Andrews UMC

Church Blog

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