Andrews UMC

Church Blog

Thanksgiving

Weekly Devotional

November 29th, 2020

By Robby Morris

(Director of Family Ministry)

Since it’s Thanksgiving week, I wanted to share some of my “thanksgiving” with you.  I hope that you are having a good week in spite of our current circumstances.  After all, our thanksgiving is always mixed in with things that we don’t necessarily appreciate.  This is part of the human condition, and the daily challenge that we all face.  It’s not always easy to “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4 – NIV).  The Apostle Paul may have learned “the secret of being content in any and every situation” (Philippians 4:12 NIV), but it’s still a struggle for all of us.

Here are a couple of things I’m thankful for:  My family (Wife, daughter, sister, nieces and nephews, and in-laws or in-loves as I would rather call them.  I miss my parents very much, but I am thankful for the time I had with them.); a renewed fire for my faith and relationship with Christ; being back home in the mountains; that I am employed; escaped the chaos of the big city, especially the traffic; that I can hear well enough to function; my health; a new way to express myself through writing these devotionals; football; PlayStation; British Television; hamburgers; my mother in-laws sweet potato casserole; I guess food in general would save time and space; and probably a lot of things that I take for granted.

 One of the things I DO NOT take for granted is another opportunity to be in full-time ministry. Before I came to Andrews, I had been out of full time ministry for about a year and a half.  Sure there were opportunities to encourage and support my coworkers at FedEx, Chick Fil A, and Morgan Corp (Construction), but it wasn’t the same.  I had to be very selective about what I said concerning spiritual things.  I wasn’t afraid to say anything about God or my relationship with God, but that wasn’t the reason I was there.  I was being paid for production, not for spiritual leadership.  Plus, I wanted to be respectful of others beliefs and orientations.  I was definitely out of my element.  My gifts and talents didn’t fit that environment.  But, I was thankful for the opportunity to gain a new perspective on life and relationships through that experience.  The Lord also knew that I was somewhat burned out after 30 years of ministry, and needed a break to refocus and heal some old wounds.

 My time in the wilderness of the unknown gave me a greater appreciation for ministry and my calling.  I really wasn’t sure if I would ever get another opportunity to be in full time ministry.  There was a huge hole in my soul.  So when Pastor Mary called me on Christmas Eve of 2018, I could see a light at the end of the tunnel.   The fog was lifting, and my purpose was returning.  So when I say that I am extremely thankful to the Lord and you (Andrews UMC) for giving me another opportunity to do what I love and to come back home to the mountains, it cannot be overstated.  It has been a blessing to be a part of this community of faith and the Andrews community at large.  THANK YOU!!!

 The Apostle Paul always opens his letters with a greeting and thanksgiving.  His letters are addressed to communities of faith that he has helped establish and serve as a minister of the Gospel.  All of Paul’s letters have a different tone depending on the spiritual state of each church. The church at Philippi was probably his favorite.  Here is his greeting to the Phlippians:

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.  It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.  Philippians 1:3-8 NIV

Ditto.  I feel the same way about you, Andrews UMC.  I thank God for you.  You are in my heart.  It is my joy and privilege to be with you, and to serve in partnership for the sake of the Gospel in this community.

This has been a tough year in a lot of different ways, but it hasn’t stopped us from doing ministry.  We are still active and ministry is ongoing. Here are a few examples:

Online: 

  • Worship services on YouTube and Facebook.
  • Daily & weekly email devotions
  • Weekly Youth Meetings and Sunday school on Zoom.
  • Schools:
  • Sponsorship of 2nd Grade class at Andrews Elementary (Amazon Cards and supplies)
  • Breakfast & Lunch Program for students and families (Financial support & meal delivery.)
  • Financial support for thanksgiving meals provided by middle school and high school programs.
  • 2 lunches provided for the Middle school and Elementary school staff

Building Usage/Missions/Ministry to homeless & needy:

  • Welcome Table take out and delivery
  • Boy Scouts
  • Red Cross Blood Drives
  • Donations for Gabriel Mason’s continuing medical care.
  • Health Screenings
  • Athletic Training in the gym: Basketball, Volleyball, and other recreation.
  • Operation Christmas Child-36 shoeboxes
  • Partnership w/Cherokee County Ministerial Association for utility bills.
  • Candy for Andrews annual trick or treat.
  • Clothes donated
  • Mattress provided for needy family

Picking up groceries and prescriptions for those who couldn’t shop because of COVID.

Our Ministry of Hospitality serves hundreds of people in our community daily by offering coffee, meals, laundry and shower facilities, recreation, and help getting food and other assistance from outside sources.  Some just need to get out of the heat, cold, or rain for few moments to rest and recuperate.  One couple who visits several times a week have told me that our church is a refuge for them to escape the drama and dangers of the drug community.

While we are not naïve to the fact that some may take advantage of or our hospitality, we know that our ministry efforts are not in vain.  I have spent time with several within the homeless and needy community that are extremely grateful for our support and hospitality. So, I would like to pass on their thanks and thanksgiving to you who make it possible.

This hospitality extends to the young people and schools in our community.  I listed a few things that we are doing above, but I’m most grateful for the opportunities to build relationships with students, school administrators, teachers, and coaches.  Weekly I get to hang out and visit with students who come by to play ball in the gym, or walk up the hill to visit with the football team and listen to the AHS band rehearse.

Through your prayers, encouragement, financial giving, donations, and service, Andrews UMC is still making an impact on our community in spite of the pandemic.  COVID may have closed some doors, but it has opened up others.  You may not be with us in the flesh, but you are in spirit.  Your support is what keeps us going, and we appreciate it so much.

Until we meet again, I hope that my message of thanksgiving to you today will be encouraging, uplifting, and hopeful.  I will leave you with these encouraging words from the Apostle Paul.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 2 Corinthians 4:7-9 (NIV)

THANK YOU and have a wonderful Thanksgiving!!!

Love y’all!

Robby Morris
Director of Family Ministry and Facility Management
Andrews UMC

Soul Soil

Weekly Devotional

November 22nd, 2020

By Robby Morris

(Director of Family Ministry)

I attended primarily public schools from 1st-12th grades, but from 7th through half of my 9th grade year I attended a private Christian school.  It was a very different experience going from public to private Christian school as you can imagine.
 
The biggest difference was the spiritual content.  I had Bible class everyday, and convocation or assembly once a week.  Basically, it was a church service at school.  Since I had just recently become a Christian, it was pretty cool to have that opportunity and option at school.  My grades in Bible class were always better than in other subjects because I was more interested in the Bible than Algebra.  Imagine that.  For those of you who love Algebra, I salute you!  But, it just wasn’t my thing.
 
One of the other interesting spiritual activities that was available for students at a Christian school was “soul winning”.  What?  Is that a sport?  If you’re not familiar with the term, it’s basically going door to door to people’s homes, like an encyclopedia salesman, sharing the gospel of Christ or “witnessing” for Jesus.  If you’re thinking Jehovah’s witnesses, you’re right on the money. 
 
A teacher or adult leader would train us before hand.  We would memorize and rehearse a script and a series of Bible verses from the book of Romans.  The witnessing technique or strategy was called the “Romans Road”, as in the “Romans Road to salvation”.   Sometimes, we would hand out tracts or small booklets that contained the “plan of salvation”.  Some of them were like little comic books designed to literally scare the “hell” out of people.  I was already a Christian and they scared me.  They are actually still used today.  They also trained us to pray the “sinners prayer” with those who decided to accept Christ.  One of the questions they trained us to ask was “if you died tonight, would you go to heaven or hell?”  It was pretty intense. 
 
Basically, it lasted a couple of hours and whoever collected the most souls at the end of the night won, and got to keep them.  Just kidding!!!  There was no soul “collecting”, only soul “winning” for Jesus.  Sorry, I couldn’t resist.  The success rate was pretty slim.  Most of the time we never made it past, “Hello, my name is Robby and I would like to ask you a question.  If you died tonight would you go to heaven or hell?” before the door was closed in our faces.
 
I think “soul winning” was every Wednesday after school if I remember correctly.  They would load up a group of students into a bus or van, take them to a nearby neighborhood, and turn them loose.  It was the 70’s.  I think I only went a couple of times.  As a socially awkward, insecure, and sheltered 13 year old, it was a terrifying experience.  I had a hard time meeting new people anyway, but going door to door to talk to total strangers about something that was that personal was overwhelming and uncomfortable.
 
This wasn’t the last time that I experienced this kind of evangelism.  I have done street evangelism on mission trips over the years.  It still makes me uncomfortable.  I always feel like I’m being pushy.  That doesn’t mean that I think door-to-door or street witnessing is wrong.  I admire those who have the courage to do it.  I just prefer a less aggressive approach.  
 
The Lord has given me plenty of opportunities to share my faith when I meet new people and have natural conversations.  The technique I prefer is “friendship evangelism”.  “Friendship evangelism” is simply reaching people for Christ by being a friend to them.  I really think people have to see our faith being lived out authentically for it to be taken seriously.  That’s why missionaries take up residence and live where they are doing ministry.  It takes time to build relationships that provide opportunities to share the gospel.
 
”Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  Matthew 28:19-20 (NIV)
 
This was Jesus final command to His disciples.  They obeyed and the rest is history.  2,000 years later we are still talking about it and sharing the good news of the Gospel around the world.  Sharing the gospel has never been easy and it’s no different in 2020.  We face unique challenges in the US, as our culture becomes more and more secularized and desensitized to Christianity.  But, this is not the first time that Christianity has faced adversity and opposition, and it won’t be the last.
 
Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it..”  Matthew 16:17-18 (NIV)
 
This is a great promise of survival.  The church may move or shift around the world, but it will carry on.  Check out this headline from a Washington Post article in 2015,”Think Christianity is dying? No, Christianity is shifting dramatically.”  It’s not dying.  It’s just moving or shifting from one region to another, just as it has done throughout history.  Christianity started in Jerusalem, and then moved around the Mediterranean and into Europe.  It jumped the Atlantic Ocean and came to America.  Now it is growing in Africa, Asia, Central and South America, and the Middle East. 
 
I must admit that the decline of Christianity in America is discouraging.  But, in spite of our present circumstances, God calls us to be faithful.  Just like those who came before us, we persevere and endure.
 
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”  Galatians 6:9-10 (NIV)
 
The soul soil of America may not be as fertile as it once was, but God is still at work.  He always has a plan.  If it’s not working here or there, He moves it.  In preparation for our current reality, God started using American missionaries to do a lot of soul farming or soul winning all over the world.  The result is a great harvest that is ongoing, and is being reaped even in unexpected places.  “Demographers estimate that more Christian believers are found worshipping in China on any given Sunday than in the United States.” (”Think Christianity is dying? No, Christianity is shifting dramatically.”  Washington Post, May 2015)
 
In the meantime, we celebrate the harvest wherever it comes from, remain faithful to God’s calling, and keep praying for revival right here at home.  America may be shifting from mission base to mission field, but that may not be such a bad thing.  Maybe we can get back to basics and start preparing our soul soil for a new group of farmers and a new revival.

Love y’all!

Robby Morris
Director of Family Ministry and Facility Management
Andrews UMC

IDENTITY CRISIS

Weekly Devotional

November 15th, 2020

By Robby Morris

(Director of Family Ministry)

Famous atheist Christopher Hitchens was once interviewed by a Unitarian minister for the Portland Monthly about his opposition to religion, and more specifically, Christianity.   Here is part of the exchange from the Portland Monthly dated 12/17/2009:
 
Minister:  The religion you cite in your book is generally the fundamentalist faith of various kinds. I’m a liberal Christian, and I don’t take the stories from the scripture literally. I don’t believe in the doctrine of atonement (that Jesus died for our sins, for example). Do you make a distinction between fundamentalist faith and liberal religion?
 
Hitchens:  I would say that if you don’t believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ and Messiah, and that he rose again from the dead and by his sacrifice our sins are forgiven, you’re really not in any meaningful sense a Christian.
 
