The Connection THE OFFICIAL PUBLICATION OF THE EVANGELICAL METHODIST CHURCH
Who We Are.
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OMS Sportlight The Depues & The Williamsons
Rev. Isaías Flores Cárdenas
General Notes Rev. Max Edwards International General Superintendent
Christ for All Nations EMC Evangelization: More than a Program Rev. Albert Budiaki Mbenza
Who We Are
Myanmar EMC Grow a Healthy Church
Rev. Max Edwards
The EMC I Fell In Love With
Prayer: Aligning with God’s Plan
Asia Paciﬁc EMC On a Mission of God
Dr. Patrick Mubobo
Mrs. Judy Edwards
Dr. Lal Duhawma
Mexico EMC A Holy Spirit Awakening
Rev. Jun Mateo
Is Easter Really Interesting? Dr. Jim Halbert
The Connection The Connection is a publication of the Evangelical Methodist Church.
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Editor-in-Chief: Rev. Max Edwards Pre-Production Editor: Ms. Deborah Mitchem Graphic Design: Rev. Nathan Williamson Editor: Rev. Elias P. Stinson, Jr. Editor: Mrs. Nancy Utt HQ Executive Secretary: Mrs. Karen Parsons Department of Prayer: Mrs. Judy Edwards Translator: Rev. José Macías Flores, Spanish
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MISSION MISSION Connecting people of all cultures and promoting the work Connecting people of all cultures and promoting the workof ofthe theKingdom Kingdomby bycommunicating communicatingour ourstories storiesof ofchanged changedlives. lives.
Aaron and Shannon DePue are new missionaries with One Mission Society. They will join the team in Budapest, Hungary in summer of 2019. Aaron graduated from West Virginia University with a bachelor’s degree in history in 2000. Shannon graduated in 2001 from Fairmont State University with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Both Aaron and Shannon have a background in business. After the births of their three children, Isabella, Blayne and Avalynn, the DePues founded their first small business, Place of Grace Early Learning Center. Shannon used every gift that the Lord gave her to develop that ministry. Aaron worked in sales and marketing until 2014, when he entered fulltime ministry as the director of development at Covenant Christian School, a ministry of Covenant EMC. Working for the school system allowed Aaron and Shannon to spend time in the summers of 2015 and 2016 in Budapest. They worked in English camps, as well as the Roma summer camps. During this time, the Lord called them to use their gifts, talents and experiences to minister to the Hungarian people. Their background in business is vital to their new roles as social entrepreneurship coordinators. They will focus on the start-up, building, management and development of small businesses. These businesses will provide ways to reach out into already established communities with the Good News of Jesus.
Dr. Ed and Gilda Williamson now serve as missionaries with One Mission Society. Dr. Williamson serves as vice president at large for OMS. He also spends time working as a church multiplication facilitator and engaging with ministry partners to help one billion people hear, understand and believe the Gospel message. Gilda works with Dynamic Woman, a ministry that seeks to connect women in ministry, and HOPE61, a human traﬃcking prevention ministry. Dr. Williamson began pastoral ministry in 1974. He was elected in 1998 to serve the Evangelical Methodist Church as the international general superintendent. During his years of service, he planted three international conferences. When she retired, Gilda joined her husband in ministry. She created “Bibles for New Believers” that provided translated Bibles. She also founded PACKS, a ministry that supplies first-aid and hygiene supplies for those in developing countries. Dr. Ed Williamson graduated from Asbury University with a B.A. in Bible. He earned his masters of religious education from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary and a masters of divinity from Asbury Theological Seminary. He then received his doctorate in ministry from Boston University School of Theology. Gilda Williamson graduated from Montevallo University with a bachelor of science in education. Then, she earned her masters of science in instructional media from Jacksonville State University and her masters in school counseling and an education specialist’s degree from the University of Alabama.
