Thursday, December 13, 2007

HOPE by Dr. Jim Savage

Responding to the Word HOPE


Perhaps no other word better illumines the Advent story. Hope that Mary would say Yes! Hope that Joseph would not reject her upon hearing the news of her pregnancy. Hope that their long journey to Bethlehem would bring no harm. Hope that the bright star overhead would bring only Good.

Parents hope for room in an inn. Shepherds hope for Good News of a birth in a manager. Angels hope for peace in human hearts. Advent could not be Advent without hope. Not at the first and not today, for without the borning crying of hope, the world could descend into deadening discouragement.

Hope opens something in the human heart. Like shutters slowly parting to admit a winter dawn, hope permits strands of light to make their way to us, even when we still stand in cold darkness; but hope also reveals a landscape beyond us into which we can live and move and have our being. With hope, closely held interior thoughts are gently turned outward; deep desires, perhaps long hidden secret corners of our heart, might be lifted up to the light. At times, hope peels back the edges of our imagination to free what waits underneath----a changed life, a new resolve, a yes to pregnant possibility. In other moments hope dares us to unfold a layer of desire---for relationship, for clarity, for courage.

In the stories of the Season of Advent, God opens everything to us through hope born of expectation----expectation that Christ is coming to make all things new. And in the coming of Christ we find the coming of hope, made real in time, space, and flesh.

May you live through the Scriptures this Season, in which the Light of God's Hope breaks in on a waiting world to illumine the landscape in which we live and move and have our being.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Anticipation and Reflection

By Dr. Jim Savage

(Matt 24:36-44)

Here Jesus tells how, with the help of God, Noah anticipated and made ready for the flood, while others ignored God and lost their lives. Perhaps the others were too consumed with the ways of the world, distracted by their own interests. But Noah had learned to pay attention to what mattered to God; and what mattered to God were the ones who mattered to Noah.

We are entering a season when much of the world will be attracted by glitter and glimmer, but we are invited to anticipate with God what really matters in our lives.

Take pen and paper to a quiet place where you can be alone for a while; a place with few distractions. Begin a list of the people you love, all those persons who are dear to you, the ones you want to carry in your heart this season. Keep this list over the whole Advent Season; add to it any time. Be satisfied with remembering these individuals in prayer and thoughts for now.

Heart-and-Soul Connection.
I naturally want to connect with people in loving ways. So I express love and appreciation of family, friends, and acquaintances.....All given as a Gift in my life to Love. In meetings, calls, cards and e-mails I stay in touch with the special people in my life.

How good it is to be in touch with All for then I am Aware of the Sacred Love that is within All and is to be Shared by All. Thank You, Loving God. Thank You, Lord Jesus. Thank You, Holy Spirit.

Dear Lord, we ask for the steadfast, trusting faith of Noah. We can only imagine the scoffers...all those caught up in apathy, who didn't care to take time to know You. Noah persevered regardless of doubters, maybe those who tried to dissuade him from his building task. Even though he didn't fully understand God's covenant with him, he focused on obeying and made a difference in the lives of his family. He Allowed himself to be used in an unfolding Divine Plan. A Lesson to contemplate now.
You are worthy of our trust. Thank You for Such Love!

Our prayer today is to let us Know the warmth of Your Presence with us so that we may Share Your Love with All.
Today we anticipate Who has been..... Who is..... and Who is to come. Amen. Amen.


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

First Week of Advent by Dr. Jim Savage

Readings of Scripture for the week of December 2nd, and the First Week of Advent
Isaiah 2:1-5; Psalm 122; Romans 13:11-14; Matthew 24:36-44


"......So often I stand on the edge of the light, afraid to believe, afraid to act, afraid that this story is too good to be true. But then in my better moments, when I listen closely to the story, move closer to the light, my fears seem to evaporate like an early morning mist, and I can believe again. I can believe that God who made all that is became clothed in our human flesh so that we might become clothed in God. I can believe that God claims me as a beloved child. I can believe that all my days are in God's strong and tender hands. I can believe that life is good, beautiful, and eternal. I can believe that not only my days but all days are in God's good and able hands. I can believe, rejoice, and wait trustingly and expectantly for the unfolding of God's promise given so many ways and most clearly in the Advent story. Thanks be to God!" (Rueben P. Job, Upper Room)

"The liturgical year opens the present to both the past and the future, widening our vision to glimpse the timelessness of God's own time. Through it we enter into the vigil being kept in the season before seasons. We continue to wait for the fullness." (Wendy M. Wright)

Isaiah 2:4-5:
I believe the words of this anointed prophet, and I rejoice in the vision of Your coming kingdom---a world without war, filled with a people who walk in the light of their Lord. Darkness, hatred and pain will be forgotten. Desperation and loss will be forever wiped away in the joy and comfort of Your Presence, O God. I thank You, bless You and praise You for Your sure promise and I look forward with longing toward the glorious fulfillment. (Maranatha! NIV Worship Bible)

For in Christ every one of God's promises is a "Yes." For this reason it is through Him that we say the "Amen," to the glory of God. (2 Cor 1:20)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


By Dr. Jim Savage

"I have often thought that life is a journey and existence is a constant movement: truths to be discovered, mysteries to be experienced, a surge of energy toward a goal, and an expression of passion toward a fulfillment. I am of the belief that in the life of each person there is a grand search to address fundamental matters: Who am I? Why am I here? Where will I go? A search for many things: philosophical, practical, and spiritual. Among the many reference points---family, education, society, and experience---faith and the teachings of the church are a major help. This search is at the core of the freedom in each individual's life......

What is God's will in my life? What is God's plan for me? ....This is the doorstep of spiritual direction.

This gift is in each person created by God. It is God's marvelous gift, an invitation to draw our lives closer to Him, and it is for us to decide to respond to that gift." (Luis O. Corpus, "Spiritual Direction: Pathway to Growth")

This is the season of busyness....the beginning of holiday activities and events. In the coming days, how will I respond and not neglect myself and my relationships with God, with family.........
I must stay focused and remember always that God's Spirit is within me every moment. I can relax and enjoy life. I Know that God is my Source of strength, wisdom, and love.
Being In The Moment with this realization prepares me for each day. Now is the time......
Thank You, Loving God. Thank You, Christ Jesus. Thank You, Holy Spirit. Amen. Amen.

"I thank You, Lord, that You have put eternity within my heart and that nothing else on earth can ever totally satisfy me." (Unknown)

"The world and its desires pass away, but the one who does the will of God lives forever." (1 John 2:17)

"Then Jesus said to His disciples, 'If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me." (Matt 16:24)

In Christ,

Friday, November 16, 2007


by Dr. Jim Savage

"Being in the world without being of the world." These words summarize well the way Jesus speaks of the spiritual life. It is a life in which we are totally transformed by the Spirit of Love. Yet it is a life in which everything seems to remain the same. To live a spiritual life does not mean that we must leave our families, give up our jobs, or change our ways of working; it does not mean that we have to withdraw from social or political activities, or lose interest in literature and art; it does not require severe forms of asceticism or long hours of prayer....What is new is that we have moved from the many things to the kingdom of God. What is new is that we are set free from compulsions of our world and have set our hearts on the only necessary thing. What is new is that we no longer experience the many things, people, and events as endless causes for worry, but begin to experience them as the rich variety of ways in which God makes His Presence known to us. (Henri J.M. Nouwen, "Making All Things New")

"The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, 'Look, here it is!' or 'There it is!' For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you." (Luke 17:20-21)

We do not need to look for miracles or signs outside us to find the kingdom of God. It is within our personal power to reach, through justice, love and faith. To ask "When" and "Where" is to delay the coming of the kingdom among us.

"Knowing that the place where you live and the work you do is not simply your own choice but part of a mission makes all the difference." (Henri Nouwen)

Discovery and growth are essential in life....each day we learn something new about ourselves and the world around us. This is ongoing conversion....transformation.....
At one time we may have believed that we were unable to change habits or behaviors..but...Now we Know differently. God is with us...within us and surrounding us always. "......God lives in us and His Love is made complete in us." (1 John 4:11-12)
We are spiritually awakened through the Power and Presence of God.....Free....Free to enjoy and experience life in a whole New Way.
Through God's Spirit within we Know true Freedom is our inheritance.
Thank You, Loving God. Thank You, Christ Jesus. Thank You, Holy Spirit! Amen.

Monday, November 12, 2007


"You are the object of all Good, the apex of Life, the depth of Wisdom. Your servant's greatest consolation is to hope in You above all things. I turn my eyes to You. In You, my God, Father of Mercies, I place my trust. Bless my soul and make it holy with Your heavenly blessing; let it become Your holy dwelling, the place of Your Eternal Glory. Let nothing be found in Your temple that may offend the eyes of Your majesty.