Like most of our country, Christianity is having an identity crisis.  The divide over what we believe and how we define our faith is growing.  It’s nothing new.  Since the beginning, humans have struggled to come to terms with the existence of God or a supreme being.  Even when we decide to “believe” a god or gods exist, we have a hard time agreeing on who or what they are.
 
Since I choose to believe that God exists, and more specifically the God of the Bible, I have to decide what I’m willing to believe about Him.  In order to build a system of faith there has to be a basis or a foundation for that faith to stand on.  How and why did I come to believe?  Why will I continue to believe?  What evidence do I have to substantiate or verify my faith or belief system?
 
Faith is the tricky part.  Faith is complete trust in someone or something, right?  But, all religions are based on faith in someone or something that is currently unseen.  There is a god out there somewhere that exists beyond our grasp and comprehension.  It’s almost like science fiction.
 
The foundation of my faith is based on personal encounters, eyewitness accounts, and/or “stories” about God that have been passed down by word of mouth and recorded in ancient manuscripts over thousands of years.  There seems to be some historical evidence that the events recorded and passed down actually happened, but the evidence is not completely verifiable.  Therefore, I am choosing to believe in something that cannot be definitively proven without a doubt, so I have to take it on faith.  I have to trust that what I believe in is true whether I can prove it or not.
 
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.  Hebrews 11:1 (NIV)
 
If faith is “complete” trust in someone or something, then having confidence, hope, and assurance in someone or something that I can’t see is a huge leap. 
 
This is what the ancients were commended for.  By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.  Hebrews 11:2-3 (NIV)
 
The writer of Hebrews points out that the “ancients”, or those who believed in the past, should be commended or praised for taking such a leap of faith.  It’s impressive.  Check out the end of the last sentence in this passage.  “What is seen was not made out of what was visible.”  How many times did you have to read that?  I have read it many times.  It’s a mind bender.  Basically God commanded that something, the universe that was unseen or invisible would become visible.  I can understand why people have such a hard time with Christianity.  It’s a mind blower.  It requires a huge leap of faith.
 
I have chosen to take that leap of faith.  I have put my faith, hope, trust, and assurance in God the Father, Jesus Christ His only Son, and the Holy Spirit.  I believe the Bible, which God inspired, is the foundation of my faith, and that creation is the evidence that backs it up.
 
For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.
 

We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things.  For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. 2 Peter 1:16-21 (NIV)
 
Since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.  For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.  Romans 1:19-20 (NIV)
 
Christopher Hitchens makes an interesting point, and asks a fundamental question about Christian identity.  Should I call myself a Christian if I don’t believe in the foundational tenets of the faith?
 
If Jesus is not God, if Jesus didn’t die for our sins, if there was no resurrection, then there is no Christianity.  If Jesus death was unnecessary and some kind of divine child abuse, then forgiveness for sin is irrelevant.  Maybe there is no sin at all.   Where does it stop?  Once you start pulling out these strategic pieces of the foundation, the structural integrity is compromised and falls apart.  
 
If Jesus was just a great man and did some cool stuff like Gandhi, Buddha, Martin Luther King Jr., etc., we would definitely revere and respect Him, maybe even adopt His philosophy, but would we worship Him?  Would we put our hope, trust, faith, and assurance for this life and the next in a fallible human being?  I wouldn’t and won’t. 
 
I get it.  Christianity is a quantum leap.  The story, if you want to call it that, is a whopper.  It is difficult to accept, comprehend, prove, and digest.  It has been dividing the world for centuries.  If some want to deconstruct it and make it more believable or palatable, it’s a free country.  But is it Christianity or another gospel all together?

Love y’all!

Robby Morris
Director of Family Ministry and Facility Management
Andrews UMC

Life Goes On

Weekly Devotional

November 1st, 2020

By Robby Morris

(Director of Family Ministry)

I’ve shared before in earlier posts that I have always had a great love for sports, especially in my younger years.  I still enjoy sports very much, but I am no longer a rabid and crazy sports maniac.  I keep up with what’s going on, but I “try” not to take it too seriously.  Try as I may, it does not mean that I am immune to disappointment when my teams lose or are not playing well.  But instead of getting too excited and talking to the TV, I have become a little more cautious and superstitious about how much I watch games that my teams are playing in.  Actually I enjoy games a lot more if my teams aren’t playing in them.  I’m actually thankful when my teams have a “bye week”.  For all those who don’t speak sports a “bye week” means your team has the week off.
 
Sometimes, watching my teams play is like watching a horror movie with your hand over your face.  You might peak through our fingers to see what’s going on, but are always ready to close them back up again when the horror is too horrible.  So, in order to keep calm when my team is not playing well or losing, I have to change the channel or do something else.  Sometimes, it’s better to just not watch.  Some may say that I’m not a “true” fan, and that might be true.  But for me it’s better to change the channel or not to watch than to curse at the TV and throw the remote across the room. 
 
For example:  In 1981, the Atlanta Falcons were playing the Dallas Cowboys in the playoffs.  Not only were they favored to win, but they were also leading by 10 points with 6 minutes and 37 seconds left in the game.  This is significant because this is only the second time in their 15-year history that they had been in the playoffs.  They were perennial losers.  This was really the first time that “my team” had a shot at the title.  
 
I was born in Atlanta.  My dad and I supported our hometown teams:  Braves, Falcons, Hawks, Flames, and Yellow Jackets.  We went to several games a year.  In the 1970’s being an Atlanta sports fan wasn’t easy.  (It really hasn’t changed much) The Braves, Falcons, Hawks, Flames and Yellow Jackets always found a way to lose.  So, the game in 1981 was a big deal.
 
My dad and I watched the game in our living room at our log cabin in Blairsville.  The reception wasn’t great, but we could watch the game.  I probably had to run outside and move the antenna a few times during the game.  As I said, there were 6 minutes and 37 seconds left in the game.  We were up by 10, and had the ball.  I was convinced it was going to happen!!!  Finally, we are going to beat the Cowboys, move on to the next round, and probably win the Super bowl.  THIS  IS IT!  VICTORY AT LAST!  WRONG!
 
The Falcons found a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.  Wait, isn’t that supposed to be the other way around?  NO!  Not when you’re a Falcon fan.  They always find a way to blow it, and they did.  The Cowboys came back and scored two touchdowns in just a few minutes to win the game.
 
Disappointment is not a word I would use to describe how I felt.  Basically, I flipped out and had a sho nuff temper tantrum.  I was crying, yelling, and throwing things around the living room.  My parents probably thought I was possessed.  I think I had turned green, my head was spinning around, and I may have been vomiting pea soup.  So my dad performed an exorcism right there in the living room.  I don’t think a crucifix or holy water was necessary, but my dad had the cure for my conniption.  I can’t remember exactly what happened, but my dad brought my fit to screeching halt.  There was probably yelling and threats of manual hard labor.  At 16, I would much rather get whipped than have to do hard labor:  split wood, clear brush, or dig holes for 8-10 hours.
 
My dad was disappointed about the outcome of the game, but He reminded me that it was just a game, and that LIFE WOULD GO ON.  Life did go on and the Falcons-Cowboys game of 1981 was the beginning of the end for my extreme sports fanaticism.  It took a few more defeats to get it under control, but I finally have for the most part.
 
I have never had much luck with picking winners in sports.  There are times that I say to myself, “boy you sure know how to pick em.”  One of my problems is that I like underdogs and Cinderella’s, and they don’t usually have great odds of winning.
 
However, I do have a winning record picking presidents, barely.  I am 5-4 (5 wins and 4 loses) when voting for commander and chiefs since my 18th birthday.  You may be calculating right now whom I may have voted for.  I may give it away when I say that my record is probably going to slip to 5-5 this time.
 
In the upcoming election, I don’t think there will be a win-win for anyone regardless of how it turns out.  I think this country is lost in a sea of division, extremism, and polarization both politically and spiritually.  We are experiencing a perfect storm of hostility and antagonism.  Throw in a worldwide pandemic and it’s very easy to get discouraged.  I will admit that it is a struggle for me to stay positive and to be hopeful all the time.  I find myself praying with the Psalmist “Why, Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” (Psalm 10:1 NIV).  I know I’m not alone.  
 
I’m sure Daniel, in the Old Testament, wondered the same thing while in captivity in Babylon.  The Israelites were conquered by the Babylonians in around 597 BC and then deported back to Babylon.  I’m sure they felt abandon and forgotten.  However, Daniel and others determined to persevere. 
 
“Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his.  He changes times and seasons; he deposes kings and raises up others. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning.  He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him.  I thank and praise you, God of my ancestors: You have given me wisdom and power, you have made known to me what we asked of you, you have made known to us the dream of the king.” Daniel 2:20-23 (NIV)
 
In spite of his circumstances, Daniel trusts the Lord and recognizes that God is control because of His ultimate wisdom and power.  God knows what He’s doing.  Times and seasons change.  Leaders come and go.  God is in control of who is in power.  He hasn’t given up or thrown in the towel.  He is still dispensing wisdom and knowledge, revealing mysteries to the wise and discerning.  His work is active and ongoing.  He knows what is in the darkness.  There is nothing hidden from His sight.  He is never surprised or caught off guard.
 
Just like Daniel, we may feel like our world and everything we know is falling apart or coming unglued.  The future may be dark and uncertain, but I hope that this devotional will be a reminder that no matter what happens, win or lose, God is still there and in control.  Life will go on, whether we like the outcome or not.
 
P.S. If I have a fit, turn green, and my head starts spinning around, just make me split wood, clear brush, or dig some holes for a day or two.

Love y’all!

Robby Morris
Director of Family Ministry and Facility Management
Andrews UMC

The Truth Hurts

Weekly Devotional

October 25th, 2020

By Robby Morris

(Director of Family Ministry)

When I was in my early twenties, I was not being very respectful to my mother.  I wasn’t being abusive or anything, but I was not honoring her.  When we would have “discussions”, I was being a bit audacious, or as the English across the pond would say, “cheeky”.  In other words, I was being a smart ass.  Sorry for the use of an expletive, but I can’t think a better way to describe my attitude.
 
When my dad became aware of my cheeky behavior, he didn’t like it.  He confronted me about it.  He took me out on the front porch for a man to man, a heart to heart talk.  Yikes!  You know that feeling when you know you’re in trouble.
 
My dad was not one to put up with stuff for too long, and he didn’t beat around the bush.  His arsenal of disciplinary tactics included “shock and awe”.  He didn’t have any problem with “lowering the boom” or “bringing the heat”.  He kicked “you know what” and didn’t ask questions later.  “You know what” is the same as the expletive I used earlier.  I didn’t want to overdue it. 
 
When I was younger, I probably would have just received a “whoopin” followed by lots of weeping and gnashing of teeth.  But, this time was different.  Hear is what my dad said.
 
“Robby, I love you, but I love your mother more.  If you don’t stop being disrespectful, you’re going to have to move out.”
 
He didn’t yell.  He didn’t over react in any way.  This was a disciplinary approach that I was not accustomed to.   It caught me off guard.  Instead of shock and awe, He spoke the truth “in love”.  He really emphasized the “Robby, I love you” part.  He meant it, and I knew it.
 
As I absorbed the gravity of his words, I felt terrible.  His words cut right through me.  There was nothing that I could say.  There was nothing to defend.  I was guilty.   Shame washed over me as the tears began to well up.  I apologized and hugged my dad.  He repeated that He loved me.  As we embraced, I felt forgiven.  But, my confession and repentance were not complete.  My mom was the one who was hurt and directly affected by my behavior.  So, I immediately went to her to ask forgiveness.  Basically she was just inside the house and witnessed the whole encounter.  We had a big hug and cry fest.  Well, my dad didn’t cry, but mom and I had a good one.  But, there was one more step in this process.  My behavior had to change.  
 
My dad’s new “speak the truth in love” tactic proved to be powerful and effective.  I’m sure I wasn’t the perfect son after all this, but my behavior did change.  My behavior didn’t change because I was afraid I wouldn’t have a place to stay.  It changed because I saw the truth that my behavior was wrong.  I had to admit it, accept it, confess it, and repent of it.  Change was required.

