Luke 23:39-43
39 One of the criminals hanging next to Jesus insulted him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!”40 Responding, the other criminal spoke harshly to him, “Don’t you fear God, seeing that you’ve also been sentenced to die? 41 We are rightly condemned, for we are receiving the appropriate sentence for what we did. But this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 Jesus replied, “I assure you that today you will be with me in paradise.”

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The difference between the two men being executed with Jesus was simple yet significantly complex. The difference was humility. To the casual observer it looks like there are three convicted criminals with no redeeming qualities. At first glance it appears that there is no need to acknowledge their individual and unique characteristics. If you were to operate with the initial presentation of facts you would miss the significant moment that Jesus shared on the cross.   (more…)

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Father forgive the Pharisees

Forgive the religious leaders who were more concerned about religious rituals, proper clerical attire and using the right liturgy rather than having their hearts in right relationship with you

Father forgive the Sadducees-

Forgive the aristocratic religious rulers who were more concerned about their positions rather than the justice

Father forgive the political leaders

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Public Sees Religion’s Influence Waning

Posted: 26 Mar 2015 05:52 AM PDT

Nearly three-quarters of the public (72 percent) now thinks religion is losing influence in American life, up 5 percentage points from 2010 to the highest level in Pew Research polling over the past decade. And most people who say religion’s influence is waning see this as a bad thing.

http://factsandtrends.net/2015/03/26/public-sees-religions-influence-waning/#.VRRAS8so5Fs

Questions for Reflection

What does the kingdom of God look like?

What heavy burdens are you worrying about that you need to hand over to God?

Can God handle taking care of me tomorrow if I am overwhelmed today?

Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God

John 3:14-21

And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

‘Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgement, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.’

“I’m grateful for work more important than how I happen to feel about it on any given day.” – Fred Croddock

Let us Pray

Metaphor – Light

Nic at night – Jesus in the Light

Evil in darkness – Justice in the light

Today is the fourth Sunday of Lent. Being that it is the fourth week there are some people who are celebrating the fact that they are the fourth week in to their discipline of fasting from a specific food or activity that has given them more time to be with God in prayer and devotion. There are others who are totally frustrated because they have not been able to keep their commitment to God and their focus on being closer with God.

During this fourth week of Lent some people are clear about what they need to do as we approach the time of remembering Jesus on the Cross and celebrating the resurrection of our Lord to deal with the temptations, frustrations and distractions that keep them from being able to hear the voice of God, move with the will of God and experience God’s best for their lives.  There are others who are clueless about what to do next because they have allowed the issues and vicissitudes of life to overwhelm them and obscure their vision of having a closer walk with the Master.

This fourth week of Lent is a time deep discernment for both groups of people. The people who are celebrating their commitment and discipline are asking the question do I continue fasting lunch on Wednesdays and giving the money to the soup kitchen.  Do I continue taping Scandal and Empire so that I can spend an entire evening in prayer and studying God’s Word.  The group of people who have not kept their commitment are asking the question to I pick myself up and recommit or do I continue to make excuses which builds walls of nothingness rather than disciplines that keep us connected to the Master of the Universe.

God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him won’t perish but will have eternal life. God didn’t send his Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through him.

God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him won’t perish but will have eternal life. God didn’t send his Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through him.

For both groups of people I would like to encourage you to keep focused. Resurrection Day is approaching and the good news is that God’s grace is available to all.  Those who have kept their Lenten commitments may be finding it difficult to maintain and the temptations that you didn’t experience in the first three weeks is not staring you in the face and even hunting you down. God’s grace is available to you to have strength to endure.  Those who experienced challenges may be asking what the point is.  God’s grace is available to you to start today ad to remain faithful to the commitments to fast, pray and study.

In this fourth week of Lent we are engaged in looking at a possibly the most familiar text in the New Testament.  John 3:16 is a theme for signs at football games, street corners, soccer games, Facebook pages, Instagram pages, billboards and tracts left in airport restrooms. Non believers can even quote the text

“ ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”

This verse is first a Word to Nicodemous to clarify for him the need to be born again and what that means.  This verse is also the glue and connection that explains verses 17-

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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

“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