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8002 U. S. Highway 301 South, Riverview, FL  33578  813-677-5995
Suffering and Evil

The practice of ministry has affected my understanding of suffering and evil by examining a question that has become a universal one in which both churched people and unchurched people unilaterally ask: “If God is a loving God why does God allow evil and suffering happen in the world, especially when epidemic diseases or natural disasters occur such as AIDS, hurricanes, tsunamis, the death of young parents or children, and shootings especially in the church?” This universal question constantly causes people to seek answers. This question does not have an easy answer, although it is through my practice of ministry that I am able to better understand suffering and evil in the world.

During the crisis of losing a loved one, or in other examples as listed above I have disciplined myself to find better ways to understand suffering and evil during my ministerial journeys by utilizing observation and effective listening. While observing times of crisis, I have remained silent, so I could grieve with the people who lost their loved one(s) or who are experiencing suffering and evil. I have tried not to overwhelm them with answers. It isn’t that I don’t know the biblical references or don’t have any answers to offer. It is just that it is not the right time to answer such questions. During the time of crisis, evil, and/or suffering I could exegete Genesis 3:1-13 to show that God is not the promoter of evil and suffering although I hold this explanation until the time of Bible studies or Sunday morning services to empower people with the knowledge, so they can better understand the root of evil and suffering.

We are created to be dependent on God, but we tend to believe that we are independent. This is how we fall short. Shirley Guthrie is right when she said, “People who fall from their humanity in the image of God are unable to do good and are prone to evil.” Evil and suffering are introduced into the world only by the free will of humans. Free will is indisputably good. The use of free will can be for either good or evil, and the free creature bears the sole responsibility for its misuse.

The practice of ministry helps to understand that evil and suffering come from the pride of humanity. Most evil and suffering in the world are the fruit of sin. During my ministerial practice, I have learned that evil and suffering are not too far from us in the church. Evil is the absence of good. When people who live around us are void of goodness they cause us to suffer. We must remember that God remains in the midst of our lives whenever we face evil and suffering. God enters into our suffering, and we are not alone. Jesus being crucified on the cross is a prime example. God suffered with Jesus on the cross to save humanity from evil.

Jesus embodies how we need to embrace ministry with compassion and sympathy. The incarnation of Jesus into this world illustrates our response to evil and suffering. When someone is sick or dying, he or she does not really need an explanation; they need compassion and caring. That person wants us to be with him or her to share our love and to understand their suffering and pain.

It is with God’s grace that we focus on His Word and prayer as a way to conquer evil. Because Christ has victory over death, I understand that death has no power over me. For this reason, I have a full conviction to serve God with all my heart, and to live under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Suffering cannot separate me from the love of God (Romans 8:39). I have learned in my practice of ministry to put complete trust in God.

Pastor Louis Telcy
Introducing Our New Lay Pastor
Pastor Louis Telcy has invited me to come on board as a volunteer Lay Pastor at RUMC. I’m looking forward to becoming a part of this community of Christ. I am willing to do all I can in spreading God’s word. I have semi-retired from my own ministry of 11 years, and I am excited to get back into a church environment.

After just a few Sundays attending here, I have been warmly welcomed by everyone. I’m looking forward to getting to know each one of you by name as a brother or sister in Christ. A copy of my background information is available in the church office for anyone who would like to see it—just ask our Administrative Assistant, Betty Howard. I have provided my contact information below.

Jim C. Butner
1321 Fairway Greens Drive
Sun City Center, FL 33573
jbutner@tampabay.rr.com
Home Phone: (813)634-3114
Cell Phone: (813)422-9954

GOD – THE GREAT “I AM”

God’s use of the “I AM” name throughout scripture is like a meal that is so satisfying and life-giving that you want to return to it again and again. 

To Abraham, who faced an impossible circumstance with no seeming way out, God called himself Jehovah Jireh (I AM your provider.) 

In Exodus, when the people of Israel were wounded and sick because of their sin, God revealed himself as Jehovah Rapha (literally, I AM your healer.) 

In Leviticus, when Moses laid out the law—the great description of how to walk uprightly with God, the people said “who could ever live this way?” God responded by revealing himself as Jehovah Mekoddishkem (I AM your sanctifier.) 

When King David felt lost, confused, and with no friends left in the world, he called God Jehovah Raah (I AM your shepherd.) 

To Isaiah, who wasn’t sure how he would survive another day, God proclaimed Himself to be Jehovah Sabaoth (I AM your defender who fights for you.)

When Jeremiah was discouraged by Judah’s persistent inability to walk faithfully before God, he said “How can we survive? We are so sinful.” God replied that he was Jehovah Tsidkenu (I AM your righteousness.)

In Ezekiel’s day, the exiled people of Judah felt scared, alone, and besieged by enemies on all sides. To Ezekiel, God said that he was Jehovah Shammah (I AM ever present.)