It reminds me of my conversion experience.  I was in Chattanooga, Tennessee at a weekend youth retreat.  I don’t remember exactly what the talk or sermon was about but it cut through me like a knife.  (I know some of you are thinking Bryan Adams right now.)
 
“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.“  Hebrews 4:12-13 (NIV)
 
The truth of God’s word, just like my dad’s truth, opened me up and penetrated my soul.  I came face to face with the reality of my own sinfulness, and my need for salvation and reconciliation with God.
 
“There is none righteous no not one.” Romans 3:10 (NIV)
 
“For all have sinned and come short of the Glory of God.” Romans 3:23 (NIV)
 
“Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned.” Romans 5:12 (NIV)
 
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23(NIV)
 
Learning that the truth that my behavior, my sin, was not pleasing to God, and that repentance was required for reconciliation was painful to hear.  The truth hurt.  But just like my conversation with my dad, there was another truth. The first thing my dad said to me was, “Robby, I love you.”  I heard the Lord saying the same thing that night in Chattanooga.
 
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Romans 5:8(NIV)
 
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  John 3:16 (NIV)
 
Truth and love go hand in hand.  God is both.  Like my dad, God gives us the opportunity to make things right.  The hardest thing about Christianity is that in order to be a follower of Jesus, in order to show our “true and proper worship”, we have to offer our bodies-ourselves as a living sacrifice.  As Jesus said, we have to “deny” ourselves.  We have to exchange our will for God’s.  In order for our sacrifice to be “holy and pleasing to God”, our mindset and behavior have to change and become something new.  There has to be a transformation.
 
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old has gone, the new is here!”  2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV)
 
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”  Romans 12:1-2 (NIV)
 
Of course, the good news is that we don’t have to do all this by ourselves.  In fact, the transformation can’t happen unless God intervenes, and He did.  Jesus died so that our transformation could be a reality.   He is what makes all things new.  Our responsibility is to offer ourselves as a “living sacrifice”, to deny ourselves, to take up our cross, and follow Him in obedience.
 
“To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32 (NIV)
 
Sometimes the truth hurts, but it can also set you free.

Love y’all!

Robby Morris
Director of Family Ministry and Facility Management
Andrews UMC

Truth

Weekly Devotional

October 18th, 2020

By Robby Morris

(Director of Family Ministry)

Have you ever heard the term “My Truth”?  I’ve heard it before, but I heard it again last night while I was channel skipping.  I wished I could remember what I was watching when I heard it for contextual reasons, but it’s gone.  

Today, I looked it up to see if it was a “thing”.  It’s not widely used, but it is a part of our cultures vocabulary.  I found an article online and a “definition” on Urbanddictionary.com.  Here it is:

  • Pretentious substitute for “non-negotiable personal opinion.”
  • Often used by academics, this is a convenient phrase for avoiding arguments because people can contradict your opinion but not your “truth.”
  • The phrase is often used when seeking to justify a controversial personal stance or action because people are not allowed to argue with “your truth.”
  • Example: I’m leaving my husband. He is a really good, faithful guy and all, but I just don’t love him anymore. It was a tough decision, but I have to stand in My Truth!”

When I was three or four, I was convinced that Santa Claus would return on December 26th for a second delivery.  My dad tried to explain that Santa only came “once” a year, but I wasn’t having any of that.  Apparently, I was pretty adamant about it. It didn’t matter what anyone else said.  It was “My Truth”.  It was happening!!!  I don’t remember my reaction to Santa’s failure to deliver on December 26th, but I’m sure it wasn’t good.

Our culture has become very non-negotiable in recent years especially when it comes to truth, opinion, and beliefs.  It seems to be “MY WAY OR THE HIGHWAY” for a lot of people.  Don’t misunderstand; I’m not saying that I don’t have opinions.  I do and a few of them that are “non-negotiable”.  I have drawn my lines in the sand.  However that does not mean that I won’t hear or discuss other points of view.  Heck, I might even learn something every now and then, right?  But, just because I say something is true doesn’t make it so.  Just like my belief that Santa would return for a second trip down my chimney on Dunwoody Lane, circa 1968-69.

Truth is getting more and more relative. Relativism is the doctrine that knowledge, truth, and morality exist in relation to culture, society, or historical context, and ARE NOT ABSOLUTE.  Basically everything is up for grabs, and the interpretation of anything is based on historical context and the perspective or opinion of the observer.   I/We are the observers.  It’s true if I say it’s true.  The growing expectation and problem is that if it’s true for me, then it has to be true for you otherwise we can’t be friends anymore.  You’re canceled!  You’re a racist!  “My Truth” becomes absolute.  You either agree with me “absolutely” or we’re done. 

“Ouch, this is hurting my brain!”

Absolute truth is something that is true at all times and in all places. It is something that is always true no matter what the circumstances. It is a fact that cannot be changed. For example, there are no round squares.  If you live by a “my truth” philosophy squares can be round, and 2+2 can =5.  I certainly wish that were true for mathematics.  My grades would have been a lot better.

As a Christian, I believe that the Bible is God’s word, and it is absolutely true.   For me the evidence of God’s existence is irrefutable.  When Paul says in Romans 1:20“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse”, I believe it.  What God has made, His creation, is all the evidence I need.  However, I have never seen God face to face.  I can’t conjure him up or cause Him to materialize at any time or place.  I can’t point and say, “there He is”.  I have to face the fact that “my truth” of God’s existence is not universally accepted; no matter how much evidence I can produce to back it up.

From the time I got saved until I was probably in my late twenties, it was difficult for me to accept those who didn’t believe, those who didn’t agree with “my truth”.  There were times when I would engage in heated arguments with those who disagreed.  I was taught to stand up for God and defend the faith.  I had to win the debate and conquer the opposition.  This was “my turf” and I defended it boldly.  My attitude was not very Christ like.  I was obnoxious, overbearing, arrogant, and judgmental.  It took a while for me to realize that imposing “my truth” on others was not very effective or Biblical.

God didn’t need me to defend him.  He didn’t want me to force “my truth”, better yet, “His truth” on others.  He called me to “share” or teach His truth with everyone.

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  Matthew 28:16-20 (NIV)

In this passage, we could interpret or rationalize that in order to “make disciples”; we can do it by force.  But the Greek word is mathéteuó means to disciple, help, teach, or train.  The King James translation uses the phrase “teach all nations”, instead of “make disciples”.

Ultimately, I am not responsible for the saving, converting, forcing, or turning someone into a follower of Christ.  I am only an instrument or servant that God uses to communicate and teach the Gospel.  He is the only one who can change a heart.  He is the only one who can save.

“What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.  So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.”  1 Corinthians 3:5-7 (NIV)

God doesn’t push himself on anyone.  We were created with a free will and the opportunity to choose our own path.  Adam and Eve were given a choice.  As it turned out, God’s truth was not enough.  They chose another truth.   We are free to do the same.  Ultimately, I am only responsible for what I believe.  I have chosen God’s truth.  It doesn’t make me better than anyone else.  Whether I like it or not, agree or disagree, I have to respect others for the truth that they have chosen.  However, I have been commanded to share God’s truth, His good news with others.  I am not responsible for whether they accept it or not.  I am responsible for “how” I live out God’s truth and “how” I share it.

“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,” 1 Peter 3:15 (NIV)

As I close this up, I will paraphrase Peter’s statement as it applies to ME.  “Hey Robby, continue to show respect and admiration to Christ as Lord by living out His truth in your life; always be ready, be prepared, do your homework, and know God’s truth.  You never know when someone may ask you a question about it.  But, be nice, gentle, and respectful to those who ask.”

I wish my younger self had paid more attention to this verse.

Love y’all!

Robby Morris
Director of Family Ministry and Facility Management
Andrews UMC

Trust

Weekly Devotional

October 4th, 2020

By Robby Morris

(Director of Family Ministry)

As I have mentioned in previous devotionals, I watch Andy Stanley sermons online.  Andy is the Pastor of Northpoint Community Church in Atlanta, and the son of Charles Stanley who was the former pastor of 1st Baptist Church Atlanta and founder of InTouch ministries in Atlanta. 

Recently I tuned in to watch Andy’s weekly sermon online and discovered that someone else was giving the message that week.  It’s not unusual for Andy to “share the pulpit” with associate pastors and guests, which I think is really cool.  Even though he is the Pastor/founder of a 30,000+-member church, he doesn’t have the “big head”.

Much to my surprise, the speaker for that Sunday service was one of my favorite speakers, Stuart Hall.  Stuart is a regular speaker at BigStuf Camp, a summer camp in Panama City, Florida where I have taken youth groups for many years in the past.  If fact, we probably would have heard Stuart speak this past summer in person at BigStuf.  We were registered for the June 15th-19th week of camp.  Unfortunately, COVID had other plans and BigStuf was shut down for the summer.  

As it turns out, Stuart got COVID over the summer and almost didn’t make it.  After being infected, he had a heart attack and was put into a medically induced coma for a couple of months.  It was touch and go, but Stuart survived.  Stuart is a colleague and long time friend of Andy’s, so Andy invited Stuart and his wife to join him for an interview during a Sunday service about their experiences.  It was a powerful and inspirational story of faith and survival in the face of overwhelming uncertainty.  Stuart and his wife shared that their faith was severely tested.  Their sense of control and certainty of God’s providence were rocked to its core.  Its one thing to say we believe and have faith in God, but it’s another to live it when life is cruel and uncertain.

As a result of the interview, Andy asked Stuart to do a two message series called “One Thing is for Certain”.  Basically, Stuart shared that the “One Thing” that was for certain was uncertainty.  Uncertainty always shows up and shatters our illusions of control and invulnerability.

Stuart shares this quote in his message.  “Trust is not for the weak.  It’s the excruciating option.”  Putting our trust in something or someone else is one of the most difficult things we have to do.  It can be intensely painful and mentally agonizing.  We don’t just hand it out freely.  Sure we may give someone the benefit of the doubt in the beginning, but once our trust is violated it is very difficult to re-earn it.

Just like Stuart, our faith and trust in God has been tested.  For most of us, it has been tested multiple times.  Life is basically a series of faith/trust exams and pop quizzes.  When we are tested we say things like “God is in control” and “He’s still on the throne”.  We put on a brave face to show the world that we are “trusting” in the Lord like it’s an easy thing to do.  We cannot show weakness or vulnerability.  We are supposed to take it in stride right?  If we question what God is doing or have a hard time dealing with it, then our faith is not genuine.   Have you ever felt guilty for being upset, depressed, or having doubts?  Has your faith ever been questioned by another Christian because you weren’t handling it perfectly?

Jesus asked the disciples “Where is your faith?” in Luke 8:25.  They were in a boat on “the lake”.  There was a terrible storm and the boat was filling up with water.  They were afraid and in danger.  Jesus was asleep, and wasn’t worried for obvious reasons.  Instead of saying “God is in control” or trusting that God was going to take care of them, the disciples woke Jesus up.  “Master, Master, we are perishing!”  “We are going to die!”  Jesus wakes up, tells the storm to take a chill pill, and asks the disciples, “what happened to your faith?”  I don’t think He was asking whether they “had” faith.   He was asking them what happened to it.  Where did it go?  Sometimes our faith and trust can just run off and hide. 

Jesus question may have been a rebuke.  “You guys should be ashamed of yourselves.  I’m in the boat with you for crying out loud!  When we get to the shore, we’re going to have to go our separate ways because you obviously don’t trust me anymore!”

Apparently, their lack of faith was not a “relationship killer”.  The band didn’t break up.  They sailed to shore and continued doing ministry.  Jesus didn’t give up on them because they struggled.  Basically, almost every story in the Bible contains clear evidence that God followers have faith/trust issues.  We are not perfect or bulletproof, but He loves us anyway.

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Romans 5:8 (NIV)

I love to read the Psalms because they are so honest.  Each one of them is like a diary or journal entry.  The writer is pouring out their feelings to God.  

