Holland Methodist Church

Month: March 2021

Serving And Following Jesus

“Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour” John 12:26.

Drawing closer to the climactic experiences of his mortal life, Jesus received the welcome news that some Greeks wanted to speak with him. It is conceivable that these Greeks were in Jerusalem for the Passover Festival, and may have been among the merchants whose tables had been overturned when Jesus sought to cleanse the Court of the Gentiles in the Temple. To Jesus, this was a very significant moment, as it signalled the approaching time for his glorification, that is, his arrest, trial, suffering, and death. Jesus used the opportunity to speak about the cost and blessings of following and serving him.

Against the background of the desire of the Gentiles “to see” him, and the shadow of the cross growing progressively larger and brighter, Jesus emphasized that his followers must serve him, must be prepared to go wherever he goes, and must share in his lot, whatever that may entail. Following and serving Jesus will not necessarily be a pleasant, uneventful experience, and may result in discomfort, suffering, or even death; but whoever endures to the end will receive God’s approval.

Most significantly, Jesus referred to himself five times in verse 26 by saying “me” three times, and “I” and “my” once. In this scripture passage, you and I are both being summoned to recognize that Jesus is the object of true devotion. This invitation is nothing new. The commencement of Jesus’ public ministry was accompanied by the call of Peter and Andrew to “Come, follow me” (Mk. 1:17), and throughout his three years of ministry, he called people consistently to follow him. However, he insisted that it would not be a joyride by saying: “ ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34). 

The Bible tells us that human beings were created in God’s imagine to serve God: to love God with our whole being, and to obey and enjoy God eternally. However, we do not exist independently of God. We continually depend on God for our  existence and sustenance. Therefore, service that honours and pleases God can be rendered in God’s strength alone. Accordingly, “whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 4:11b).

Following and serving Jesus requires a willingness to give our best to the work of God; having a readiness not only to live, but also, to die for Jesus, to follow him to the cross, if Jesus calls us to do so. This service abhors shoddy work, despises being lackadaisical and tardy; it seeks to go to those who need us most, and does not pick and choose where, who, and when we serve. No! This does not mean being reckless, irrational, and throwing caution to the wind. It means trusting God to order our steps, and to be like Mary Brown who said to God:

I’ll go where You want me to go, dear Lord,
O’er mountain, or plain, or sea;
I’ll say what You want me to say, dear Lord,
I’ll be what You want me to be.” 

Thought:      Our duty is to follow Jesus, and our eminent and profound hope is to be with the Lord eternally. 

Prayer Focus: Jesus, thank you for calling all of us to follow and serve you, and for assuring us that you will not abandon us neither in this life nor the next. Help us to trust you always. Amen.

Look To Jesus And Live

“So Moses made a serpent of bronze, and put it upon a pole; and whenever a serpent bit someone, that person would look at the serpent of bronze and live” (Num. 21:9).

God’s chosen people were liberated from Egyptian enslavement and were journeying to a prosperous land to call their own. However, the journey was not void of problems, and the people grew tired, impatient, and rebellious. They complained bitterly about the lack of bread and water, and the despicable food (v. 5).  They rebelled against Moses, their human leader, and God, their ever-present, all-powerful, and all-knowing Liberator and Leader.

In the desert venomous snakes bit some, and many died. This was regarded as divine punishment. They acknowledged the error of their ways, repented, and pleaded with Moses to intercede for them (v. 7). Moses prayed, and God told him to construct a bronze snake, hoist it on a pole, and that whoever was bitten should look at the bronze snake and would live. It should be noted that it was not the bronze snake that healed them but their faith in God. Healing came when they obeyed God’s instruction to look on the bronze snake. 

In helping Nicodemus understand that every life can be transformed by believing in him, Jesus said: “And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life” (John 3: 14-15).Looking to Jesus will result in salvation from the sickness of sin and eternal separation from God, or spiritual death. 

It has been a universal practice to look in various directions to fulfil the need to have life and to live life “more abundantly” (John 10:10). Some of these directions relate to children, spiritual leaders, wealth, fame, philanthropy, politicians, and popularity.  

Jesus is the life and the life giver.  Without Jesus we are living dead but when we look to him, when we  will become alive and be guaranteed “eternal life” (John 3: 15) and participation in God’s Kingdom. Friends, God did not give up on the rebellious Hebrews but made a way for them to be healed and live. Like God, Jesus does not condemn anyone, regardless of how sinful and rebellious he or she is. Jesus gives life when we love to him.

