“Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.”—Revelation 2:29
I have to confess, when I found out that we were beginning a series on the Book of Revelation, I rolled my eyes. Of the sixty-six books that make up our Bible, Revelation is probably the one that most revs up others, and wearies me. I’ve seen the cable shows where the “End Times’ Scholars” break down the news of the day through the lens of the Revelation. There are over 5,000,000 videos online that attempt to explain, intuit, or otherwise decode the book. I’m guessing here, but would estimate that’s roughly nine-and-a-half-years of video content (and growing every hour). For many of the “infant” believers this dense and confusing letter from an exiled prophet writing in First Century Greek can overshadow the entire rest of the Bible.
Signs and portents aside, I think I can cut through all the noise and reveal the real “secret” of Revelation. At the other end of the Bible, in the Genesis, the Lord calls out to Abram from Ur and tells him, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you…” This is only eleven chapters after God created the whole of the universe and created an Eden in which he placed mankind with the express purpose of spending time with them. From creation to the flood to Abram to Abraham, we learn that God is steadfast and true. That He is continuously seeking us out—individually, personally—because He wants to be our God.
From the fifty-second verse of the Bible onward we see how mankind is continuously overcomplicating this very simple relationship. God is God; we are not. He loves us and wants us to feel that love so clearly that we can set aside our petty foolishness and let Him be our God. Again, and again, He offers us pathways to Him: from leaders to judges to prophets and kings culminating with a Messiah and an indwelling Spirit (God showing us His triune nature).
The Book of Revelation is just the last word on the foundational truth. The secret of Revelation is that there is no secret. He has been calling out to us since Creation and He will continue to until He makes all things new again. It’s not up to us to decode the stars and the horns and the other parts of what John saw. We need to focus instead on the God of all creation and join in John’s prayer of, “Come, Lord Jesus.”
“The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen” (Revelation 22:21)
Have you ever known anyone who was picky, needy, and didn’t focus on the task in front of them? Well, I know of some people like that as well. I want to talk about a man named Giovanni who was born in 1181. His Father, Pietro, baptized him but did not want him to become a man of God. He wanted a son who was a businessman. A son who would reflect his love of France. Giovanni was in fact renamed because his Father loved France so much. He was renamed, Francesco, which means Frenchman.
Francesco was a spoiled child because his Father was wealthy. He was loved by everyone but was picky, needy, and didn’t focus. He didn’t do well in school because he dreamed about things. As he got older he began to lead a crowd of same aged youth. He would spend his nights partying. Even though he partied and was a dreamer, he was everything his Father wanted him to be.
Francesco, or as he was called Francis, wanted more than to be good at business to become wealthy. He wanted to be a knight! He got a chance when his town went to battle. Everyone was killed except those who were wealthy enough to be used for ransom. Francis was imprisoned. He remained happy while in captivity. After a year, he was ransomed. He went right back to partying. Not in the too distant future he went to be a knight in the Fourth Crusade. Just one day after he left he had a dream in which God told him he had been going about life the wrong way and that he needed to turn around and go home.
When he arrived home, everyone laughed at him. His Father was furious he had spent all this money on a suit of armor just for Francis to come home. Francis began talking to God. He spent more and more time in prayer. He continued to run a business while answering God’s call to return home. One day Francis was riding in the country and came to a leper. Francis went to the leper and kissed his hand. The leper returned the kiss. Francis had never been happier than that moment. He looked at this as a test from God.
While praying at an ancient church one day, God spoke to Francis and told him to repair His church. He thought God meant the little c, church. It was an old church and was falling apart. He began to take money and goods from his Father’s store. His Father was furious and drug Francis to the Bishop and demanded that the money be returned. Not only did Francis give his Father the money back but also all of his clothes. He went to the church and begged for stones to rebuild the church. But this was not the church that God was speaking of, God wanted the big C Church repaired. Francis began to preach. He peached about God and being obedient to God and the Church. One day Francis opened the Bible in three places. The first place was a command to the rich man to sell all his goods and give them to the poor, the next was when the apostles were told to take nothing on their journey, and finally to take up the cross daily. He took these literally.
Part of God’s brotherhood that Francis was a part of was to take care of ALL of God’s creation. Francis thought of the sparrow just as much his brother as a pope. He was a man of action. Because of his actions of living those commands from God that he read in the Bible we now know this man as St. Francis of Assisi. He came from wealth to discover that wealth was not what God had intended for man but for us to use our wealth and talents to take care of God’s creation. This included the poor, nature, and animals. We celebrate what St. Francis taught us from his time with God on October 4th. Because of his love of nature and animals we have a celebration of Blessing the Animals on October 8th, at 10:00am, here in our Church parking lot. This year as you pass people and animals, think of God’s command to take care of all of His creation.
Christian Education Coordinator
I have been preparing to teach a new Lay Servant course which is based upon the book, Soul Reset, by Junius B. Dotson. Reverend Dotson was like a man on fire, leading a fast-growing congregation, speaking on syndicated radio shows, and providing for his flock 24/7.
While performing a funeral, Rev. Dotson passed out. In his words, “one moment he was on the mountaintop and the next he was in the valley.” After being transported to the hospital by ambulance and having multitudes of tests run, the diagnoses was “extreme fatigue”. Not heeding his doctor’s advice, Rev. Dotson resumed his breakneck schedule.
