Friday, August 29, 2014

Things Methodists Should Know- 2

Where did we come from, we Methodists? I try to remember our own story when I start fussing about the current religious situation – with new churches started every day of every brand and no brand. It goes back to our founder, John Wesley. Father John was born June 17, 1703. He was one of nineteen children of Susannah and Samuel Wesley. Samuel was a priest in the Church of England, and poor. There were no public schools; so, Susannah was the teacher. She taught each of them, the children that survived, reading, writing, arithmetic, and religion. She was a profound influence on her children. Also, among the children was Charles. John would grow up in the Church of England and would respond to a call to be a priest like his father. He attended Oxford University, with his brother Charles. By all counts, John was a scholarly, introverted, snobbish Englishman. But something started to happen with him at Oxford. Weekly he would get together for Bible Study with some other students. They would study and then visit prisoners to witness. Think of these university students visiting others who were in prison. These students were made fun of by others and given the name “The Holy Club”. Then, they were made fun of again and named: “Methodists”, because of their stern methods and disciplines. It was meant to be a term of derision but it stuck. And, so it began. John himself went through many ups and downs in his spiritual life. He did not feel that he was doing enough to be right with God. The disciplines where there, but not the experience. So, he met and prayed with other Christians looking for the deep experience of faith. One of the deepest of his experiences came on May 24, 1738. He went to a meetinghouse where they were studying the Book of Romans. And John wrote in his journal:
In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death. I began to pray with all my might for those who had in a more especial manner despitefully used me and persecuted me. I then testified openly to all there what I now first felt in my heart. But it was not long before the enemy suggested, “This cannot be faith; for where is thy joy?” Then was I taught that peace and victory over sin are essential to faith in the Captain of our salvation; but that, as to the transports of joy that usually attend the beginning of it, especially in those who have mourned deeply, God sometimes giveth, sometimes withholdeth, them according to the counsels of His own will. After my return home, I was much buffeted with temptations, but I cried out, and they fled away. They returned again and again. I as often lifted up my eyes, and He “sent me help from his holy place.” And herein I found the difference between this and my former state chiefly consisted. I was striving, yea, fighting with all my might under the law, as well as under grace. But then I was sometimes, if not often, conquered; now, I was always conqueror. Thursday, 25.—The moment I awakened, “Jesus, Master,” was in my heart and in my mouth; and I found all my strength lay in keeping my eye fixed upon Him and my soul waiting on Him continually. Being again at St. Paul’s in the afternoon, I could taste the good word of God in the anthem which began, “My song shall be always of the loving-kindness of the Lord: with my mouth will I ever be showing forth thy truth from one generation to another.” Yet the enemy injected a fear, “If thou dost believe, why is there not a more sensible change? I answered (yet not I), “That I know not. But, this I know, I have ‘now peace with God.’ And I sin not today, and Jesus my Master has forbidden me to take thought for the morrow.” Wednesday, June 7.—I determined, if God should permit, to retire for a short time into Germany. I had fully proposed, before I left Georgia, so to do if it should please God to bring me back to Europe. And I now clearly saw the time was come. My weak mind could not bear to be thus sawn asunder. And I hoped the conversing with those holy men who were themselves living witnesses of the full power of faith, and yet able to bear with those that are weak, would be a means, under God, of so establishing my soul that I might go on from faith to faith, and from “strength to strength.” [The next three months Wesley spent in Germany visiting the Moravians.]
More later. Blessings! Dave Nichols

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Things Methodists Should Know- 1

