Thursday, January 14, 2021

The Practice of Ministry

What changes has the practice of ministry had on your interpretation of (a) the Lordship of Jesus Christ, and (b) the work of the Holy Spirit? 

      “Jesus Christ is Lord,” Κύριος Ἰησοῦς, (Kurios Iesous), represents the earliest and most basic form of Christian confession. Twenty-first century Christians must not ignore the compelling truth it represents. The authority of the confession dominated the apostolic church and stood as foundational in the Christian life. The Apostle Paul wrote, “Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11). This confession is one of the best ways to convey the meaning of Jesus’ authority over the believer and the church, and the expectation of his final victory.[1]

     The confession of Jesus’ Lordship and the genuine surrender by faith places the Christian at the disposal of the exalted Savior and the sovereign of the universe for Jesus’ continued mission through the church. Millard Erickson writes, “Accepting Jesus as Lord means making him the authority by which we conduct our lives.”[2] Working out the implications of Jesus’ Lordship requires a lifetime process known as sanctification.[3] The recognition of Jesus’ Lordship moves one to repentance and requires relinquishing one’s rebellion toward God. Then, the individual has the responsibility of sharing and demonstrating the Gospel core with others. 

     “Jesus Christ is Lord” has been the central motif of my Christian journey. During my practice of ministry this truth has only served to reinforce the need to replace myself as Lord and sustainer of my own life and family. Jesus can easily become someone’s Savior and never their Lord. Thomas Oden claims that, “to understand Christ as Lord is to confess that he was appointed by the Father to have us under his power, to administer the kingdom of God in heaven and earth.”[4] I am committed to this kingdom work under Jesus’ Lordship and authority. 

     I had the privilege of serving two churches as a Provisional Elder (process of becoming a full-elder). In whatever context I find myself, Jesus is Lord. The churches I have served belong to Christ. Everyone I meet is a creation of God, called by inspired grace, and loved unconditionally under Jesus’ Lordship, thus deserving my witness to the Gospel message. During my first year of ministry at my current appointment I have conducted fifteen funerals. Never before has the truth of “Jesus is Lord” been so important as I have shared with grieving family members and friends the Gospel core. 

    One family in particular will forever stand as an exemplary example of what it means to be Christian and know Jesus as Lord. This family had lost their loved one but there was something different about how this family handled the event. As I ministered to the family in the days prior to the funeral and following, they laughed, worshipped, and lived together in such a way as to testify to the fact that ‘Jesus is Lord.’ The wife of the deceased, and family members all claim to trust Christ as Savior. These claims became evident to others and me from the stories they told and the way they conducted themselves in the midst of loss. I trust that this is why we truly worshipped the Lord and celebrated in the face of death.    

 

(b) The Holy Spirit 

     As I make my personal confession of “Jesus is Lord,” I am proclaiming a personal relationship with the triune God, for Jesus says, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9), and the apostle Paul writes, “…no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3).  That same Spirit testifies to my Spirit that I am a child of God. It is the proclamation of a timeless truth. The person of the living Triune God reigns now and forever, and desires a saving relationship with all. 

     Richard Hays states, “The one certain criterion of the Holy Spirit’s inspiration is that He empowers the simple confession, ‘Jesus is Lord.’”[5] That confession is foundational to the sacrament of baptism as we confess Jesus Christ. The Christian’s response to Jesus’ Lordship recognizes God’s constant calling out to humanity both on a personal and communal level. When the individual truly realizes and confesses the Lordship of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit baptizes the individual into the life affirming Christian community of which Jesus is head. After the individual surrenders to the Lordship of Jesus in his/her daily life, the Holy Spirit empowers the person to overcome sin, which separates people from God, themselves, and others.[6] As a result of the Holy Spirit’s work, the individual and the Church are enabled to live and worship in Christian unity and empowered to witness in the world. 