The result was depression, despair, burnout, and shame. He tells his story now because there are so many people suffering in silence. He states that he felt “vulnerability and authenticity were signs of weakness and prevent you from sustaining your place on the mountaintop”.
Throughout his book Dotson stresses the 23rd Psalm. He does so because, although it was written at a time when David lived in a world of green pastures and still waters, today we live in a vibrant, pulsating, and fast paced world. And yet, if ever there was a time when we needed to rediscover our personal needs, it is now.
Many experience loneliness, emptiness, personal needs, and depression. We often allow the break neck pace of today consume and eventually rule our lives. We are driven by numbers, schedules and finances and we forget the “why we do what we do”. Dotson stresses that our discipleship is a lifelong journey that requires a steady connectedness to Jesus.
Since our church has been experiencing Testimony HQ, I feel we have created an air of openness, authenticity, and transparency by discussing stories of personal struggles. Dotson states that “people need a place to be vulnerable and authentic”. By letting others know they aren’t alone you can create a safe space whereby a healthy congregation creates healthy people.
How can we restore our connectedness and ensure that we and others restore our soul? It can be as simple as sharing our story with one another. By letting others know our struggles and weak times. How did you, or I, reclaim our discipleship? Who enjoys engaging in church tasks or even life tasks without passion or energy?
John Wesley taught that we should continually check our priorities and ask ourselves “how is it with your soul?” He further taught us that being truthful with ourselves spiritually we can learn to encourage one another and point one another back to Jesus.
As I wrote earlier, we get caught up in doing so many things and going so many paces that we often lose track of what we need, a closer relationship with God and other disciples. Can your story encourage others? By sharing your story, it can create a sense of openness and authenticity and may lead others to stay connected and guide them to be a stronger Jesus-centered discipleship, restoring their soul. If you are interested in sharing your story, please let Pastor Nathan know.
Lay Servant and
Mission 5000 Coordinator
He's a walking contradiction
Partly truth and partly fiction
Taking every wrong direction on his lonely way back home
There's a lot of wrong directions on that lonely way back home—Kris Kristofferson,
The Pilgrim, Chapter 33
We’re curious creatures—driven to and by the passions that can overwhelm our senses of reason and good judgement. Once lit, the fuses of our passion seemingly have to burn all the way to the blasting cap, and from there the chemical contents being held under pressure explode, spectacularly—often with devastating effects.
Even more confounding, it seems the opposing passions balance us out. We temper anger with contentment, love with disdain, greed with charity, and peacefulness with violence. We are chemical contents held under pressure in an imperfect quasi-equilibrium—until we aren’t (again with the spectacular explosions).
Why do we live like this? How do we make it through a day when we are a knotted ball of emotional yarn (often soaked in gasoline and set afire)? We rage at those we love most? We volunteer to help others and neglect the simplest of necessities for ourselves? We aspire to WWJD but secretly dream of WWCED (What Would Clint Eastwood Do?).
It's not really all that hard to understand—beyond the pitifulness of Falstaff’s mere mortal man assessment—our warring passions are the inevitable result of day-to-day living in the world while being named by Christ as, “not of the world, just as I am not of the world.” (John 17:16)
We study scripture, we spend time in prayer because we know that God is our refuge and our strength (Psalms 46:1), a mighty fortress according to Martin Luther. We know that Christ’s teachings of peace and love, of turning cheeks, giving coats, and walking extra miles are how we should live. How we actually live, though, is much closer to what the Apostle Paul described when he declared, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” (Romans 7:15)
This week, Pastor Nathan is going to throw us right in the discomforting nexus of opposing passions: a God who is the embodiment of Love acting in rageful vengeance. I can’t wait to hear what he has to teach us, because dear reader, this is a case where I can identify the component parts but cannot make the puzzle fit together into a picture that makes sense to me. I trust in the Lord—I bend my knee and my tongue confesses that Jesus is my Lord—and I beg forgiveness for my doubts—the ultimate, eternal contradiction of passion. I pray I don’t explode.
Change can be hard but most of the time change is for the better. At Jacksonville First United Methodist Church we have changes coming up. These changes are because of growth. Growth is always a good thing.
We have young adults that have graduated High School and need a LIFE Group. We have families with young children either returning to Church or finding us for the first time. We will have three new LIFE Groups beginning the first of September. Two of these will be on Sunday mornings and one will meet off campus. Alison Huskey will be leading a LIFE Group for families with children. Erica Tilley and Steve Bouwknegt will be leading a group for Young Adults. Both of these classes will be meeting in the Connection Center. Lezlie Lovercheck is also leading a group of adults who would prefer to meet during the week. Sunday mornings are full for our Praise Band, and those who work the sound and video. This will give them an opportunity to join a LIFE Group. If you are interested in joining one of these groups, contact the Church office for more information.
Our Children’s Department is having growth as well. Our Modern Service has more young families coming which means children! We will be offering a Kid’s Church during part of the Modern Service. The kids will be dismissed during offering and go upstairs to our new Kid’s Chapel. They will learn about prayer, worship, and have a lesson or activity pertaining to a Bible Story. We are very excited for this opportunity to teach our children in a new way. If you would like to help with this, please contact Stephanie Dunn.
We are also working closely with the JFUMC Childcare Center to invite families to our events. The Childcare Center is growing and thriving. We have Chapel with them once a week during the school year. They are so eager to learn and have fun in Chapel.
I am excited about the new life being breathed in JFUMC, and I hope you can feel it and are excited also.
Christian Education Coordinator