In the very powerful invitation to salvation, William A. Ogden wrote:

I’ve a message from the Lord, hallelujah!
This message unto you I’ll give,
’Tis recorded in His word, hallelujah!
It is only that you “look and live”
.

Refrain:
“Look and live,” my brother, live,
Look to Jesus now, and live;
’Tis recorded in His word, hallelujah!
It is only that you “look and live”
.

Yes! Jesus brings clarity and authenticity to our existence, and when we look to him, we will experience a more abundant life. When we look to Jesus, we will have a new zest for living and for making this world a better place. Our world can be different; our experiences and responses can be more creative, imaginative, and life-affirming if we look constantly on Jesus.

Therefore, as we tread the treacherous paths of life (Matt. 14:30) and daily run our race for Jesus, let us keep our eyes fixed on him (Heb. 12:2). Let us never forget that when we look fully in the wonderful face of Jesus, all the things of this world will decrease in brightness because of his love, power, compassion, and grace. 

Thought: Focus on Jesus and see the world through his eyes. 

Prayer: God, the road is long and often lonely. Help me to always
look at Jesus and see everything and everyone through his eyes, for Christ’s sake. Amen!

Trusting God In Difficult Times_2

Sisters and Brothers,

We are well into the penitential season of Lent, a good time for theological reflection and deepening of our spirituality. Although we do not have in-person gatherings these days, I do sense, from your communications, that we are making the effort, both individually and corporately, to draw nearer to the Lord and to stay in love with God. That is commendable.

This is indeed a challenging time as the COVID-19 crisis becomes protracted and such measures as physical distancing will continue for longer than we had hoped. However, we must always bear our District theme in mind- Trusting God Through Difficult Times: Transforming Obstacles into Opportunities.

Just as the health challenges provoked by this crisis stimulated the efforts of governments, benefactors, medical researchers and technicians to develop a family of vaccines, the first of their kind, to address current needs, so too must we respond and put our resources to work for good in God’s world. Let us, as we are led by the Spirit of God, be on the lookout for opportunities and new possibilities for Christian service. As we look inward this Lent and seek improvement in our spiritual fitness, let us not forget that service in our changing context remains the best avenue for working out our faith in God. Yes, let us pray more. Yes, let us give more- (I hope that someone new took up the challenge to tithe). But above all, let us serve God with all we’ve got; and that means serving others.

Let us not allow our spiritual muscles for praying, giving and serving to get rusty while we wait for things to “get back to normal”. Remember, a new normal awaits us. Things will never be the same again. The lessons that we are learning now are for our guidance into God’s future. Let us learn well and be prepared to act on what we learn.

Do the best you can as a Class Leader or Assistant Class Leader, or in whatever office you hold. Only do it better because you will now apply the sensitivity, skills and confidence you have acquired through life with COVID-19. This month, we start a round of statutory meetings. Maybe you have been newly appointed to an office / a committee. Come prepared to share. Come prepared to approach your task with the confidence that our God who has called you, is with us now, enabling us through the present difficulty to serve better than we did before. Let us trust God and be available to learn more and to serve better; and there will be no telling what God is going to do. The hymn writer, William Cowper (1731-1800), had this to say:

God moves in a mysterious way his wonders to perform.
He plants his footsteps in the sea and rides upon the storm.
Deep in unfathomable mines of never-failing skill,
He treasures up his bright designs and works his sovereign will.
Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take. The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break in blessings on your head.
Voices in Praise # 266

Look up, even as you look around at the harsh realities we experience, as we encounter those grieving the death of their loved ones who were hurriedly taken away by death, as we meet those whose employment situation is worse that it has ever been, as we are questioned by those who believe that God had forgotten us.

Look up, I say, Sisters and Brothers, let us expectantly await God’s future; and even in the era of COVID-19, that future remains bright to the glory of God.

Yours in Christ’s service
Joan Delsol Meade, Pastor.

Unrighteousness In The Church

He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace” (John 2:16).

A WhatsApp message quoting Archbishop Nicholas Duncan Williams, Presiding Archbishop and General Overseer of the Action Chapel International (ACI) ministry, headquartered in Accra, Ghana, had me thinking. Archbishop Williams said that after a period of prayer, God had revealed to him that: “The gathering you call a church is no longer a church before my eyes but a place of tussle for power, position, fame, division, superiority, supremacy, and authority…The hearts of the people are divided against each other and brothers are seeking the downfall of brothers for the sake of position and authorityI am very bitter with the Church.