     Everything we can know and understand about God results from the person and work of the Holy Spirit. The Christian church as a community of believers exists by the activity of the Spirit, “as an instrument of God’s mission and ministry.”[7] The same Spirit, moving over the face of the waters at creation, spoke to the prophets creating a covenant community of expectant believers. The fulfillment of their expectation, the Son, was given the Spirit without limit. “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness…” (Luke 4:1). After the resurrection of Jesus, the expectant community becomes the new covenant community empowered, cleansed, united, and sent out to the whole world by the Holy Spirit. 

     The same Holy Spirit who enables individual believers to confess, “Jesus is Lord,” baptizes them into the church body and builds a community of faith. The Holy Sprit is actively drawing people to God to convince them of their sin and the forgiveness made available through the death, resurrection, and victory of Christ over death (John 16:8-11). Through this process of God’s divine grace the faith community is being constantly drawn into God’s presence and power. When one accepts Christ as their savior it is the Holy Spirit who serves as the agent of new birth. The Holy Spirit then nurtures the believer in this new life reminding them of God’s love and claim on their life (Romans 5:5, 8:14-16), and gives the required gifts for ministry to all members of the body of Christ (2 Corinthians 12). 

     I feel that the practice of ministry has helped me to move forward into my relationship with God through the Spirit. While serving the church I have also witnessed the Holy Spirit’s activity especially as it pertains to the process of discipleship. I’ve witnessed people cooperate with the grace of God and grow in their relationship with God as Disciples of Christ and desire to love and serve God and one another.     

     Believers are called to live holy lives under the Lordship of Christ. The loving and nurturing God continues the sanctifying work of extending grace to the believer thus making it possible to live a holy life. The process of sanctification transforms the believer and fills them with God’s love. The outworking of the Holy Spirit as evidenced in the life of a Christian bears fruit (Galatians 5:22) as a testimony and a witness to the power and grace of God. 

     I always enjoy leading the congregation through the season of Pentecost. This is an exciting time as we are focused for an entire season on the person and work of the Holy Spirit. However, I am always careful to teach that the Holy Spirit can’t be relegated to one season in the Church year and that God as the Holy Spirit is active in all seasons of the Church year and to be celebrated and submitted to in all of our life experiences.        

     I believe in the power and the work of the Holy Spirit in my life and ministry. As I prepare sermons weekly I pray for the Spirit’s inspiration. It occurred to me quickly in my first appointment that Sunday comes around every week and I must be prepared. The practice of ministry is a true gift but it comes with heavy responsibilities and many demands from people. I have been very busy at times and seen my sermon preparation become less than what I would desire or usually require.  It’s during these weeks that my prayer life has been desperately directly toward the inspiration, guidance, and power of the Holy Spirit. 

    I have felt at times as if I had failed to deliver the message of the text during my sermon when low and behold the Spirit would move in someone’s life in a profound way. There have been several occasions where after a service someone would comment about how something I said made an impact on their lives when I know for sure that I never said those words. Over and over again I have witnessed the Holy Spirit work and usually most powerfully when I humble myself and move out of the way. These moments bring me to my knees and make me grateful for the fact that I am called to be a Pastor in the United Methodist Church. I have learned that I don’t serve in my own strength and power. I am equipped and being transformed just as all are in God’s church and we stand as a testament to person and work of the Triune God, for this we can be assured and united in Christian love. 

   



[1] Hamblin, Robert and Stephens, William. The Doctrine of Lordship (Nashville: Convention Press, 1990) P. 59.

[2] Erickson, Millard. “Lordship Theology: The Current Controversy,” Southwestern Journal of Theology 33 (Spring 1991) PP. 5-15.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Thomas Oden commenting on John Calvin, Catechesis Of the church of Geneva, LCC XXII, P. 96, cf. Baxter, PW XVII pp. 381-412) Oden, Thomas. Systematic Theology: Vol. Two: The Word of Life (Peabody; Hendrickson, 2008). 

[5] Hays, Richard B. Interpretation: First Corinthians (Louisville: John Knox Press, 1997). P. 208.