According to the greatness of Your Goodness and Your many Mercies, look down on me and hear the prayer of Your poor servant, exiled far off in the land of the shadow of death. Protect and keep the soul of Your servant, traveling amid the many dangers of life. By Your Grace, direct him (us) along the Path of Peace until he is back home in the land of everlasting brightness. Amen." (Thomas a' Kempis, The Imitation of Christ)

"We must repeat the same supplications not twice or three times only, but as often as we have need, a hundred and a thousand times....We must never be weary in waiting for God's help." (John Calvin)

"Always stay connected to people and seek out things that bring you joy. Dream with abandon. Pray confidently." (Barbara Johnson)

Let all who take refuge in You be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread Your protection over them, that those who love Your name may rejoice in You. (Psalm 5:11)

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the heart of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

Thank You, our Three-in-One God. Amen. Jim

Thursday, November 8, 2007


by Dr. Jim Savage

"We talk about God in the third person. We teach about God. However, we don't teach about our spouses or about good friends. We introduce them, not teach about them. Too often we relate to God as a myth or a theorem to be talked about and not as a Friend." (Norman Shawchuck, "A Guide To Prayer For All Who Seek God" Upper Room")

"The more you can feel safe as a child of God, the freer you will be to claim your mission in the world as a responsible human being. And the more you claim that you have a unique task to fulfill for God, the more open you will be to letting your deepest need be met." (Henri Nouwen, "Embraced By God's Love")

St. Therese's life of trust in God gave her the conviction that no separation on earth was final. Indeed, she understood that the God who created her was drawing her to Himself throughout her life, and that death was the final separation which would result in union forever with the Source of All Life and Love. The sentence Therese wrote in one of her last letters says it all: "I am not dying; I am entering into Life!" (St. Therese of Lisieux. Spiritual Life, 2000)

"In the prayer of adoration we love God for Himself, for His very being, for His radiant joy." (Douglas V. Steere)

I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts, living within you, as you trust in Him. May your roots go down deep into the soil of God's marvelous love; and may you be able to feel and understand, as all God's children should, how long, how wide, how deep and how high His love really is....And so at last you will be filled up with God Himself." (Ephesians 3:17-19)

Dear God, be with us All today as we strive again to hear Your Voice. We so want to follow You on the Way that Jesus taught. Help us to be supportive to All, to be Your arms of comfort surrounding those in need of love, right Now. Help us to be unafraid of whatever life will bring so that we may be a strength for those in need of a Friend, right Now...Help us to Share Life with one another whatever the circumstances, right Now. We give You thanks, Loving God. We are grateful, Christ Jesus. We will listen and we will wait to feel Your Guidance, Holy Spirit, thank You! Amen. May it be so.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

God's Money by Dr. Thomas Lane Butts

I set forth several conditions about where I would live when I retired, one of which was that I would live at least one mile from any church. Like most of the other conditions, this primary one was not met. By a fortuitous arrangement with the congregation I last served, I live immediately across the street from the church – so near, in fact, that on a sunny morning the shadow of the steeple falls across my front lawn. None of the problems anticipated about living so near the church have materialized; but there is one unanticipated problem.

In order for you to understand that problem you would have to know that my lovely wife, Hilda, has always been the treasurer and bookkeeper in our household. She is, and always has been, the soul of frugality, which is a fortunate characteristic for a clergy family. Her insistence on frugality tends to extend to any institution we support, the main one of which is the church whose steeple shadow falls across our front lawn. From the front windows of our house you can see some window in most of the whole church plant. Hilda cannot stand to see a light on where light is not necessary. I can handle that in our house, but First Methodist Church is a big building and people sometimes fail to turn off the lights when they leave. Guess who gets nominated to get dressed and go across the street to turn off those lights. Moi!! Hilda insists that God’s money should not be wasted. (Finance Committee, you may write a note of appreciation at your leisure; and by the way, send one also to me.) My experience here puts me in mind of a story.

One Monday morning a pastor in Texas answered the knock on his study door to find the church treasurer standing there with a check in his hand. He said: "Pastor, we have a little problem here; this is a check for five hundred dollars." The pastor opined that he could live with a few more problems like that. The treasurer said: "No, you don’t understand! Look at the check." The pastor took the check and read across the top line: Pay to the Order of God. When the pastor raised his eyes, the treasurer asked: "Now, who is going to endorse that?" According to the legend, the pastor handed the check back and answered: "You are! I certainly would not want it to get out that this church received an offering intended for God and didn’t know what to do with it!"

Before he retired as pastor of Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota several years ago, Dr. Rodney Wilmoth told of being at the church one Saturday morning. When the telephone rang he picked it up and said, "Hello" without identifying himself or the church. The voice on the other end of the line said: "I would like to order five pounds of barbecued ribs and five pounds of potato salad." Dr. Wilmoth said: "I believe you have the wrong number." The lady said: "You don’t have ribs and potato salad?" "No," said Dr. Wilmoth, "You have the wrong number." Then the woman said: "Well, what kind of business are you in?" Dr. Wilmoth said that question haunted him for a long time.

When you give your money to the church there are three things you should understand. First, it is no longer your money. It is now God’s money. The second thing you should understand is that it should be spent, not hoarded. The church is not First National Bank! The third thing is that it should be spent with great care. After all, it is God’s money!

OK, I’ll get dressed and go across the street and turn off the lights!! I not only feel responsible to God, I also have to live with the lady at my house who writes the check for our tithe on the first Sunday of every month!

AN ENCOURAGING WORD for September 20, 2007 - written by Dr. Thomas Lane Butts, Pastor Emeritus, Monroeville First United Methodist Church

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Living With Ambiguity by Dr. Thomas Lane Butts

One of the best signs of maturity is the ability to live creatively with ambiguity. People who feel unduly anxious about not knowing with certainty the answer to all the big questions of life tend to be drawn to people who think they know everything. Uncertainty makes us look around nervously for experts.

Many years ago I had the pleasure of visiting the Holy Land. I wanted to stand in those special places where Jesus stood and remember what he said and did on certain important occasions. Every time we arrived at one of those sites and I was about to experience a moment of spiritual ecstacy knowing that I was standing where Jesus stood, our guide would inevitably destroy the moment by saying: "We are not really sure this is the exact spot where Jesus stood. It may have been ‘over yonder’ or it could have been some other place altogether. One of the traditions is that he stood here on that occasion." There was another group near us led by a minister with a thundering, authoritative voice who, when he came to the same place where we had been, would clutch his Bible over his heart and point the forefinger of his right hand to the heavens and pronounce with authority: "The Lord, Jesus, stood right here, on the very spot where I am standing and preached to the multitudes." I had sense enough to know that our guide was probably right, but I must confess there was something in me that made me want to be with that other group whose leader was absolutely certain. Do you understand that?

"Doubt is not a pleasant condition," said Voltaire, "but certainty is an absurd one." Human beings are never more dangerous than when they are absolutely certain beyond a shadow of doubt that they are right, and everyone else is wrong. Life is strewn with uncertainties. The bridge we must cross to get from uncertainty to meaningful action is "Faith." When two people stand before the altar to be married it is not unusual for one or both of them to have some lingering doubt about what they are doing. What makes them get married anyway? Faith and Love. Without this no one would dare embark on such a risky venture as marriage.

The older we are the more likely we are to realize the extent to which we are really ignorant about so many things. My adult children still ask me profound philosophical questions, to which I often answer: "You should have asked me that question 30 years ago when I knew the answer." The Apostle Paul was so right when he opined, "Now we see through a glass darkly . . . Now I know in part . . ." (I Corinthians 13:12). Paul went on to suggest the remedy for such ambiguity is "Faith, hope, and love."

If we wait until we are absolutely sure, we will always be waiting. In his novel, "The Trial," Franz Kafka has the hero, Mr. K, wander into a church where he hears a priest tell a parable which is frightening to those of us who are prone to wait until we are absolutely sure. There is a man who was told to enter a kingdom through a certain gate. When he arrived, he found the gate but he noticed a sentinel guarding the entrance. So he sat down and waited for the sentinel to give him instructions, or to grant permission to enter. But the guard did nothing and said nothing. So the man continued to sit there waiting for something to happen, waiting for someone to come. For a whole life he sat there. Then the guard closed the door. He said to the man, "The door was made for you, and for you alone. And because you chose not to enter it, it is being closed forever."

Don’t let your door to life close before you enter because you were not absolutely sure.

AN ENCOURAGING WORD for August 30, 2007 - written by Dr. Thomas Lane Butts, Pastor Emeritus, Monroeville First United Methodist Church

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Do We Finally Know It All? by Dr. Thomas Butts

In a new biography titled "Einstein" Walter Isaacson refers to a remark made by the revered scientist, Lord Kelvin, when he was addressing the British Association for the Advancement of Science in 1900. He counseled young men not to go into the field of physics because: "There is nothing new to be discovered in physics now. All that remains is more and more precise measurements." Hmmm.

Even as he spoke a fuzzy headed, non-conformist, 21 year old Jew by the name of Albert Einstein, who had just graduated near the bottom of his class at Zurich Polytechnic College had strange new ideas about the structure of reality buzzing in his brain. After two desperate years of looking for a job, he was finally hired as a 3rd class technician at the patent office in Bern Switzerland. While working 8 hours a day, 6 days a week, and juggling a chaotic personal life, he came up with a scientific theory of Special Relativity which turned the world of physics on its ear. The famous equation E=MC2 came from Einstein’s 1905 paper on special relativity. It overturned long-held concepts in Isaac Newton’s "Principia Mathematica," such as the idea of absolute time. Newton, who had reigned supreme for over 200 years, was no longer infallible.

Lord Kelvin’s pronouncement that no thing new remained to be discovered was a colossal misjudgment. Everything old had to be re-examined and a whole new world of physics was opened up. When Albert Einstein died 55 years after Lord Kelvin’s pronouncement that everything new had been discovered, the whole world tipped their hat to this strange, imaginative, impertinent patent clerk who had become "the mind reader of the creator of the cosmos and the locksmith of the mysteries of the atom and the universe.