“How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? Look on me and answer, Lord my God.  Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death, and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” and my foes will rejoice when I fall.  But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.  I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me.”  Psalm 13 (NIV)

“God, my world is falling apart.  My enemies are defeating me!  Where are you?”  The sorrow, fear, and doubt are REAL!  BUT the Psalmist, the writer, chooses to trust in God’s unfailing love.  He reminds himself of God’s goodness, and salvation.  He even chooses to rejoice and sing to the Lord in the midst of pain.

“Trust is not for the weak.  It’s the excruciating option.”  Working out our faith and salvation with “fear and trembling” as the Apostle says in Philippians 2:12 is no picnic.  If you are struggling, doubting, or wrestling with your faith and trust in God today, be encouraged that: 

  • God is listening.
  • You can be honest with Him.
  • He can handle your pain, fear, and doubts.  He has big shoulders.
  • Our lack of faith is not a deal breaker or a relationship killer.  It actually reveals our dependence on Him.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV)

Love y’all!

Robby Morris
Director of Family Ministry and Facility Management
Andrews UMC

Whole Hearted

Weekly Devotional

September 27th, 2020

By Robby Morris

(Director of Family Ministry)

Last week, the title of my devotion was “EASY”.  Well, I didn’t have an “easy” time finishing it.  I just couldn’t “land the plane” or get it together, so I apologize if it was patchy and discombobulated.  I can’t believe I spelled discombobulated correctly the first time!  SPELL CHECK DIDN’T CORRECT ME!  I wasn’t even sure if it was a real word.  Sorry, I know I have ADD.

I was trying to make the point that putting ourselves in a position of vulnerability IS NOT EASY!  It’s not easy for me.  It’s not easy for you.  It wasn’t easy for Jesus.  Even though we really want “easy”, it’s not realistic or practical to expect it.  As much as I would like to crawl under a rock or stick my head in the sand, I really can’t.  I have to go to the grocery store.  I have to interact with people.  I have to have a job to pay the bills.  I have dreams.  I want to find meaning and purpose in life.  I want to have meaningful relationships.  I want a “full and abundant” life.  It would be nice if UPS would deliver it all, but I have to go out and get it.  It’s messy and complicated, and it takes courage to go out and make it happen.

We often define or equate courage with bravery or the ability to do something that frightens us.  Having courage doesn’t mean that we’re not afraid.  It means that we have found a way around or a way to “push through” the fear to do what we want to do.  This is our modern definition of courage.  However, I learned today that our word for courage comes from the Latin word “corage”.  The first root word “cor” is actually translated “heart”.  The second root word “age” means the “act of”, “state of”, or function.  So, loosely translated courage is “the state of the heart.” Courage is all about heart, our innermost being, will, and soul.  It’s deep!

We all know the greatest commandment that tells us to love the Lord and our neighbors with “all” or with our “whole” hearts. (Matthew 22:36-40)  Jesus also said in John 10:10, “I have come that you might have life and have it to the full or fullest.”  Some translations use the world “abundantly”.  However you slice it, Jesus wants our lives and our love to be full or whole, complete, and exceedingly great.  He doesn’t want our lives to be superficial and meaningless, lived foolishly in reckless abandon.  He wants us to live fully or “whole heartedly”, deep down to the core of our innermost being, heart, and soul.  I know that sounds ominous and you may be like, “Hey Robby, take it down a notch dude.  Does that mean everything has to be deadly serious?”  Of course not, I’m pretty sure joy, fun, and laughter are all included with the “abundant living package”.

What if we are able to have the courage to live for God wholeheartedly, to live out our passions and dreams with our whole hearts?  We have heard or read stories of about people who have said they have “never felt more alive” than we they went skydiving or some other death defying activity.  Now, I’m not saying we need to go and jump out of a perfectly good airplane to feel more alive.  I have NO desire to do that!  I am not an adrenaline junkie.  If there is an “adrenaline junkie gene”, I didn’t get it.  But, how many times have I missed out on great experiences that God had in store for me because of fear?

I have taken youth groups on Mission Trips for many years to inner cities in the U.S., Jamaica, Trinidad, and Mexico.  The ones outside the US were the most challenging. For 7 years I took groups to Jamaica visiting orphanages, aids hospices, handicapped children’s homes, youth prisons, and doing vacation bible school in a fishing village.  Even though I had years of experience doing mission trips, it was still very challenging and nerve racking.  Taking 17 teenagers out of the country on a plane and passing through customs in a foreign country is a huge responsibility.  I was nervous, especially the first year we went.  Dozens of parents entrusted the lives of their kids to me.  I had a lot more to worry about than my own vulnerability. 

It would’ve been easier to avoid all that and just take them to a water park for some fun, but I wanted to provide a challenge and an opportunity for these kids to experience something new.  That doesn’t mean we didn’t have fun.  I mean, we were in Jamaica.  

This opportunity would give these kids and other adult leaders a chance to experience a foreign culture, to broaden their horizons, to stretch their character, to develop deeper courage, and to share their faith.   Telling people about Jesus and sharing the Gospel with total strangers can be a very uncomfortable, almost terrifying, experience.

Going to Jamaica for the first time was not just traveling to a “foreign” country.  The whole experience was “foreign”.   The people, culture, food, transportation, and communication were all very different.  It was a challenge and required courage to:

  • Walk into a village and lead vacation bible school to people we didn’t know and could barely understand.
  • Walk into an aids hospice to talk with and hold hands with patients who were dying of an incurable disease. 
  • Walk into handicapped children’s home to interact with children who were suffering from severe physical and mental disabilities.
  • Walk into a youth detention facility.  Enough said.

These weren’t “easy” places to walk into and engage.  Was I nervous or afraid?  You bet I was.  But, I know as a leader that you’re not supposed to “let them see you sweat”.  I had to be calm and appear courageous.  If I expected the group to follow me through the door, I had to hop to it.  I couldn’t hesitate.  I know I may seem like I’m an extrovert, but I’m really not.

The kids were never in danger.  They were well protected.  I had several adult leaders that included our “missionary guides” from Youth With A Mission (Missionary Organization).  It wasn’t “all work and no play”.  We mixed in some fun with the ministry activities.  There was a good balance.  We were able to go back to the Missionary base to relax, but the experience was definitely a test of courage and endurance.  We experienced the full gambit of emotions.  For most of the kids and adults it was a “life changing” experience, including me.  We got to meet some wonderful people and see the world and life from a whole different perspective.

If you look on my Facebook page, my banner is a picture from one of those trips.  Even though Facebook keeps telling me that I need to update my picture, I don’t want to change it.  My experience was that meaningful.  I don’t want to forget it.  I have never felt more alive and ON THE EDGE than in those moments.  

What if I would’ve chosen not to do these trips?  What would we have missed?  We chose to engage in the arena and the Lord provided abundantly.  We left that Island exhausted but filled to overflowing.  It was a “whole hearted” experience.

I wished I could say that I was completely fearless and never missed an opportunity to experience God’s abundance, but I can’t.  There are plenty of times I have opted out when I should have been “all in”.  I battle with fear, insecurity, trust issues, and social awkwardness as much as anyone else.  This devotional encouragement is as much, or more, for me as it is for you.

May the Lord give us all the courage to live “whole heartedly”, and in His full abundance.  Amen.

Love y’all!

Robby Morris
Director of Family Ministry and Facility Management
Andrews UMC

Vulnerability Part 3

Weekly Devotional

September 20th, 2020

By Robby Morris

(Director of Family Ministry)

Over the last couple of weeks we have been exploring the topic of Vulnerability from a new angle.  Seeing vulnerability as a strength rather than weakness is a new twist.  We all know that we have to step into the arena of life at some point in our lives and risk exposure to attack, harm, and failure.   The trouble is deciding when to engage, when to step in and when to step away.  We know ultimately that in order to find meaning, purpose, and fulfillment in life that pain is unavoidable.  So, we have to learn to dance with fear and uncertainty, to live with conflict and tension. 
 
We want easy.  We crave security, comfort, and certainty.  We envy those who seem to have it all and live the “easy” life. Why does it have to be so hard?
 
“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”
– Teddy Roosevelt
 
When we accomplish something does it make us feel better or more satisfied because it was “easy” or when it was hard?  I can only speak for myself, but I get greater satisfaction when I’ve worked hard for something.  It’s WORTH more to me because I have invested my heart and soul.  “Easy” lacks substance.  It isn’t very inspiring.  
 
Inspiration comes from displays of courage in the face of supreme challenges.  Heroes are forged in the flames of battle, conflict, struggle, uncertainty, and tension.  Who wants to see a superhero movie without a villain or without conflict?  It’s boring.  Easy doesn’t keep you on the edge of your seat in the movie theatre.
 
I’ll have to admit that at my age easy sounds pretty good.  I would like to take it easy.  Wouldn’t that be great?
 
My childhood-college years weren’t terribly difficult or dramatic other than my romantic endeavors or should I say failures.  I was not very “lucky in love” until I might my wife.  I was not a “smooth operator” by any means or imagination.  Well, maybe in my imagination.
 
I was very fortunate and blessed.  My dad made good money as an architect.  I had plenty of stuff to keep me entertained.  My dad paid for college.  It was good.  It was not a bulletproof existence, but I was well insulated and had plenty of support.  My parents loved me and were always there when I needed them.
 
My family was dysfunctional like any other, but pretty stable overall.  If there were any huge problems, I never knew about them.  My parents kept it to themselves and protected me from the big bad world for the most part.  It didn’t mean that I got to do whatever I wanted or had it easy.  There was discipline and consequences for bad behavior.  I got my rump roasted, and I was grounded on many occasions.  As I’ve shared before, we had horses.  My dad had the perfect equestrian instrument of discipline at his disposal, and he didn’t just use it on the horses.  I received several lashings from a horse crop (little whip, not Indiana Jones style, just to be clear). 
 
I had to work hard and do chores: construction-building sheds and barns, landscaping, yard work, clearing land and brush, splitting wood, cutting grass, weed eating, digging (lot’s of digging), putting up fences, feeding animals, and much more.  My personal favorite was mucking horse stalls.  YUCK! The smell alone could literally gag a maggot.  I know because I could hear the maggots gagging along with me.  Sorry, TMI.
 
I think my dad did his best to prepare me for the “real world”, but I was very naïve. I probably watched too much TV and movies and thought life was always going to be easy and always have a happy ending.  If there were problems, they would all be solved just like a 30-minute episode of my favorite show. 
 
Sometimes our quest for invulnerability and the easy life can get tangled up in our faith perspective.  We’ve all heard of the “prosperity gospel”.  If not, it’s basically the belief that the full blessings of God are available to those who approach Him in faith and obedience, and they include wealth, health and power.  Translation:  “If you’re good enough, God is going make you rich, healthy, and powerful.”  Sounds great right?  But, it’s not biblical.   When Jesus says, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly”  (John 10:10b NRSV), he is not saying that He will give us health, wealth, and prosperity.  It doesn’t mean that He won’t or can’t bless us in this manner. It just means that He has a different definition of abundance in mind.   
 
He said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  (John 16:33 NIV)  “Life isn’t going to be easy. You’re going to be vulnerable.”
 
Did the disciples hit the “BIG TIME”?  Did following Jesus provide them with health, wealth, and prosperity? Did Jesus give them a ticket to easy street?  Uh, no.  Jesus didn’t promise them that kind of “abundance”.  He didn’t promise them easy.  The abundance He promised to them and is promising to us today is much different.
 
To close this devotion out, I want to encourage you to read Matthew 10.  Jesus is sending out the 12 disciples to do ministry.  They have been following Jesus for a little while now, and so far so good.  It’s been easy.  Jesus teaching is awesome.  He is performing miracles, and healing people.  It hasn’t gotten “REAL” yet, as in REAL HARD.  But, it won’t be long before it gets really REAL.  Really!  So before He sends them out on their own, He gives them the 411.  The real deal.  The whole enchilada.  Okay, I’ll stop.  Read all of it in context, but I wanted to emphasize this passage.
 