Deeper in Christ … Further in Mission “And the remnant who have escaped of the house of Judah shall again take root downward, and bear fruit upward” Isaiah 37:31 NKJV. “Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him” Colossians 2:7 NLT. As we spend time in this issue of “The Connection” pondering our identity, it would be good to recognize the importance of the ordinal priority built right into our mission statement, “Deeper in Christ … Further in Mission.” It is vitally important that we put first things first. One of the many faulty tendencies we seem to be prone to as humans is the desire to move too far, too fast. Some people are wired more slowly and cautiously than others, but a great deal of us are prone to be overzealous, which is often dangerous because we haven’t taken the time to prepare. We recognize the problem when we cite idioms such as: Getting the cart before the horse, It helps to look before you leap, We must walk before we can run. By simply paying attention to nature and how God designed a tree to bear fruit, it is obvious to see that before there is ANY fruit on the tree, there has to be a root in the soil. The fruit does not bring about the root, but the other way round. And it takes time to develop the root base, ... time for the trunk to grow thick and strong, ... time for the branches to spread out and ready themselves, ... time for the flowering buds to develop into delicious fruit. Children especially think a lot about growing up, but I wonder if we could take the time to think about what must come first if we intend to be eﬀective adults. (And now it all comes rushing back to me as I remember my mom telling me to eat my
vegetables so that I could grow up to be big and strong.) So maybe, just maybe, what most of us need is to grown down. We need to grow down into Christ, and down into His Spirit, and down into His Word. We must grow DEEPER IN CHRIST. And depth is truly what we need most: depth in our understanding of the basic truths conveyed to us in the teachings of Christ; depth of character that prioritizes humility over achievement; depth of devotion to the cardinal virtues of unity and peace; depth of passion and vision that come from solemn and patient preparation and study. Jesus told his disciples a simple story about seeds and soil. A sower spread good seeds across the ground, and as it happened they found diﬀerent kinds of soil. Some seeds never germinated because they remained on the surface and were stolen away. Some seeds fell into rocky ground, and could not establish a good root base. Some found root, but were quickly choked out by thorns. But the harvest came from the seeds that fell into good ground, and were able to develop uninhibited roots and therefore grew productive stalks. So, let’s be sure that we don’t shortchange the growth process necessary to ongoing fruitfulness. Let’s reaﬃrm the need for daily time in God’s Word. Let’s grow down. Let’s listen well to pastor’s sermon, and to the faithful teaching by other mentors. Let’s grow down. Let’s spend time being shaped by the Lord in intimate, personal prayer. Let’s grow down. And if we do, and keep doing these things, we just might one day begin to grow up, and be ready to go FURTHER IN MISSION.
Rev. Max Edwards
International General Superintendent
by Rev. Max Edwards
Over the next few issues of “The Connection,” we will be interfacing three driving questions: 1. Who are we? 2. Where are we going? 3. How will we get there? Before we even begin that exploration, it might be helpful to ask one more: why these questions? I think the answer lies in the fact that if we are to know WHAT TO DO – what to practice and prioritize – we must know WHERE WE ARE GOING. And if we have a destination in mind (the “where”), then it is equally important to know WHO WE ARE so that we proceed from the right place, with the correct set of prerequisite values. In this issue, we will be exploring the first question from a variety of perspectives and sources. But of course, the indispensable source is the Word of God. Jesus founded the Church. His thoughts and intentions must clearly be paramount. Through His servant Paul, God declares that every person who “comes to him” is a “living stone” which together, make up the church. God pronounces that we are a holy priesthood, which means that we are created and called to intercede for others, to form a conduit between lost people and our loving Savior, and that we “are his people so that we may proclaim the virtues of the one who called” us. Wow. (1 Peter 2:4-9) What a privilege! But what a responsibility! We are not just forgiven sinners that sink into the background as extras in some epic story. No! We are designed by God to actually, actively represent Him as ambassadors and ministers. We are to be the visual demonstration of God’s holy value system. With that knowledge, we take a deep breath and think soberly as we form the answer to the Who are we question. Before God created the cosmos that we know, and then created us in it. He was relationally
perfect and dwelt within Himself in harmonious communion and unity. Before having dominion, He embodied love. The implications are obvious: we cannot begin to express secondary values without first noting that the EMC must intentionally value people and relationships. Again, there is no second priority without love and self-less servanthood leading the way.
