Monday February 23, 2015

They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”   John 8: 6-7, 10-11 (NIV)

As children of God we have all sinned and fallen short of living in obedience to God’s Word. We have two basic responses. Many people choose the first response and run away from the church, accountability, and God. Because of the Holy Spirit living inside of us we are in constant turmoil and never at a place of rest and peace. Our second choice and the most powerful response is to run to the church so we can meet Jesus again. It is in the church that we can find reconciliation, renewal, and repent.

Lady PrayingJesus was to pronounce judgment on a woman caught in adultery. According to Jewish law, there was no need for a jury and no need for trial. Death by the hands of her accusers was the prescribed sentence. Her accusers, all men who had unrevealed sin in their lives, brought her before Jesus to gain confirmation about their intentions to stone her to death. They came to Jesus looking for validation of the judicial code; Jesus ignored the code, exposed the sins of the men, and gave the woman a directed verdict. Not only did he stop the crowd from their murderous intentions, he also pronounced a life-giving and life-changing sentence.

• Jesus restored her worth as a viable member of the community.
• Jesus redeemed her from worrying about the guilt that she previously carried.
• Jesus redirected her will from self-destructive behaviors to a life committed to worshiping God.
• Jesus reconnected her to the grace and unconditional love of God.

During this season of Lent I want you to know that this is a good time to recommit your life to Jesus Christ.  No matter what you have done, Jesus loves you and wants to be in a committed relationship with you. If you will confess and turn from sin and disobedience, Grace is available to everyone that invites Jesus to enter into our hearts as Lord and Savior. Will you let Him enter your life in a whole new way?

Those who are already believers and committed my challenge to you is to stop judging everyone people and take off your masks.  We are all sinners saved by grace. When people have the courage to seek God and search for community we should be ready to love them as Christ has loved us.

Prayer: God, even when I blow it and I am disobedient to you, allow me to experience your love and grace. Amen.

William T Chaney Jr
New Church Strategist for SEJ
Path 1

We are the aroma of ChristTo brew a great tasting cup of coffee you have to begin with spring water. You then choose the right coffee beans and grind them followed by water heated to 180-200 degrees preferably in a French Press. The combination of the beans being ground and being brewed releases a distinctive and unique aroma that can fill a house, a restaurant or a coffee shop. For many fresh brewed coffee serves as a wakeup call for the day. The anticipation of enjoying the coffee starts long before you taste the java.
As believers in Jesus Christ people should experience “the Christ aroma” as they observe our everyday interactions. In our text Paul was focused on sharing the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ with everyone. How is your life producing aroma’s of love and compassion? Do the people that you interact with on a regular basis experience you as just one of the group or does your interactions leaving asking, ”Why are you so special, compassionate and caring?”

Challenge:  We should live our lives in such a way that other people receive the wake up call to follow Jesus.
Prayer God , teach me to be compassionate to everyone I meet so that they can experience the love and grace that you have already shared in my life.

William T Chaney Jr
New Church Strategist
Path 1
Discipleship Ministries, Nashville TN

12 Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; 13     rend your hearts and not your clothing. Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing. 14 Who knows whether he will not turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind him, a grain offering and a drink offering for the Lord, your God? 15 Blow the trumpet in Zion; sanctify a fast; call a solemn assembly; 16     gather the people. Sanctify the congregation; assemble the aged; gather the children, even infants at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his room, and the bride her canopy.
Joel 2:12-16

As I talk to many of my friends who are unchurched I have often been asked, “What relationship really matters to you, pastor?”

My answer is not simple but consistent,” The relationship that matters most to me is my relationship with Jesus Christ.  I am committed to following Jesus and still there are times when I am overwhelmed in my quest to live for Jesus. This wonderful relationship can be draining as I go to rehearsal, LIFE groups, committee meetings and spending time studying and in prayer.   As a result every once and a while I need to be recharged.

As a follower of Jesus Christ, lent is a time to restart and refresh your relationship with God through reconnecting with the spiritual disciplines that sustain us in this Christian journey.  Lent is a 40 day season of self-denial and an opportunity to evaluate your relationship with God.