As the bright new age of the modern world dawned, Lord Kelvin was not the only person to think we knew just about all there was to know. In 1899, Charles Duell, Director of the U.S. Patent Office, urged President William McKinley to abolish the Patent Office. He told the President that "Everything that could be invented had been invented." But, even as he spoke two sons of a Methodist Bishop by the names of Wilbur and Orville Wright were toying with ideas of flight that would eventually revolutionize travel.

During the Great Depression in the 1930s my brother and I walked two miles on Saturday nights to hear the "Grand Ole Opry," being broadcast from Nashville, Tennessee, on a battery operated radio. In 1941, my father ordered a Silvertone radio from Sears Roebuck for $15.00 so we could listen to the "war news." As we listened to voices from thousands of miles away speak in our own living room, I thought this was as good as it gets. Surely there was nothing more that could be invented in the field of mass communication. Somebody, somewhere, said there was a strange new invention called television on the drawing board that could send real-time live pictures. What a crazy idea. I certainly did not believe it.

In this first decade of the 21st Century we have advanced instruments of technology that Lord Kelvin and Charles Duell would never believe possible. I scarcely believe it possible myself.
Surely by now "everything that can be invented has already been invented!" Shall we close the Patent Office? Hmmm.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

When Bad Things Happen

When Bad Things Happen to – Anybody written by Dr. Thomas Lane Butts, Pastor Emeritus, Monroeville First United Methodist Church

In 1981, Rabbi Harold Kushner wrote a book that touched a sensitive spot in many people. The book was titled, "When Bad Things Happen to Good People." Most of us consider ourselves to be good people, most of the time. Yet few, if any, live very long without having something bad happen in our lives which we feel is unfair. It is difficult to realize, in our understanding of reality, that "being good" is no guarantee against misfortune. We fail to see why God does not protect those who are trying to serve him. A man whose life had been "rained upon" considerably commented to me: "If God lets this sort of thing happen to his friends, pretty soon he will not have any friends." This is a universal human complaint against God even though it is often unspoken. But not everyone has remained quiet about it. The Book of Job and the Book of Psalms are laced with complaints to God about God’s failure to protect them from adversity.

In the Old Testament Book of Judges the "Angel of the Lord" appeared to Gideon and opened the conversation saying: "The Lord is with you, you mighty warrior." This salutation confused Gideon in view of all the trouble that was going on with him and his people. He obviously thought the Angel of the Lord was uninformed about the dire circumstances of God’s people. Gideon said to the Angel: "But, sir, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonderful deeds that our ancestors recounted to us, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has cast us off, and given us into the hand of Midian" (Judges 6:13). Gideon is expressing the age-old complaint: "Why do bad things happen to good people."

Job gave a philosophical answer to the question: "For misery does not come from the earth, nor does trouble sprout from the ground; but human beings are born to trouble just as sparks fly upward" (Job 5:6-7). He goes on: "A mortal that is born of woman is few of days and full of trouble . . ." (Job 14:1). While this philosophical explanation of the origin of trouble is of little comfort to a person in the midst of some life-altering adversity, it does offer a realistic understanding of the nature of human existence that will prepare one to deal with trouble when it comes.

One of the main obstacles to dealing creatively with the inevitable adversities of life is that our idealized image of what life ought to be like if it were like it ought to be gives no consideration to adversity being a normal part of life. Deep down in our hearts we think adversity is abnormal.

Truth is it is not abnormal but inevitable. It is part and parcel of our very existence. There is nothing in human experience or in our religious understanding of life which promises us a trouble-free life. Some of our troubles we bring upon ourselves, and there are some things that happen to us which are beyond our control. Our margin of control in both cases is in what we do with what happens to us.

Lillian Smith, in "Now Is the Time," reminds us that "Every good thing the human race has experienced was trouble for somebody. Our birth was trouble for our mothers. To support us was trouble for our fathers. Books, paintings, music, great buildings, good food, ideas, and the nameless joys and excitements which add up to what we call ‘a good life’ came out of the travail of countless hearts and minds."

Different people have different trials in life, and we deal with it in our own particular way, but adversity in some shape or form comes to everyone. Do not think for a moment that you can dance through the days of your years untouched by some kind of adversity. It is not going to happen.

If you want to really know a person observe them in a time of trial and trouble, when the mask of pretense and bravado is stripped away and there is nothing left but raw reality. While it is basically true that adversity tends to weaken the weak and strengthen the strong, there are people who are "born again" in the midst of a great adversity. But, that’s next week’s column.

We are not done here. Stay tuned.

AN ENCOURAGING WORD for August 9, 2007 - written by Dr. Thomas Lane Butts, Pastor Emeritus, Monroeville First United Methodist Church

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Real Change Leaders by Dr. Jim Savage

‘Real Change Leaders’ is a book written by Jon Katzenbach. He wrote this book for businesses to invoke not temporary but permanent and real change. Jon is a man who takes principles that also come to us from ‘The Bible’ and shares great lessons for Christians, church leaders, Christian business people, community leaders, and those who desire to be better leaders inside of church, and outside in the real world for God’s kingdom.

There are 7 key points about ‘Real Change Leaders’ in church, business, and for Christ. Here are the 7 traits:

1. RCLs have commitment to a better way and a strong belief that the future’s dependent upon the change. They are also committed to the idea that they must also be a part of the better way. Don’t just tell others about the better “way”, actually live it and demonstrate. I would remind us Jesus says: “I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me.”

2. RCLs have the courage to challenge the existing power bases and norms. How many Bible characters can you think of who had the courage to challenge the existing power bases of their day?

3. RCLs have the Personal Initiative to go beyond defined boundaries. They break or alleviate constraints & think outside box. Which Bible characters would fit this trait?

4.)RCLs develop ways of motivation for themselves & others.

5.)RCLs care about how people are treated & then they enable people to perform well.

6.) RCLs often stay undercover, and keep a low profile.
Grandstanding, strident crusading and self-promotions are ways to undermine rather than enhance credibility.

7.) RCLs have a sense of humor about themselves, and their situations. Humor enables RCLs to help others stay the course over time.

Jesus Christ was a RCL! He invites you to Step n the River today to be a “Real Change Leader” for God and God’s kingdom. You can chase after other gods that do not profit the soul or you can come to God’s table and the Living Water, Jesus Christ and step into the River of Life with him receiving the changing power of the Holy Spirit.

This is the true Living Water that’ll never run dry that will lead you to be one of the “Real Change Leaders.”

Friday, August 31, 2007

Good Grief Part 2

Good Grief Part II

When I left you last week we were examining the normal and essential nature of grief, and the tendency in our society to try to save our friends who mourn from this process because it pains us to see them grieve.

Hardly a week passes that we do not have some friend or colleague experience the death of a loved one; and we feel called upon to go to a wake or funeral service where we find ourselves fishing for the right words to say to them. And, even if we miss the wake or funeral service, we feel called upon to send a "sympathy card" or if we are more sensitive or thoughtful, write some words of comfort.

There is often a temptation to try to push some grief-stricken friend out of a stage of their grief, which is painful for us to observe, by asking them to compare their situation with someone whose situation is worse than theirs – in our view of reality. The book, "On Grief and Grieving," by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and David Keesler offers a poignant illustration of how dangerous it is to offer comparisons to a person who is grieving some loss. They tell of a young man named Brian who had to have his leg amputated. The loss was terrible. During a rehabilitation session he saw another man who had lost both legs and he was inwardly embarrassed for having felt self-pity about his loss of one leg. The next day he saw a man who had both legs but needed a cane to walk, and once again he felt his own loss more keenly. Later the two men had a chance to talk about what had brought them to this point. Brian said he had lost his leg due to diabetes.

The man with the cane said he had an automobile accident which had caused a minor back injury and that he was in rehab to regain his strength. Still comparing losses, Brian said: "Well, at least you have two legs." The man with the cane said, "Yes, I do, but I lost my wife in the accident." Someone else’s loss may seem greater or lesser than your own, but all losses are so individual that comparisons are dangerous, if not cruel. Do not try to comfort yourself, or someone else, by comparison. It almost never works.

In the Newsweek article (May 28, 2007) on grief, Jess Hinds, who was grieving the loss of her father said: "My grief is profound: I am mourning the past, present, and future. I resent the condolence cards that hurry me through my grief as if it were a dangerous street at night." "My grief is not a handicap. People seem to worry that if they encourage me to grieve openly I will fall apart. I won’t. On the contrary, if you allow me to be sad, I will be a stronger, more effective person."

There is a great temptation for us to point out the silver lining in the grief of others. Don’t go there! If there is a silver lining or a blessing in disguise to be found, it must be found by the grief-stricken person, not by some well-intentioned friend who just can’t stand to be near or participate in someone else’s pain.

This is an abbreviated form of Jess Hind’s basic guidelines for mastering the "Art of condolence." Read with care! Be simple and direct, i.e., "I am so sorry about . . ." Ask "how are you?" or "How are you feeling?" instead of telling someone how to feel. Never say: "I can’t imagine what you are going through." The emotional translation to the grieving person is: "This is too hard for me, I don’t want to think about it." Never give advice about how someone should get through the loss. There is no universal "how to" formula.

Any loss tends to be like an amputation. You will survive, but there will be less of you in the end. I know that most all of you have experienced some life-changing loss: death, divorce, loss of your job, etc. If you have not, trust me, you will.