I am starting a series of blogs on: Things Methodists Should Know. Today I want to talk about the three books of Methodists. The first is, of course, the Bible. Any Christian denomination has the Bible as its main book. The founder of Methodism called himself “A man of one book.” The Biblical narrative is the basis of our common life together. We read the Bible on most every occasion, but especially in worship. The Bible is read and the preacher draws a sermon from the Bible. While you won’t find many Methodist “literalists”; we do take the Bible seriously. There are parts of the Bible which are meant to be taken literally; others are to be taken figuratively, or metaphorically. “Love your neighbor” is have to take any way but literally, though Methodists allow that Christians might find all kinds of different ways to fulfill that scripture. The Bible is the primary means by which we meet Jesus and learn of him and the Christian call to follow. The Second book is the “Methodist Hymnal”. Methodists have always been a singing people. John Wesley’s brother Charles wrote many hymns that we sings regularly. John was the preacher; Charles, the hymn writer. From early days, in a kind of revivalist tradition on the early frontier of this country, Methodists were singers. You will still find in most Methodist Churches a love for hymns, though the modern world wants more than that it seems. Methodist theology is worked out in our hymns: Love divine, all love’s excelling Joy of heaven to earth come down Fix in us they humble dwelling All they faithful mercies crown. Jesus, thou art all compassion, Pure, unbounded love thou art. Visit us with thy salvation Enter every trembling heart. Another great Methodist hymn is: “O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing”. If you been in a Methodist Church recently, you’ve probably sung out of the Hymnal. The third book, the one that most Methodists know little about is the Book of Discipline. This book is a history book in that it contains the story of our beginnings to the present day. It contains the theology of the church, and its growing attempts to speak on the issues of the day. It contains our form of government. All churches must have certain officers, but there is more freedom than ever to experiment with organizational structure. Our requirements for ordination and expectations of ordinands are there. The expectations of members of the United Methodist church are there as well. Some say that this is our law book, and there are laws and policies which we have to follow. But, more than that, The Book of Discipline is our book of Covenant. All Methodists in the world are governed by this book. We are in this book connected to every other Methodist anywhere. The first thing to know is that we have three books. Blessings! Dave Nichols

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

A Time of Prayer

At Bethel, we are embarking on a new journey. It’s something that I have never down, something that I have never before asked my people to do. That is, we are launching and event called 100 Days of Prayer. We will begin on September 14. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have always taught my people and challenged them to pray always about everything. But this event is different. It requires a specific commitment of time and energy for the specific purpose of prayer. Now, I don’t want to be presumptuous; I know that my people pray. God is working around here that’s proof that someone is praying. I pray for everything and everybody, including myself. But, our times and our situation in the world call us to a deeper ministry of prayer and commitment. It’s one thing to pray. It’s quite another to commit 100 days to an effort like this. I am happy that we have so far 49 persons who have committed to this task. A part of my calling as a pastor is to call my people to God in Jesus Christ. Such an emphasis in prayer will turn our hearts to God as the source of all ministry and life in our church and in our lives. What will God do if we turn to pray with such intensity and mission? What will God do with us? Where will God call us to go, to be? The temptation in all prayer is to bring my own agenda to the task. I know what needs to be done; I just need to enlist God’s help for my list of things to be done. But, what if God will give us an over-arching agenda that is greater than all our small agendas and will draw into the future that he has prepared for us? It’s time as a church for us to bring everything and everyone to God in prayer asking for God’s vision for us. Prayer is not something that we just add-on to whatever is going on. Prayer is the gift of God that calls us to place everything, and everyone under the guidance of God’s Holy Spirit. It’s time to ask God as a church to change and move us in the direction of his will. Sure, we’re rocking along just fine, but God wants us to go deeper in our relationship with each other and deeper in our relationship with God. I am excited that we have already 49 persons who are committed to this. I am excited that many more will be praying for God to act. I wait with my people for the vision of God’s will. How will we know it’s God’s vision? Because we can’t do it without God. Blessings! Dave Nichols

Welcome

Thanks for checking out my blog. I'm new to this, as you can probably see. But, I, like you, have convictions and ideas worth sharing. I hope this will be an opportunity to connect with others who are Christian and/or religious. I am happily United Methodist. I am committed to the basic teachings of our church, and to the compassionate outreach to the world.

I hope these pastoral ponderings will generate something in you that is hopeful.
Blessings!
Dave

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About Me

A graduate of Newberry College and Duke University Divinity School.  I have served as a pastor in the United Methodist Church since 1975.

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