THE EMC IS ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS We love God and we love people. Jesus set these two values as A number 1, top shelf, non-negotiable (Mark 12:29-31). The church for generations past has held that to “glorify God and to enjoy him forever” is “the chief end of man” (from the Westminster Shorter Catechism). That may sound like an overstatement of the obvious to some ears, but it is vitally important to aﬃrm it in a discussion of identity. We can easily forget and lazily begin to think of all the time-driven tasks on our plates, but unless love comes first, we are grasping at smoke at best, or giving people a reason to reject God, at worst. Let that sink in a bit. If we act in hateful or self-promoting ways, we are proclaiming God to have those attributes and he DOES NOT take too well to being mis-represented. So at least one answer to the Who are we question would be this:“We are a church that aﬃrms that God is love (1 John 4:8), and therefore
our highest aim must also be to love. We must love God, and we must love the people whom He loves.” The ministry implications of this relational priority include commitments to: • Share Christ as the only way to spiritual salvation (Acts 4:12). • Reach out to the broken and hurting with help and healing (Luke 4:18). • Encourage and disciple spiritual brothers and sisters (Hebrews 10:24-25). • Forgive and be kind to one another (Ephesians 4:32). Having established the primacy of love, we do have other incumbent priorities that Jesus Himself set in the DNA of His Church. If we are to adequately follow Jesus’ heart, we must aﬃrm that “Who we are” includes a commitment to and passion for prayer. Jesus severely chided the religious hierarchy that allowed money-changers and peddlers into the temple. As a place of worship, the church must not be a place where self-interest and materialism have prominence. He declared definitively that “My house shall be a house of prayer” (Isaiah 56:7, Matthew 21:13)!
noting that the EMC comes along in the stream of Church history as one of the groups of people that God has spoken to and through regarding the message of true holiness. We must not be trapped by the excessive and incorrect tendency toward legalism, but neither do we believe that living a life in Christ is just about forgiveness. It is clearly about living a sanctified and holy life. God calls us to “be holy for [he is] holy” (Leviticus 11:45, 1 Peter 1:16). We cannot claim to be a disciple of Christ, and not live out His system of ethics. The sermon on the mount was all about making the shift from just hearing His teachings to living diﬀerently because of them. “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it” (Matthew 7:24-27). We must obey Christ, if we claim to be led by Christ. The apostle John simply and plainly equates loving God with obeying God: “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments” (1 John 5:2).
THE EMC IS ABOUT PRAYER A few of our churches have gone so far as to host daily prayer services as a measure to ensure the priority of prayer. Others have established consistent and overarching prayer movements within their church families, and still others have committed physical space to prayer rooms and chapels to help define and solidify the church’s priority toward prayer. And lastly, for the purposes of this initial summary of values, we would be remiss to neglect
THE EMC IS ABOUT HOLINESS These things are not the exhaustive list of our priorities and values, but I believe that they are among the chief and primary answers to the question, Who are we? Rev. Max Edwards is the International General Superintendent of the Evangelical Methodist Church.
Grow A Healthy Church by Rev. Dr. Lal Duhawma I believe that every church of Myanmar EMC wants to have a healthy church. One may examine the question, what does it mean, a healthy church? This would be our simple answer: the healthy church must be formed on the glorious Gospel of God’s saving grace in Jesus Christ as the crucial message we preach, teach and celebrate. In other words, the healthy church must be biblically grounded and revealed in the Word of God; it is given shape when the Word is known and shared.
