In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I solemnly urge you: proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching. 2 Timothy 4:1-2
The Apostle Paul is likely in an imposed social quarantine (he is under arrest) in Rome when he writes these words to his younger colleague Timothy. The world at that time had become dangerous and the temptation to surrender to a spirit of timidity (1:7) seemed very reasonable. Paul challenges Timothy, in what may be his final biblical correspondence, to not wait for a convenient time to live as a Christian. To be a follower and believer of Jesus Christ means that we trust in God’s will and judgement and in fact put all our eggs in that basket. Jesus’ challenge about the pursuit of “saving our own lives” is not celebration (Mark 8:35). He does not say “well done, good and faithful servant,” if we simply hunker down, with buried talents and an abundance of toilet paper. Rather, our Lord proclaims that saving ourselves results in losing ourselves. Being a Jesus follower is not a means to another end (even the end of going to Heaven someday), it is a full commitment to the truth that is beyond any of our desired ends.
God is God! The Lord Jesus Christ is, was and will always be the fullness of God. Our task is not to be creative and clever with regard to personal piety as a vehicle to enhance our material lives. It is to love God with everything we have, and to do that every day for all our days. This is a high calling, and one that I have never attained, but that does not change the call. We are to persist in living for Jesus Christ, to love in his name, in the midst of health concerns, political divides, and social isolation.
Our current season has some obstacles to be sure, but as Paul says the word of God is not chained (2:9). I invite you to pray, post, call, and with intentional discernment deliver outward and visible signs of the hope you have in Christ Jesus. I also invite you to make a special effort to inform and grow that hope. There are and will be live online bible studies, blogs, and support groups. Join the network of people who make phone calls, text, and email reminding all that “this is the day the Lord has made, and we are to rejoice and be glad in it.” If you find something helpful or encouraging, share it. My video messages which will be posted by 8 am on Sunday mornings as a part of the Jesse Lee Memorial service and this week will focus on “Expressions of faith in the midst of anxiety.” This is the season, trust that “God is able to guard until the day what God has entrusted to you.” Peace, Bill
Fear not, for I am with you, be not dismayed, for I am your God;I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand. Isaiah 41:10
This scripture from Isaiah is one that I lean on in times of trial and uncertainty. It was written when Israel was facing some real challenges as many questioned whether there was any future for this “people of God.” The message of Isaiah reminds me that even when I cannot see it, God is still present and at work bringing about redemption and hope. It is important for me to acknowledge that God is at work, but what God does might not look like what I had in mind.
Amid confusion and loss, we sometimes have a hard time doing much more than replaying that sad story. When we ruminate on our disappointments, they can become a chorus of despair, so much so, that it is hard to hear anything else. It is in this cacophony of hurt that the word pierces our grieving and commands the end of fear. These are not words of gentle pastoral care calling us to reconsider the circumstances. This is a “Thus says the Lord” type of imperitive. Sometimes I need that kind of pointed direction. I am to acknowledge my distress for a time, but then let it go and go on to letting my gifts and possibilities loose. God promises presence, strength, help, and ultimately the victory. This, in short, is the promise of Jesus Christ. God is with us; He recognizes the burdens we carry and provides the strength to accomplish that which brings life. Jesus is for us and while the path may be hard, or even harder still, when we are on the team with Jesus we win.
Thanks be to God. Peace, Bill
Dear Church Family,
Origen of Alexandria (c.184- c. 253) was an early Christian theologian and one of the most prolific writers in all human history. In almost 2000 treatises he addressed the Christian faith from nearly every conceivable direction. It is interesting for me to notice that while he had a great capacity for looking at the bible from many directions his primary and most encouraged way of reading the sacred text was through spiritual allegories. In other words, Origen looked at the bible as a personal and individual directive for following the will of God. One example comes from his reading of Revelation 13 which talks of the 7 headed beast. Origen understood that this text could be a word picture offering an end of days prophecy, but he thought it more fruitful and correct to see the seven heads as the seven deadly sins, and that this battle was not limited to a cosmic final battle, but a struggle that every person faces every day. Origen understood that each of us contends regularly with the destructive influence of pride, greed, gluttony, sloth, lust, envy and anger. His encouragement was not simply to look for some conflict outside the realm of our influence, but to practically and regularly address those temptations and choices which can come to dominate our lives.
During this Lenten season you are not only encouraged to participate in our 6-week small group study, but I also invite you to worship and explore with me the choices and challenges surrounding both the seven deadly sins, and their remedies (the seven cardinal virtues). There is a great difference in affirming the value of humility and generosity and practically valuing a life oriented around first principles of Godliness. The notion that Jesus followers are more than those informed with special wisdom about cosmic realities, but are daily capable, through a willing openness to grace, of living lives which are truly a blessing and blessed.
Methodists have been a community of Christians who literally “worked out” our salvation. We have been committed to, not simply contemplating deep thoughts but doing the work of Jesus Christ. Lent is a time of “holy huddling” in which we can prepare for a deeper and fuller response to God’s call. I hope you will participate in a small group, celebrate daily quiet time with God, worship with the community, as you discern God’s call for you “in such a time as this,” and discover the blessing of giving of yourself as God has equipped you.