Max Lucado book called "You Are Special" (  ).  It will take you 10 minutes to read.  Will you invest 10 minutes in learning how you can live as a victor in a 'victim-mentality' world?  In the book the characters deal with some very real life issues.  Some characters in the book receive accolades for being fast, pretty, strong or being able to jump high.  Others receive bad marks (dots) that identify them as inferior, guilty, of poor quality, and losers.  I love the advice this book gives the main character ... "Go to your maker and find out what He thinks about you."  The Psalms use the word "refuge" 23 times, telling us that we have a place to go when we need victory over the things we face in life.  One of these (below) tells us a place of hope when we are surrounded on all sides and oppressed.  We go to our refuge (God) and to a source of hope (God's Word).

Psalm 119:114 ... "You are my refuge and my shield;  your word is my source of hope."

Read the Psalm.  Read Max Lucado's short story (and don't be too proud to read what you may think is a children's story).  Think about the characters in the Bible and in the story.  Which character are you now?  Which character do you think God desires you to be?  I believe that the thrill of victory isn't as far away as you think.  Scripture (Romans 10:8) says that God's Word is near ... that it abides on the lips of His people and in the hearts of the faithful.  It is not far away where we cannot see it or reach it.  It is a present help in times of trouble.  For victory, I encourage you to go there.  Listen ... hear ... follow ... live ... be victorious!  Pastor Randy

Friday, July 6, 2012

Freedom to What?

Paul has a way of putting things that gets our attention.  This may be because of his brashness and directness.  It may be because he was of impeccable (in his day) scholarly/apostolic pedigree.  It may be because Paul endured much for the faith and his 'dues' are meaningful to those of us who appreciate hard work.  But I think the major reason Paul's words enter our hearts is that the Holy Spirit has imparted these Scriptural words with both authority and life ... the life breathed by God about our Savior Jesus.

This month as we study the concept of freedom it is worth looking at several directions to this freedom thing.  We have talked about being given freedom from the bondage of the law ... freedom from the thousands of Pharisaical rules ... freedom from Satan's accusations that bring guilt (though not from the conviction of the Holy Spirit) ... freedom from a life directed at self ... freedom from the idols of our time ... and freedom from death that brings eternal separation from God.  Today I want to share a short verse from Paul's writings that tell us we are free from bondage of the popular so that we are free to live in the beauty of God's Kingdom.

1 Corinthians 10:23 says ... "You say, “I am allowed to do anything”, but not everything is good for you. You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is beneficial."  I saw a paraphrase of this on a t-shirt that said, "Everything that is popular is not profitable ... everything that is profitable is not popular."  I liked the way the shirt gets to the essence of Paul's words.  In our area there is incredible pressure to seek and be popular.  There are events, places, and people that are "must see."  I ask why?  Why are we so drawn to shadows of life when we are offered life itself from our Savior?  Why should being seen in the right place be better than living life under the protective wing of Jesus?

I was our with my nephew last week as we paddled along a creek in Walton County.  What we saw couldn't be bought.  Last Sunday one of our young families brought their 4 month old son to church for the first time.  He smiled up at me and I shared a priceless moment.  I spoke on the phone with a lady who was about to lose her only brother.  She would have given up every fashionable event ... every posh meal ... every celebrity sighting ... for some more time with her brother.  We settle for too few of those moments when we really have a chance to live, selling them out to a world that offers fireworks that explode and vanish into thin air.  Maybe we should take another look at the popular and look closely to see if those pastimes are worth the value we place upon them.  After all ... everything that is popular isn't profitable!  Pastor Randy

Monday, July 2, 2012

Long Road

It seems that we live in a push-button world (or probably more a 'mouse-click' world).  We want to look it up quickly.  We seek and find a website that affirms what we think so we dig deeper into a hole that takes us nowhere.  Dr. Ben Witherington addressed this in a conversation and stated that we live in a time where our informational access is a million miles wide and an inch deep.  He also stated that we are in unprecedented (at least in the modern era) time of Biblical illiteracy. 

Let me flesh this out.  By informational shallowness I mean that there are ideas and theories that are offered with little scholarly backup just because people like what they say.  Rob Bell's assertion that hell (in the classical sense) does not exist ... he just likes a God that doesn't do that sort of thing.  A book on Hebrews is being circulated that asserts that the author really didn't mean that the Jewish sacrificial system was inadequate and superseded by Christ ... the 'new' idea (which in the early Church was called heresy) is that God somehow was mistaken over this idea that Jesus was a 'once for all' sacrifice that is totally sufficient and totally complete (Jesus' words from the cross ... "it is completed/fulfilled/finished").  Both 'new' ideas are really not new (the early Church called them false teachings and heretical).  They accept the popular but put aside the real/correct/Scriptural concept.

By Biblical illiteracy I am suggesting that few are critically looking at Scripture and listening for what God said to the original audience and what God (thus) is saying to us.  I have a friend who claims to have been given special revelation from the Holy Spirit, therefore shutting down any argument about scholarship ... real meanings ... historical context ... and what that Scripture really means to people living in 2012.  Fact is, when we are honest about seeking God's truth, that truth does not change over time ... as The Revelation states, we worship the God who was, is and is to come.  As a conclusion to our teaching on essentials and an expression of what the early Church wrote down as 12 (interesting number) concepts that were essential for new believers, here is the Apostles Creed.  It reminds us (all from Scripture) what is truly foundational:
1. I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth: GOD CREATED IT ALL
2. And in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord: GOD PROVIDED A SAVIOR
3. Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary: THE SAVIOR WAS FULLY GOD AND FULLY/PERFECTLY HUMAN
4. Suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead and buried: He descended into hell: THE PERFECT SACRIFICE WAS MADE
5. The third day he rose again from the dead: GOD DEFEATED HELL/DEATH ... HE IS RISEN
6. He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty: JESUS IS EXALTED AND RESIDES WITH THE FATHER
7. From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead: JESUS IS RULER
9. I believe in the holy catholic church: the communion of saints: THERE IS ONE CHURCH WHICH IS UNIVERSALLY UNDER GOD'S AUTHORITY, PROVISION, POWER AND CARE
While the road back to our foundation might be long, it is not impossible if we stick to essentials, give grace on the non-essentials and calling false teachings what they are ... false, rebellious and divisive.  What do you think?  Pastor Randy