[6] Tuttle, Robert. Someone Out There Needs Me: A Practical Guide to Relational Evangelism (Zondervan, 1983), P. 25.

[7] Inbody, Tyron. The Faith of the Christian Church: An Introduction to Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdman’s, 2005). P. 247. 

Sacraments in the Wesleyan Tradition: Baptism and Holy Communion

    Below is a piece I had to write concerning Baptism and Holy Communion for the Board of Ordained Ministry in the UM Church. Since we recently experienced Baptism of the Lord Sunday and I was invited to share with a Sunday School class on the topic, this could be a good addition. 


How has the practice of ministry affected your experience and understanding of the meaning and significance of the sacraments?


 

     The practice of ministry has had a profound affect on my experience and understanding of the sacraments. As Wesley asserted, “By ‘means of Grace’ I understand outward signs, words, or actions ordained by God, and appointed for this end-to be the ordinary channels whereby he might convey to men the preventing, justifying, or sanctifying grace.[1] A sacrament is a means of grace, and unique. I have witnessed many Christians experience God’s presence and grace in a real and meaningful manner when they partake in the sacraments. I have intentionally fostered a greater appreciation for the sacraments through teaching and providing meaningful experiences that celebrate the sacraments with a deep appreciation without poor abbreviation, rushing, or trivialization.    

     Kristine, was a new member of our Church (Ocala) and had an Anabaptist background. Prior to joining our church Kristine participated in my new member’s class. As we were discussing the sacraments Kristine asked about infant baptism. I began explaining that baptism begins with God, not us. “The grace of God works in a person’s life prior to their awareness moving them into a loving relationship.”[2] In the United Methodist Church we believe that we all stand constantly in need of divine grace. Grace is God’s free and unmerited favor, the expression of divine love for us. 

     Baptism, the rite of Christian initiation, is the action of washing or plunging in water (Acts 2:41). I then refer to what people of her tradition would understand as, “believer’s baptism.” For adults, baptism is a symbol of God’s justifying, or convicting grace. Baptism conveys several important meanings, including symbolizing the Holy Spirit’s washing away of sin (Titus 3:5), the death of sinful nature and the resurrection of a new Christ-like nature (Romans 6:3), and being joined to the Family of God.[3] Baptism is not something humans do alone, such as repent or have faith. Rather, it is something God does by bestowing grace upon a person’s life. 

     God’s grace begins in the individual’s life before his/her acceptance of God, preparing him/her to accept Jesus Christ as Savior. Because of this, God’s prevenient grace is proclaimed and celebrated in the baptism of babies. This is not the child’s confession of faith. This is a covenant sign of God’s work on our behalf making our response possible. “When infants are baptized, it is right and necessary that when they come to maturity, they make their own confession of faith. But they do so with the clear witness that it is not their confession alone that saves them, but the work of God already done for them long before they ever believed.”[4]

     Baptism makes the possibility of confession greater. “The baptism of a person, whether as an infant or an adult, is a sign of God’s saving grace. That grace—experienced by us as initiating, enabling, and empowering—is the same for all persons.”[5] Our Church has a great process for discipleship. When persons who were baptized as infants are ready to profess their faith, they participate in the service we call Confirmation. 

     I explain to Kristine and the others, that confirmation prepares children to profess the name, ‘Christian’ for themselves. The sacrament of baptism is not a private matter between the person and God. Baptism should always take place in the presence of God’s family, the church where we into into covenant to “nurture this child in Christ’s holy Church, that by your teaching and example they may be guided to accept God’s grace for themselves, to profess their faith openly, and to lead a Christian life.”[6] I explain to the group that this is why we should never have trouble finding Sunday school teachers and youth leaders. While Holy Communion is repeated many times, baptism is only done once; it is God’s act of grace, marking the individual as a Christian disciple.[7]

     The practice of ministry has given me several opportunities to share these teachings. First, it was with two Southern Baptist youth Pastors in Madison, FL. Then, to a young adult in my Church who was baptized as an infant requesting to be re-baptized because her boyfriend who was a member of the Church of Christ was pressuring her to have an adult believer’s baptism experience and be fully immersed. After the teaching we later held a baptism of remembrance service in the Withlacoochee River.    