I pray that when you experience your next loss you have Jess Hinds, or some sensitive soul like her, to help you grieve properly. In the absence of such saving assistance, the next best medicine will be to read (or to have read) "On Grief and Grieving" and "Life Lessons" by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and David Keesler. Available at fine bookstores everywhere. Order your copy now and read it before you need it.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Good Grief P 1

Good Grief
Part I written by Dr. Thomas Lane Butts, Pastor Emeritus, Monroeville First United Methodist Church

When Elizabeth Kubler-Ross lay dying at her home in Arizona, she was progressing through the classic stages of death which she had so beautifully set forth in her first book, "On Death and Dying." She observed with some dismay: "People love my stages. They just don’t want me to be in one." How sad! She was just as human as anyone else. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, who had helped so many people negotiate their exit on the "Long Journey," and who was soon to be flying with the angels deserved better than that!

We all experience many different kinds of loss in the course of life. It is difficult to rate any particular loss on a scale that is universally applicable to everyone. There is no such thing as a typical response to loss, and there is no typical loss. Our grief response to loss is highly individual.

Early in her professional life as a psychiatrist, Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross developed a framework in which most people work out their grief response to loss. Her initial research was at Cook County Hospital in Chicago from which she wrote her most profound book, "On Death and Dying," which lists five stages through which people tend to move on the way to death. Those stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. These stages are tools that help us identify what we may be feeling at certain times in our grief. It should not be supposed that everyone goes through all these stages, or that everyone moves through these stages in a prescribed order.

There is no loss that brings a more profound sadness or leaves a more indescribable emptiness than the death of a loved one. I am not sure that the prospect and process of our own demise is as great or any greater than the death of a loved one. The whole world stops. Intellectually you know that life will continue but you are not sure about how or why, or even if you care. Since this is a situation we see in others more often than we experience it personally, how can we be helpful to our friends as they deal with this intense and life altering experience? This is one of the most sensitive and difficult things we are called upon to do for friends.

It is surprising, and unfortunate, how often we try to talk grieving friends out of their grief instead of helping them with this most essential element in the process of dealing with death. I was touched by a "my turn" piece in the May 28, 2007 issue of Newsweek. It was titled: "‘I’m sorry’ shouldn’t be the hardest words," and written by a 25 year old teacher who lost her 58 year old father. She writes a graphic description of her profound feelings of loss, and then describes the unintentionally insensitive way in which many friends tried to console her by trying to talk her out of her grief. There is nothing more natural or essential in dealing with the death of a loved one than to not only allow, but to encourage the natural flow of grief. Jess D. Hinds, the young author of this article, spoke of how many condolence cards and letters she received that tried to talk her out of her grief. One friend wrote: "You should be happy to have your memories." Another: "You should feel lucky you got to be with your father in the hospital."

Miss Hinds’ response was: "You have got to be kidding!" Others tried to distract her from her grief with such questions as: "Are you applying to grad school?" "How is your teaching going?" "Are you still renovating your apartment?" "Are you keeping busy?" Miss Hinds opined how in our society we tend to want mourners to just "snap out of it" because observing the grief of others isn’t easy.

A casual perusal of sympathy cards on the rack at pharmacies and at Wal-Mart affirms how when we "Care enough to send the very best" but are too lazy to write, the generic cards almost always miss the deep feelings of those who mourn. Our condolences should not tell those who mourn how to feel but rather reach out to touch those natural feelings of grief that are already there, and which we had really rather avoid.

I am not finished here. More next week.

AN ENCOURAGING WORD for July 26, 2007 - written by Dr. Thomas Lane Butts, Pastor Emeritus, Monroeville First United Methodist Church

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Stewards by Dr. Jim Savage

The word steward is an old Methodist term, but more importantly it is an old Bible term. In the old days of Methodism the Stewards were an all male group who felt it was their job to look after the “buildings, grounds, and finances” of the local church. That was a huge misuse of the term, and of the way John Wesley originally meant for the term to be used. Wesley meant for his Methodist stewards to be people who…

· Stewards set the example for everyone
· Stewards greet everyone they meet, and help new people find their way around the campus
· Stewards look for new people in worship, in the hallways and in the parking lots and try to be helpful
· Stewards are the LEADERS of the lay ministry and look for ways to step up and SERVE;
· Stewards are part of the volunteer staff of Riverchase United Methodist Church
· Stewards know Christ and share Christ
· “Stewards of the mysteries of God”
I Corinthians 4:1
· “Stewards of the manifold grace of God”
I Corinthians 4:10

The last two points relate to the passage in I Corinthians. These are the most important points for several reasons.
1. ALL Christians are called to be God’s stewards.
2. The very last things stewards should be concerned with are “buildings, grounds, and finances.”
3. Stewards are called to witness to others about the great “mysteries of God”.
4. Stewards are called to share “the manifold grace of God” with all whom they meet.
5. The passage in I Corinthians reminds us that we do not have all the answers to every question about God.
6. It reminds us we are not supposed to have all the answers, and that some things about God are simply a “mystery.”
7. The passage reminds us that God’s grace is abundant and not skimpy. It is “manifold” grace; not “small, little, limited” grace.

I pray that all of us will read I Corinthians 4 and step up to the plate to be the true “steward” God is calling us to be. I pray that we will be Christian stewards who are full of the Holy Spirit, filled with the saving love of Jesus Christ, and overflowing in our witness with the abundant love of God. I pray that God will bless you and lead you to fulfillment as stewards of the “mysteries of God” and the “manifold grace of God”.

In Christ, Dr. Jim Savage

Observations on History by Thomas Lane Butts

I majored in history in college. I do not remember why unless it was because I was fortunate enough to encounter some history professors (such as Auxford Sartain and Merlin Cox) at Troy University who made the subject come alive. It seemed to be the logical thing to do when I was in the theological school at Emory University to major in church and biblical history. My academic background not only left me with a love for history, but to my consternation, a lingering ambivalence about it. I have studied enough history to realize in my ambivalence that it is both essential and dangerous.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn alluded to this in the preface to his monumental work, "The Gulag Archipelago." He quoted an old Russian saying: "Dwell on the past and you will lose an eye. Forget the past and you will lose both eyes." Early in my life I thought of history as an objective and uniform account of reality. Then I learned enough history to raise considerable doubt about that initial opinion. If you read a variety of accounts about the same event, the differences in what is reported and how it is reported will gradually, if not quickly, disabuse you of the illusion that history is a uniform account of reality.

In one of Samuel Johnson’s conversations with Boswell he pays his respects to the accuracy of history. "We must consider how very little history there is; I mean real authentic history. That certain kings reigned, and certain battles were fought, we can depend on to be true; but all the colouring, all the philosophy of history is conjecture." Johnson had earlier expressed his dismay with the subject when he said: "What are all the records of history but narratives of successive villainies, of treasons and usurpations, massacres and wars."

The philosopher, Voltaire was even more pessimistic when he wrote "All history of the past, as one of our wits used to say, is only an accepted fable." Thomas Carlyle called history "a distillation of rumors". Who would not be amused at Jane Austen’s observations on the subject: "History, real solemn history, I cannot be interested in . . . I read it a little as duty; but it tells me nothing that does not either vex or weary me. The quarrels of popes and kings, with wars or pestilence in every page; the men all so good for nothing, and hardly any women at all."

Hegel in his "Philosophy of History" writes with his characteristically caustic dismay in the introduction: "What experience and history teaches us is this – that people and governments have never learned anything from history or acted on principles deduced from it." That, my friends, is not only true, but scary.

My experience leads me to agree with Disraeli who counseled: "Read no history, nothing but biography, for that is life without theory." If I dared to apply my understanding of personal history to a broader understanding of the subject I would say that there is some danger in accepting conclusions of history written too soon. Personally, I have discovered that experiences which seem to be bad at the moment often, with time, become blessings in disguise. Enemies may become friends and friends may become enemies with the passage of time. Never write your conclusions of an event on the day it happens. It may change. It often does. Sir Walter Raleigh opined that if you follow too near "the heels of truth" it may kick your teeth out. Hegel expresses the same thought more classically and more beautifully in his observation that "the owl of Minerva spreads its wings only with the falling of the dusk." The meaning of that quote is worth researching.

One of my most treasured books is "Man’s Unconquerable Mind," by Gilbert Highet, in which he writes: "People who know no history always learn wrong history, and can never understand the passing moment as it changes into history."

If you have read this essay to the end, let me remind you that truth, even hard truth, is not meant to discourage anyone about history. It is meant to caution. If you are a faithful student of history, you will always be ahead of the crowd in your understanding of yourself and the world in which you live.

AN ENCOURAGING WORD for July 19, 2007 - written by Dr. Thomas Lane Butts, Pastor Emeritus, Monroeville First United Methodist Church

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Transformed by Tragedy

Transformed by Tragedy. written by Dr. Thomas Lane Butts, Pastor Emeritus, Monroeville First United Methodist Church

When Tammy Faye Bakker Messner died, Larry King did a program on her life. Larry King seems to have had a strange fascination with Tammy Faye. He had her former husband, the Rev. Jim Bakker as one of the guests. Jim Bakker was toppled from his position as a nationally known televangelist several years ago. He did time in prison for his financial misdeeds and is now rebuilding his life as a minister. Larry King asked Bakker a question about how he felt about his tragic experience. His answer was a shock to many. He said that it was the best thing that ever happened to him, and that if he had the power to change what happened he would not change it at all. Ordinarily, I would have either been shocked or would have thought he was not being truthful; but I have had some experiences with people who have had life-altering tragedies that made me believe the man was telling the truth.

