I’ve had several people stop me on the street and ask, “So, where was your column last month?”
And to this I can only reply, “I’m sorry. Things have gotten pretty busy here lately!”
As an explanation, in between pastoring Bear Branch and Purdin UMC’s; working my secular job; being a foster parent; and spending time with family and friends, the Lord has added another responsibility to His servant’s ever-growing platter of things to do…so starting on January 1st, I was named as pastor of Pleasant Grove UMC. Hence, there are now three churches within the charge!
And, to be honest, I don’t see it as a burden at all; I am having the time of my life as I not only minister to these congregations; I feel as if they are ministering to me as well. I so look forward to Sunday mornings and evenings as we gather in worship and as we open up God’s Word to learn together. There is a sense of true Christian fellowship as we venture into understanding those spiritual truths that can only be revealed through the Scriptures.
I was telling Bill Koch, our Mark Twain District Superintendent, the other day, “In my heart I feel that this is what I should have been doing all of my life.” The conviction of God’s call becomes more and more relevant with each passing day, and the passion to tell others about Him has ignited not only my life…but also in the lives of those in the congregations where I serve. It’s not only exciting; it’s truly a blast!
So as I look ahead to this new year and the many challenges that wait, I can only look skyward and say, “Full speed ahead, God!” Because I know that there’s no other way for me to look at things except with a forward-facing and laser-focused outlook for the future as we press towards to mark for the prize of the high calling in Christ Jesus; there are souls to be witnessed to, a Disciple bible study to be a part of, Course of Study classes to start in February, Sunday afternoon dinners with congregants, a new youth group to form…etc. etc. etc. And all of these things, while keeping us busy, also have one common denominator: loving our neighbors as ourselves.
That’s an important lesson that God has patiently reinforced in my life these past six months. It’s made me realize that this world, indeed, is truly and absolutely lost without Jesus. Sure, we can have plenty of stuff, and we can get storage buildings to put that stuff in so we can get even more stuff; and then we can clutter our lives with all of that stuff and pretend that we’re happy…but in reality, we just use the acquisition of stuff as an excuse to fill that empty hole in our hearts; a void that can only be filled with the love of God.
Jeannie used to joke with me (before we were married) that she had never seen a single man with the amount of junk that I had accumulated over the years. And it was true; I DID have bunches and bunches of useless items that I held on to for strictly sentimental reasons. It took me a while, btu I was finally able to rid myself of that stuff after realizing that it was doing nothing but bogging me down spiritually. Once I did that, I felt refreshed and renewed and ready to tackle on new tasks for the Lord.
And so it is for this year; our family is primed and ready for a great year to reach out to others and lead them into a saving relationship with Jesus. We see that the fields are truly ripe for a bountiful harvest for Him as people are seeking something; anything; to help them through this life. Most of all, we sense a great spiritual revival about to break out across our area during this election year when the economy is in doubt and war still rages on overseas with no end in sight.
The outlook to many may be gloomy…but I say with confidence in the Lord, “Full speed ahead, my friends!”
Richard is the pastor of the United Methodist Churches at Purdin, Bear Branch, and Pleasant Grove. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via his online blog at https://sliceofhome.wordpress.com. His column appears monthly in the Linn County Leader.