Winter Newsletter – Hope from John 15 and 16
Dear Renew Network,
In the United Methodist Church, all eyes are focused on General Conference. The delegates have been chosen and legislation has been prepared. The stakes are high for the Church. Will the United Methodist Church preserve its integrity or bow to the demand of our culture?
I am discouraged, if not dismayed, that our denominational leaders continue to bend over backward to accommodate the LGBTQ agenda to change the Church’s time- honored teachings on morality and sexuality.
The bishops have allowed this group to disrupt the last five General Conferences that I have attended. After the 2012 General Conference, over two thousand pastors vowed to break church law and have ignored The Book of Discipline – all without any real consequences. This past year the Connectional Table recommended that the church abandon our historical, scriptural teaching on human sexuality. And now the document which contains all the rules and petitions for General Conference, the Advanced Daily Christian Advocate, has issued guidelines for conversation that are clearly weighted to advantage the LGBTQ cause, even to the point of asking all present not to assume male and female pronouns for persons they do not know.
The LGTBQ caucuses have vowed to disrupt our General Conference in Portland with tactics designed to be even more demanding than ever before. These demands and the accommodation of these demands have become more blatantly defiant with each year.
Perhaps you, like me, have been asked by numerous friends, “Why are you still in the United Methodist Church?” Where do we find hope in the midst of this chaos? Where did Jesus’ disciples turn to find hope after He was betrayed, arrested, and crucified? The Gospel of John gives us the answer to all these questions.
Certainly in the days leading up to the Crucifixion, the disciples faced a time of utter confusion, of debilitating anxiety, fear, and, of course, intense suffering and pain. They faced no less, and likely much more, confusion and doubt than we do in our current crisis. Keep in mind that Jesus told His disciples that they would weep and lament and have bitter sorrow, but He promised their sorrow would turn to joy. How so?
Jesus had warned of the lawlessness that would occur. Who can doubt that we are in a time of lawlessness: many in our ranks protest; they ask us to change Church law and the Church’s teaching on human sexuality. Bishops, pastors and church staff work contrary to Church teaching, and little or nothing happens to discipline them.
Jesus also warned the disciples that they would be hated, and Jesus traced that hatred to its origin – hatred of Him (John 15: 18-19). The nature of the world is selfish. Jesus points us to the fact that the world’s selfishness presents us with opposition that creates trials for Christians. The resultant hatred is a sign that the disciples are chosen “out of the world.” Let us remember that we too are called “out of the world,” and let us not be tempted to compromise with it.
Christians are called to be love. Love is defined by Jesus Himself: “If you keep My commandments you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” (John 15: 9-10). Real love is characterized by obedience, not by selfish demands that defy scripture or offer misinterpretations of the truth by which we are called to live our lives. Let us not be tempted or confused by failing to understand the true meaning of love. And let us not embrace an understanding of grace that cheapens the love of the Father in giving His only begotten Son. Love is obedience, and grace is not cheap but costly. It is not love to condone what God does not condone.
Part of understanding the joy that would eventually be the disciples’ was Jesus’ promise of the Holy Spirit, the Helper, whom they had not fully experienced prior to the Resurrection. He tells His disciples that the Holy Spirit will guide them into all truth. Then Jesus shows them how they will know the truth and the work of the Spirit: The Spirit will not speak on His own authority. “(The Spirit) will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine.” (John 16: 14-15 See also verses 12-15).
Today we are told by the LGBTQ caucuses in the Church that the Holy Spirit is making known new revelation when it comes to our understanding of human sexuality. But we are able to judge these “new revelations” for what they are, because Jesus clearly taught that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are ONE. They are in perfect unity and they do not contradict one another. Furthermore, the Spirit does not contradict God’s Word.
So our hope and joy are in Jesus Himself and in the Holy Spirit. He left us the Spirit that we might be kept in Christ’s teaching and His truth. Hope is also seen in the words He gave the disciples, which are found at the end of John 16. After warning His disciples of the hatred that would come their way, after warning them of the confusion and turbulence that would occur after His arrest, after promising them the guidance of the Holy Spirit – Jesus makes an extraordinary promise. It is found in John 16: 20 and following:
Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy. A woman when she is in labor has sorrow because her hour has come; but as soon as she has given birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish for joy that a human being has been born.
New birth is promised! New birth brings joy! Let us not be surprised by our current trial. Let us persevere. I believe out of the travail in the beloved Church of John Wesley, new birth is coming. I believe it, because it is promised by Jesus Himself. Out of the confusion, the doubt, the anxiety, fear, and pain will come the Church of Jesus Christ. It will not be the church proposed by the Connectional Table or encouraged by the Advanced Daily Christian Advocate or demanded by the angry voices. It may not come in the timing we desire. But out of the confusion it will come. The true Church will prevail. And with it will come the real love and healing for which the world is so desperate.
Katy Kiser – Renew Network Team Leader
I want to extend a special thank you to all those of you who remembered Renew this past year. Your prayers and financial gifts are very appreciated. If you did not make an end of the year gift, please prayerfully consider doing so. Our expenses for General Conference will be substantial. Your gift will go a long way to help our Renew team ensure that secular agendas are rejected and needed legislation is passed. There will be more about that in my next email. Until then please don’t forget to visit the website. There you will find both new resources and a Call to Prayer, which I hope you will use and share with others.
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