There are people for whom tragedy becomes a transforming experience in which you might say they were "born again." This is certainly not universally true with tragedy. More often than not a tragedy, whether physical, emotional, or financial results in a brokenness from which a person never recovers, and from which they experience no benefit at all. But there are people who are so radically changed for the better by a tragedy that they would not change what happened to them even if they could. This is an anomaly to be sure, but it happens.

It is not unusual to hear someone speak of something being "a blessing in disguise." I have noticed, however, that people who offer up this casual assessment of an unfortunate event are usually speaking of something that has happened to someone else, or if it is about themselves, it is in reference to something far short of a true tragedy. When people are transformed, born again, as the result of some tragic event in their lives it is usually a blessing that was disguised to be sure, but it is more than that. There is something deeply mysterious about what has happened when someone is truly transformed by an actual tragedy, and the transformation is such that the person says they are glad that it happened and that if they had the power to change the event they would not change it. It is not just mysterious, it is even holy!

After more than 57 years in the ministry, I am no stranger to tragedy. I have seen tragedy destroy individuals and families. I have presided over more tragedies than I would like to remember. But every now and then I have seen people who were saved, transformed, born again by a tragedy from which I never dreamed any good could come. Don’t ask me to explain the mechanics of how or why. I do not know. I only know that it happens. Life-threatening accidents or illnesses often cause people to re-examine the very premises upon which they have based their lives.

Let me give you an example, and I have to be very careful here. It is a delicate matter for a minister to speak publically or write about a tragedy in someone’s life without their permission.
About two years ago I met a vibrant, beautiful young woman in a social setting in which I was involved. Her spirit of joy and sense of peace with herself was palpable. She was absolutely charming! I thought to myself: "Now, here is a young person who has it all together! She knows who she is and is happy with her life." In what began as a casual conversation I learned that when she was in her late teens she was in a terrible automobile accident in which almost every bone in her body was broken. Everyone thought she was dead, or would soon die, but by some miracle she recovered completely. I offered what I thought was an empathetic comment by saying: "What a terrible thing to happen to someone." As quick as a flash, and with an obvious sincerity that defied doubt, she said: "Oh, no, it was the most wonderful thing that ever happened to me. I would not exchange it for anything in the world!" She went on to explain how in this tragedy she found herself. She was transformed and (my words, not her’s) born again. Now that is more than "a blessing in disguise." There is something holy about that kind of alchemy.

It happens! Not every time, but it happens!

AN ENCOURAGING WORD for August 16, 2007 - written by Dr. Thomas Lane Butts, Pastor Emeritus, Monroeville First United Methodist Church

Amos & Hosea

By Dr. Jim H. Savage
What do we have in common with folks who lived over 2,700 years ago?
We actually have a great deal in common. We learn from writers like Amos, Hosea, Micah and others that the people in the northern kingdom were named Israel at the time. Hosea was a prophet who lived in the northern kingdom of Israel and Amos and Micah were prophets from the southern kingdom of Judah. Why was everyone mad at the king and head priest in the north? What did they have in common with us?

It seems the head priest and king had allowed other gods to be worshipped, and had even changed the worship in the main temple to include “temple prostitutes” and other little things that would cause us to raise our eyebrows today. They had changed their measuring standards for the poor so that food was too expensive for them to buy. A pound of grain was really less than a pound, and then they raised the price on this “pound” as they called it. They were cheating the poorest of the poor. I guess the ones cheating them needed more money for those temple prostitutes.

They also began to do whatever was “politically correct” regardless of what the ten commandments said, or the other commands that had been passed down to them from God. Is this starting to sound familiar?

It was an extremely prosperous time for a few folks at the top in Israel. It is even recorded that some had beds made of ivory which was unheard of in their day. The poorest folks who worked very hard in the fields could not even make enough money to feed their children so the ruling class fixed that problem. They set up a place where the poorest farm workers could sell their own into slavery which was often the big land owners and successful merchants. Amos mentioned that even this did not help the poorest people too much because some children were swapped for just one used pair of shoes. Can you imagine being so poor that you had to sell your own child?

Amos, the southern prophet of Judah was taking his life in his own hands when he headed up north to confront these sins. Amos did not see himself as a prophet and even says in his own words: “I am no prophet, nor a prophet’s son; but I am a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore trees, and the LORD took me from following the flock, and the LORD said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’
Amos knew the agony of the poorest class of people. He was not part of them because he actually owned farm land, and sold his sycamore fruit to the poorest of the poor in the southern kingdom of Judah. But Amos was fair to them and tried to help them. The folks in the northern kingdom of Israel were cheating people right and left and especially those who barely had any type of food to eat. God saw this injustice and said this: “Hear this, you that trample on the needy and bring to ruin the poor of the land”…”I will turn your feasts into mourning, and all your songs into lamentation” (Amos 8:4 and 10). I could go on but you get the picture. God wants us to remember His ways, His commands, and his love for the “least of these” remembering that it was Jesus who said, “Whatever you have done to the least of these you have done it unto me” (Matthew 25:45).

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Long Journey by Thomas Butts

The two most important events in human life are birth and death. The first we do not consciously remember and the second we can hardly consciously contemplate. Most of our life is spent wondering why we are here, until it slowly dawns on us that we are not permanent fixtures, and then we begin to wonder why we cannot stay. Loren Eiseley, anthropologist and writer, wrote the following epitaph for his wife and himself: "We love the earth, but could not stay." The Good Book reminds us that we are all "appointed once to die." (Hebrews 9:27) Ecclesiastes 3:2 tells us "There is a time to be born and a time to die."

How prone we are to forget that we are sojourners in the land. We are just passing through. Philosophically, we understand that idea, but we do not like the practical application of it. Most of us can identify with the candid statement made by American writer, William Saroyan, a few hours before his death. "Everybody has got to die, but I always believed that an exception would be made in my case." We know there are no exceptions, but hope springs eternal.

Is there something in the nature of reality that prepares us to pass off the stage of this dimension? Famous American lawyer, Clarence Darrow, lived to age 81. Before he became senile in the last months of his life, he wrote: "Nature treats all of her children as she does the fields and the forests, in late autumn, as the cold blasts are coming on, she strips us for the ordeal that is waiting. Our steps grow slower, our efforts briefer, our journeys shorter; our ambitions are not so irresistible, and our hopes no longer wear wings." That is one way of looking at how we are prepared to take the "Long Journey."

In the course of 57 years in ministry I have seen many people approach the end of their lives. I have been with many people as they died. Most people seem to leave this life without fear and with a serene calm. I have always felt that there was something I could not fathom or name that gently took over the process. In death everything fades into mystery from this side.

The imminent student of death, the late Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, said there is no death. We simply move from one dimension of existence to the next. For most of us there is an undergirding faith in the teachings of Jesus on this matter. I love the little tercet by Robert Burns:
The voice of nature loudly cries
And many a message from the skies,
That something in us never dies.

We do know (believe) that death is the great "leveler." In life there are many distinctions, but there is absolute democracy in death. All the distinctions of wealth, power, beauty, fame, etc., fall away, and we leave this world as we came – empty handed.

Alexander the Great was once surprised to find the philosopher, Diogenes, examining a heap of human bones. He asked him what he was looking for, to which Diogenes replied: "I am searching for the bones of your father, but I cannot distinguish them from those of his slaves." With death distinctions fall away.

On those occasions upon which we are able to think about the reality of our earthly existence and the certain fact that we are not here to stay, perhaps we should read the 14th chapter of the Gospel of St. John, which is a source of powerful reassurance regarding death. It begins: "Let not your hearts be troubled..."

Well, read it for yourself. It will make you feel much safer about living – and dying.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Do You Want to Be Well? Part 2 by Thomas Butts

Do You Want to Be Well?
Part II.

by Dr. Thomas Lane Butts

When I left you last week we were giving some thought as to why Jesus asked the invalid man at the Sheep Gate if he really wanted to be well. There is more to this business of being sick and being well than one’s physical condition. Jesus knew this. Good doctors have known this for a long time, even before modern psychology.

I got a rather heavy dose of the Protestant work ethic when I was growing up on a two-mule farm in rural South Alabama during the Great Depression. We were made to feel guilty if we were not working – unless we were sick. Even today I tend to feel a little guilt when I am not working. I read or polish my shoes while I watch television. I’ve always felt a bit of anxiety about taking a day off or going on vacation. But I do not feel guilty at all about watching television without working or just lying around doing nothing if somebody will tell me I am sick.

Being sick gives me permission to do nothing.

I had cataract surgery last year. I remember when patients were required to stay in bed for many days after cataract surgery. I was a little bit disappointed when the doctor said I could go back to the office the next day. I had been looking forward to being sick for at least a week. Can you hear what I am saying? There are degrees of hypochondria. If you do not go past a certain point, it is socially acceptable and relatively harmless.

We all know people who are sick with something all the time. We may even be people who are always sick. We all know people who talk constantly about their illnesses. They frequent the offices of doctors and take loads of medicine every day. They are always looking for a new medication. You hate to see them coming and you dare not greet them by asking, "How are you doing?", because you are stuck for an interminable length of time while they tell you how sick they are. It is obvious that they find their identity in their illness. They do not want to be well.

