Pastors Message
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8002 U. S. Highway 301 South, Riverview, FL  33578  813-677-5995
A Memorial Day Message

I was on a walk one day and stopped at the Memorial to the Vietnam Veterans in our town (Rockford, IL). At the entrance was this sign; “We veterans are grateful to these benefactors and their heartfelt support which brings peace, honor, and healing to every veteran through the building of this memorial. God bless you all.” The memorial includes the names of the men and women from the Rockford area who sacrificed their lives for me.

As I walked on, I thought about John 11:25-26. Jesus says to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me will live even though they die. Everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.”

He asked Martha, “Do you believe this?” 

Perhaps we need to ask, “Do we believe this?” Do we think about the sacrifice Jesus made for each of us? Do we believe in the Resurrection? Do we share that faith with others?

Each of us are called to engage in daily Bible study and prayer; to bear witness to Christ in all personal contacts through words and actions; and, to engage in Christian service.

Memorial Day is a special time of the year to remember the fallen men and women. It is also a time for us to make a difference in our communities. I think of Luke 10:27, where a law expert challenged Jesus with the question: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered: “What is written in the law? How do you read it?” The expert answered: “Love your Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind and love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus said: “You have answered correctly.”

Let us remember the past and look forward to the future that Jesus promises. “He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” Not only do we believe this, we are called to share it with others.

Steve Nailor, President
National Association of Conference Presidents of UM Men

Signing Off!
As I sit here this morning writing my 95th and final article for the Bell Newsletter (and the website), I am filled with both sadness and joy. I am sad because it is never easy to say good-bye. But I’m joyful, too, because of the memory of eight years of a shared life and ministry with RUMC. During that time, we have shared each other’s joys and sorrows, and lightened each other’s loads. We have laughed and cried together. Together we have worshipped and praised our awesome God.

We have extended grace, hope, encouragement, and love to one another. We have embraced content and discontent; expectations and the unexpected; comfort and discomfort; and, even order and disorder. Through it all, as good and healthy families do, we have persevered together.

One of the most important things we can do together as a family in Christ is to faithfully embrace a spirit of forgiveness. With that in mind and heart, if I have done anything over these years together to cause you pain or concern, I humbly ask for your forgiveness, and I appreciate it very much.

Please allow me the opportunity to express my heartfelt gratitude to each one of you for receiving and accepting me as your pastor, spiritual leader, and friend over these past eight years.

Also, please know that I have appreciated your prayers for me, my family, and my ministry. I have counted it an honor to pray for you and your families as well. I will continue to pray for your incoming pastor, the Rev. Louis Telcy, his family, and his ministry here at RUMC. Please make sure that you keep your new pastor covered by your prayers every day!

What is the most important thing that any of us can do as followers of Jesus Christ? No matter what, we must be ever faithful in sharing the Good News of our salvation. No matter what God has in store for me in the days ahead, sharing the gospel is what I plan to continue to do. Let us embrace together what Paul proclaimed in Acts 20:24 “Nothing, not even my life, is more important than my completing my mission. There is nothing other than the ministry I received from the Lord: to give testimony about the Good News of God’s grace.”

Beloved, I surely don’t know the future, but I surely believe this: that the very best is yet to come. Heaven awaits us, and that future will be far, far more joyful and glorious that anything we could ever possibly conceive, think, or even imagine!

So…that’s just about it. My 33 years of pastoral service has, at least for now, ended. Again, I pour my thanks—thank you and my Lord that we have been blessed in so many ways during our time together. As I depart, I wish for you, the good people of Riverview First United Methodist Church, God’s absolute best in the days ahead.

Until we meet again, may the peace and love of our Savior and Lord abide in each one of us, both now and evermore.

Pastor Merritt
(Matthew 6:33)
Life was Designed to be 
Lived by Faith

Before I ever accepted God’s Son as my Savior, I had the popular notion that if I lived a good life and tried to do all the things I thought were right, God would reward me for my efforts, and He would remove any obstacles that could possibly hinder my journey.

And as I stepped into a relationship with Him, I added a few more “spiritual” dimensions to my criteria. These included reading the Bible every day, praying as often as I could, and saying grace before all my meals. That’s what I thought it meant to live by faith and what was required for me to rewarded by my faith.

Then I read the book of James. I noticed at the very beginning of that letter that I was to “consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials. (James 1:2)”. I was puzzled by that fact that James chose to use the word “when” instead of “if” when referring to my relationship with trials. He seemed to be indicating that trials are inevitable—that it is only through trials that we can really learn to live by faith.

The Jewish believers whom James was addressing were suffering greatly for their faith. Many had been forced out of their jobs, excommunicated by their families, and forced to live in a Gentile world that was hostile to their Jewish heritage. Since these early believers suffered so greatly for their faith, how could I expect my walk with Christ to be pain-free?

God has brought many trials into my life, which have caused me to abandon my own efforts and rely totally on Him alone. Friends have died, and family issues have emerged in my life that created problems that only God could resolve.

And over the years, I have met in the offices of many businesspeople whose lives appeared to be perfect on the outside—free from pain and trials. They had lots of money, great houses, and all the creature comforts that I could imagine. And although everything seemed to be completely under their control, each of them was forced to face an issue that penetrated their life and compelled them to trust God rather than their own hard work and efforts. Sometimes, their crisis was job-related; others had marriages fall apart; sometimes, their health failed; and, still others encountered issues that were related to their children. In each case, these so-called successful people faced an issue that they couldn’t resolve on their own. Their faith was tested, and they were forced to trust God with the outcome.

By the end of Chapter 4, James warns us that we are all just vapors that appear for a little while and then vanish away. The truth is that we cannot control even one small part of our lives. No matter how much hard work, or how many “religious rituals” our life contains, at some point we will be brought to a place where we must put my faith in the almighty, sovereign God of the universe.

Bill Garrison, one of my mentors once wrote: “God has designed that we live life by faith. We can either choose to do this, or God will arrange for it to happen!”

God wants us to trust Him all the time, and James reminds us that God especially wants us to trust Him when we face trials. Things don’t just happen haphazardly or accidently to believers. They have meaning and purpose. God wants to use difficult trials to mold us and mature us and make us more like His Son Jesus.

When difficult times come, it is easy to question God and abandon our faith as the enemy sows doubts in our minds. Instead, we must turn to God and trust Him more, knowing that His plans are far greater than our own.

Let me leave you with Isaiah 55:8-9: “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways that your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.”

Ed Diaz
71:17 Ministry

Ed and Gwen Diaz of 71:17 Ministry in Bartow, Florida.