Dr. Tim’s Encouraging Word

I’m thinking about all that’s happening around the world, in our nation, state, and city. 

     That’s the backdrop of this Easter.  Easter does not eliminate the bad news, does it?  It’s true for all. Just during these past few weeks, we know of deaths, crimes, surgeries, hospitalizations, work loss or transition, disappointment with kids, tough decisions about aging parents, economic struggles or pain that won’t go away.  A text pops up with an amber alert or a senior alert.  I’m sure something or someone has brought a tear to your eye and an ache to your heart.  Even bad news from far-away refugee camps and war zones touches us with the hurt.

     There is more than enough bad news to go around.

     So we don’t eliminate the backdrop of bad news. 

     But we focus on the Good News.    
     So don’t eliminate the Good News of Easter.  Let the light of Jesus shine in your Darkness.   Let the magnetism of  Jesus’ resurrection overcome the pull of bad news.    Allow the beauty of spring and the joy of His resurrection be your soul’s anchor.

Note:  Christian seasons give us the opportunity to connect with Christ a bit more often.  Here’s your schedule for next week.  Add an experience to your week and make it holy.

Holy Week at First Methodist
Sunday, March 20
Palm Sunday Celebration – 8:30 and 10:45 a.m. Worship
Road to Resurrection for Families – 9:30 a.m.
Easter Egg Hunt at Hill Park – 2:00 p.m.
Monday  – Friday
Holy Week Prayer in the Sanctuary – noon to 1:00 p.m. (come and go)
Wednesday, March 23
Wednesday Night Live – 5:30 p.m. dinner, 6:30 p.m. programs
Thursday, March 24
Maundy Thursday Music Service in the Sanctuary – 7:00 p.m.
Friday, March 25

Good Friday Service featuring The Digital Age in the Activity Center – 7:00 p.m.

Dr. Tim’s Encouraging Word

The bunnies are coming out.  I now have three of them in my office that have been given to me over the years.  And I even have a Snoopy “bunny” with rabbit ears.  It must mean that Easter is coming.
I have an Easter Egg painted, and an Easter candle.  I’m getting in the mood for Easter.
This past week in one of our staff meetings, we shared memories from our first Easter as children.  It was amazing to hear the stories.  Several told of a “sunrise service” that was memorable.  It caused me to remember a sunrise service I attended as a child.  Of course it was early in the morning before kids should be awakened, but it was also cold and windy, and then, it was on top of a hill by the cemetery.  Yes, a cemetery!  I remember singing Up from the Grace He Arose with the few standing near while I looked around at the tombstones in the cemetery.  It was not a comforting experience.
Of course that was years ago. 
There are bunnies and chocolate and eggs and flowers and everything imaginable to remind us of Easter.  My understanding of Jesus’ resurrection is broader and deeper now than it was as a kid standing in that cemetery.  But, as you can tell, the image is stuck and the “recording” of the song is still playing in my mind.  I don’t mind bunnies and chocolate and eggs and flowers, and all the prompters we see.  They stay in my vision for a moment, but imagining the morning of the Resurrection is lasting.
Easter is about Jesus, but it’s about us, too—and eternal life.  Recently, we seem to be having frequent memorial services.  They are Christian memorial services, so we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, and our own future resurrection in the sense that we are headed to eternal life and heaven after death on earth.  Recently I mentioned these words, “Christ is on both sides of the grave.”
He arose. 
This is the season of bunnies and chocolate and eggs and candles—and the empty grave.  May the Spirit continue to teach us the broader and deeper lessons of Easter.
Your pastor,

Dr. Tim’s Encouraging Word

In recent months, there have been a lot of opinions and beliefs shared about God. A professor in a Christian university was disciplined for some remarks she said and wrote about Muslims. It is not uncommon for me to hear this as a conversation, “We all worship the same God—don’t we?” Usually, neither of us expects a theological discussion, but I do want to be polite and respectful. Besides, I really don’t know how deep they were thinking or what to talk about. 


