Route 66

Northside Church’s yearlong theme for 2022 is entitled Route 66. The journey will explore the authority and relevance of Scripture in our lives.

Beginning on Monday, January 31, the congregation is invited to read the New Testament together. It takes about 5 minutes to read 1 chapter in the Bible. By reading 1 chapter a day, 6 days a week, we can complete the entire New Testament by Thanksgiving week!

You don’t have to be a member of the congregation to join us on the journey. A printed brochure with the reading plan is available at the church. The details are posted on the church website at http://www.northsideumc.org. Those signed up for our Northside Weekday Devotionals will receive the daily readings by email.

Many English translations of the Bible exist, and I encourage believers to find a version that makes sense to them. I personally prefer The New International Version that I use in preaching and teaching. The Common English Bible debuted in 2011, and it provides a contemporary, accessible translation.

In addition to printed Bibles, consider adding a digital version to your electronic devices. This enables Christians to access the Scriptures everywhere. I recommend the youversion app, which offers a number of free translations of the Bible. It will even read passages out loud!

Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3:16-17: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of Godmay be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

Let us take a life-changing trip down Route 66!

The Class of ’84

Bishop Joel McDavid ordained me as an elder in the North Georgia Annual Conference on June 11, 1984. A photograph captured the Class of ’84 standing on the front steps of Glenn Memorial United Methodist Church. Twenty-seven men and women of diverse ages and ethnicities comprised the group.

This year I discovered the black and white picture in my files. Other than an afro hairstyle and bushy mustache, 2022 Bill Burch strongly resembles the 1984 version. Of course, I occasionally lie to myself.

Twenty-seven pastors began the journey of ordained ministry together. I scanned the faces and read the names of the clergy. I recall most of the people, but some memories have faded like a sepia photograph.

I’m uncertain what happened to a handful of my colleagues. Most retired over the past years. A few tragically died along the way. To the best of my knowledge, only two of us remain in active ministry thirty-eight years later.

The caption under the photograph reads:

“Under the providence of Almighty God and in recognition of His Eternal Glory, I, a bishop of The United Methodist Church, and several elders, have, by the imposition of our hands and by prayer set these apart for the work of an Elder, to read the Holy Scriptures in the Church of God, to preach the word of God, and to administer the Holy Sacraments in the congregation, so long as they continue to be faithful servants of Jesus Christ and adhere to and teach the Gospel of our Lord and the doctrine of the Church.”

Here’s to the Class of ’84 along with my fellow clergy both present and absent.

Romans 12:12

Paul encouraged the church in Romans 12:12, “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” The verse has inspired my soul during the holidays and into the New Year.

“Rejoice in hope.” Paul reveals a vital connection between the attributes of joy and hope. Christians rejoice in the present because of our hope for the future. The Holy Spirit exhorts my soul with a two-word refrain, “Choose joy!” Christians possess an eternal perspective that enables us to claim Frederick Buechner’s reminder, “Resurrection means that the worst thing is never the last thing.”

“Be patient in tribulation.” A meme on a clergy site declared, ‘Being a pastor is easy. It’s like riding a bike. Except the bike is on fire. You are on fire. And the committee for fire suppression needs a quorum!” Everyone faces troubles and trials. Patience recognizes that this too shall pass.  In the interim, we listen for God’s voice in the midst of the storm and in the aftermath of the stillness.

“Be constant in prayer.” Constancy means spending specific times and all times in God’s presence. Devotional discipline sets aside daily times and places for divine appointments. However, sanctified spirits experience the Holy Spirit’s presence in every time and place.

Join me in committing Romans 12:12 to memory. Recite the verse as a devotional aid. Repeat the words as a breath prayer. Claim the passage every moment of the day and night.  

Joy. Hope. Patience. Tribulation. Constancy. Prayer. Here, we find God, and God finds us.

New Year’s Resolutions

New Years REsolutionsOn January 1, many of us made New Year’s resolutions. During the holidays, we overindulged in too much of too much. The birth of a New Year inspired plans of diet, exercise, and thriftiness.

Resolutions born at midnight on December 31st, however, seldom survive the first weeks of January. Habit is a hard master to overthrow. By mid-month, the new and improved model greatly resembles the old and not so improved model!

We can scoff at the idea of spontaneous resolutions leading to lasting change. However, we serve a God of fresh starts and second chances. Today can be different from yesterday; and tomorrow can be different from today.

In 2 Corinthians 5:17, Paul declares: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.” Our “re-creation” in Christ is both event and process as we grow into the image of our Savior.

Jesus began his ministry preaching the message, “The time has come, the kingdom of God is at hand, repent, and believe in the gospel.” The time has come for repentance rather than resolutions. This year can be new in more than name alone!