In the Gospel of John in the New Testament, Jesus takes this “I AM” name unto Himself. He applies the “I AM” concept to our greatest areas of brokenness and need.

To those who hunger, he says “I AM the bread of life.” (John 6:35)
To those who thirst, he says “I AM the living water.” (John 7:38-39)
To those in darkness, he declares, “I AM the light of the world.” (John 8:12)
To those who need a fresh start in life, he asserts, “I AM the door.” (John 10:9)
To those who feel abandoned, he says “I AM the Good Shepherd.” (John 10:14)
To those who feel lost, confused, or afraid of dying Jesus says, “I AM the way, the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6)

To the unrighteous, Jesus says “I will be your righteous covering.” To the powerless, he says “I will be your defense.” To the empty, he says “I will be your fullness.” To the dead, he says, “I’ll be your resurrection.” And to the defeated, he says, “I’ll be your hope.”

Pastor J. D. Greear
Pastor, Summit Life Baptist Church, Raleigh-Durham, NC
President, Southern Baptist Convention
We Need Relational Evangelism

Q: Isn’t it enough just
 to “live” the Christian
 life and let that be my 
witness?
A popular Christian meme 
identifies our role as being
 “the hands and feet of 
Jesus.” Living out our 
faith IS vital for Christ’s 
followers. But speaking 
out is important as well. 
 The truth is that 
evangelism involves 
both our “walk” and our
 “talk”. People need to 
hear what has made a 
difference in our lives as well as to see the difference. Remember faith comes from hearing the message of Christ (Romans 10:17) We are not merely Jesus’ hands and feet; we are his voice as well.

Q: Do have any advice on reaching a person who is resistant to any spiritual dialog, let alone a gospel presentation?
First, remember that evangelism is a process, so don’t give up. That process can take years for some people. Secondly, a door may open up during a time of need in your friend’s live—something such as an illness, divorce, job loss, or a financial crisis. Your support at such crucial times can become a strategic opportunity to discuss their real need for a relationship with God. Finally, there is no substitute for prayer. Good advice is “Talk to God about people before you talk to people about God.”

Q: I get so “turned off” by the lifestyle of non-Christians that I don’t want to even be around them. Any suggestions?
We must remember that people separated from Christ are spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1-3), spiritually blind (2 Corinthians 4:3-5), and spiritual captives of the devil (2 Timothy 24-26). That means that the non-believer is not the enemy—the non-believer is the victim of the enemy.

The recurring theme of the Bible is that lost people matter to God. So, ask God for a heart of compassion, and then move toward these dear people. Remember that there is no impact without contact. Several times in the Gospels, Jesus was accused of being “a friend of sinners”. He never negated that. The title “friend of sinners” should describe us as well as we build eternal relationships.

Q: I don’t have time to do everything you suggest for building relationships with lost people. Any advice?
We are advocating the approach of lifestyle evangelism. The beauty of lifestyle evangelism is that it is a lifestyle, not just a particular moment or event. It’s also important to remember that our “time” (like our talents and our treasures) is a resource that God has given us to invest in people. If you find that you are too busy, perhaps a prayerful evaluation of your schedule may be in order. Another idea is to “double up”. This simply means to invite your seeking friends to join in activities that you are already involved in. As you are going to the game or the concert or out shopping, invite your seeking friend along, and invest the time for eternity.

Ed and Gwen Diaz
71:17 Ministry

What Kind of Christian?

Maybe it’s my age, the fact that I’m in my 40th year of full-time ministry or that I’ve been a bishop for a while, but, for some reason, I’ve recently been asking myself, “What kind of Christian do I want to be?” The interesting thing about my response is that it always begins with the kind of Christian I don’t want to be.

I don’t want to be one kind of Christian in public and another in my private life. I don’t want to be the kind of Christian who claims he wants to do God’s will, but goes ahead and does what he wants instead. But most of all, I don’t want to be one of those Christians others look at and say, “Well, if he’s what a Christian is like, there’s no way I want to be one of them.”

I want to be a Christian who actually experiences the love of God, which is more powerful than all my insecurities, failures and mistakes. I want to be a Christian who accepts Jesus’ invitation to be in relationship with Him as Lord and Savior every moment of every day, and to be his follower all the time. I want to be a Christian who is becoming the person God dreams for me to be, regardless of what’s going on in my life, because the love of Christ is transforming my attitude, beliefs, temperament and actions from the inside-out. I want to be a Christian who is head-over-heels in love with Jesus for all of eternity. But, most of all, I want to be a Christian who so loves other people that I can’t wait to share His love with them.

So how about you? What kind of Christian do you want to be? 

Bishop Gary Mueller, Vice President
General Commission on United Methodist Men