We live in a world of new fears and hopes. The world is changing so fast. The threats are increasingly great. The hopes often seem as distant now as ever before. What lies ahead? What lies ahead for the church; for faith? We have often had prophets that have seen the problems to where we are headed. One such prophet proclaimed. “The chief dangers that confront the coming century will be religion without the Holy Ghost, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, politics without God and heaven without hell.” No, this was not written in the 1990’s as it well could have been, anticipating the start of the 21st Century. No, this was written by one who was a Methodist preacher; a preacher of vision and mission; a preacher who, unfortunately, had to leave the Methodists to start his ministry in 1800’s. The Methodist’s name was William Booth. We know his ministry as the Salvation Army. Of any churches that may have a bigger outreach of mission than the United Methodist Church, the Salvation Army would be one.
And yes, the Salvation Army is a denomination. We may have more members, more church buildings, more schools and hospitals. Our emergency relief efforts may rival that of the Salvation Army. We have not been still in ministry by any means. But why did we have to give up our fervor for the saved soul? Why did we have to exhibit the “chief dangers” he warned about? Surely, mission work did not require giving up these essentials. Had he been able to have worked within Methodism, all that is Salvation Army would be today, in theory, United Methodist. Talk about mission! This brings me to my point.
In spite of the real concerns William Booth had, he persevered in doing the Gospel. He did not use the “errors” of others as an excuse for doing nothing. And, guess what. Even though we have manifested some things of his concerns, that has not kept us from proclaiming the Gospel and doing good. Sometimes we are at odds with each other but so far we have clung together. So what lies ahead? More of the same lies ahead.
Let us learn from Rev. Booth and our own experience. Keep our eyes open to the problems that are real. Let none of those things dissuade us from being faithful to the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us persevere in keeping and doing the faith in 2017. -- Ben
Recently, the Church Council elected to remove a line item from the budget called the Extra Mile for College & Homes. This fund was created several years ago by the Annual Conference to help support the Methodist Senior College Scholarship Fund, Spartanburg Methodist College, and the Methodist Homes Residents’ Assistance. Funding through the Conference budget regarding these items had been reduced and churches were asked to assist in funding these voluntarily. Aldersgate responded by making this a regular part of our budget; however, because of recent financial concerns, Council elected to remove this as a line item from the budget. As a result, we will work on this as a fundraising project for our church with funds designated to this effort, which we are calling the Extra Mile Campaign. For this effort, we are asking that you give up one thing for the month of January and contribute what you would have spent to the Extra Mile Campaign fund. For example, if you drink a cup of Starbucks coffee every day, consider giving up your Thursday cup ($3.25) during January ($13) and donate it to the fund. Our goal is to raise $1000 – that’s 77-people giving up one day of Starbucks for one month, or 38 people giving up two days of Starbucks for one month. Or 100 people giving up one $10 meal for the month of January (dinner at Longhorn or Outback or Olive Garden). Please prayerfully consider making this donation, either by marking your giving envelope or online contribution to “Extra Mile Campaign”.
We celebrate every year the birth of Jesus. We recount the events of that first Christmas with the shepherds and the angels, the star and the Magi, the long trek of Mary and Joseph to the “room-less” Bethlehem, not to mention the call to Mary and preparations by God with Elizabeth and the birth of John. It took some doing to get Christmas to become a reality. And while Christmas did not happen until Christ was born, it did not begin with His birth. Jesus was born at the “fullness of time,” a time determined years before the event. It came at the time of a certain Roman census. But before a Roman census, there had to be a Rome. The Son of David would sit forever on his father’s throne. But before there could be David’s son, there had to be David. You see where this goes. But how far back does this go?
Indeed, it can truly be said that Christmas began in the Garden of Eden, after the fall if not sooner! With the word to the serpent (Satan) that God would put “enmity between you and woman. And between your seed and her seed (Christ); He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” This is descriptive of the events that took place on the Cross of Christ. It was there in Jesus’ death that Satan bruised His heel. It is there also where Jesus bruised Satan’s head, defeating him and his rebellion against God. It was there, where God took the sins of the world upon Himself for our salvation, that the promise in the Garden was fulfilled.
But, of course, before there could be the cross of Christ there must be His glorious birth. In the fullness of time, conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of a virgin named Mary, Jesus the Christ, the Son of the Living God, was born. -- Ben