Knows God’s Word
Not only in Myanmar, but numerous Christian communities of the world dishonor the Word today. Fortunately, the Myanmar EMC members honor the Bible and receive gladly the Bibles that were distributed by Bibles for Myanmar, donated by USA EMC. For this reason, this statement is true and acceptable that “we will not believe more than we know, and we will not live higher than our beliefs.” Healthy churches are churches where the Bible is known, studied, examined, discussed, memorized and taught. As for the Myanmar EMC, to know the Word is to know God. If we don’t know the Word, we don’t know God. And if we don’t know God, we can’t be healthy.
Shares the Word With Others
My assumption is that the biblically grounded church faithfully and eagerly shares the Scriptures with others. The Word has a way of multiplying. The more we study it, the more we want to share it. This is the actual experience of the Myanmar EMC, which has three mission fields and shares the Word with the people who are Buddhist. With the help of God, 208 people accepted Jesus as their Savior and were baptized this year. A healthy church shares the Word at home, in public places and with unreached people. A healthy church sends missionaries who
love reaching the lost with the Gospel. May this be the prayer of the Myanmar EMC: “Let the word of Christ dwell in [us] richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in [our] hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16).
How We Know a Healthy Church
We may define the marks of a healthy church as the following: the pure preaching of the Gospel, the faithful administration of the sacraments and the exercise of church discipline. The EMC churches can’t be healthy if they’re not true. However, my concern is not to distinguish the diﬀerence between a healthy church and an unhealthy church. It is, particularly, to facilitate a conversation about what the EMC churches in Myanmar look like.
To have more healthy churches in the Myanmar EMC, I believe we must be regularly and intentionally shaped by the Gospel that both saves and sanctifies. We may be growing with programs, growing in numbers and building new buildings, but churches without the Gospel are unhealthy indeed. The Gospel is where the power is. This is my prayer, that our pastors, missionaries and our churches be committed to the Gospel, as Paul said, “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ” (Colossians 1:28). Rev. Dr. Lal Duhawma is the General Superintendent of the Maynmar Conference of the Evangelical Methodist Church. Pictured: Dr. Lal Duhawma and the ﬁrst two conversions in the Kunlung mission after their baptism.
Asia Pacific EMC On a Mission of God
by Rev. Jun Mateo
There is in our time a crisis in leadership,
leadership being defined as the ability to motivate and move people from one point to another and get them to like it. A crisis arose from our loss of identity. Who are we and what on earth am I here for? For many of us, we have lost the clarity of our vision in ministry because we have lost our identity. We have lost our sense of direction. We have forgotten the very essence on why Christ came, died and rose again from the dead. We became preoccupied with procedures rather than focusing on the clarity on why God sent his Son to the world. Our first We became busy with the procedures of living and we identity is forgot all about life. We became that we are so occupied with the procedure of doing church, we forgot the children of reasons why we are church. Who are we and what are God.
we all about? If God would give us a few more years on earth before He comes or before he takes us home to His glory, what would be our part in building God’s kingdom? Our first identity is that we are children of God. My first identity is I am a child of God who happens to be a member of the Evangelical Methodist Church. This is a declaration that I am a Christian and an avid follower of Christ. This is a statement declaring that we want to become a part of the mission of God. The mission to seek and to save those who are lost. (Luke 19:10) This mission was motivated by the prayer taught to us by Jesus: “May your kingdom come and may your will be done on earth, the way it is in heaven.” When we started our work in Asia Pacific in 2013, we trained our leaders that the way we do our ministry will be precisely according to the will
of the Father, ministry that is To live a part of God’s work or the God’s mission of God, Missio Dei. We serve a sending God purpose and and our purpose is to worship will in our and glorify Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Church is conference, more than having activities. we need to be Programs that we do are all purpose driven. We do good a missionary works i.e, medical missions, church. dental missions, surgical missions, Christian education, micro finance and leadership development to create goodwill among people so we will get the opportunity to share the good news. The purpose is to connect. Then we allow people to grow in faith and we train them to serve. Serving means being sent out. Our sending God expects us to be sent as well. To live God’s purpose and will in our conference, we need to be a missionary church. We need to be a missional church establishing communities of people who are saved by grace and sent out to the world to proclaim the good news of hope in Jesus Christ. Our secondary identity is our denominational identity. We are Evangelical Methodist Church.