DetoxOne spiritual discipline referenced in the scripture is fasting. Fasting is a time of cleansing the heart as well as the body.  This could include getting rid of the toxic relationships, negative attitudes and distractions. Cleansing our lives of  negative spiritual and emotional junk so that our lives are focused on hearing, following and living for Christ is the essence of fasting.

Prayer:  God, move all distractions from my life that would keep me from focusing on serving you with my whole heart.

William T Chaney Jr
New Church Strategist
Path 1

Rethink Church Photo Challenge

#rethinkchurch

“From dust you came and to dust you shall return …”

Every year, at the end of Ash Wednesday, I think the same basic thing.  ”Well that was weird.” But, I also seem to appreciate it more every year. Every year, it’s tense, awkward, and I get really sullen right before the service, primarily because I don’t want to stand up there and tell people they’re gonna die.  Why? It kills the mood. It doesn’t help me win friends and influence people.  And, I don’t like to deal with that news myself.

 Why is the church so odd? Why do we pick one day of the year to get up in each other’s faces, smudge foreheads with dirt, and speak bluntly of our shared mortality? “You, my friend, are gonna be worm food ….” So strange.

I’ve been to countless funerals as a family member and in the pastor-ish role, and I’m always fascinated by the ways we try to soft-pedal death.  The phrases “passed away” or “passed on” have always interested me.  As a kid, I used to wonder about that language.

No, she didn’t “pass away.” No, he didn’t “pass on.” He’s dead. She’s dead. Boom. Let’s tell the truth here, please, because pretending helps no one.

I actually appreciate the fact that on Ash Wednesday, I don’t hear, “Hey there, friend … just want to gently remind you that someday you are gonna ‘pass away.’”  I appreciate the fact that the church tells me the truth.

I need to be reminded that I’m not a big deal (it’s hard to hear, but it is oh -so-true). I need to be told to get over myself. I need to get perspective.  The traditional Ash Wednesday reading from Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21 is always a helpful reminder to keep my ego and need for validation in-check.

And the truth is, I need to hear that whole “you’re not as big of a deal as you think you are” message more than just one day of the year.

Nothing helps me get perspective faster than hearing the news that at the end of the day, I am a speck. A speck in time, a speck of dust, a part of creation and its life cycle.  Soon-to-be compost. You get the picture …

I hear that news and realize that the petty stuff I cling to is pretty trivial. I realize that what I think really matters … well … most of it doesn’t all that much.

I realize that for someone who detests whining, I have my own ways of whining and feeling sorry for myself way too much. I realize that I need to focus more on being and less on doing. I realize that I find my worth primarily in things that also are fleeting and temporary. I realize that I need to see a bigger picture.  I realize that, in the words of my favorite poet Mary Oliver, I only get “one wild and precious life.”  Ash Wednesday forces me to ponder what I will do with the gift of my life.  It enables me to be honest about my humanness, smallness and mortality so that I can be set free to fully live.  Facing death sets us free to live more fully and freely … funny how that happens, huh?  Let’s ponder these questions together on the first day of our Lenten Journey:

 How might an honest acknowledgement of your mortality, humanity, and eventual death actually set you free to fully live?

In the words of the poet Mary Oliver, “What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

Rev. Amanda Garber
Pastor at Rise
Harrisonburg, VA

Lent is a season of forty days, not counting Sundays, which begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday. Lent comes from the Anglo Saxon word lencten, which means “spring.” The forty days represents the time Jesus spent in the wilderness, enduring the temptation of Satan and preparing to begin his ministry.

CLICK HERE FOR FULL ARTICLE

A UMC.org Feature by Joe Iovino*
February 9, 2015

One Wednesday a year, sometime in February or March, you notice someone at work, school, or elsewhere with a smudge on her forehead. It looks as if she missed a spot when washing. Then you see another who looks as though he needs to glance in the mirror. By the time you see the third, you realize it is Ash Wednesday and these passersby must have received the imposition of ashes.

This practice we use to mark the first day of Lent may seem odd. People go to church mid-week to have a cleric place dirt on their foreheads.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE

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