Devotional


“Let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:22-25 (NRSV)

Why is it important for Christians to gather? Some people would say we need to gather to collect offerings, so the church can survive. Others may think that it is necessary to gather because church is the place where God can be worshiped by God’s people. I have heard also that when people miss church, people feel empty. We need to remember that Paul is writing for the first century church, which is not probably the same image we think about church today.

Churches back in that time were basically houses hosting a few people who gathered clandestinely to know more about this Jesus, the son of God. They were simultaneously surrounded by multiple gods lifted up by people who praised living kings and rulers from the empires.

Paul, once convicted about Jesus’ love, talks about the power of gathering because by getting together, it gives identity to the worshippeople of God; identity in love, compassion, grace, and favor. Identity that is marked by the faith. Faith in the one who came to give his life against all political systems imposed. Through Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice, Paul was able to teach that a king is not the one who rules through oppression, but who loves with such power that brings hope to those that were lacking of it.

Gathering on a regular basis helps us to build self-discipline, and while the discipline takes place, our souls are transformed gradually to become what God intents for us. How? Through gatherings, we may see the reflection of our sinful nature in each other and at the same time we may reflect the grace that God provides. As part of congregational formation, the transformation may occur to help us grow as individuals as well as Body of Christ.

Now, the challenge that Paul brings us in this letter is to not only taking the image of gatherings in a place like our church, but also taking this personal and communal formation to other spheres of lives: home, work, friends, and enemies with the purpose to see “one another to love and good deeds.” It liberates us, frees us, and reshapes us.

Prayer: God almighty. Guide us to intentionally be open to your voice, so we can take the church -your church- with us wherever we go. Break the barriers of our minds, hearts, and souls, and change us in such a way that the transformation never ends. Please, forgive us for limiting your gatherings to one place. Merciful God, in your powerful son’s name, we pray. Amen.

Carlos Reyes

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

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, “The one who is righteous will live by faith.” Roman 1:16-17 (NRSV)

Some days I check the main newspaper from my home country, Colombia, to see how the nation is doing. Although mass media does not give you a faithful picture of the situation, mass media helps to paint an idea. It is up to you to investigate farther and have the whole story. Well, just a few days ago, a video from YouTube made the headlines in every media: TV, radio, etc.  A well known Christian church leader commented in a recorded gathering that -I am paraphrasing- people with physical disabilities or handicapped individuals should not be allowed to serve God from the pulpit. This comment broke apart the body of Christ & created a public debate.

The leader’s interpretation of Leviticus book was the foundation of her comment.

18For no one who has a blemish shall draw near, one who is blind or lame, or one who has a mutilated face or a limb too long, 19or one who has a broken foot or a broken hand, 20or a hunchback, or a dwarf, or a man with a blemish in his eyes or an itching disease or scabs or crushed testicles. 21No descendant of Aaron the priest who has a blemish shall come near to offer the Lord’s offerings by fire; since he has a blemish, he shall not come near to offer the food of his God” (21:18-21 NRSV).

Based on these verses, the Christian leader said that if one is missing a finger, lacking an arm, a hand, or sight that person could not stand up in the pulpit to preach the word of God. Her theology was based on the fear that other members may be scared by seeing someone preaching in the pulpit without a body part, so they will not go back to that church.

This real episode of today’s church is not brought up to blame one particular leader. In fact, this is what has been taught for centuries in our churches, as well as teachings about the limited participation of women in leadership, and other themes. I brought this up so we can invite each other to reflect and keep accountable. So we can see if we have been that leader in our church, home, school, work, or street that casts out those who don’t have a voice in our society.

We need to ask ourselves have we justified our actions, thoughts, and even moral values through misinterpretations of the God’s will? Have we taken God’s name to justify doctrines in our church that harm the most precious treasure of God; God’s people?

Paul brings a fresher reminder of the infinite Grace. Since this Grace is given, this is a great time to start thinking we may not be the ones deciding who are Grace recipients. Grace does not distinguish between Jews or Greeks, physical appearance, race, gender, age, sexual orientation, nationality, or socio-economic status.

After cases of segregation, I am ashamed. I am ashamed when we play to be God while doing no good for the Kingdom. I am ashamed for the spiritual and physical lives we, as church, have taken away from God’s will. Instead, we spend our energies defending doctrines that do no good to the Body of Christ. I am ashamed of a church taking comfortable positions, and looking for its own convenience, going against the Church’s principles that God intends to form. I am ashamed when separation takes place in church history. Yes, people, let’s be ashamed of injustice, so we may be driven to redirect our self toward God’s will. Paul invites us to not be ashamed of the Gospel, del Evangelio, the Good News, las Buenas Nuevas, because they are the core and source of our strength, love, and faith.

Prayer: Holy and merciful God. We pray for your forgiveness. Forgive us for claiming the authorship of your creation and accommodating your word to our convenience. Help us to reflect and self-evaluate on our manners and understanding of the Gospel, so our will becomes yours. Cover us with passion to receive everyone in the Church that you intend for us; a Church of love, grace, compassion, and favor. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

Carlos Reye
Infinite Grace Fellowship
Washington D.C.

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Be strong and bold; have no fear or dread of them, because it is the Lord your God who goes with you; he will not fail you or forsake you. Deuteronomy 31:6

I grew up in Youngstown, Ohio and we used to have some vicious winters. On one rare occasion when there were several inches of snow school was canceled and my daddy made a suggestion, “Son, why don’t you go take the shovel and make some money.” My dad was a man of few words and I decided to take my daddy’s suggestion and I set out going door to door asking people could I shovel their driveway for a few dollars.

I went door to door/street to street/block to block and at the end of the day I was several miles away from home. When I finished  my last driveway with my legs tired, muscles cramping, an old lady asked me if I would shovel her drive way and much to my chagrin she had one of those long driveways with a steep slope.  She saw the look on my face and gave me her own pitiful look that I’m convinced that only old ladies can give you and she said, “-please baby help me out.”

Can I be honest?  I was tired, I was worn out, but something told me still to help her out, and I started shoveling up the hill.  My muscles were contracting, my legs were cramping and then I saw a car come up to the corner. You see my daddy had been searching the neighborhood since I went out based on his suggestion. He decided to throw the snow blower in the car and partnered with me to finish the task of clearing snow from this long hilly driveway.

Listen, when you go out on your Heavenly Father’s suggestion, you may not think you can do it by yourself, but the God that I serve, will search for you and find you. There is nowhere that you can go to get away from the presence of God.

Fasting is not easy – Be Strong and Courageous!

Acknowledging your sin leaves you vulnerable – Be Strong and Courageous!

Forgiving yourself and forgiving others can be humbling- Be Strong and Courageous!

And he may not come when you want him to come, but God is an on time GOD.  YES HE IS!

Reflection:  In this season of reflection, repentance, forgiveness and self-denial know that God is your partner in this journey.

Rev. Dr Charles Montgomery

Vineyard Church
Columbus, OH

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.

Jesus 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.

All of the blessings that Jesus bestowed upon the woman are yours if you are willing to surrender, confess and turn from your sin.  Jesus wants to make you whole. Regardless of your past, your transgressions or your short comings the grace of God is available to welcome you into a new relationship.  The lady in our scripture was looking for love in the wrong places and found the love of her life that would never leave her.

 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
Infinite Grace Fellowship
West Baltimore UMC
Baltimore, MD

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