We are evangelicals because Jesus and His resurrection is the very foundation of our faith. The word of God is the basis of our theology. It is unchangeable. Worldview will change but the message of truth will remain. We are evangelicals because we believe that the Bible is still the authority and we do not go over the authority of the Bible but under the authority of the Bible. We are evangelicals because we are not swayed by opinion polls or the popular vote. When we read the Bible to our people, we are hearing the voice of God who speaks directly to the hearts of those who are willing to receive it. We are Wesleyan Methodists and what that means is that there is a hope of grace for everyone in this universe and on the heart of these, there is higher calling for us to live holy lives. We are Wesleyan Methodist because we believe that at conversion comes a personal relationship and intimacy with the Father to transform us to the image of His son Jesus Christ. We are the Evangelical Methodist Church of Asia Pacific committed to be a part of the Mission of God – to the rest of the world. Rev. Jun Mateo is the General Superintendent of the Asia Pacific Conference of the Evangelical Methodist Church
ME XICO EMC
A H o ly S p i r i t Awa k e n i n g by Rev. Isaías Flores Cárdenas
ringing us from the past to the present will always be a support to remember our beginnings. God put in the hearts of both men and women a love, a fire and a passion to share the Word of God with everyone, and to give testimony of what God has done in their own hearts. This is how they began to go to the cities, small towns and farms, regardless of whether they were mainly walking or on horses or donkeys; and although they had to go through hardships, that did not stop them from going, because what motivated them was the love of God and for the lost souls, to fulfill the Great Commission. In several places where churches were planted, they were the first Christian churches that were established. God brought a spiritual revival; and in each place where the servants of God came, God added to the Church those who were to be saved. Many of them began to listen to God’s call to serve in the Kingdom of God, and so they left their homes to go to prepare theologically, giving rise to the establishment of biblical institutions. Many years have passed and we have learned to persevere, and now we can also be witnesses that the Holy Spirit continues to bring to our hearts that love, that fire and that passion for lost souls. God continues to disturb us and breathe life, making us restless to re-experience those times of glory. We can perceive a strong desire to live and experience the days of our ancestors; it is not we who do it, it is the Holy Spirit, the Promise of the Father in our hearts; it is He who awakens the spirit asleep in us. Now we have to be attentive and pay attention, because the Trumpet of God resounds in the heavens, or the voice of God in a gentle whisper, calls us to serve with love, with dedication, with fire, with passion. Clearly the mark of the Holy Spirit in our Methodist denomination is holiness, without which no one will see the Lord, and the call to evangelism, multiplication, sacrificial service, and love for lost souls and needy people. Therefore, we seek methods for a continuous and persevering evangelism; as a result, we plan to establish organized groups in churches, without losing sight of leadership training for the ministry. Rev. Isaías Flores Cárdenas is the General Superintendent of Mexico Conference of Evangelical Methodist Church.
Christ for All Nations EMC Evangelization: more than a program. by Bishop Albert Budiaki Mbenza
Forty years ago, the call of God sounded
on my life. This memorable day remains forever engraved in my heart. I was not alone, but we were four young people during this call, and it was a certain August 18, 1978. That day, GOD proved His love towards me in that when I was still lost in the world, Christ revealed Himself to me. He rescued me from the dominion of darkness and brought me into the kingdom of the Son He loves, as Paul states in Colossians 1:13. God called us through the late Simon Gala, who had gathered us for guidance. Then God revealed Himself to us by an audible voice during a retreat of prayer. And one year later, He gave us the order to publish His message to all humanity beginning with the Democratic Republic of Congo, our birth country. He asked us to preach to the gentiles repentance, and to the idolaters to abandon their fetishes and to turn to the Lord. And God manifested Himself powerfully each time this message was given; the Holy Spirit was manifested in deliverances and healings. This is how the church, The Assembly of the Messengers of Jesus Christ, international ministry of evangelization, was born.