     Jesus initiated Holy Communion with the disciples in the Upper Room, (Matthew 26:17-30), and promised to be with them. The whole Trinity is present in Holy Communion lavishing the benefits of Jesus Christ’s passion on those who partake. Eucharist, as it’s also known, from the Greek word meaning thanksgiving, reminds Christians that the sacrament is thanksgiving to God for the gifts of creation and salvation.[8]

     The practice of ministry has led me to celebrate Holy Communion with the church in creative ways to experience afresh the presence of the risen Lord and receive grace for our lives as disciples. We have celebrated Holy Communion at parks, in nursing homes, outdoors underneath the stars, coffee shops, and in homes. 

     During my appointment at Lee UMC (Madison) I was invited by the owner of ‘Southern Living for seniors’ an assisted living facility in Madison to come once every three months and serve the residents, “The Lord’s Supper.” I interpreted this as a great honor and began with much gratitude. Jenny jokingly said, “Just don’t do all that Methodist stuff and everything will be ok.” Although this comment offended me, I know the owner personally and I know she has a Southern Baptist background. However, I would have never imagined this being cause for concern. 

     I quickly learned that ‘A Service of Word and Table’ wasn’t completely foreign to the residents but was completely foreign to the staff that assisted. I attempted to personally serve the group of eight to ten residents by way of intinction using one loaf of bread and a chalice but this was met with resistance not for sanitary reasons but because Mary a staff person and Missionary Baptist wasn’t comfortable. Mary insisted on only using little plastic cups and hard prepackaged wafers. In keeping the peace and maintaining unity I let her provide the elements. However, I did use a loaf each service during the liturgy to bless and break.         

     On a certain occasion while serving the residents I broke the bread and repeated the words that Jesus said, “Take eat; this is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” Something came over me this day so I added, “and know that we not only remember Christ’s sacrifice for us long ago but we also experience what God is presently doing in a powerful, yet mysterious way, and anticipate God’s future work of salvation.”  After the service Mary felt as though we needed talk outside. 

     Mary explained that The Lord’s Supper was to remember Jesus’ sacrifice and added we didn’t need to take the Lord’s Supper every month, especially if we are saved. I explained that ‘The Lord’s Supper’ is a sacrament that I hold in high regard. It’s an outward sign of an inward grace that conveys God’s grace to us in a powerful way that unites, nourishes, and sustains us as we constantly strive to be Christ’s instruments of transformation in the world. I need Christ’s love, forgiveness and healing. I don’t’ know about you but I need that, I want that as often as I can get it. Mary and I thanked one another for listening.

     This experience taught me the importance of healthy dialogue, and maintaining an attitude of respect and openness to learning. I served these people for over a year and kept my focus on the ministry that I felt called to while remaining anchored in my faith tradition yet maintain unity and peace.    

     I am now an ordained elder (Pastor) in the United Methodist Church. A special role for the elder is the responsibility for administration of the sacraments.[9] The United Methodist Church teaches that baptism is to be performed by an ordained minister in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19). Water, by sprinkling, immersion, or pouring, is essential (John 3:5, Acts 8:36).[10]

      In the United Methodist Church, persons who are ordained as elders may consecrate the Holy Communion elements, protecting Holy Communion from misuse. However, laypersons may offer Holy Communion and I remain intentional to include others. Pastors should be educated and trained in the history, traditions, theology, and spirituality of the sacraments and ways to best convey their full benefits. With humility and respect I am committed to this significant responsibility.



[1] Heitzenrater, R. and Outler, A. John Wesley’s Sermons: The Means of grace (1746) (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1991) P. 160 

[2] Gayle, Carlton, Felton. This Holy Mystery: A United Methodist Understanding of Holy Communion, (Nashville: Discipleship Resources, 1997), P. 15.