“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, or it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

“Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. Truly I tell you, you will not finish going through the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.”  Matthew 10:16-23 (NIV)
 
Jesus is preparing them for engagement.  It’s game time!  He isn’t sugar coating it.  There is more detail in the rest of the chapter about the challenges that they are going to face, so be sure and check that out.
 
He doesn’t promise them a bonus check after the mission or a position of power in His kingdom.  All He promises is that “the ones who stand firm to the end will be saved” (v.22), and that “they will not lose their reward.” (v.42) Again, we know that the “reward” Jesus is speaking of is not monetary.  Read and gain insight from the Apostle Pauls understanding of the rewards, riches, and abundance that comes from a relationship with Christ in Ephesians 2.
 
“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:4-10 (NIV)
 
We will continue the discussion next week.  Have a great weekend!

Love y’all!

Robby Morris
Director of Family Ministry and Facility Management
Andrews UMC

Vulnerability Part 2

Weekly Devotional

September 13th, 2020

By Robby Morris

(Director of Family Ministry)

Last week, we looked at Vulnerability from a new perspective.  According to Brene’ Brown, author and speaker, “Vulnerability is not weakness, and the uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure we face every day are not optional.  Our only choice is a question of engagement.”  By definition, Vulnerability is the quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally.
 
Since uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure are not optional in this life, we have to decide where, when, and how we are going to engage.  Even though there are times when we would like to cut ourselves off from the rest of the world, complete Isolation is not really possible or practical, and probably has a lot more negative effects than vulnerability.  It’s not a great trade off.  COVID has shown us in great detail how destructive isolation can be.  So, when, where, how, and why do we engage, especially as a follower of Christ?
 
When I was about 4 or 5 years old, we lived in a subdivision in Chamblee-Dunwoody close to Atlanta.  I loved to play outside.  Back in those days parental supervision wasn’t as tight as it is today.  I had a long leash. Which is funny because when I was 2, my mother literally used a leash to keep me contained.  I was a runner and on the go all the time.  I think I even have a picture to prove it.
 
Anyway, I had a next-door neighbor named PJ who was a little older than me and bigger.  He used to pick on me enough that I was kind of afraid to go outside.  Fear of PJ kept me from engaging in what I loved to do: playing with the dogs, tree climbing, and chocolate chip cookies from Mrs. Brown up the street.  I had a sandbox to maintain for crying out loud!
 
My dad, seeing and understanding my predicament knew that PJ was becoming an impediment to my future happiness, and the welfare of the “little people” in my sandbox.  PJ was a bully.  My dad knew that in order for me to reengage in the outside world, I had to face my fears, stand up for myself, or the bullying would continue.  He knew it wouldn’t be easy.  It was an opportunity for him to teach me about courage and overcoming obstacles in life.  So, he offered this advice:
 
“Robby, the next time that you go outside and PJ comes after you, pick up a stick and hit him over the head with it.”
 
I know.  Advising a four year old to use a weapon is not a good idea in any era.  He probably thought I wouldn’t be able to stand up to PJ in a straight up fight, so the stick was meant to be the great equalizer, I guess.  It had danger written all over it, right?  What if I poked PJ’s eye out or worse?  I don’t think my dad actually thought I would do it.

But, I did exactly what he told me to do.  I went outside.  PJ came after me.  I picked up a stick and didn’t hesitate.  It was on like Donkey Kong.  I’m not sure who was witnessing the whole event, but the story is that I chased PJ out of our yard with my stick and landed several successful strikes.  Fortunately, I didn’t do any serious damage.  But, that was the last time that PJ ever messed with me.
 
Okay, so, this is a great example of how “not to” engage, right?  No sticks!  No weapons! 
 
Jesus knew the when, where, why, and how of engagement. He understood the challenges, obstacles, and bullies that were waiting for Him. He knew the prophecy in Isaiah 53 that said he would be “led like a lamb to the slaughter”.  He already knew His fate.  The script had already been written.  He didn’t hide or run away from it.  He chose to engage knowing what lay ahead.  Did it have an effect on Him? Was He afraid?  We know that Jesus prayed/asked God the father three times to “take this cup from me” or “get me out of this”!  Read the account from Matthew 26 and Luke 22.  Here are two verses that reveal the effects of His vulnerability.   
 
“And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.”  Luke 22:44 (NIV)
 
“My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” Matthew 26:38(NIV)  
 
There is an actual medical condition called Hematidrosis or “blood sweat” that can be caused by extreme distress or fear, such as facing death, torture, or severe ongoing abuse.
 
Remember the quote from Brene’ Brown last week,  “Our willingness to own and engage with our vulnerability determines the depth of our courage and the clarity of our purpose; the level to which we protect ourselves from being vulnerable is a measure of our fear and disconnection.”  Jesus displayed an unimaginable depth of courage and clarity of purpose.  Even though He was afraid and in extreme distress, he didn’t protect himself or disconnect.  He didn’t pick up a stick either:)
 
I’m really enjoying this study of vulnerability.  As always, I’m never sure where my thoughts will take me.  It’s hard for me to stop, but if I don’t this devotional is going to be a book.  I need to save some for the next week or two.  This week’s devotion has turned out to be an exploration of Jesus vulnerability, and His depth of engagement.  He did all that for us, to save us, and to protect us from the consequences of sin.  His clarity of purpose was His love for us.  What if He would have chosen not to engage?  How vulnerable would we be now?

Have a great weekend!
Love y’all!

Robby Morris
Director of Family Ministry and Facility Management
Andrews UMC

Vulnerability

Weekly Devotional

September 6th, 2020

By Robby Morris

(Director of Family Ministry)

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.  – Teddy Roosevelt

Sometimes it is difficult to stick our necks out there and take risks.  Vulnerability is not something that many of us are comfortable with, especially in a hyper critical culture.  In an age of “cancel culture”, you have to be very careful about what you say and do.  You might get erased from the pages of history, rejected, or shamed into hiding.

Of course, we should all be very careful about what we say and do, right?  How many times have we heard the expression “think before you speak”?  James 1:19 says, My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”  I’m definitely guilty of speaking before thinking and doing, open mouth and insert both feet.  But that’s not really what I’m talking about.

Vulnerability is the quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally.  There is an element of fear that comes with vulnerability, the fear of engagement.  The fear of entering into the “arena” that Roosevelt mentions in this quote.

One of my favorite author-speakers is Brene` Brown.  She is an American professor, lecturer, author, and podcast host.  Brown is CEO of “The Daring Way,” a professional training and certification program on the topics of vulnerability, courage, shame, and empathy. She does use a little bit of colorful language in her videos, but it’s relatively tame compared to most.  I’m not making any judgments.  Just making you aware in case you checked her out.

Brown used this quote from former President Teddy Roosevelt as the basis for her book “Daring Greatly”.  According to Brown, Roosevelt’s quote is really about Vulnerability.

“Everything I’ve learned from over a decade of research on vulnerability has taught me this exact lesson.  Vulnerability is not knowing victory or defeat, it’s understanding the necessity of both; it’s engaging.  It’s being all in.

Vulnerability is not weakness, and the uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure we face every day are not optional.  Our only choice is a question of engagement.  Our willingness to own and engage with our vulnerability determines the depth of our courage and the clarity of our purpose; the level to which we protect ourselves from being vulnerable is a measure of our fear and disconnection.

We spend out lives waiting until we’re perfect or bulletproof before we walk into the arena, we ultimately sacrifice relationships and opportunities that may not be recoverable, we squander our precious time, and we turn our backs on our gifts, those unique contributions that only we can make.

Perfect and bulletproof are seductive, but they don’t exist in the human experience. We must walk into the arena, whatever it may be-a new relationship, an important meeting, our creative process, or difficult family conversation-with courage and the willingness to engage.  Rather than sitting on the sidelines and hurling judgment and advice, we must dare to show up and let ourselves be seen.  This is vulnerability.  This is daring greatly.” (taken from Brene` Brown-“Daring Greatly”)

So, let’s unpack this a little bit.  Feel free to make a list of your own and send it to me at radrob6500.rm@gmail.com.  It may be saying something different to you than it does to me, so it would be cool to hear your thoughts.  Here are a few things that stood out to me:

  • Vulnerability is not weakness!  It’s a willingness to engage, to be “all in”.
  • Vulnerability is courage.  The courage to step into the arena in spite of the risks involved.  Win or lose vulnerability steps into the arena.
  • Fear is the enemy of vulnerability.
  • The state of being “perfect” or “bulletproof” does not exist for anyone.  Waiting until we have “arrived” deprives us of opportunities to use our gifts and make unique contributions.
  • It’s easy to be a critic of those who choose to engage, to enter the “arena”.

One of the challenges we face is choosing “when” to step into the arena.  I don’t think Brene` is saying we need to jump headfirst into relationships, conversations, or opportunities without a reason or without counting the cost.  Daring Greatly is an encouragement to overcome our fear of engagement, to not allow fear or criticism to rob us of meaningful opportunities.
 
This topic has huge spiritual implications that I would like to explore a little more over the next few weeks.  The Bible is full of examples of people that God called to step into dangerous and uncertain arenas.  These individuals where not perfect or bulletproof.  

Jesus, in my opinion, is vulnerability personified.  Jesus, God in human form, was willing to make himself vulnerable on our account at great risk for the purpose of our salvation and reconciliation.
 
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!  Philippians 2:5-8 (NIV)
 
Humility, like vulnerability, is seen as a weakness in our “survival of the fittest” culture.  Human beings use whatever we can get our hands on to gain an advantage.  Taking the form of a humble servant automatically put Jesus at a disadvantage, but that was the plan.  He voluntarily kicked the pedestal of power out from under himself.
 
As I said, we will dig into this a little deeper next week.  Here are a couple of things to think about until then:

  • What if Jesus hadn’t stepped into the arena?
  • How vulnerable does Jesus want us to be?
  • Did Jesus experience the fear of engagement?
  • Jesus entered the arena and paid the price.  He is calling us to enter the arena, to “make disciples”, so how do we do that?
  • As Christians, we don’t step into the arena alone.  God promises to be with us.
  • In order for us to engage, to enter the arena, is it enough to know that God can use us even when we are not perfect or bulletproof?

Love y’all!

Robby Morris
Director of Family Ministry and Facility Management
Andrews UMC

CREATION 2

Weekly Devotional

August 28th, 2020

By Robby Morris

(Director of Family Ministry)

Last week we talked about the glory of God, His greatness, omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience.  
 
His thoughts are greater than ours.  His power and strength are greater than ours.  His understanding is greater than ours.  Our imagination can’t equal His reality.  He is BIG.  We are small.  He is eternal.  We are finite.  He is invulnerable to weakness.  He is light and in Him there is no darkness.  I can’t describe His greatness because I don’t have the words to express it.  He is limitless and beyond my comprehension.  
 
Let’s return to the passage in Isaiah 55:8-9 (NIV).
 
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
 
God uses the word “higher” in verse 9 to illustrate the distance between the way we think and live, and the way God does.  “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”  “Higher” is a word that we can understand.  I’m 5’10’.  That is my height.  Even though I may have desperately wanted to be 6’ tall and more, it didn’t happen.  I stopped at 5’10” and a couple of hairs.  I may be able to jump a few more feet in the air, but I am vertically challenged and limited.  Not only am I short in height, but also I am short sighted. I am limited in my visual-mental perception.  Only “as far as” the eye can see, right?
 
When God says ““As the heavens are higher than the earth”, He is indicating space.  In our minds, well maybe just in my mind, we’re thinking about the distance between the earth or ground and what my eyes can see.  I can see a plane at 30,000 feet.  I can see the sun, moon, and stars that are a considerable distance away if the sky is clear enough.  The sun is so big and shines so brightly that it’s kind of hard to miss.  On a very clear night, we can see the moon.  There are times when the moon is huge and we can actually make out tiny details of the surface.  We can also see the stars and constellations twinkling at night in the distance.  The Lord did give us some pretty powerful peepers, but our concept of the vastness of the heavens is limited by our field of vision.
 