This revelation had me thinking about what the Bible calls The Cleaning of the Temple. According to St. John, at the beginning of his ministry, Jesus went to Jerusalem for the Passover Festival. The Passover recalls and celebrates God’s liberation of the Hebrews from the shackles of domination, exploitation, and oppression in Egypt. The annual pilgrimage saw Jews from all over the world going to Jerusalem to worship and meet their religious obligations such as paying Temple tax and sacrificing animals and birds. 

The necessary and convenient business of selling suitable animals and birds and operating a cambio to exchange foreign coinage for Temple coinage had been developed and promoted by the religious and temple authorities. Unfortunately, this service had descended into shady commercial activities which were oppressive, exploitative, and a source of unjust enrichment for the traders, money changers, and the temple authorities who controlled the business.

On arrival, Jesus was disturbed and disgusted at the unrighteous use of the Temple. Enraged, he attacked the dishonesty of the traders and objected to the trade. John said: “Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables” (John 2:15) and said, “Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace(John 2:16).  

The Lord’s words, through Archbishop Williams, might not apply to us, but there are unrighteous practices with which he is not pleased. Do our churches need divine cleansing?

Jesus is deeply disturbed and displeased about sanctuaries which are shabby, or where extravagance and opulence is obvious; with a Church that has millions in the bank when the churched or unchurched are destitute; when shepherds exploit and squeeze the last cent out of the sheep to acquire unnecessary personal assets; when the Church is a business venture to be inherited by descendants; when offices and positions are bought and negotiated for; when the sheep refuse to treat shepherds with love and respect, and when leaders sanction oppressive and exploitative practices for personal or institutional enrichment. 

Think about the church to which you belong. Is there unrighteousness in how the resources or opportunities we use to serve God are obtained and utilized?  Do we love things more than people?

Thought: God is displeased when we choose a wrong way to do the right thing.
Prayer: Lord, in all our dealings, help us to seek to be righteous and just, for Christ’s sake. Amen.

Temptations In The Wilderness

He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him” Mark 1:13.

When I tested positive for the COVID-19 virus, I entered a ‘wilderness’ of self-quarantine and isolation in a hotel room. During this time, I was tempted by doubts, fears, and unanswerable questions. One night, the enemy was so determined and persuasive that I was afraid to sleep. Throughout this ordeal, God’s angels ministered to me in text messages of encouragement, prayers, catered to my physical needs and expressed best wishes.

The Gospel writers tell us that Jesus was tempted. Like someone in a hurry and looking over his shoulders constantly, Mark tells of Jesus’ temptation in one sentence. According to Matthew the temptations took place after the forty days and forty nights (Matt. 4:2-3), but, quite significantly, Mark and Luke tell us that Jesus was tempted during the forty days (see Mark 1:13; Luke 4:2).

Jesus’ temptation highlights his humanity. He became like us and had the ability to sin. He was tempted, with a likelihood of failing. However, his divinity and the power of the Holy Spirit ensured his victory over temptation, and he can make us be like him with the power to resist temptations, however intense and determined.   

No human being, sinful or sinless, holy or unholy, perfect or imperfect, is precluded from temptation and it does not have to be a wilderness. The dinner table, during worship, in the pulpit, at the office, just to identify a few places and times when the tempter will strike. Friends, from we awake in the morning, sometimes even before we get out of bed, until we lay down to sleep, and even while we are lying on our bed, the enemy find creative, subtle, and devious ways to tempt us. That includes when we are doing something good; and therefore, it is not uncommon for our virtues to be tarnished with vices.

Until we die, we will be tempted in various ways, and at various stages of our lives. Never forget that to be tempted is not to sin. Yielding to temptation is where the problem lies. Therefore, Horatio R. Palmer was correct when he wrote: “Yield not to temptation, for yielding is sin; Each vict’ry will help you some other to win”.

I implore us to embrace the sentiments expressed in John Page Hopps’ lovely poem, entitled: “Father, Lead me Day by Day”.  In this prayer for all God’s children (not just youth and children), we look to our Divine Parent to lead us “day by day”, and seek God’s aid so that when we are “tempted to do wrong” we can remain “steadfast, wise, and strong”.  There are times when we are constrained to stand “all alone” and in such times we need desperately to be shielded with the “mighty hand” of God.

Friends, sinlessness does not prevent temptation. Therefore, we will all be tempted, but the indwelling power of God can enable us to resist.

Thought:        Purity does not preclude temptation.
Prayer Focus: Pray for the power of God to resist temptation.