[3] Grenz, Stanley, Theology for the Community of God, PP. 339-344.

[4] Staples, Rob L. Outward Sign And Inward Grace, P. 182. 

[5] Gayle, Carlton, Felton. By Water and the Spirit: A United Methodist Understanding of Baptism, (Nashville: Discipleship Resources, 1997), PP. 27, 28.

[6] The United Methodist Hymnal (Nashville, The United Methodist Publishing House, 1989.) P. 40 

[7] Anderson, Sara, We Believe (Anderson: Bristol, 1996), P. 45-52. 

[8] Gayle, Carlton, Felton. By Water and the Spirit: A United Methodist Understanding of Baptism, (Nashville: Discipleship Resources, 1997), P. 17

[9] http://www.gbhem.org/site//The_Ministry_of_the_Elder.htm

[10] Anderson, Sara, We Believe, (Anderson: Bristol, 1996), PP. 45-52.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Happy Thanksgiving

Dearly beloved,                                                                     A picture containing text

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Happy Thanksgiving!

 

"For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with

thanksgiving," (I Timothy 4:4).

 

What a great holiday! I love Thanksgiving, not just for the special family gatherings, the "fine dining" and the televised football games, but for the fact that it gives honor to God in a unique way. No other holiday focuses attention on being thankful and recognizing the blessings one has received. Christians and Non-Christians alike fulfill scripture on that day, for Colossians 3:15 specifically tells us to be thankful.

 

Thanksgiving honors God, and God also honors the giving of thanks. In Luke 17 we read the account of the ten lepers who approached Jesus for healing. Like many people, nine of the lepers received from the Lord but failed to take time to thank Him. However, Jesus commended the one who returned to thank Him for his healing. This year I encourage you to take the time to consider the blessings you have received. No matter what your circumstances, you have much for which to be thankful.

 

Let me also take this opportunity to tell you that one of the things for which I am

thankful this year is YOU. You are a vital part of the Body of Christ, a testimony of

the power of God. I am thankful that the Lord has placed you within our congregation. This year may your Thanksgiving holiday be a joyful time.

 

In Gratitude,

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Tuesday, October 27, 2020

We Can Still Celebrate

 

    Two major seasons are before us. Thanksgiving and Christmas (to include Advent). I should add the third: COVID-19 (sorry). Life continues on even in the midst of a pandemic. We are called to the abundant life, so let’s celebrate.

    This isn’t our first epidemic, hopefully it’s our last. Catastrophes have always touched our lives. “Death has come up into our windows, it has entered our palaces, to cut off the children from the streets and the young men from the squares.” (Jeremiah 9:20). Much is at work to thwart the good that God has for us. I want to encourage the people of God to lean into Jesus and celebrate our relationship to God through Him. Consequently, life will be led to celebration. Many of us have been celebrating the ability to gather again weekly and worship together. Something we may have taken for granted.

    This year will be different indeed. The goal is the same but this year will be hard for many to celebrate. One Hundred and sixteen families from our community will be grieving the lost of loved ones due to COVID (usafacts.org/Clay County, Florida Coronavirus Cases and Deaths). What should our relationship to these people be? Should we celebrate amid such loss and pain?  

    I still wish you a Happy Thanksgiving! We will celebrate Thanksgiving, and seek to instill “an attitude of gratitude” within ourselves and our families. Merry Christmas! It can still be merry. We will celebrate Christmas; we must give praise and thanksgiving for the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ. We must sing with joy in thanksgiving for the new thing God is doing through Jesus Christ. Yet still, this year’s celebration will be different. “How could we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?” (Psalm 137:4). We do live in a strange, foreign land, although the houses, the landscape, and the people are familiar. We who look for God’s coming already feel like strangers in a foreign land. 

   There’s something we resonate with in the apostle Paul’s words: “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have” (Philippians 1:29-30). God’s people know what it is to lament and struggle. Daily we observe a culture unaware of God’s life-giving promises, and we experience the reality of “principalities and powers” that defy God’s rule of life. But out of the gloom and fear, we still hear Isaiah’s invitation: “Come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!” (Isaiah 2:5). Let us rejoice in the words of Charles Wesley, Rejoice, the Lord is King UMH 715:   

Rejoice, the Lord is King!