Of course, we have visual aids like binoculars and telescopes that help us see even further.  We have even shot rockets and probes off into the heavens to send back pictures of space beyond our optical limits.   But, we are finding out that the universe, space, or THE HEAVENS are bigger than we thought.  The heavens go far beyond our limits.  It keeps going and going and going.   “To infinity and beyond!”
 
We haven’t found the other side of the space between heaven and earth, and we never will.   Some have said that if there isn’t intelligent life on other planets then it was an incredible waste of space.  It may seem that way, but maybe God is just demonstrating how great He is.  The universe IS a visual representation of God’s glory!  He is showing off in grandiose fashion. 
 
Remember Star Trek?  “Space, the final frontier.”  “Where no man has gone before.”  There is no “final” frontier.  God’s universe is an endless frontier.   When the Lord says, “as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts are higher than your thoughts”, He’s saying that THERE IS NO END, and we can’t figure it out or find it.
 
Of course I have been using this passage as a description of Gods greatness and glory in regards to creation, but there is also another meaning that is found in its context.  Isaiah is a prophet that has been sent by God to warn Israel that they will be invaded and conquered by the Assyrians if they don’t repent of their “wicked ways and unrighteous thoughts” (Isaiah 55:7 NIV). God wishes to extend mercy and issues this invitation.
 
“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David. See, I have made him a witness to the peoples, a ruler and commander of the peoples. Surely you will summon nations you know not, and nations you do not know will come running to you, because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has endowed you with splendor.” Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near.  Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”  Isaiah 55:1-9 (NIV)
 
Even though we may not understand what God is doing and why, His desire is and has always been about His relationship with us, and the blessings that He can provide.  In this passage God says, “Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare.”  He is saying, “I’ve got this, just trust me.  If you do life my way, you’ll find meaning, purpose, joy, and fulfillment.”  Philippians 4:19 (NIV) says, “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”  The “riches of His glory” are unlimited and as vast as the universe itself.  Unfortunately, in our short sightedness, we can’t see beyond what this world has to offer.
 
Ultimately, we can’t figure God out and put Him in a little box.  He cannot be contained or calculated.  I don’t believe that He wishes to withhold any information from us, but like I said last week, it’s just too much information for our little brains to handle.  While it may be frustrating to realize our limitations and difficult to put complete trust in someone other than ourselves, it should be encouraging and comforting to know that the infinite, all-powerful God of all creation wants to have a relationship with you and me.
 
“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever.” Psalm 136:1 (NIV)

Love y’all!

Robby Morris
Director of Family Ministry and Facility Management
Andrews UMC

CREATION

Weekly Devotional

August 20th, 2020

By Robby Morris

(Director of Family Ministry)

Since the outbreak of COVID, “science” debates have returned to the forefront.  Like most people, I’m having a hard time making heads or tails of what the “truth” is concerning the current health crisis, and how to solve it.  It doesn’t seem like anyone really has a handle on it.  Hopefully, scientists are getting closer to figuring this thing out.  In the meantime, I wear a mask and keep my distance.  It’s all above my pay grade anyway.
 
I can remember vaguely going to biology class in college.  I attended Truett-McConnel College (University now-Woo hoo!) in Cleveland, Georgia.  Biology was not my favorite subject.  History and Theology was my thing.  I held pretty strong convictions about creation vs. evolution, which was a hot topic at the time.  It was God vs. Science.  I found it a little unusual that the theory of evolution was being taught so freely at a Baptist institution.   I didn’t like it, and voiced my opinion in class several times during that semester.  My professor was very gracious in allowing me to share my opinion and to put up with an obnoxious 18 year old that thought he knew everything.  She was a nice lady, and I was being a jerk.  Thankfully, the Lord has tempered my attitude and my modes of expression.
 
Even though I haven’t changed my belief that God created all things and have no problem accepting that he did it in six days, it really doesn’t matter to me anymore how He did it or how long it took him.  He did it.  I believe he could have done in six minutes or six seconds.  I believe our God is Omnipotent.  There is NOTHING that he cannot do.
 
There is an  interesting verse in 2 Peter 3:8 (NIV) to consider.
 
But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.
 
I’m not trying to take this verse and make it say something to support an opinion, but just to point out that God’s concept of time and mine are really not the same.  In fact God’s concepts and knowledge are out of my sphere of comprehension, so worrying about how long it took for God to create all things is not as important as the fact that He did it.  HE BIG.  Me small.  This is made clear through verses like this:
 
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.  Isaiah 55:8-9 (NIV)
 
In other words, we really don’t have a clue other than what the Bible tells us, what the Holy Spirit reveals, and what we see in creation.  I believe the Bible to be God’s word and reliable as my primary source of theology or “the study of the nature of God.”  The Bible is comprehensive with 66 books neatly compiled into two testaments or covenants called scripture.  But, I believe it only scratches the surface of God’s Omnipotence, Omnipresence, and Omniscience.   I’m not saying that the Bible is incomplete at all.  I think He gave us enough to keep us busy for a lifetime.  If He revealed everything to us at once, our heads would probably explode.   
 
We may be created in the image of God, but we are not God.   According to Paul we have only been given a part of the grand design or BIG PICTURE, but not all of it.
 
For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.  I Corinthians 13:12 (NIV)
 
Everything will be “fully” revealed when we see Him face to face.  But for now I have to make the best use of the information that I have been given.
 
As I mentioned, there are three main sources that God uses to reveal Himself to us:  Scripture, the Holy Spirit, and Creation.   Creation includes our relationships and experiences with other created beings.  In Romans 1:20 it says, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”   
 
I, personally, cannot say that God doesn’t exist because I see him clearly in the things that have been made.   To me it is undeniable.  The Bible says it and creation itself proves it.   I don’t need any more evidence.  But, I know that not everyone shares that view, and it’s okay.  I can live in a world where people don’t agree about everything or share my point of view.  Even though, I found it a little more difficult when I was in college.  I have evolved.  Wait.  Can I say I have evolved and still be a Christian?  (Sarcasm alert!) 
 
Just like I dig a little deeper each day into God’s word for the reason for my existence and for understanding of the nature of God, there are scientists who dig deeper into the details of creation to make sense of it all.  Just like theology is a systematic study of the nature of God.  Science is a systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.  To me they are one in the same; they both point in the same direction.  Theology reveals the nature of God: who He is, what He has done and is doing.  Science reveals how He did it.   Through science we learn that God is unimaginably artistic, detailed, and creative.
 
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.  Psalm 139:14 (NIV)
 
The words “fearfully and wonderfully made” not only reveal God’s “wonderful works”, His labor in our creation, but it also reveals His love and passion for His creation.  Have you ever created something?  Have you poured yourself into a project making sure that everything was “just right”?  It was your baby.  You put everything into it: heart, soul, mind, and, strength to bring it to life.  We are God’s babies.  He made us fearfully and wonderfully and said it was GOOD.
 
A couple of weeks ago I was watching the news and they were interviewing a scientist/doctor for more information about what was going on with COVID.   I really wasn’t paying that close attention until the news anchor mentioned that she liked that the scientist had shared a Bible verse and his faith in some of his publications.  It was kind of cool to see that there was someone who was able to put the two together, God and science.
 
I know there are times when science and theology are at odds, especially when it comes to explaining our origins.  I think there will always be a tension between them.   It is all so much bigger than we can comprehend.   Naturally lines will be crossed and we will get bogged down in translation, but being able to see God’s glory and magnificence in ALL OF IT is pretty powerful and comforting.   We can only pray that He will give us the wisdom to handle His creation and His message with greater care, respect, and humility.

Love y’all!

Robby Morris
Director of Family Ministry and Facility Management
Andrews UMC

WALL OF SOUND

Weekly Devotional

August 12th, 2020

By Robby Morris

(Director of Family Ministry)

Music was a huge part of my life until I lost my hearing last year.  I can still listen to music but it’s very distorted now.  It’s not the same.  I really miss it a lot, as a fan and a musician.  I’m trying to work my way back into it a little bit, but it’s very challenging.
 
If you have ever been in my office or watched my devotionals during online services you have seen “the WALL” of CD’s in my office.  THE WALL OF SOUND!  Actually, there are two walls or shelves loaded with the CD’s that I collected from 1986-2008.  There were more, but I sold or traded away quite a few.  The scary thing is that those CD’s are only part of my “collection”.  In 2008, I decided to stop buying physical CD’s, because I was running out of space to store them.  I switched to digital music downloads from iTunes.  Well you can imagine how much music I’ve probably accumulated from 2008-2019, if my “wall of sound” is any indication.  I have about 30,000 songs stored on an external hard drive, that does include CD’s that I have burned to digital.   I guess you could call it an obsession.  Uh, ya think?
 
One of my favorite things was waiting for “release day” for new music.  It used to be every Tuesday, but the music industry changed it to Friday a few years ago.  Every “release day”, I would go to record/music stores (remember those?) or online to check out the new stuff.  I still check out new releases on iTunes, even though I haven’t bought anything since losing my hearing.  Old habits are hard to break.  I would also check release dates in magazines and online for what was coming out.  Some weeks we’re more exciting than others, especially if one of my favorite artists was releasing a new album that week in stores or online.  I remember celebrating when Hootie and the Blowfish’s second album came out.  It was “Hootie Day”!
 
Obviously, I was a music “consumer”.  Yes, I bought music, but I also “consumed” it like food or fuel.  It fed my soul.  Once I had consumed an album.  I was ready for something else.  Something NEW!  I craved it.  I was a music glutton.  Sure, I would go back and re-consume the old stuff.  Okay, that kind of sounds gross, but you know what I mean.  I loved hearing NEW music!  I was always on the lookout for something new.
 
In the old days buying a CD by a new artist or one that was unfamiliar was risky.  You may have heard their “single” on the radio, but that didn’t guarantee that the whole album was good.  Ever heard of “one hit wonders”?  Sometimes the “single” was the only good song on an album or the only one worth listening to.  So, if you paid $10 for an album with only one good song on it, you were stuck with it and felt ripped off.  
 
Sometimes record stores had listening stations that you could preview entire albums.  It was great.  That’s the beauty of buying music online now; you can hear a preview of each song on an album before you buy it.  Previews eliminated the risk of buying a dud or a bad album, and I bought my share of duds.
 
It’s not that I don’t like old music or the “oldies but goodies”.  I do.  Old music is very nostalgic and takes me back in time.  But, there is something about “new” music that I love.  It’s fresh and exciting.  It’s sonic exploration.  I remember hearing ELO’s (Electric Light Orchestra) “Discovery” album on headphones for the first time.  It was huge and magical.  Their music was so rich and layered with so multiple instruments, orchestration, and harmony.  It’s still one of my favorites.
 
I could literally go on and on and on about music, but I need to start tying this into something spiritual, right?
 
As much as I love music there were times when I would get burned out and wouldn’t listen to anything for a while, but there would always be something, a new song, sound, or artist that would bring me back and recharge the engine.
 
Our walk of faith and relationship with Christ is no different.  In our humanness it’s nearly impossible to maintain or sustain a perfectly high level of passion forever about anything.  There are times when we struggle, get distracted, have doubts, and lose focus.  We get tired, bored, and burned out. 
 
I wish that wasn’t true, but I have to be honest and admit it.  The good news of the Gospel is that God’s grace is not just available for my salvation, but it’s also there when I’m struggling. God is faithful.  He is patient with us even while we’re distracted, bored, tired, scared, having doubts, etc.
 
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.  2 Peter 3:9 (NIV)
 
Not only is He patient with us.  He also never stops pursuing us, calling, and reaching out to us.   We may give up on Him, but He will never give up on us.
 
The Apostle Paul encourages and reminds Timothy and us in 2 Timothy 1:6-7 to “fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” Other translations say to “rekindle” or “stir up” the gift of God.  In other words, we need to make an effort to get the fire burning again, to get things stirred up.
 