That is true, debilitating hypochondria, and it is almost impossible to cure. Why? Because they do not want to be well.

I have known a few cases of what I call "severe and advanced hypochondria." These people complicate family life and run up healthcare costs and send their friends running when they see them coming, and cause you not to answer the phone when their number appears on the "caller I.D.". (Thank God for caller I.D.!!) They not only stay sick all the time, but they up the ante if someone else in the family becomes ill. They are always the sickest. They have strange accidents and love to go to the emergency room in the middle of the night. They enjoy having you pray for them as long a you do not pray seriously for them to be well. They enjoy being on the Prayer List because they know that even God cannot take away their precious illnesses they love so much.

A few years ago I said in a sermon that 50% of the people who will show up in doctors offices on Monday morning would be suffering as much or more from psychological and/or spiritual problems as they would be from physically based problems. There were several doctors in my congregation. One of them stopped at the door and said to me, "Your statistic is incorrect." (I thought, O Lord, I have over-stepped the bounds of my profession!) He said, "It is more like 70 or 80 percent."

We will probably never be so emotionally mature as to eliminate the psychological component from our physical illness, but through prayerful reflection we can be aware of "creeping hypochondria." It really is not healthy, and it is a pain to others.

Do you really want to be well?

AN ENCOURAGING WORD for June 28, 2007 - written by Dr. Thomas Lane Butts, Pastor Emeritus, Monroeville First United Methodist Church.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Do You Want To Be Well? Part 1 by Dr. Thomas Lane Butts

Do You Want to Be Well?
Part I. written by Dr. Thomas Lane Butts

The Gospel of John tells an interesting story of how Jesus healed a man who had been crippled for 38 years. The man went each day to a pool at the "Sheep Gate" where it was believed that when the waters were "disturbed" the first one in the pool would be healed. It is a long and rather convoluted account, which you may wish to read. There is a salient point in the account where Jesus asks the man if he really wants to be healed.

This seems a rather strange question to ask this poor man who for 38 years has been entombed in a profoundly crippled body! Everyday for 38 years he has dragged this crippled body with impotent and useless limbs down to this pool to try to be first in. He probably has almost made it a few times, but other more agile afflicted people with friends to help them push past him, and he has had to crawl back to that cursed pallet where he has lain for so long. Almost 14,000 days it has been and somebody beat him to the sacred waters every time.

"Do I want to be healed? Would I like to be made whole?" He doesn’t even answer the question. He just tells Jesus he has nobody to help him and someone else steps ahead of him every time. You would think the poor fellow would be a little discouraged by now.

"Do you want to be made well?"

Foolish question! But is it now?

It is not so impertinent a question as it may sound. He did not answer the question. He only offers a complaint in the form of an excuse for not having been able to get into the pool. By now he may be wondering if it would even work for him. By now he may have lost hope and quit really trying to get in the pool. It would be easy to just make a feeble gesture that would look like he is trying and then settle back on his little bed and say: "Well I didn’t make it again." Who knows what 38 years had done to his heart and soul?

It may well be that Jesus knew or sensed that the man has become content to remain an invalid. If he was made well he would have to shoulder the burden of making a living and take responsibility for himself. It happens, you know. There are invalids for whom invalidism is not an unpleasant condition. It attracts a certain amount of sympathy, and somebody else has to work and worry about paying the bills. Hypochondria is not so rare as you might think. I know lots of people who enjoy poor health. I would dare say most of us have at least some small degree of hypochondria.

Have you ever caught yourself wishing you could get sick enough to not be able to go to work for a few days? In 57 years I’ve seen lots of Methodists get a little sick on Sunday morning, at least too sick to come to church, and then be completely well by Monday morning. Have you ever found yourself to be mildly ill and try to squeeze a few more days out of the illness in order to be waited on by your husband or wife and enjoy a little more of that warm sympathy that you do not get when you are well?

Can we be well when we are getting some secret benefit from being sick? Can the doctor, or God, make us well when our illness is tinged with, or completely the result of, hypochondria? It is clear that Jesus had some question about that. Do you?

Stay tuned and we will explore this business of being sick and being well in more detail next week.

AN ENCOURAGING WORD for June 21, 2007 - written by Dr. Thomas Lane Butts, Pastor Emeritus, Monroeville First United Methodist Church

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


Let us begin with a very clear statement: America is the greatest nation in the history of our world. We have freedoms to write this article and have it published. We have the freedom of speech and religion, and many other important freedoms in this world of terrorists today.

My biggest concern today is the silence on the part of Christian people. I do not believe in forcing Christianity upon people through the government. That was tried in England. But I am in favor of Christians getting up off of their lazy behinds and voicing our opinions (even when those Christian opinions may differ). I truly believe we have great Christians in both of our major political parities as different as they may be, and truly hope that Christians from all sides and all denominations will get involved in our problems as a nation.

Again, I do not believe we should have laws that force people to be Christians. Besides; according to The Bible that would be impossible anyway. Christians are “born” not forced into existence. It takes the true Holy Spirit of God for a person to become a Christian. This also means that most likely not every person who claims to be a Christian today is truly a Christian.

This leads me to another point.

Even Christians (as imperfect as we are) need to fall on our knees and seek God and God’s will for our nation. Before we point fingers for others to repent, we must repent ourselves for sins such as hypocrisy, anger, malice, gossip, greed, materialism, lack of support for our local churches, lack of service to our community, lack of service to the least, last, lost, hungry, homeless, and others. The reason I write about this is the wonderful warning and promise from II Chronicles 7: 14: “If my (God’s) people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, THEN will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” It sounds to me like God is waiting on the supposed “God-fearing” people of our nation to straighten up and fly right before God will enter into the needs of our nation.

This call to repentance must also be heard by our politicians in both of our political parties if our nation is to move forward. I realize this would take a miracle, but I’m willing to pray for this, and feel it is God’s will for us to seek this. We need to expect more honesty and less corruption on both sides. We should expect more service for the people and less greed by those who govern over us. We should expect fairness from those who govern and less selfishness for prophets from corporations in which government workers are part owners.

Again, America is the greatest nation in this history of the world. We live in one of the best times to live in the history of the world, but that is no reason to become lazy in this journey of life. May God give us the strength and Spirit to help keep our nation great and strong for years to come.

PRAYER FOR AMERICA: Gracious God, we give you thanks for America and the role we play in the world today. We give you thanks for the incredible blessings and prosperity that we enjoy. We give you thanks for the many freedoms, and for those who fought and died for these freedoms. Be with all of our troops today and keep them safe in this time of war. We pray that all leaders will be able to come together and find the wisdom of peace. Until then, keep our nation safe from harm, and be with the troops who serve us. Bless their families as well and grant them your favor for the days to come. Be with our leaders that they may seek you and find you: that they may seek divine wisdom, and Godly direction for all that they do. Be with our churches and church leaders that we might also hear your voice and follow only your will. Please bless America in spite of our sins, short-comings, corruption in government and corruption in corporations. Guide our nation that we might be “one nation under God,” and give us wisdom in all the decisions that we make on all levels of government and in our homes. In the name of Christ we pray. Amen.

Written by Dr. Jim Savage.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Terrorists: Part 2 and 3 by Dr. Jim Savage


So what should we do?

1. Pray and ask for divine intervention. Pray for your children and youth, your neighbor’s children, and children you know personally, and ask for God’s divine guidance and wisdom to guide them each day.
2. Offer hope directly to the children and you that you personally know.
3. Get involved in the lives of young people. Do NOT ignore them or throw money at them. This only makes the problem worse, and makes the individual’s problems much worse.
4. Be a positive role model.
5. If you are a parent or grandparent, take away the violent TV programs and video games, but do not stop there.
6. Offer positive times of conversation to build up their self esteem, and offer them the idea that
God loves them, and created them and called His creation “good” (Genesis 1).


What do kids and youth need from us?

1. Love!
2. A safe and loving home, school, and place of work or recreation.
3. Hugs and assurance that they can be happy and successful in this world, but do not paint false realities of wealth or happiness.
4. They also need to know the realities of life without making it so depressing. We should paint positive but realistic pictures of possibilities for them.
5. Let them know that their choices are very, very important. Once they become teens and older, every single decision is important and could change their entire future.
6. Let them know that education is very important without demanding unrealistic goals from them. Not every teen will make a 36 on their ACT, or receive an academic scholarship for college. Not every child is ready for college. We still need people who learn the trades of this world, who would never be happy at college, or the type of job this provides. Education is a broad term.
7. Listen to our youth and take them and their stories seriously.
8. Help them understand that popularity is not the most important thing. Help them know that their friends will change many times in their lifetime. High school and/or college are just short stops in this journey of life.
9. And last but first, talk with them about the love of God. Because I am in ministry of Christian faith, I personally believe every youth needs to be told about Jesus Christ. I realize people reject Christ everyday, but many have not been given the best opportunities or enough opportunities. We often allow teens in our homes to “make their own decisions” about going to church, youth meetings and their personal belief in God.

