He [Jesus] said to them, “Why are you so afraid? How is it that you have no faith?” - Mark 4:40 (WEB)
As I write this, General Conference 2019 is over. The conference to unite the United Methodist Church seems to have divided us even more. From the priority votes, it looks like to me that we were much more interested in our pensions and property, than finding a way to live together as brothers and sisters in Christ (I maybe too hard on the delegates). I do not know what is going to happen within the denomination, but I do know that God is in control. As the storms of life surround us, we do not need to be afraid, we need the faith that God is there for each of us. I do not know what the future of the United Methodist Church is, but I do know that God's Church will continue on and that the love proclaimed by Jesus will continued to be proclaimed throughout the world.
God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way. God relented of the disaster which he said he would do to them, and he didn’t do it. - Jonah 3:10 (WEB)
Most people remember Jonah as the man that was swallowed by a big fish, yet the story does not end there. Jonah goes on to Nineveh, to deliver God's warning, and the people (and animals) respond to God's message and show signs of repentance. God's response to the people was to not destroy the city and the people were saved.
God is still willing to show forgiveness to us when we sin. When we turn back towards God, He is always willing to forgive us and show us the mercy, that we do not deserve. That is the reason that He gave us His Son Jesus! The people of Nineveh know that forgiveness, and so can you, by turning away from our sins and accepting the power over sin that Jesus Christ has to offer.
["] You believe that God is one. You do well. The demons also believe, and shudder.” - James 2:19 (WEB)
Recently I have been thinking about the Christian faith, in the world today. I heard on a Christian radio station the host questioning if another Christian leader was a “heretic” because they had a different stance on the issue of homosexuality. I do not want to have a discussion on this issue in this blog, but the United Methodist Church will have these discussions in February, yet it got me thinking about what is a Christian?
Jesus tells us “that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3 16, WEB) and Paul in Romans tells us that it is faith in God that saves us. Yet James says that even the demons “believe” in one God, yet they are far from being Christian. The demons have seen the power of Christ (remember the pigs and the cliff), yet they do not have faith in the saving power of God.
So who is a Christian? To me, a Christian is anyone who believes in the saving power of Jesus Christ and has the faith to live a life in the calling of Jesus, to us, to follow Him.
41 He [Andrew] first found his own brother, Simon, and said to him, “We have found the Messiah!” (which is, being interpreted, Christ). - John 1:41 (WEB)
Advent is a season of searching. The word advent comes from the Latin word for coming. Throughout the season, we are searching for the coming Messiah or Christ, the one promised to reign forever.
In the Gospel of John, Peter's brother Andrew is searching for the coming Messiah and when he finds him he runs to his brother to give the good news. Andrew's search is over. Are you still searching! If you are, you need to look no longer: Jesus is the Messiah!
5 Our pursuers are on our necks. We are weary, and have no rest. - Lamentations 5:5 (WEB)
29 Jesus said, “Most certainly I tell you, there is no one who has left house, or brothers, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or land, for my sake, and for the sake of the Good News, 30 but he will receive one hundred times more now in this time: houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and land, with persecutions; and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last; and the last first.” - Mark 10:29-31 (WEB)
A mass shooting in a Texas Church, the worst mass killing of Jewish worshipers in American history, and the killing of a Baptist missionary in Cameroon, has had me thinking about what the Bible says about persecutions. Scripture is full of accounts of God's people under threats of persecution. From Exodus 1, when Pharaoh, who wanted to kill the Hebrew male children, to Revelation when God's people are called to perseverance because of evil people, God's people have been under assault, almost from the beginning of time. This will not change anytime soon.
As Christians we are called to fight evil, in all of its forms, yet we can not take up the “worlds” way of conflict. We are called to show the world God's love and not take vengeance into our own hands (Deuteronomy 32:35). This is very difficult to do, yet in the end, we must remember that God's power and plan will be fulfilled. We must wait, and sometimes suffer, as God goes about to fulfill His plans.