One of the things that really touched me when I become aﬃliated with the Evangelical Methodist Church, is the evangelization. Indeed, the dedication of our organization for the great commission inspires me and encourages me a lot. It is also a brand of obedience to the command of the Lord, who asks us to go and to make disciples of all nations, because only the gospel can radically transform a life. If no one had been sent to me, I would not be today what I have become, a saved man. I encourage us more strongly to get involved in the proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ so that there is salvation for many. May this word of the apostle Paul never cease to reason in our thoughts: “And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” Do not make evangelism a simple program; but let’s develop the attitude of an evangelist because the salvation of many depends on our action! Bishop Albert Budiaki Mbenza is the General Superintendent of Christ for All Nations EMC Conference.
The Evangelical Methodist Church I Fell in Love With. by Rev. Dr. Patrick Mubobo
n December of 1998, I completed my associate degree in Computer Science while in Malaysia. After weeks of fasting and prayer, God directed me in a dream to come to the United States to work in missions, but He gave me no specific direction about where and how to begin. I was very young, only 22, and not very wise, so I started to pursue the American Dream. I had numerous interests and interesting choices, but God had other ideas for me. After several serious mishaps, He finally pointed me in His direction, and I accepted His will. At this point, the Lord graciously gave me a team of five people who cooperated with me in planting Change the Nations Church; He led us to Rev. Brian Gordon and his wife Beth, who were ministering in First EMC, Greensboro, NC. We fell in love with that multiethnic and multicultural congregation, and saw in that church and the pastoral couple the ministry God was calling us to be. At first, in 2003, our team had problems with the EMC Discipline, and decided not to join the denomination. But in 2007, after a series of splits and the loss of most of our original team, our new team decided to join the EMC following conversations with Dr. Thompson and Dr. Ed Williamson. More than 99% of the African relationships in the EMC today were born through
Change the Nations Church. With Bishop Albert Budiaki and Rev. Moba Kayeye from Canada, Rev. Thierry Agossa of West Africa, Bishop Bourgeois Asitakufa of Central Africa, Rev, Carlyto Lassa from Europe, Bishop Lungisa Gilbert Myangane of South Africa and Rev. Robert Kawava of West Africa, we continued to win many souls and plant churches for the glory of God. In spite of the fact that the EMC is a small denomination with minimal resources in the midst of other larger denominations with more resources, we are continuing in the EMC because God has called us to it for three principle spiritual reasons. First of all, the EMC is emerging as a multiethnic denomination, with a vision of a fully integrated heaven for all people in the world. Secondly, in spite of its limited resources, the EMC has a passion for souls demonstrated in a liberal investment of funds, time and talent in pursuit of the advancement of the Kingdom of God and the outreach to people across the nations. I am persuaded that the EMC is an evangelical disciplemaking church. The Third consideration is the EMCâ€™s congregational and connectional system, which has strongly influenced me and all the pastors who have joined the denomination through me. While we acknowledge the need for order in the church, we believe the individual churches have many diďŹ€erent issues related to their own peculiar culturally and
ethnically diverse congregations. Fortunately, though we are connectional in our doctrine and have uniformity in many aspects, our discipline does not destroy the individual congregation’s creativity and freedom to serve God within its own personal context. The denominational leadership assists the local churches in supporting the EMC Discipline, through teaching, prayer and personal visitation. Through this pastoral care from the leadership, all our congregations are given needed support in diﬃcult times, and are encouraged to participate in the support and encouragement of other congregations in diﬃculty. These are the strengths of the connectional system that are greatly needed during this critical time in the history of the
Church. We must not forget that Jesus Christ, our Master, the Chief Shepherd has promised to return very soon. We must remember that we are Methodist, Wesleyan-Arminian in theology, and as such, we believe in sanctification. We preach it, and it is vital that we live it. May God grant that we continue to dwell together in unity. Rev. Dr. Patrick Mubobo is the senior pastor of Change the Nations Church and the bishop in charge of operations for the Christ For All Nations Conference.