I’m not sure how you get fired back up, but don’t be afraid to try something new.  I don’t mean a new god or anything, just to be clear.  The Lord always uses different things to get my attention.  It may be circumstances, experiences, new friends, a new book, a new song, or a new message from a pastor or speaker.   Sometimes finding a new location for my “God time” helps stir things up.  Getting a different view or seeing scripture from a different angle can be very refreshing.  I hope you find something new to recharge your soul this week.

 

Please pray for our kid’s, parents, teachers, and school administrators as they start school this week.  This is a “back to school” year like no other.  I know they will appreciate it.

Love y’all

Robby Morris
Director of Family Ministry and Facility Management
Andrews UMC

FINISH WELL

Weekly Devotional

July 26th, 2020

By Robby Morris

(Director of Family Ministry)

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” Michael Jordan
 
Failure, apparently, is an option.  It happens.  It’s part of the process.  On the path to success, we will experience failure.  It is unavoidable.  However, it is beneficial.  Yoda, in Star Wars, says, ““The greatest teacher, failure is.”  We can learn a lot from it, if we choose too.
 
Paul may come across a little cocky and arrogant in Philippians 3:4-6.  “Though I myself have reasons for such confidence.  If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.”  But, he understands and freely admits that he’s not the G.O.A.T. (Greatest of All Time) of Christianity.
 
In Romans 7, Paul has a long dissertation about the struggles of doing the right thing, and then ends with “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”  He knows he’s got talent, but he’s not Jesus.  He’s not perfect.
 
Throughout Paul’s letters there is a reoccurring theme of perseverance.   Philippians 3:13-14  says, “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”  He was like Popeye.  “I’m strong to the fin-ich cause I eats me spin-ich”  (the cartoon character, not the chicken place for those who are too young to remember.)
 
For Paul, it was about the finish or “fin-ich”.  We may stumble our way through the beginning and the middle, but we want to finish well.  We want to be competitive.  Not necessarily against others, but we want to push ourselves to be what the Lord has called us to be.   Even though, it’s not necessary for our salvation, we want to please Him out of gratitude for all that He has done for us.
 
A few years ago I was the director of Family Ministry/Worship Leader at a church near Charlotte, North Carolina.  I had been at the church for about a year and a half when the Pastor was moved mid year by the bishop to rescue a struggling church.  I was very disappointed that she was leaving.  She was a great friend, and we had a very healthy working relationship.  It was an environment of mutual trust and respect.  Creativity was encouraged and appreciated.  We were truly partners in ministry.  I enjoyed going to work everyday.  I’m not saying everything was perfect at the church, but the boss and I were good, and that’s a big deal.
 
We all know that when leadership changes, it won’t be the same.  This wasn’t my first rodeo.  I’ve been through several pastoral changes throughout my career.  Some have been good, and some have not.  But, I was optimistic.  In the beginning it seemed to be okay, but over time the relationship and the church environment grew more toxic, and got to the point where I dreaded going to work.  I’m not placing blame.  There are always two sides to every story.  It just wasn’t a good fit.  I endured for over a year, until I reached a point when I knew it was time to go.  I was mentally and emotionally exhausted, but I hadn’t crossed the finish line of that particular race yet.  I had to finish.
 
I had to endure several more months before the Lord opened another doorway to ministry.  It was probably one of the most difficult periods in my life and ministry career.  It was difficult to stay focused.  It was difficult to “finish well”.   “Finishing well” is a relatively new buzzword in Christian leadership.  Basically, it means that you want to do a good job, do your best, until you clock out for the last time.  My dad always taught me to finish whatever I start, to not quit when things get difficult.
 
Paul tells us in 2 Timothy 4:7-8, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”(NIV)
 
Paul’s life and ministry were coming to an end.  It wasn’t easy.  He suffered hardship of many kinds.  But, as he looked back over his life and ministry, he felt he could honestly say that he did his best.  I’m not sure what percentage of effort he gave.  Who can say?  But, his message lives on almost two thousand years later.  I’d say that is sufficient evidence to back up his claim.
 
Have you ever seen videos of long distance runners who are struggling at the end of a race?  Some of them can barely move forward.  They are staggering and falling down, but they won’t quit.  They keep getting back up over and over again just to fall down again.  They don’t have much left to give.  There is very little fuel left in the tank, but they won’t quit.
 
One of the coolest things to see is when other runners, other competitors, stop and help a struggling runner cross the finish line.  It’s powerful.  It usually brings me to tears.  It’s also a perfect picture of what Christ does for us.  We can’t finish this race of life on our own strength.  It’s only “by the grace of God”.   
 
Galatians 6:2 tells us to “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”  It’s comforting and encouraging knowing that Jesus has our back, but He also wants us to follow His example.  It’s easy for us to get so focused on our own race that we are blind to those around us who are struggling, who have fallen by the wayside.  Who am I encouraging today?  Whose burden am I carrying?

Love y’all!

Robby Morris
Director of Family Ministry and Facility Management
Andrews UMC

WINNING

Weekly Devotional

July 19th, 2020

By Robby Morris

(Director of Family Ministry)

“Winning isn’t everything, it is the only thing.” – Vince Lombardi
 
We all want to win and be successful.  Winning is one of our most basic and powerful instincts.   We want to be #1, and it starts at an early age.  Who doesn’t remember jostling to be first in line?  Who doesn’t want to be picked first?  Who has a hard time sharing the spotlight?  Ultimately, we want to be top dog, the head honcho, the big kahuna, and the big cheese…ok I’ll stop.
 
The wise and talented Ricky Bobby once said, “If you ain’t first, you’re last”.  (Sarcasm Alert!)  
 
For those who aren’t familiar, Ricky Bobby is movie character played by Will Farrell in the movie “Talladega Nights:  the ballad of Ricky Bobby”.  It’s a really funny and stupid movie, but it cracks me up, and it is a great illustration for this devotion.
 
So for Ricky Bobby, if you don’t win, you’re a TOTAL loser.  Well, we all know that’s not true, right?  Winning isn’t everything or the only thing.  As Ricky Bobby’s dad, Reese Bobby, so eloquently points out in the movie, “That makes no sense at all! I mean, you could be second, third, fourth–, you could even be fifth!”
 
There is nothing wrong with a little competition, just as long as we don’t get too carried away with it.   The “spirit of competition” dwells in all of us to a certain degree.  Some are just better at hiding it than others.   Winning can become an obsession, like anything else, and can lead to negative behavior.  But, competition can also be very beneficial, whether you win or lose.  Competition can:

  • Keep us alert
  • Help us assess our strengths & weaknesses
  • Make us more creative
  • Help us manage success and failure
  • Help us improve our skills
  • Help us with long term planning and setting goals
  • Gives us purpose and self discipline

 
The Apostle Paul refers to physical training and competition in several of his letters.  He understands its application and value for living a healthy life physically and spiritually.
 
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.  Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air.  No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”  1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (NIV)
 
“I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 3:14 (NIV)
 
Where we get into trouble is when winning or being first becomes our top priority, and more importantly, the “only thing”.  Our obsession with being “first” is nothing new.  It is one of the leading causes for most of our problems.  So, Jesus makes it clear what our top priorities are supposed to be in response to a question about the greatest commandment.
 
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  Matthew 22:37-40 (NIV)
 
We are all familiar with the ”love God and love your neighbor part”, but Jesus makes a pretty emphatic statement at the end.  “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  All! Everything!  Without these two commandments, we have nothing.  It all falls apart.  Our beliefs, faith, theology, and behavior…EVERYTHING is dependent upon our ability to not only love God, but also others as much as we love ourselves.  They are not only the greatest, but they are also the hardest to live out.
 
I understand that this is not new territory.  How many times have we read, heard, and studied this passage?  We have memorized it.  We “know” it backwards and forwards.  We know it’s important, and all agree that it is a great plan for the future.  But, we still think “our” plan is a winner and still has a shot.
 
Have you heard the expression “How is that working out for you?”  It’s a sarcastic way of saying to another person that maybe their plan for “whatever” isn’t a good one.  I have a feeling that Jesus may be wondering the same thing about our plans, attitude, and behavior throughout history.  Maybe He would say, “Hey guys, I’m just checking in. I’ve been watching your plan for a long time now, and I just have a question.  How is that working out for you?  I’m not trying to be a pest or anything, but I just wanted to remind you to love me, love others, deny yourself, and follow me.  You don’t have to win everything; most of the time it’s better if you don’t.  Just saying.  Love ya.”
 
So as I close this devotional out, I tried to flip Ricky Bobby’s statement around Jesus style.  “If you ain’t last, you’re first.”  What do you think?  Nah, it really doesn’t have the same ring to it.   Anyway, Jesus lived and died by his “lose to win” philosophy.  Yes, He won the ultimate victory, but He had to lose to do it.  It’s still about losing something.  It’s still about surrender.  In order to “win” others to Christ, we have to humble ourselves and take the form of a servant because Jesus did.  He showed us how to do it.
 
“But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,” 1 Peter 3:15 (ESV)
 
I get it.  Being gentle and submissive is not exactly a great winning strategy if you are trying to win the Super Bowl.  But, if you want to change the world, the right way, Jesus still has the best approach.   “Winning isn’t everything, it’s not even close.”

Love y’all!

Robby Morris
Director of Family Ministry and Facility Management
Andrews UMC

CRUCIBLE

Weekly Devotional

July 12th, 2020

By Robby Morris

(Director of Family Ministry)

I grew up in Marietta, Georgia, just outside of Atlanta.  We lived in North Cobb County.  Back then it was still considered the “country”.  It was a great place for a kid to grow up.    My neighborhood had lots of kids in it.  If you have seen the movie “Sandlot” (“You’re killing me smalls”), my childhood was very similar.  We were like a gang.  We played army, explored “the woods” around the neighborhood, built forts and tree houses, and played sports.  We played basketball, soccer, football, baseball, equestrian (horse riding), etc.  A couple of parents in the neighborhood had horses, including my dad, and they played polo at the Atlanta polo club.  They also fox hunted.  My sister was a show jumper for a couple of years.  I feel very blessed and fortunate to have had such a great childhood.  I have great memories.
 
Sports were a big deal for me.  I followed everything college and pro.  I loved football, basketball, baseball, hockey, tennis, golf, and wrestling.  My dad took me to high school, college and pro sports games.  I collected sports cards, helmets, jerseys, hats, and more.  I watched sports on TV. I knew all the stats: yards gained, number of hits and home runs, batting average, points per game, and on and on. I ate, drank, and slept sports.  My whole world revolved around it.  I was a fanatic.
 
My first experience playing an organized sport, on a real team, was soccer.  I played in the Marietta YMCA league.  Eventually, I would play organized basketball in youth leagues, and at Marietta Christian School, but soccer was probably my favorite sport to play.  I was getting pretty good too.  By the time I was about 12, I was one of the best players in the league.  It was the one time in my life that I really could have been great at something.  But that all came to screeching halt, when a series of events ended my soccer career.
 
Due to a sudden growth spurt when I was about 12, I developed a knee condition called Osgood-Schlatter disease, which is common among adolescents.  It is an inflammation of the area just below the knee where the tendon from the kneecap attaches to the shinbone.  It was pretty painful.  So much so that my dad made me stop playing sports for a little while.  It was heart breaking and disappointing.
 
If that wasn’t enough, I was infected with mononucleosis.  You know the “kissing disease”. Mono eventually led to tonsillitis at around the same time, and I had to have my tonsils taken out.  Mono kept me out of action for an entire summer.  If you know anything about mono, you have to rest or it keeps coming back.  I was basically housebound for an entire summer.  Sound familiar?  I spent the whole summer watching TV (black and white), building model airplanes, drawing, playing with my train set and army men, collecting baseball cards, etc.
 
In spite of these setbacks it didn’t deter my passion for sports.  I relentlessly and passionately petitioned my parents to set me free from house arrest so I could play sports again.  I know I drove them crazy, especially the summer of Mono.

