Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Caught Up

Isn't it easy to get caught up in things?  Some of us are caught up in March Madness, the phenomenon of the NCAA basketball championship tournament.  I will admit to loving this tournament and I have, over the years, invested time and energy into watching both on TV and in person.  Some are caught up in getting ready to see the Master's golf tournament, thinking that watching this beautiful setting is a sure sign of spring (I sure need that mental picture as I write this in my office, in a sweater I should not be wearing in Florida this time of year).  Some are caught up in spring cleaning and getting their house ready for the influx of visitors who will surely be coming their way.

Pastors, on this week of the year, are caught up in preparation, prayer, details, writing, reading and thinking about one of the biggest weeks of the year.  But as I run from task to task, I can't help but think about what Jesus was "caught up" in during that eventful week about 2,000 years ago.  Sunday we talked about the triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Palm Sunday) in which a city/nation (according to Jesus) had missed the chance to see their Messiah, enjoy His peace and receive a "visitation from God."  That should convict us and challenge us this week. 

Thursday we (as Jesus did) will experience the somber giving of the cup of the New Covenant in which Jesus presents Himself as the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.  He does this at His expense (we should hear 'Jesus Paid it All' playing in the background of our minds).  I hope you will come and receive the bread and the cup (the table is open to all who come in the name of the Lord) ... we have a few special surprises planned and I hope you will be there to allow God to stop your being 'caught up' so you can become captured by the Savior, His message and His call to "do this in remembrance of me."  The service Thursday is called "Maundy Thursday" because Jesus mandated this as a time to remember what He had done, was doing and is still doing as He truly does "take away the sins of the world."

And I cannot even imagine what Jesus was experiencing on that first Easter morning.  What is it like to be resurrected?  What was it like to see the faces of friends and disciples who thought you were dead?  I'll bet that it was an amazing experience to be caught up in that!

This Sunday I hope you will all come and be 'caught up' in Easter.  The Church (that is all of us who believe in Jesus and are part of His called-out people) are called "Easter People" because every Sunday we worship God in the context of a 'little Easter.'  Of all things we get 'caught up' in, Easter is worthy of our time, our interest, our attention, our giving, our singing, our fellowship and our passion.  I pray God will bring you into the house of the Lord and let us, together, tell the old, old story that is as true today as it was when Jesus left the tomb.  For in Him we find a Savior full of life, love and hope for a lost world.  Hallelujah, He is Risen!   Pastor Randy

Monday, March 18, 2013

Never Too Late

Lee and I spent the day Saturday at the arts festival in Fairhope, Alabama.  It was a task we do each year in preparation for the Arts Quest sponsored by the Cultural Arts Alliance (Lee works there).  You know how I am not a fan of the cliche' but I saw a little art card that had a saying I really liked. It said, "It is never too late to live happily ever after."  For the secular person, this is cute but there is little substance behind it. How can we live happily ever after if the world and this present darkness is all we have.  But for the Christian, I like this thought a lot.

I deal with pople in the throes of life's struggles.  A family member hs died.  A woman is beginning a new life differently than she had planned.  Finances are tight and there seems to be no way out.  I have so much on my plate and I cannot see my way out, past or over what I face.  I am struggling!

As I look at all of these problems I then look at the journey of our Savior.  Chased from Jerusalem under threst of death.  Demanding people all around.  Disciples who have spent three years learning what seems to be almost nothing.  A nation expecting a cnquering king ... something I am not about to deliver.  And even my Father isn't giving me the whole story (confirmed by Jesus prayer at Gethsamane).  So I journey to face what seems like a certain death and I am expected to be obedient in the face of jeers, torture, disbeief and taunting (''come down off that cross if you have any power'').

But, as the old African-American preacher said ... "Sundays a comin!"  Yes ... there is a happily ever after.  But the paradox is, the ones who should be happy are messed up, sinful people like you and me.  "Because (as the song says) He lives, I can face tomorrow, because He lives, all fear is gone, because I know I have a future, and life is worth the living, just because He lives."  When I read the Gospel story one more time I am reminded that my problems are in the hands of someone who has, with his own blood, purchased my "happily ever after" to be spent with Jesus in the place He has prepared.  So ... I will get past to struggles of today knowing that God has provided and is providing for my future and my present ... and He has (thankfully) forgiven my past.  So today ... I can begin again.  That's Good News!  Randy

Monday, March 11, 2013


I gotta admit that I have an innate ability to do clumsy things.  One of those things I am particularity gifted at is stumbling.  This usually happens on a cold evening when I am walking in the dark and hit my toe on a hard object causing the maximum amount of pain.  OUCH!

Some things make us stumble.  This can apply to our physical clumsiness and our spiritual clumsiness.  Paul describes this in several places when he talks about how we (and people in general) stumble over things that essentially keep us from knowing God.  In 1 Corinthians 1 he writes: "For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength." [v: 22-25 NRSV].  As I read these words I think over the many discussions I have had in my years of ministry.  I have talked with the scientist who needs proof of everything ... but how do you prove the existence of love?  I have pondered questions of the faith with philosophers ... but how do you describe faith since faith is unseen?

Michael Card puts it in an interesting way in the song, God's Own Fool ...

So come lose your life for a carpenter's son
For a madman who died for a dream
And you'll have the faith His first followers had
And you'll feel the weight of the beam
So surrender the hunger to say you must know
Have the courage to say I believe
For the power of paradox opens your eyes
And blinds those who say they can see

What do you think?

Pastor Randy

Monday, March 4, 2013

Are You a Practicing Christian?

I've got to tell you that over the last year my golf game has become pretty bad.  Most of you really aren't concerned about this and I am not bent out of shape about it.  It is just a fact.  When I began to think about why my game is so bad I came up with several valid reasons.  First, I don't play much.  You can't be good at something if you just think about it but never do it.  Second, I don't practice.  If practice makes perfect then no practice makes me as imperfect as I can be.  Finally, my thoughts have not been about golf lately.  So, let's see ... I don't engage the game mentally or physically but expect my scores to be the same as they were when I was more attentive to golf.

How about my faith?  Do I treat it the same?  Do I engage God's Word daily?  Do I meditate on the Scriptures as the Bible demands?  Do I practice my faith by applying what I have learned?  You see where I am going with this.

In our Lenten study about grace we have learned that God pursues and draws us to Himself even before we know He exists.  This is prevenient grace that leads us toward God and covers us when we are to young or mentally unable to know God.  Then, there is God's saving grace that (when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior) makes me justified before a Holy God even though I am much less than holy.  This week we will be speaking about another grace which can be summarized as growing in Christ.  This grace, sanctifying grace, grows us up as Christians.  We study God's Word.  We serve God.  We give to God's work.  We love people that God has sent.  We pray, fast, partake in the sacraments and we allow God's means of grace to lead us forward and upward toward what Paul called 'the goal.'

I won't get better at golf without physical and mental practice.  We won't grow as Christians without engaging our faith physically, mentally and spiritually.  If we love God with our heart, our soul, our mind and our strength, what else can we do?

Pastor Randy