“Rejoice always. Pray continually. Give thanks in every situation because This is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Don’t suppress the Spirit-inspired Messages, but examine everything carefully and hang on to what is good.”
-1 Thessalonians 5: 16-21 (CEB)
I hope this letter finds you and your loved ones well, in good health and in cheerful spirit. I know it has been a trying week, month, and year. Although we have not been gathered in person, my prayers to God have been for the encouragement of your Spirit, the safety and the health of you and your loved ones, and the abundance of your faith in our Redeemer, Jesus Christ. I know you have been praying for me and my family as well, and I can feel the hedge of protection those prayers provide. Thank you for that.
It is times of struggle where growth in our faith can often occur. This growth is because we must lose our own understanding and often rely on a deeper dependence on God. In this way balance can be found and our faith brings us into a right relationship with God. Oswald Chambers writes, “God wants you to understand that it is a life of faith, not a life of emotional enjoyment of His blessings.” Our faith can lead us down righteous, yet challenging, paths. For to grow in faith, it must often be tested and tried. We have certainly been meeting those conditions as individuals and as a group.
I have not been immune from these trials and my logic has been in competition with the nudgings of my faith for quite some time. To best explain, I will use another Oswald Chambers quote, “Nothing that Jesus ever said is common sense, but is revelation sense, and is complete, whereas common sense falls short.” Because of this, I have found it prudent and necessary to listen to the direction of the Spirit I have discerned, rather than to try to fight it off with my personal inclinations. That being the case, I have taken the steps to withdraw from the Elder Ordination process in the United Methodist Church and will be resigning from my role as Pastor of the United Methodist Church of Chugiak at a time deemed appropriate by the Bishop, District Superintendent, SPR Committee, and me.
The word that comes to mind is “change”. The feeling the word evokes is not something new to us in the season of life we have currently been living, but it still can pack a punch when it comes to the uncertainty of the path ahead. Believe me, I understand change can be just as difficult as it is necessary. If changing our hearts and our lives were easy, it would not be a daily struggle for us to live for the God who loves us and covers us in Grace under the shadow of the cross. Yet, to continue to grow in faith we must be willing to continually change; to respond to the call on our lives and to live in the Spiritual gifts we have been provided. That is the path I have chosen.
It has been an honor to worship, to pray, to laugh, to mourn, and to live with you in our shared faith in Jesus Christ. Life is a celebration of the released Spirit and, together, we have carried that Spirit in the heart of the UMC of Chugiak congregation. God is asking us all to grow and to respond in faith to the gentle nudgings of the Spirit. Thank you for the part you have played in my growth and I hope I have played a part in yours. “Jesus died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with him. So continue encouraging each other and building each other up, just like you are doing already.” (1 Thessalonians 5: 10-11).