Why do we do this? We do not allow them to just quit school and sit home for them next 30 years watching TV. I personally believe that a relationship with the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ can be the answer for every youth or adult who is struggling in this life today. Even if you are not a parent or grandparent, simply stop and talk to youth when you can: at the grocery store, workers at Wal-Mart, at the malls, ballgames and every possible place. Offer them the best words of encouragement and wisdom that comes to mind. You never know---you just might save the lives of 32 other youth on a college campus one day.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

July 4th and Pre-Election Reflections

July 4th and Pre-Election Reflections
By Dr. Jim Savage, Riverchase UMC

It is true that we live in the greatest nation in the world. We help more nations than anyone else. We send more missionaries, doctors, relief workers, emergency food than any other nation. But we are facing some serious problems. We rank near the bottom of G-8 nations in the area of healthcare, murder rates, and other serious violent crime rates.

Israel was to be the chosen nation of God. Then God commanded them in the Ten Commandments to “have no other gods before me”, and it was only a few days until they built a golden calf and fell into idol worship. Today many people put many other things in place of God: money, power, office politics, corporate profits, marital affairs, and athletics, and many other things. The Book of Exodus makes it very clear that “anything” that comes first before God has become our “idol” including our home and children.

Another early command for Israel and for us comes in the Book of Deuteronomy 6: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

As I reflect on the serious nature of these words I wonder if we have any candidates running for president who truly love God with all of the heart, soul, mind and strength? I like the old joke about politicians and the advent of the word “politics”. The old joke reminds us that the first part of the word “poli” in Latin means “many”, and the word “tics” is simply related to blood sucking creatures.

Then I reflect on those who signed the Declaration of Independence. They voted on the concept and passed the motion on July 2, 1776, and signed the document on July 4, but they paid dearly with their lives, jobs, families, homes and fortunes for years to come. The last sentence is the declaration is almost prophetic of things to come as it states: “with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”

One story says that for several years to come after this was signed that five of these men were captured by the British and held until death. Twelve had their homes, farms, and fortunes burned to the ground. Two lost sons to death in battle. Two of them had sons captured and tortured. Nine of them fought and died in the war or due to wounds or disease soon after the war. May God help us as a nation who makes the claim: “In God We Trust.”

Monday, June 25, 2007



Recent days on the campus of Virginia Tech have caused people to ask once more: “Where is God?” “Is this part of God’s plan?” “Is this part of God’s will?” I am one of those who would say: “No, this is not part of God’s plan, or God’s will, and was not what God wished to see happen.”

So why did these senseless murders take place? Many reasons are being offered but the truth is the Bible says there are still “principalities and powers of darkness and rulers of this world” that exist today. To say that the senseless murders at Virginia Tech are part of God’s all-knowing, all-powerful, and irresistible-will contradicts several key passages in the Bible. One key passage is in Genesis where we see the early temptation of Adam and Eve that came from The Tempter and not from God. John 10:10 reminds us that “The thief (evil) comes to steal, kill, and destroy, but I (Jesus and the Trinity) have come that you might have life and have it more abundantly.”

I have some VERY important thoughts to share with you from the writer of James. “Blessed is anyone who endures temptation. Such a one has stood the test and will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12). (Is God the one who does the tempting and testing you ask?) “No one, when tempted, should say, ‘I am being tempted and tested by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself TEMPTS/TESTS NO ONE.

But one is tempted by one’s own desire, being lured and enticed by it; then, when that desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and that sin, when it is fully grown, gives birth to death. Do NOT be deceived, my beloved. EVERY generous act of giving, with every PERFECT gift, is from ABOVE, coming down from the Father of light, with whom there is no variation or shadow to change” (James 1:13-17). Would parents of the slain youth say their murder was a “good or perfect gift”?! Certainly not! Then the scripture is clear that this did NOT come from God, and was NOT part of God’s will. Nor was this part of God’s plan for the campus at Virginia Tech.

Then how could this happen? The same way that God allowed The Tempter to tempt Adam and Eve. The same way that evil takes place everyday around the world. God does not desire that we should sin (as St. Paul also said) but God does not prevent us from sinning. We make choices based on our free-will. God does not treat you like a puppet. God does not force you nor anyone else to commit gross crimes against other innocent human beings. Our God is the God of “every generous act…and every perfect gift”. If things happen even in your lives today that have a negative, bad, or evil impact upon you or your family, this passage says it did not come from God because the events were not good or perfect gifts. James reminds us that “No one, when tempted, should say, ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God…himself tempts no one. But one is tempted by ONE’S OWN DESIRE, being lured and enticed by it” (James 1:13-14). So, consider these possible ideas and reflect on the cause, and how God might want us to respond.
1. A record number of students were killed in a college campus shooting.
2. The number of teens in foster care has increased by about 200,000 in the last 20 years.
3. About 6 million children under age 12 have been diagnosed with depression and are on medication for it.
4. About one in 12 young people are the victims of violent crime.
5. Recent rates of substance abuse among youth and adults have increased (both prescription and illegal substances).
6. There is a rise in young people and adults who suffer from many types of emotional disturbances and illnesses.
(These six points were the views shared by Dr. Angie Williams who works with youth across the entire state of Virginia.)

Next Monday: Part 2 - What to do.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

How Things Change - Thomas Butts

AN ENCOURAGING WORD FOR June 14, 2007 - written by Dr. Thomas Lane Butts, Pastor Emeritus, Monroeville First United Methodist Church and posted here with his permission.

Several weeks ago I boarded a plane in Chicago at 7:00 a.m. and landed in Mobile, Alabama at 8:45 a.m. We were traveling about 30,000 feet at more than 500 m.p.h. From before the time of Jesus until the 20th century speed of travel was limited to the speed of a galloping horse. Rockets propelling astronauts into space move at more than 10 times the speed of sound. When I was growing up during the Great Depression our primary mode of transportation was a 2 mule wagon. I remember the first radio in our community. We walked two miles on Saturday night to hear the Grand Ole Opry. Our family bought our first radio from Sears and Roebuck after the beginning of World War II. As a child, I sat in awe before that radio as we listened to the "war news."

Here are some interesting facts from a newsletter I read about how our world is changing.
The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that today’s learner will have 10 to 14 jobs by age 38.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 1 out of 4 workers today is working for a company for whom they have been employed less that 1 year.

More than 1 out of 2 are working for a company for whom they have worked less than 5 years.
According to former Secretary of Education, Richard Riley, the top 10 jobs that will be in demand in 2010 didn’t exist in 2004.

We are currently preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist – jobs that will be using technologies that haven’t yet been invented, in order to solve problems we don’t even know are problems yet.

More than 3,000 new books are published daily.

It is estimated that a week’s worth of the New York Times contains more information than a person was likely to come across in a lifetime in the 18th century.

For the students starting a four-year technical degree, this means that half of what they learn in their first year of study will be outdated by their third year of study.

There are some things that have never changed and never will. Loneliness and the sense of awe when a child is born; the hunger of the human heart for meaning and purpose in life. The whole spectrum of human feelings from the deepest hurt to the most ecstatic joy is a constant. The innate need for some meaningful connection with that "unseen other" from whose hand we suppose we come. The spiritual nature and needs of humans never change.

If the world is moving too fast for you, go to your church this Sunday and you will be in the presence of the unchanged and unchanging. That is a source of comfort and encouragement in a scary world.

AN ENCOURAGING WORD FOR June 14, 2007 - written by Dr. Thomas Lane Butts, Pastor Emeritus, Monroeville First United Methodist Church

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Unexpressed Love

This was written by: Dr. Thomas Lane Butts, Pastor Emeritus, Monroeville First United Methodist Church and shared here with permission.

Every now and then I will have some person who is struggling with family relationships to say, with appropriate sadness, that they do not remember ever having had their father (and sometimes mother) say that they loved them. The absence of expressed love in a family leaves a large emotional hole in the psyche of a child, and it has predictable consequences in the adult life of that child. These consequences inevitably show up when that person marries, and even more when children are born into the family. Unexpressed love (or the absence of love) tends to cross generational lines. The ripple effect is not only predictable but palpable. The effect of unexpressed or absent love goes on, like a genetic illness, from generation to generation until an emotional or spiritual healing experience stops it.

When I was a graduate student in psychology at Garrett School of Theology and Northwestern University we were required to read a book titled, "One Little Boy." I have long since forgotten the name of the therapist/author of the book, but I have never forgotten the story it told. The reason I have never forgotten is because I have seen the story reenacted so many times in the lives of people in my care. The therapist traces the roots of the emotional problems of "one little boy" back three generations and still did not get to the point of beginning.

Somebody has to stop the ripple effect or, better still, see that it does not start, which brings me to the point I wish to make.

Expressions of love withheld tend to die, and the people from whom they are withheld tend to die also – little by little. So many times only a crisis will draw from us expressions of love that the people around us are so hungry to hear. If we were to suddenly discover that within a few hours the world as we know it would end, I venture to say that every telephone line and every other means of communication would be tied up by people calling people to stammeringly state some long neglected expression of love.

The world is filled with people who are starved for some expression of love, some indication of acceptance, and some assurance of belonging. Many of the people with whom you will brush elbows today are lonely and frustrated for the lack of some adequate expression of genuine love. How deep would be the benefits to those we do love, if we would let expressions of love permeate our days and our relationships. Several years ago I was visiting in a home on Saturday before Mother’s Day. A five-year child wanted to show me the card she had for her mother. It was not one that she bought at the store. (The kind many of us use when we care enough to send the very best, but are too lazy to write.) It was a piece of bright construction paper on which the child had scrawled a message of love. How rich we are when we live in a climate where love is expressed! How poor we become when love is withheld and unexpressed.