Your Lord and King adore;

Rejoice, give thanks, and sing,

And triumph evermore;

Lift up your heart, lift up your voice;

                                                        Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!

In His Love

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

To Interrupt or Disrupt? That is The Question

    Anyone accepting the new ‘normal’ yet, well, at least normal for now (we pray)? What’s really going on? Given our current COVID context many are finding it to be annoying, confusing, isolating, boring, tense, anxiety-inducing, and depressing. Worse of all many people have died and or fighting to live as we read this. (A doctor in New York recently committed suicide).
    This is a pandemic, yes. With this pandemic comes not only a sickness that can kill you and many people on the planet, but it basically shuts down your life in another way. It has been two hard months of isolating, and social distancing. I’ve heard many people mention that they miss seeing each other, fellowshipping and worshipping together. I miss it too. But I am taking notes, I’m trying to learn and grow both personally and as a leader in the Church. I hope that you haven’t wasted this experience either. 
    I was stuck on a few words last week as I was listening, processing, and praying: Interruption and disruption. Is COVID-19 an interruption? Is this a disruption? I found these definitions: interrupt :(v) stop the continuous progress of (an activity or process). Disrupt: (v) interrupt (an event, activity, or process) by causing a disturbance or problem (Google). So how do you see our given context? Have our lives been interrupted or disrupted? Well both/and. We can see that by definition these verbs are doing something. Considering our ministries--the progress has taken a hit (thankfully not a devastating blow). Considering our mission—not so much. We have had to learn patience and long-suffering but we are still the body of Christ with the same neighbors, family members, and the same great community. Our mission is still to make disciples. 
   The Wesley Covenant Association had this in their recent newsletter:  “This is a time of great disruption that will force us to re-imagine who we are, what we will be about, and how we will minister to the people in our communities. As hard as it is to do in the midst of a tragedy, we need to: (1) carefully consider our churches in light of our mission contexts; (2) pray, and then (3) discern how God wants us to change so we are faithful witnesses in radically altered environments. As Christians, we have always believed times of suffering and hardship are often essential to seeing new visions, but we must be alert and open to them.”
    So church, above, is a good example of what to do and where to go from here? Personally, engage the Spiritual disciplines: Bible study, silence, solitude, fasting, connecting with other believers, and prayer (not exhausted), start with your own prayer life, establish a rhythm now. Notice how well we are still connected. You’re reading this now. We are recording four, sometimes five different groups a week for our worship experience. Our children and youth are still connecting and our Food bridge ministry hasn’t stopped providing for our community. We had two Holy Communion opportunities via the internet (not a big fan). We have married two couples and buried a brother and a sister in Christ. We go on… as we each follow the above instructions for this disruption let us not give up. Consider who we are and our given missional context, pray and discern how God is leading you, us. 
    Do we have a problem? Have our lives been disrupted? In ways, yes. Good news, This season will end; it may create a new normal. Stay alert and open to the Spirit of God and His leading. 
IN HIS UNFAILING LOVE,  Pastor Brian Sanderson

Thursday, September 12, 2019







Here's today's discovery:

     'Discipline' (as defined by Google dictionary)


  1. 1. 

    the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behavior, using punishment to correct disobedience.
    "a lack of proper parental and school discipline"

    synonyms:controlregulationdirectionorderauthorityrulestrictness, a firm hand;
  1. V.20 ("to be taught) παιδεύω paideúō, pahee-dyoo'-o; from G3816; to train up a child, i.e. educate, or (by implication), discipline (by punishment):—chasten(-ise), instruct, learn, teach.
         