Prayer: Aligning With God’s Plan by Mrs. Judy Edwards “Prayer is aligning ourselves with the purposes of God” – E. Stanley Jones The people of the Evangelical Methodist Church are people of prayer. As a matter of fact, a prayer gathering at an EMC Church played an important role in bringing Max and me into the EMC. We were searching for a church after making a choice to step away from the denomination we both had been raised in, and decided to attend a National Day of Prayer gathering at the Elizabeth City Evangelical Methodist Church. We knew several members of the church and had found them to be genuine believers with an authentic faith. We decided to attend this service to get a flavor of the church itself. We left that night, having sensed the presence of the Holy Spirit and impressed with the fruit we saw of a church that believed in and was committed to personal and corporate prayer. We decided we would attend a Sunday service and consider this a body we might join. We eventually did join the church and God had plans for us we had no idea of at the time. Prayer is something I feel passionate about, and I have been pondering prayer and the many purposes it serves in our lives. Of course, the primary purpose of prayer is to communicate with our God, but within that primary purpose, there are many facets of how prayer impacts us. Lately God has been consistently reminding me that one of the purposes of prayer is to align us with His plans and purposes. I’m afraid we often forget that. I think we tend to see prayer as more of a way to convince God of what we want Him to do. While we would all quickly agree if someone stated that prayer serves to align us with God’s plans and purposes, in practice I fear we may lean more toward trying to align Him with our plans and purposes. I know I have certainly been guilty of prayers being more about begging God to make happen what I had predetermined was the best way to
solve my problem, than asking for His best plan. Thankfully, He gently reminds me that it’s best that He determine how to work in my circumstances, because He is God and I am not! I want to invite you to participate with me in a challenge I have given myself. Let’s consider how we pray. Are my prayers asking God to show me what He wants and help me align myself to that, no matter how diﬃcult? Or are my prayers more like a detailed list of instructions for God, telling Him just how He should accomplish my goals? Am I assuming that my plans must also be God’s plans or am I taking the time to listen to the Holy Spirit first? Please don’t hear me say that we should not come boldly and confidently to the throne; Hebrews 4:16 clearly tells us to do just that. I’m simply saying, let’s not presume that our plans are God’s plans, and be open to the Holy Spirit’s nudging that we may need to align ourselves with a diﬀerent plan and purpose, from a perspective our finite minds cannot grasp. Let’s go to the throne of God with confidence in His great power, but also with a humble understanding that He has a perspective far superior to our own, as we constantly remain open to realignment from the Holy Spirit. God has great plans for our future and when we pray in alignment with His purposes, nothing can stop us! Join me in praying for all God has for our families, our churches and the larger community of the Evangelical Methodist Church. Just a reminder – The Prayer Department is in the process of forming a Laity Prayer Warriors group. We would like to have the group established before our 7 Days of United Prayer in April. If you are passionate about prayer and have interest in being a part of this group, email me soon at email@example.com. Judy Edwards is the Chairman of the Evangelical Methodist Department of Prayer
Is Easter Really Interesting? by Dr. Jim Halbert
The first image that comes to my mind of
Easter, unfortunately, is not the resurrection. It is instead, an image I still see of a dog-eared and faded Kodachrome, of myself at a very young age, with crew cut gleaming, having been forced into an ill-fitting jacket and bow tie, trying to stand still for family pictures after a long morning at church. The second image of Easter is not much better. After almost 40 years of ministry under my belt, it is one of me trying, once again, to talk about the resurrection in such a way that will cause those who have heard it countless times to think, huh… that’s interesting! Instead of being enthralled with the story, I’ve been focused on how to tell it in a way that it sounds fresh and exciting. The question is, why do I think I need to say something new to make an old story sound fresh? I don’t. I just need to reiterate a truth that has changed the world, because the story itself has power! The resurrection is still on people’s minds, and is apparently still up for debate. Look at the magazine
