Refocus

Then Jesus explained, “My nourishment comes from doing the will of God, who sent me, and from finishing his work… wake up look around, the fields are already ripe for harvest.”  John 4:34 & 35b

Sometimes it is easy to lose sight of the real task at hand.  I get caught up in visiting sick folks, preparing sermons and teaching Bible studies… attending meetings and organizing teams.  Important stuff for a Pastor!  The days tick by and we lose momentum as our focus is decidedly internalized.  We miss that sense of satisfaction in ministry and we miss God’s goal for the community.

If we were to REFOCUS and concentrate with equal intensity on what is happening out in the fields/neighborhoods (like the Samaritan village that was converted after one woman’s encounter with Jesus), maybe we would better understand what God is doing and would find greater satisfaction in ministry.  Jesus found fulfillment and satisfaction from doing his father’s work, which was all about the mission field and the harvest.  Jesus knew what was really important and didn’t get lost in expectations of people or job descriptions.  His focus was always and only on the task God was leading him to.

I want that kind of confidence and courage.  To just go and do the thing I think God is calling me to.  Even if no one goes with me… even if it has nothing to do with my “day job”… even if it is hard or scary or messy… to do God’s will and finish God’s work in the field… not in my office.

Prayer for the Day:  Dear God, we are so glad that Jesus came to teach us about your will for the world.  We know that the fields are still ripe for harvest, but we don’t venture out into the fields as much as we should.  Give us the confidence and courage to spend some time in our fields, at the well, in the jail or at the coffee shop… wherever your spirit leads us.  Help me to REFOCUS on the world outside of the church and do what you call me to do.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Rev. Angy Trimmer
Craft UMC
Columbia TN

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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

A little known history fact is that I believed that The Flash was real.  I was always skeptical of Santa

Image but I was convinced that The Flash was the secret to kids all over the world receiving gifts in just one night. I really believed that Santa was just the front man to this multinational conspiracy to keep the identity of The Flash a secret. When my parents told me that Santa wasn’t real I was ok because I still believed in The Flash. I had been to church every year and heard the Christmas story.  I even was in a couple of Christmas plays.  As I turned 10 the reality of Jesus, Santa and the Flash became crystal clear and my world didn’t fall apart.

Another little known history fact is that until last year I had no credible proof that the legends, legacy or institution of Santa had any basis in reality.  I was privileged to visit the Cathedral of St. Nicholas and hear for the first time the story of Bishop Nicholas (http://www.stnicholascenter.org/pages/who-is-st-nicholas/)  Although not the image of fables, and commercial Christmas portrayals there was a bishop who cared for the poor and the children with compassion as an expression of God’s love.

I say this because these realities have informed my life and none of them have shaken my faith in Jesus. Parents who are disciples of Jesus Christ have been debating if they should introduce Santa, when they should tell their children that the only story is the story at the manger.  There is some truth to the legends of real person who loved the poor and children because of his love of God.  He cared for the poor and defenseless because of his beliefs.  He sold all that he had and took gifts to the impoverished of his time. This is the man that the legend of St. Nick aka Santa Claus is based on.  Some man getting in a sleigh with Reindeer pulling around the world in 24 hours is false.  Parents spend too much and work real hard to make and spend money to bring their children and loved ones happiness.  I believe that the greatest gifts of the Christmas season are not purchased in stores but nurtured in the relationships of family, friends and loved ones. There are days when I still believe The Flash conspiracy is real. (Yes I will ask Olivia Pope to investigate)

This doesn’t replace, diminish or alter the impact of greatest event in human history,  the miracle of Jesus being born of a virgin as a part of God’s grand plan to save humanity.

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. Luke 2:15-20

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

 

GREAT QUOTE from Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan… from his latest book, The Prodigal God:

“Jesus’s teaching consistently attracted the irreligious while offending the Bible-believing, religious people of his day. However, in the main, our churches today do not have this effect. The kind of outsiders Jesus attracted are not attracted to contemporary churches, even our most avant-garde ones. We tend to draw conservative, buttoned-down, moralistic people. The licentious and liberated or the broken and marginal avoid church. That can only mean one thing. If the preaching of our ministers and the practice of our parishioners do not have the same effect on people that Jesus had, then we must not be declaring the same message that Jesus did.”

Definition of Spiritual Formation

Spiritual formation is the process of being conformed to the image of Christ by the gracious working of God’s spirit, for the transformation of the world.

1. a process:

  • gradual, life-long movement, not single, momentous conversion
  • goes against grain of “quick-fix, instant results, Five Easy Steps” culture
  • draws us by God’s magnetic attraction, awakening our desire for God

2. of being conformed to the image of Christ:

  • Christ is the image of God made visible to us (Col.1:15)
  • image of Christ is pattern of human wholeness — we share God’s image (Gen.1:26)
  • God’s likeness feels strange since we are misshapen by images of worldly culture
  • the Christ image heals, renews, restores us
  • moves us from being centered in self to being centered in God

3. by the gracious working of God’s spirit:

  • we want to make things happen in our self-reliant culture
  • but cannot conform ourselves to Christ by own will power
  • we can open ourselves to gracious working of God’s spirit
  • the Spirit enables us to choose way of Christ over self-interest
  • grace helps us give reins of control to God and to cooperate with Spirit
  • we resist Spirit’s work because change in ideas/habits/ behaviors is scary
  • spiritual disciplines (practices) are ways of opening ourselves to grace

4. for the transformation of the world:

  • being like Christ means living in self-giving love
  • spiritual life not about “me” but about the world God loves
  • as we are conformed to Christ we embody more of God’s love for others
  • fruits of spiritual formation are compassion, patience, truthfulness, reconciliation
  • transformed persons are leaven for transforming the world

This definition adapts and expands Robert Mulholland’s work Invitation to a Journey (InterVarsity Press, 1993). Companions in Christ Training © 2004. All rights reserved.

This is the best definition of spiritual formation that I have found. I like it because it emphasizes the process. We can not take a class to learn to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. We can not go on a weekend retreat and expect to be a fully mature follower of Jesus Christ. It is a reforming,re-engineering, realignment and repositioning of our core values that shapes our lives as disciples and allows us to live into the call to be completely devoted follows of Jesus Christ.

As a disciple of Christ my commitment to the community of faith will have priority over many of the culturally popular social trends. Soccer, football, baseball, basketball, cross country, golf, and other sports practice schedules will not take priority over the gathering of the saints. Our family obligations will be aligned with the priority of small groups and worship. We can not make disciples in anyway shape or form but we can create an environment for men and women to grow.

Our faith communities must strive to be the most empowering, engaging, enlightening and the most significant high impact event of our members lives. This is the total life engagement precess that Jesus engaged with the disciples. They followed him around, observed his disciplines, participated in his life encounter groups with other “sinners” and eventually became the men who would carry the message to the world about our resurrected Savior.

Making disciples is about asking the question “How do we engage people’s lives?” rather than “How can we attract them to an event?”

Can the modern mainline church re-engineer its ecclesiastical culture from events and committees to life style engagement and the beloved community of God? Can the administration of the church be driven by technology and the life of the church center around meals, coffee, pray and studying the scripture? I believe the answer is yes but the resistance will be significant because the old way must be evaluated and then sentenced to death. Holding on to mediocrity in ministry is the enemy of excellence. Holding on to the past is the enemy of God’s vision and call to the future.