        Anyone else love considering discipline? Ooh I love the Spiritual Disciplines. But just the thought of discipline as punishment makes my backside sting! 'Discipline' surfaced as a key issue in the text I was studying today (1 Timothy 1:12-17). Just like any good Bible student I read a little further for the surrounding context and discovered an issue within the overall Christian mission. Paul in Vv.12-17 is demonstrating the grace of God active in his life (even as a really good guilt-ridden sinner/blasphemer/persecutor/violent man...) and he affirms God's work through Christ with an "Amen." Good, right? Not so fast.
    Vv.18-20 seem to conclude the section as evidenced by Paul's concluding remarks: "18 I am giving you these instructions, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies made earlier about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight, 19 having faith and a good conscience. By rejecting conscience, certain persons have suffered shipwreck in the faith; 20 among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have turned over to Satan, so that they may learn not to blaspheme."
        Wow! Paul said he was turning Alexander and Hymenaus "over to Satan." Now on the surface I would have to assume these were bad guys who did something very serious that offended the Apostle Paul. I admit I've served in Churches now for over eighteen years and I've not seen discipline such as this so, what's this about?
         It turns out 'turning them over to Satan' was Paul's way of removing them from the fellowship of the Church. This act, as bad as it may seem had a purpose---to correct. Paul wanted them to have time and space to consider their actions, become convicted and repent.   
        This is still a vital part of our mission; turning people to Christ and the loving welcome of the Church. From this teaching could we conclude that discipline is needed within the overall Christian mission? In this context discipline includes such terms/actions as: strengthening, purifying, training, correcting, perfecting. We should never seek to permanently exile a fellow servant but we should ALL seek to be Christlike. It's a process. But the process seems to involve discipline of this sort. Much more could be said but it gets you thinking...

    In His Grace and Love,
    Brian
            
       

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Journeying Through This Season

We have experienced life on earth long enough to understand that there are seasons: Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall. The physical cycle of life demonstrates change. Many people love to capture this transition visually by traveling to the mountains and watching the leaves of the trees change color. Naturally speaking we know seasons change, but I want us to recognize that just as nature changes around us the same happens to us as it relates to the seasons of our lives, more particularly along the Christian pilgrimage. 
     The Christian Church has seasons: Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Holy Week, Easter, and the Season after Pentecost. These divisions/changes lead the Church through the birth, death, resurrection, and ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ. Each cycle of seasons moves us deeper into God’s heart--whole and abundant life for all. The Christian year marks time as a gift demonstrating what God has done for us by grace. 
      As we journey through life we too go through seasons or stages. Currently, parents, students, and teachers are in a back to school season of life that contains within itself other, deeper experiences. Others of us are in a season of loss/grief over the death of a loved one. Others are in a season of engagement, or divorce. Some are experiencing life in a new or remodeled home post-hurricane, Irma, some still waiting on repairs, on and on the seasons change...The good news is that we don’t travel through life alone or unintentionally. By grace, God journeys with us on our pilgrimage toward wholeness in Christ making each season of life meaningful. 
     Where am I? Where are you? The classical pilgrimage toward wholeness is characterized by four stages/movements of God’s grace (these can be viewed as the overall journey toward wholeness or as incremental stages. We’re very familiar with Prevenient, Justifying, Sanctifying, and Perfecting grace but let’s take another look): Awakening- Encounter with God and true self, it’s coming to the realization of who God is. Emotionally, this stage/season is both comforting and threatening. Next, Purgation- Renunciation of blatant sins and willful disobedience, unconscious sins and omissions, the deep-seated structures of being and behavior, leading to trust. Illumination- Total consecration to God in love where God is experienced within and there’s an integration of being with a life devoted to unceasing prayer and increased concern for others. Finally, Union-A depth of relationship with God where one is completely abandoned to God’s grace and transformed for the sake of others.  
     There is no life outside of God. No matter what season of life you are in, wherever you are on the Christian pilgrimage, God is with you. Surely goodness and mercy follow. Allow God’s grace to move you into the community of faith for support, discipline, and mission-a wholeness in Christ for others.
         
In God’s ever-changing, ever pursuing grace


pic from livescience.com