Updated: Nov 24
By Dr. Bascom Ratliff
Pastor, Parker/Beagle/Fontana United Methodist Churches
The inspiration for today’s message is from:
John 17:17. Sanctify them by truth; your word is truth.
John 10: 27. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.
As I continue on my journey with Jesus, I am finding that the truth, God’s truth, is sometimes difficult to grasp. Some things are easier for me. I absolutely believe that God loves me. I absolutely believe that Jesus died for my sins. I absolutely believe that God wants me to love others. And I absolutely believe that God wants me to follow Jesus.
However, I sometimes struggle with the truth about baptism, communion, the Sabbath, and other church practices that seem to divide us. I recently had a discussion with a colleague, Jim, who was adamant that only adults should be baptized. And they had to be fully submersed. He also believes that the only proper way to observe the Sabbath was on a Saturday, the seventh day of the week. He thinks communion is simply a church activity and not a holy sacrament.
I was alarmed by Jim’s slaughter of these three sacred beliefs but after catching my breath and regaining focus, I was able to regain my composure. I decided to have my third cup of coffee and pursue a few other critical beliefs that I believe were important. Jim also had his third cup of coffee and the two of us had a good discussion about God’s truth.
Sometimes it’s much easier to point out our differences than our similarities. The Christian community seems fairly fragmented when discussing God’s truth about abortion, sexual identity, politics, and worship. At times, it appears we are discussing and serving a God with many faces and many truths. However, to be clear, my accepted truth is that there is one God, one church headed by Jesus Christ, and one Spirit who gives us gifts of love, joy, faith, and hope.
Too many times we interpret God’s word to fit our preconceived notions of what the truth is, or is not. We struggle with change. We rebel against humility and meekness. And we become very self-righteous when interpreting the Bible to fit our beliefs and values. I have read too many books and watched too many videos that claim exclusive rights to God’s truth. Even with my limited knowledge of the Bible, I know with certainty that many of these videos and books are missing the mark.
There is one God and one truth. And we serve a living Christ.
My intent is not to disparage or sow doubt on the Bible but rather to point out that our using God’s word to support our secular and political beliefs is simply wrong. I do my best to encourage others to read the Bible with an open mind and a prayerful spirit. When we ask the hard questions of our faith and our Christian practices, and follow these questions with sincere prayer and humility, we do a much better job of understanding God’s plan for us.
There is a good reason that God compares us to sheep and identifies Jesus as our good Shepherd. Sheep tend to be obedient. They are followers. They are herd animals, who live life best as a member of the flock. And, equally important, sheep are not aggressive, vicious, or hostile to their Shepherd. I pray that as we search for, and speak to, the truth, that we do so as obedient sheep who follow and seek to please our Lord and savior Jesus Christ.
If you want to hear more about God’s wonderful promise of unfailing love and enjoy a great morning of music and worship, please come and worship with us.
We will worship at the Fontana United Methodist Church during December 2023.
We will be having an Advent Bible study at the Beagle UMC. Our first class is on November 29, 2023 at 6:30 p.m. All are welcome.
All Sunday services are at 10 a.m.
All are welcome to worship in God’s House.
Dr. Bascom Ratliff (913-710-5748)
United Methodist Churches