Sunday, February 15, 2015

L E N T

Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus....” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

LENT.  No, it’s not just something that sticks to your clothes.  Instead, Lent is also a season of the Christian year in which we not only prepare our lives for the Easter message of life, death, suffering, and resurrection, but are also encouraged to identify with Christ by allowing us to be used by him as vehicles of God’s grace to others.

The word “Lent” itself comes from the Anglo-Saxon word lencten, which means "spring" -- a reference to the "new life" that Christ brings to us, just as spring brings new life to nature.  For the forty days prior to Easter (beginning this week on February 18th with Ash Wednesday and culminating with Good Friday, April 3rd), Christians are invited to focus upon how we practice following Christ in every arena of our lives: home; on the job; at church; in our finances; and in our relationships with others.

And because of its emphasis upon the sacrifice of Christ, Lent has traditionally been a time in which Christians are encouraged to give up worldly things in order to replace them with spiritual things.  As the above scripture reminds us, we are to “lay aside the weight(s) and the sin” that keep us from being the spouse, the friend, the work/schoolmate, etc. that God desires us to be.

What things hinder and interfere with you being the person who God created you to be?  worry?  jealousy?  envy?  bitterness?  pessimism?  fear?  pride?  a bad habit?  gossip?  a judging spirit?  Whatever it is, Lent invites us to give it up -- to junk it -- and, in its place, “look to Jesus” to equip us with those things (love, joy, patience, kindness, forgiveness, etc.) that can help us to “run with perseverance the race [of life] that is set before us.

Remember, God loves you and I do, too!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Disturb Us, Lord


"Thus says the Lord,... Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old.  I am about to do a new thing; Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?" (Isaiah 43:18-19)

“Disturb us, Lord,
 When we are too pleased with ourselves,
 When our dreams have come true
 Because we have dreamed too little,
 When we arrived safely
 Because we sailed too close to the shore.

 Disturb us, Lord,
 When with the abundance of things we possess
 We have lost our thirst for the waters of life;
 Having fallen in love with life,
             We have ceased to dream of eternity
 And in our efforts to build a new earth,
 We have allowed our vision
 Of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord,
To dare more boldly,
To venture on wider seas
            Where storms will show your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.

We ask you to push back
The horizons of our hopes.
And to push us into the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.”

                    [--Attributed to Sir Francis Drake, 1577]

As we begin to think about where God is leading us as a church here at East Cobb UMC, we all need to remember to be “disturbed” a bit out of our comfort zone to hear and understand God’s call and vision for us!  I’ve heard it said before, “if God’s going to be your partner, then be prepared to have some big plans!” Remember, God loves you and I do, too!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

People of the Word

“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” (Psalm 119:105)

What does it really mean to be “people of the word” (meaning people of the Bible)?  The last few weeks in worship we’ve spent exploring some of the answers to this question in our series “Making Sense of the Bible” (you can read and download the sermon transcripts HERE).  Not all have agreed with everything I’ve shared or suggested, nor do they have to. After all, the goal of my series has not been to have all agree with my view of scripture, but to challenge each of us to seek the Holy Spirit about our own understanding and view of scripture.

One interesting fact I need to point out, however, is that despite the vehement debate and “discussion” that many Christians want to have over this most sacred of books -- what the Bible is and is not, what it means and what it doesn’t, how best to interpret it, etc. -- its been my observation (and the findings of more than a few objective surveys) that far too few of us Christians actually read and digest the Bible on a regular basis

I began our series with the statement “The Bible is the best-selling, least read, and least understood book in human history.”  Well, I hope that what we’ve studied together in the series has helped at least somewhat with the third part of that sentence: our understanding of scripture.  But what neither I nor anyone else can do is to help us with the second part: our reading of scripture, both personally (by ourselves) and corporately (in small groups).

We can argue and debate about what we think about the Bible until we’re blue in the face, but nothing can take the place of actually reading and studying it regularly, whether by ourselves at home or together with others in a Bible study group of some sort (like “Disciple” or a Sunday School class).  As I also shared in my blog four weeks ago, a good place to start our personal study are the daily readings shared in The Upper Room devotional guide -- pick up a paper copy of the January/February issue in the Narthex or Crossroads, or read it online and/or sign up for the daily email edition HERE.

So as we wrap up this series, let me offer a word of challenge (and encouragement) for all of us become “people of the word” less by our debates about the Bible and more by our reading of the Bible!  Only then can God’s Holy Spirit begin to interpret His timeless heart, will and character within us.  Always remember that God loves you and I do, too!