racks at the super market check-out stands and you’ll see all sorts of alluring pictures and headlines claiming to have the latest information on proof of the resurrection of Jesus. The experts will all weigh in with absolutely no new information, but with ageold skepticism, that a supernatural occurrence could not have happened. They will roll out the many theories of Jesus living (apparently, he didn’t really die, he just rested a few days and came out of the grave), marrying and being buried in various places, and will then conclude that there is no empirical proof that Jesus rose from the dead. The magazines of 2,000 years ago in downtown Jerusalem were saying the same thing! With the assumed forgone conclusion that the supernatural doesn’t happen in a natural world (please explain love or even the capacity to imagine the supernatural from a purely naturalistic perspective), we have reduced Jesus to a powerful political figure, or a brilliant teacher, or even, in some cases, a failed religious leader whose opinions
What makes this wonderful story of the resurrection of Jesus “interesting” is the fact that it’s absolutely true, and without it we are all absolutely lost! can be weighed equally with every other leader that has ever walked this earth. The question of course is this: if Jesus wasn’t who the Bible says He was, or who countless millions of people over the past 2,000 years have said He was, why is the world still talking about Him and His resurrection? Jesus actually said He would die and rise from the dead (Luke 24:46). Then, according to scripture, He appeared to disciples and nondisciples, men and women, and to over 500 at one time in particular, before He ascended into heaven (I Corinthians 15:6). And in a patriarchal culture where women were looked down upon, don’t you think there could have been a better plan than to first announce the resurrection to women, and to one in particular who was known to have had 7 demons driven from her (John 20:11-18)? You can’t make this stuﬀ up and seriously expect it to resonate with non-believers — unless, of course, it’s true! Not only were there witnesses to the resurrection, those witnesses became so bold in their witness of the resurrection that they were willing to die for their story. The Apostle Paul, in response to the young Corinthian believers caught up in the pagan idea that life did not exist beyond the grave, or if it did, would be reserved only for those who were rich and powerful, said, “For if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless. And we apostles would all be lying about God — for we have said that God raised Christ from the grave. But that can’t be true if there is no resurrection of the dead. And if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins. In that case, all who have died believing in Christ are lost! And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world” (I Corinthians 15:13-19).
If the resurrection didn’t happen for Jesus and therefore, it won’t for mankind, then it makes sense that people would feel sorry for us missing out on all the fun. That is literally what Paul means when he’s reiterating to the young believers of Corinth the necessity of the resurrection and why the way they lived mattered. The resurrection means that my life, in the here and now, matters, and that the Jesus I follow actually did rise from the dead, did conquer sin on our behalf, and will reward us for our faith in both the present and in the eternal age to come. Paul did not say, “If Christ hasn’t been raised from the dead, don’t worry you’re going to heaven anyway.” No, he said, “If Christ hasn’t been raised, then we’re still guilty of our sins.” If we die guilty of sin and unforgiven, the Bible is clear that what awaits us will not be good (examine the three parables of Matthew 25). The resurrection of Jesus either makes our faith true, or it makes us complete fools that the world ought to pity. There is no other logical or reasonable option. I will once again stand in a pulpit this Easter, Lord willing, and tell again this ancient story. I will, however, not be wearing a bow tie. This time, I will be reminded that the way I tell the story, or the new angle I’ve discovered in my studies is not what will make it interesting. What makes this wonderful story of the resurrection of Jesus interesting is the fact that it is absolutely true, and without it we are all absolutely lost! Stay far from the critics who will once again bring up the age-old arguments against a supernatural event in what they believe to be a natural (only) world, because the changed lives of millions of people over the past 2,000 years tell us otherwise! How we live in view of the resurrection of Jesus, and His promise that we too will rise with Him, is the most important truth you and I will ever know. Dr. Jim Halbert is the lead pastor at Crossroads Community Church EMC in Nampa, ID.
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2019 Spring Issue