If you love somebody tell them now. Tomorrow may be too late. They may leave, or you may leave, in any of the many ways in which someone can go away. Do not let someone you love die and leave you choking on the words of unexpressed love that you intended to say but never did. Do not let your children grow up and end up in my office or a lawyer’s office, or a psychiatrist’s office sadly saying: "I do not remember ever having heard my father/mother say they loved me."

Can you hear what I am saying to you? I hope so. It begs to be heard!!

AN ENCOURAGING WORD for May 24, 2007 - written by Dr. Thomas Lane Butts, Pastor Emeritus, Monroeville First United Methodist Church

Monday, June 4, 2007

It All Comes Back by Dr. Jim Savage

You have heard it said: "What goes around comes around." When someone wrongs us in a way in which we have no recourse, we often comfort ourselves with this idiom. This is meant to be a warning to the perpetrator the matter is not over; that somewhere, sometime, somehow "you will suffer what you have caused me to suffer." There is a certain palliative quality in that thought when you cannot fight back.

Is there a universal justice in the scheme of things? Will right finally prevail, if not in this world, at least in the next? There can be no doubt that Jesus thought so. Soren Kierkegaard in his "Works of Love" (page 351) gives us pause to think as he expresses another aspect of the Golden Rule: " you do unto others, God does unto you in the very same mode."

In a study of history you will find there is an awesome progression in the human understanding of justice. Our understanding of divine justice has not always kept up with our codes of human justice. You may find that strange. I do. The ancients said: "Do unto others before they do unto you." The Mosaic Law upholds the law of "Lex Talonis": "Do unto others as they have done to you." The Christian law is: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." But, Jesus makes it clear to all that: "As you do unto others, so God does to you in the very same mode."

There is really no place to hide! What we do comes back to bless or to haunt us somewhere down the road. Edwin Markham said it with beauty and clarity many years ago:
"There is a destiny that makes us Sisters and Brothers,
None goes his way alone
All that we send into the lives of others,
Comes back into our own."

That is not a very pleasant thought if we are guilty of inflicting some wrong on someone. It is an encouraging thought for those who do things to help others. It happens. Here is a delightful example of the positive aspect of "What goes around comes around."

Newspaper columnist George Plagenz once told the story of a young physician who delivered a baby into a poverty-stricken family in Montana. The child had one severely deformed leg. The child also had great difficulty in sustained breathing.

The doctor thought to himself, "The other children will call him ‘Limpy’. His life will be miserable. If I don’t do anything for his breathing, he will die. Wouldn’t that be better?" he asked himself. But his commitment to the Hippocratic oath led him to begin breathing into the mouth of that baby. Soon the child’s lungs were responding normally and he gave his first cry.

Many years later that doctor’s daughter and son-in-law were killed in a tragic automobile crash. Their only child, a ten-year-old girl, was left an orphan. The grandfather physician and his wife took her in.

One day the child was stricken with a rare crippling and seemingly incurable condition. The doctor had learned there was a young physician in the mid-west who had been getting excellent results in the treatment of this particular disease. He took his granddaughter to see that doctor.
As it turns out this young doctor was the deformed baby into whose mouth the elderly physician had breathed life some 35 years earlier. Because of his own infirmity, he had specialized in this crippling disease. The treatment of the little girl was successful and in time she was returned to normal health. Some call that coincidence; and I am agreeable to that term as long as you understand that coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.

The good that we do does not always come back with such distinctive clarity. Sometimes, as far as we can see, it never comes back at all. But the Bible teaches that there is a kind of universal and divine justice that works itself out in the greater scheme of things, in this world or the next. The belief that this is true should cause us to thank God, take courage and do all the good we can to everyone we can on every occasion we can.

Let’s hear a loud "Amen" to that!

For more from Dr. Jim Savage:
Riverchase UMC Home Page

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

How Sick Love Hurts

It is axiomatic that it is essential to love oneself in order to love others. The Bible teaches us to "... love our neighbor as thyself." The Bible does not call upon us to negate ourselves. However, when love does not move beyond the self it becomes sick love and will poison relationships.

There is a word for excessive self-love. It is narcissism.

In his last book before he died, Pastoral Psychotherapy, Dr. Carroll A. Wise (who taught and befriended me when I was a graduate student) addressed himself to the problem of narcissism. He speaks of this weakness, which "lies at the root of so many human problems," as "the human need to place self in the center of the universe" and "demand that the universe be revised according to my needs, regardless of the needs of others." It is a problem that appears in the earliest pages of the Bible, and it plays havoc in every life in which it finds cultivation and hospitality. The word "narcissism" comes to our language from a Greek myth, in which a young man by the name of Narcissus fell in love with his own reflection in a pool of water. Narcissism is essentially the habit of relating to others in terms of how they satisfy our needs, with little or no regard for how the relationship effects the welfare of others.

Children in early infancy are completely self-centered. Everyone in an infant’s constellation of relationships exists only in terms of how they relate to his needs. Some people never grow very far beyond infant narcissism. They are emotionally greedy. They relate to everyone out of their own needs. This human characteristic of early infancy, which is so essential to survival, will later destroy us if we are unable to grow beyond it. The opposite of narcissism is clearly pictured in the 13th chapter of I Corinthians which is the beautiful love chapter in the Bible. Thumb through your relationships and see to what degree they are characterized by narcissism. How selfish is your love? If a relationship has strong indications of selfishness in it, and it lacks many of the qualities of love set forth in I Corinthians 13, then it is not very healthy, and is likely hurtful to people who are in your constellation of relationships. When you read the 13th chapter of I Corinthians you will notice at once how very specific it is concerning the nature of love. "Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Loves does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right . . . " You cannot miss or misunderstand the characteristics of love.

Narcissism lies at the root of possessiveness, which is often offered in the name of love. In parent-child relationships it is often expressed in terms of preferential love for one child above other children. The Old Testament book of Genesis gives a classic example of the immediate and the long-term harm of parental possessiveness and preferential love of children. And, at each and every turn of the relationship, it was done in the name of love and under the guise of the child’s best interest; when all the while it was narcissistic selfishness.

The story begins with the birth of Isaac to aging parents, Abraham and Sarah. The harmful effect of the doting love of these two grandparents who became parents becomes evident early in Isaac’s life, but the full effect is not seen until Isaac marries Rebecca and they have twin children. It takes a generation for some problems to come into full bloom. Their names are Jacob and Esau. The Bible says that Rebecca loved Jacob more than Esau; and Isaac loved Esau more than Jacob. In chapters 27-28-29 of Genesis, preference and possessiveness act out their ugly lines in the life of this family of four. It splits the family and the individual persons in the family. Many people fail to see the sickness and harm because the people involved are among our biblical heroes. But the "sometime obedience to God" should not blind us to their failures to one another, and should not blind us to the long term damage it continued to do in the lives of persons in subsequent generations. There is a tendency for parental narcissism to move across generational lines unabated until some person or some experience puts a stop to it.

Most of us remember the continuation of the problems of possessiveness and preferential treatment in Jacob’s family. It was at the root of the problem between Joseph and his brothers. It almost cost Joseph his life – and it did deprive him of his family, and his family of him, for many years. We remember how sick love marred these three generations, but very few people remember (if they ever knew) how the strife between Jacob and Esau was perpetuated in their descendants for hundreds of years.

Hang on and I will give you some interesting biblical history.

The children of Edom, who sprang from Esau, carried on a constant hostility with the descendants of Jacob, who were the tribes of Israel. This quarrel was renewed in one of its bitterest forms many years later, when Moses was leading the children of Israel through the wilderness toward the Promised Land. As you can easily see by studying a map, they had to pass through the land of Edom before they could get to Palestine. Remember, the land of Edom is the land of the descendants of Esau, and the people of Israel are the descendants of Jacob. When Moses came to the edge of that land of Edom, (as recorded in the 20th chapter of Numbers) he sent messengers to the King of Edom, telling him how they had been in slavery, and how they had escaped, and they were on their way to the Promised Land. He begged permission to pass through Edom. He promised that they would not trespass on field or vineyard, nor drink from their wells, but would keep to the King’s highway. He implored them saying: "We are your brother Israel." What a gracious and brotherly appeal. You would have thought they would have forgotten by now, but the King of Edom said: "You shall not cross our land, and if you do we will march out and attack you" (Numbers 20:18). Moses sent a second message pleading and offering to pay for any damages they might do. But the descendants of Esau said to the descendants of Jacob: "You shall not pass through our land," and they put a large army in the field to enforce it. Can you imagine sick love being the source of all that? There is more!!

Hundreds of years later, when the Babylonians attacked Judea and Jerusalem, the Edomites were not involved, but they cheered for the Babylonians and urged them to destroy Jerusalem. There is that strange line in Psalm 137 where the Psalmist in exile in Babylonia wrote: "Remember, O Lord, against the people of Edom the day of Jerusalem’s fall, when they said ‘down with it, down with it, down to its very foundations’" (Psalm 137:7). It is all there in the Bible. The strife between Jacob and Esau was still going on a thousand years after it took place. They are the "Hatfields and the McCoys" of the Bible.

Sick love can have a long-term ripple effect that hurts for generations. Beware!

AN ENCOURAGING WORD for May 31, 2007 - written by Dr. Thomas Lane Butts, Pastor Emeritus, Monroeville First United Methodist Church

For more from Dr. Jim Savage:
Riverchase UMC Home Page
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