 

But that’s not all, wait for it…at around the same time, my dad decided that we were going to move.  Yay! Atlanta was growing and quickly swallowing up our rural paradise.  My dad was tired of dealing with traffic and the rat race of the big city.   Plus, I think he was having a bit of a mid-life crisis.  Maybe, he was looking to get back to his roots of small town West Virginia.  I’m not sure, but move we did.  The “Green Acres” TV show theme song is coming to mind.  “Green Acres is the place to be, farm living is the life for me.”  Where did we move did you ask?  I know you did.  I heard you. BLAIRSVILLE, GEORGIA.  You know that great metropolis just south of Murphy.
 
Well, back in 19 and 79, it wasn’t so metropolitan.  In fact we only had one traffic light, and the only fast food place was the Tastee Freeze.  Also, NO SOCCER!!! None. Nada. Zilch.  I was crushed, and devastated that my soccer career was over.  I still had basketball, but my basketball skills weren’t as far along as soccer.  My opportunities to get playing time would be minimal.  So, the summer before my sophomore year, I decided to try football.  
 
Football was probably my favorite sport to watch, but I never played on a team.  Sure I played “two hand touch” football in the neighborhood, which was more like playing “tag”.  But, I didn’t like playing full contact “tackle” football.  It was violent and emotional.  I was not a confrontational person or aggressive.  I just liked it for the athleticism.  Football is, by nature, confrontational and aggressive.  But in spite of my reservations and fear of playing such a violent sport, I did it anyway. 
 
At the time I only weighed about 135.  I was not built for football.  I know, it’s hard to believe.  I was hoping to play wide receiver, defensive back, kicker, or punter so I wouldn’t get hit as much.  But, they stuck me at linebacker on the first day, right in the middle of all the action.  It wasn’t pretty.  I was being thrown around like a rag doll.  I’m sure there were parents watching from the sideline wondering, “who is that kid that keeps flying around in the air and rolling around on the ground.”  I got run over, stepped on, mashed, and mangled.  One day it was so bad that I was actually crying under my helmet, big crocodile tears running down my face.  Thankfully, my facemask hid my tears.  It was brutal.
 
Every morning when I would wake up I would be covered in new bruises.  There were bruises on top of bruises.  It was not fun.  Sports are supposed to be fun, right?  Well, this seemed more like medieval torture.  I thought about it, but I DIDN’T QUIT!  I’m not sure why. Maybe stupidity.
 
Then one day after practice, one of the seniors pointed at me in the locker room and said in front of the rest of the team, “Hey Morris! You can take a hit, man” or something to that effect.  I think the Rocky theme song started playing in my head.   My endurance had paid off.  I had finally earned some respect.  It was a great feeling.  It didn’t make practice any easier, make me a starter, or make my bruises disappear, but it did change my perspective.  It gave me a huge confidence boost.  
 
I got really serious about lifting weights, so I got bigger and stronger.  Eventually I would go on to earn a starting spot playing several different positions my junior and senior year.  I wasn’t a star or the best player, but I had come a long way.  I ended up playing at Mars Hill College for a couple of years.
 
Football was a “crucible” or situation of severe trial for me.  It pushed me to the limit physically and emotionally.  It was probably very similar to the military in many ways, and my ex-marine football coach worked very hard to make it that way.  Whatever my reasoning was for choosing and continuing to play football, I’m glad that I stuck with it.  Being forged in the fire of battle gave me strength for future trials.
 
In James 1:2-4 it says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
 
I don’t know what kind of “crucible” or trial you’re facing right now.  You may feel bruised and broken from the battle.  You’re not sure your body and mind can take anymore.  Like you, I often wonder what God is doing.  Where is He?  But, I have to keep reminding myself that He’s there with me.  I just keep pushing myself to move forward even if I have to crawl.
 
My football coach used to call football “the game of life.’  I always thought it was a stupid comparison, but since then it has made more sense.  It was definitely a literal “school of hard knocks”, and it taught me a lot.
 
Every time I got knocked down in football practice I got back up.   When I had tears streaming down my face and knew that I was going to get hit and knocked down again, I lined up in my position and did it again.   I did it over and over and over again, until perseverance paid off.  I stopped getting knocked down as much.  In fact, I started knocking other people down.  I know it’s not Christ like, but it was a sport so it’s okay, right?  (Sarcasm Alert!)
 
Lord, please help me to keep getting back up every time life knocks me down.  Amen.

Robby Morris
Director of Family Ministry and Facility Coordinator
Andrews UMC

 

CHRISTIAN

Weekly Devotional

July 5th, 2020

By Robby Morris

(Director of Family Ministry)

Last week, I was listening to Andy Stanley.  (Pastor of Northpoint Community Church-Atlanta) His message title was “Don’t Settle For Christian”.   He makes a statement that “becoming a Christian is easy.”  It costs us virtually nothing.  We are simply receiving the free gift of salvation that is available to us through Jesus Christ.

 We don’t have to go on a Jihad (Holy War) or ride our bike all over the country.  We don’t have to sign our name in blood or go to boot camp.   We don’t have to do stupid things, embarrass ourselves, or receive a beating with a fraternity paddle.  “Thank you sir may I have another” (Animal House).
 
Whether you come to Christ through Catechism, Confirmation Class or responded to an altar call, you can become a Christian by making a profession of faith, pray the sinner’s prayer, and get baptized.   That’s it.  You’re in.  You can officially call yourself a Christian.
 
The term Christian comes from the Greek word Χριστιανός (Christianos), meaning “follower of Christ”, comes from Χριστός (Christos), meaning “anointed one”, with an adjectival ending borrowed from Latin to denote adhering to, or even belonging to, as in slave ownership.  For example, a Christian “belongs” to Christ.  The Apostle Paul refers on several occasions to being a “slave” to Christ.
 
Jesus didn’t call his followers “Christians”.  I’m not sure He even called them disciples, that’s just what they were.  In Acts 11:26 (NIV), it says, “The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.” It doesn’t give evidence in the book of Acts or anywhere else in scripture that the disciples used this term for themselves.  The first endorsement of the term used by an actual disciple of Christ is found in 1 Peter 4:16 by Peter.  “However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.”
 
The term “Christian” might have even been a flippant or derogatory term used to describe or address followers of Christ during the early years of the church.  It may have been like a nickname or a joke.  Those “little Christs.”
 
I became a “Christian” on November 17, 1978 at a weekend retreat in Chattanooga, but I’m still struggling with and working on what it means to be a true follower of Jesus.  Becoming a Christian was easy.  Following Jesus is not.
 
On several occasions, Jesus shared with the disciples that following Him would be costly.
 
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:26-27 (NIV)
 
In the next few verses He explains that it’s important to consider the cost of building a tower, and what it will cost to go to war against an enemy with greater numbers.  Then He says in verse 33, “In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.”  Following Jesus costs us everything.
 
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” Matthew 7:21-27 (NIV)
 
“If you love me keep (obey) my commands.”  John 14:15 (NIV)
 
Romans 5:8 says “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
 
This is a game changer.  We didn’t deserve His love, but He demonstrated it anyway.  Jesus expects and commands us to the same.
 
I have to ask myself all the time.  What am I demonstrating to the world?  Do I love my neighbor?  Do I love my enemies?  Do I even love those whom I disagree with?  Do I deny myself, take up my cross, and follow Him?  Do I love the Lord with all my heart? Am I willing to give up everything or am I content to just be “in the club”?
 
Andy ends his message with this powerful statement.  “Jesus never invited us to become a Christian.  He invited us to follow Him.”
 
I’m thankful for messages like this that challenge me to be a more faithful follower of Jesus.  If you would like to listen to Andy’s message click here 

Robby Morris
Director of Family Ministry and Facility Coordinator
Andrews UMC

 

DISCIPLE

Weekly Devotional

June 28th, 2020

By Robby Morris

(Director of Family Ministry)

I recently read an article by a CNBC tech reporter who had never seen any of the Star Wars movies.   I always find it interesting when Star Wars fans are shocked, surprised, and even disappointed that there are other humans that aren’t into Star Wars.
 
I grew up with Star Wars.  I saw the first movie when I was 12 in 1977.  It was one of those moments in life that ignited my sense of wonder and imagination.  I’m a fan, but I’m not the 12-year-old super fan I once was.  Sure, I get excited when a new episode comes out, but my life doesn’t revolve around it like it did and does for some.  For some, the “GALAXY FAR FAR AWAY” is REAL, and they take it very seriously.
 
Anyway, back to the guy who had never seen Star Wars before.
 
Since He had the time, due to COVID lockdown, he decided to binge watch all 9 movies in succession to see what all the hubbub was about.  He had heard people going on and on about the movies, and had been subjected to Star Wars references and movie quotes that have become a part of our culture.  
 
Even if you haven’t seen the movies you have probably heard some of these references:
 
“Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi. You’re my only hope.”
 
“I find your lack of faith disturbing.”
 
“May the force be with you.”  Or “May the 4th be with you” (May 4th is the unofficial Star Wars day.  Yes, it’s a thing)
 
“Do. Or do not. There is no try.”
 
“I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”
 
And my personal favorite, “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.”
 
Geeky Star Wars fans, like me, find a way to weave these quotes into their real life conversations.  If you’re not a Star Wars fan, and haven’t watched the movies, you may not get it.  The guy writing the article didn’t get it either.  So, He watched the movies, and was encouraged by his editor to write a brief review of each.
 
In the article, before he started his full review, he made a request to die-hard Star Wars fans.  “I know many people reading this may be super fans. I don’t want death threats.”  This caught my attention.  Why would he have to make that request?
 

  • His review was not going to be very positive?  (And it wasn’t.  He was not impressed with the movies.  In fact, he was very critical.  So, he didn’t join the fan club.  That’s okay.  I’ll live.)
  • He understood how passionate people are about these movies, and that true Star Wars disciples might lash out in anger, which I’m sure they did.

If you’re a fan of anything, you love to share it with others.  You want them to love “it” as much as you do.  We get excited when we share something, like a movie or music, with someone else.  “I know you’re gonna love it!”  We watch them, while their watching or listening, with great anticipation thinking that it will take their breath away.  That they will have the same experience that we did.  When it’s over, we are looking for a reaction and may ask, “Well, what did you think?”  And then they say, “Eh, it was okay”.   A reaction like that can be disappointing.  We might even take it personally that something that we love has been rejected.  Plus, we were unable to convert them to our cause.

As I thought about the article, I started thinking about my own faith, Christianity, and the church.  We have been given an incredible gift that we all want to share with the world.  Jesus Christ lived, died, and rose again from the dead so that we could receive mercy, forgiveness, grace, and eternal life.  To us, IT IS EVERYTHING!  This message of hope has changed our lives forever.  Why can’t others see it like I do?  Why can’t they fall in love with Jesus too?  Unfortunately, it’s not usually Jesus that they reject as much as it is my representation of Him.

It’s hard not to feel responsible when we are unsuccessful in our attempts to share the Gospel, when it isn’t received and accepted.  While the Apostle Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 3:6-7 that “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.  So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow”, it’s still frustrating when we can’t make it happen.  I know I struggle when my attempts at discipleship are rejected.   I just have to keep reminding myself that Jesus called me to “be” a disciple first, and then “make” disciples.

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”  Matthew 28:19-20 NIV

I can’t quit.  I’m called to plant and water the seeds of faith in others, and let the Lord take care of the rest.   The fact that the Lord takes care of the spiritual growth does take some of the pressure off, but planting and watering seeds of faith is still a huge responsibility.  Jesus never said that making disciples would be easy.  History demonstrates very clearly that we will fail far more than we will succeed.  Being a disciple, and a disciple maker, are very costly endeavors. Check out Luke 14:25-35.  Also, read and reflect on Matthew 10, as Jesus sends his disciples out to make disciples.  He makes it clear that they will face rejection and persecution.

“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”  Matthew 10:16 NIV

Next week, I want to dig a little deeper into what it means to be a disciple and a disciple maker.  In the meantime, check out these scripture passages, and may the force be with you.

Robby Morris
Director of Family Ministry and Facility Coordinator
Andrews UMC

101 Chestnut Street
Andrews, NC 28905

(828) 321-5216

andrewsumc@gmail.com