We are at the one-year mark of the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic that forced us to make significant adjustments in our lives. The administrators in the Atlantic Union and its six conferences faced the challenge of handling the pandemic head-on while continuing in ministry. In this issue, the six conference presidents share words of encouragement as we continue to press forward in these challenging times.
“They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles”—Isaiah 40:31, KJV. I believe that God wants us to rise and be eagle-like in character, for these magnificent monarchs have qualities that exemplify excellence. Eagles illustrate what it means to rise victoriously above the level of mediocrity and to press forward in life with purpose. Few birds are able to fly to the heights of eagles because the air is thin up there. This lets me know that it takes a certain kind of attitude to reach that kind of altitude. Eagles teach us not to allow the magnetic pull of the multitude to interrupt our flying plans. And that we should order our spiritual devotions to excel to breathtaking altitudes of righteousness and unprecedented heights of holiness so that, when flying time comes, at our Lord’s second coming, our mortal bodies will put on immortality.
We are admonished that “higher than the highest human thought can reach is God’s ideal for His children. Godliness—godlikeness—is the goal to be reached”—Education, p. 18. So I say to you, even during this pandemic, press forward in your walk with God, wait on Him in your worship, meditate on His Word, shine for Him in your witness, and press forward like the eagles.—Kenneth Manders, Bermuda Conference president
Pressing forward means going against the odds to do something despite any obstacle that blocks or stands in your way. You can actually say that everything that could go wrong did, but “Here I am.” To press forward means leaving your comfort zone and accepting Jesus’ call. This past year’s events were not convenient. It took everything within you to survive, believe, and keep your mind, spirit, and soul healthy. Life may try and, at times, may even knock you down; nevertheless, get up and press forward with the encouragement of the Holy Spirit. The only certainty we have is that we could not have kept going and moving forward were it not for our Lord, Jesus Christ, and God. Philippians 3:13, 14 advises us not to look back but, instead, reach forward to the precious prize despite all of the temptations, tribulations, and perilous times we have lived. There is a promised blessing for those who press forward.
Don’t allow circumstances and trials to victimize you. Continue to press your way, attending and assisting your church, reading your Bible, being faithful in prayer, and witnessing about the love of Jesus and the gift of salvation. Despite how we feel, and no matter what challenging event we encounter, continue pressing forward with Jesus. Our Savior is almost here!—Henry Beras, Greater New York Conference president
We are living in unprecedented times. We seem surrounded by sickness, chaos, fear, and misery. Remember, this is not our home. Instead of focusing on our losses, our troubles, we should turn our eyes to God and His Word.
Remember the words of Paul, “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us”—Romans 8:18, KJV.
Remember the words of Jesus, “Let not your heart be troubled: . . . I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also”—John 14:1-3, KJV.
Remember the promise of Jesus to send the Holy Spirit during times of trial. “But when they shall lead you, and deliver you up, take no thought beforehand what ye shall speak, neither do ye premeditate: but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye: for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost”—Mark 13:11, KJV.
Remember, and press forward.—Miguel Crespo, New York Conference president
In times of trial, God has always told His people to go forward. He commanded Moses to “go forward” into the Red Sea. He promised Isaiah, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you”—Isaiah 43:2, NIV. He never promised a problem-free existence but that he would accompany us in difficult moments. This divine promise allowed the psalmist to boldly proclaim, “I will fear no evil: for thou art with me”—Psalm 23:4, KJV. This conviction emboldens our church to move forward in faith, despite blows absorbed and the challenges posed by a novel but unrelenting pandemic.
We have wept. We have endured. We have prayed. We continue to hope. We have no choice but to move forward with the conviction that the Lord Himself accompanies us through this journey. The mission of the church continues. Lost souls still need salvation. Wounded hearts still seek consolation. Our communities and neighbors need our benevolent support and prayers more than ever. Jesus commanded His disciples to “Occupy till I come”—Luke 19:13, KJV. So with or without a pandemic, God has a work for us to do. We paraphrase the Apostle Paul in proclaiming, “We are persuaded that neither COVID-19, nor death, nor illness, nor discouragement, nor shutdowns, nor physical distancing, nor protocols nor any other thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord.”—Daniel Honoré, Northeastern Conference president
This past year has been one of the most challenging years in our collective memories. The pandemic has changed the way we live life, the way we worship, and the way we fellowship. We have lost loved ones to COVID-19, and we have, in some cases, lost community and unity. We shouldn’t be surprised; in John 16:33, Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble” (NIV). Nobody wants trouble, but it is in troublesome times that we are reminded that we need our Savior. Trouble may be our present reality, but it isn’t our ultimate destiny. Jesus still has the last word, and He didn’t leave us in trouble. His next phrase is packed with power and hope: “Take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Where do you need to take heart today? Are you missing human touch, struggling with loneliness, grief, hopelessness, or loss of purpose? Take heart! Jesus has overcome it all, and He loves you more than you can possibly imagine. He knew this pandemic was coming, and He knew the struggles you’d face. Place your trust in Him and press forward to the “high calling” to serve your community and share the beautiful message of the Advent hope. It is needed now more than ever!—Ted Huskins, Northern New England Conference president
Toward the end of Matthew 12, we are presented with an incident that seems strange for Jesus. He is speaking to the crowds, and He is told that His mother and His brothers want to speak to Him. The context of the chapter clues us into the fact that He has been causing a stir among the leaders. His family is clearly there to get Him to moderate Himself. Apparently, he did not meet with them. Instead, He gives a true definition of family. “Stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, ‘Behold: My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother, and sister, and mother’”—Matthew 12:49, 50, NASB.
In this time of separation and isolation, we cannot take our eyes from the goal Jesus has set for us. We must seek to build up the family of God. If it means visits from the sidewalk to a friend in a house, if it means making another call or another text message, if it means—yes—another conversation on Zoom, let us not weary of making the connections that will strengthen and build up the family of the Lord.
By biblical definition, the church is a gathering of people. We must gather as best we can, and in whatever way we can, to keep the connections, and even grow new connections, for the kingdom of God.—David Dennis, Southern New England Conference president