It seems that we may be less certain about our faith than some are about their respective religions.  Long ago, I preached a sermon in which I explored some of the values in all religion, but ended up pointing to Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life.  I did not know a few folks would take me on, but we were all nice and calm about it.  Another way to address it is around the question, “Do All Religions Lead to God?”  I think my sermon said yes, BUT Christianity teaches that one religion leads to God—and that’s Christianity.  This doesn’t mean I need to be mean or hostile to followers of other religions, but it does mean that my faith is anchored in the belief in the God of Christianity.

I was glad to read this by William H. Willimon, an author, and now a retired Bishop of the United Methodist Church.

When I was a college chaplain, whenever the topic of religious differences on campus came up, there was always someone to say, “Well, I’m Methodist, you’re Muslim, she’s Jewish, but after all, we all worship God, don’t we?”  Eventually I found it necessary to answer, “No. As Christians we do not believe in some monistic, generic, vague, easily managed, and inoffensive god, we believe that God is Trinity. I suspect that some say, “Christians and Muslims worship the same God,” or some scholars speak of Jews, Muslims, and Christians as members of the “Abrahamic faiths,” transforming Jews and Christians into less offensive “Judeo-Christians” because they are desperate to unite a country with deep divisions. Long ago our government found that if you make God generic, private, and personal (in other words, the antithesis of Trinity) you are free to run the state as you please. Christians are those who believe that we haven’t said “God” until we’ve said “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” As John Wesley put it in his sermon on the Trinity, “these three are one.”

I’m not out to attack anyone for their different belief, but I am out to build confidence in those of us who follow Christ and often come up with nothing to say when the subject comes up.  I am not a specialist in other religions, but have found more than enough instruction in the scriptures to believe this way.


This Sunday, we’ll be worshipping “the three in one.”  It will be a rich experience.

And, it’s Valentine Day—how could you miss?

For Christ,


Dr. Tim’s Encouraging Word

     How inspiring this past Sunday to walk with you as we circled our campus, praying for our church as we journey through the building project. After a great 10:45 service, we walked out the doors to the sidewalk to read scripture about prayer. (I noticed not all were reading scripture; some were having a wonderful time meeting others, and sharing memories of the holidays.) The day was beautiful and the sunshine was warm. I thought of the African Christian song, “Siyahamba” (“We are Marching in the Light of God.”) It was good day, and we look forward to praying circles around our church, our friends and family, and anything/anyone when we want to focus our time of prayer. Dana Runyan, Valerie Hale and Billie Petersen, led a great team of volunteers (in the maroon t-shirts.) Kaci Rybolt from our staff was very helpful. It was additionally inspiring to hear all those around me praying together Psalm 150 when the bells rang out.

     In my sermon this past Sunday, I prayed a prayer you can use during these interesting and tough economic times, remembering the resources God provides for us.

The late Lloyd John Olgilvie was pastor of Hollywood Presbyterian Church and the Chaplain to the Senate, opening each session of the U.S. Senate with prayer. Perhaps we could use this prayer that he wrote:

Lord, I want to learn how to pray through tough times. Help me to know that You will equip me in advance as well as during the tough times. You will take up residence in me and provide the gift of faith to be applied to the crises I may have to confront. You are the Source of it all! You endow me with primary faith to accept You as Savior and Lord and invite you to make my soul Your home…but You also empower me with faith to accomplish what will be the very best for my life. So I don’t need to thrash about trying to conjure up enough faith to face tough times; rather I can claim Your faith in me and what can be done by You for Your glory in me and around me.
As I pray through tough times You will release in me the aspect of Your character I most need for the circumstances ahead—courage, patience, endurance, discernment, wisdom, tenacity, and hope. I will be faithful because I will be full of Your gift of faith to be expressed through me. You have offered me the abounding, unsearchable riches of Your own limitless resources. Today…for tomorrow! You are my strength in tough times. Amen.
See you Sunday at the “prayer circle” place!

Tim, Senior Pastor