“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.
And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
This past month the air conditioning unit in the parsonage stopped working. After a few warm days, we placed a service call for someone to come out and fix the problem. At one point, the technician said, “I pulled off the electrical face-plate and have narrowed down the problem. The issue is in the wiring. Looks like some of them have come loose.”
As I thought about what he said, it occurred to me this illustrates a spiritual problem for Christians. There are times when something is disconnected in our gospel wiring. If we pull off the face-plate of our Christianity and take a look around we would probably see some wires dangling. Loose wires are never safe. This goes for air conditioners and Christianity.
A major indicator of loose gospel wires is indifference or spiritual laziness. The main wire that needs to be connected and stay connected in our spiritual circuitry is what God has done for us in Christ.The season of Lent and Easter gives us a picture of how much God really loves us. How do we keep our spiritual wires secured year-round as Easter people?
In my own struggle for continued gospel connection, I have found myself making significant strides when I regularly engage in spiritual disciplines. Methodist founder, John Wesley, said spiritual disciplines are “means of grace” that enable us to keep our relationship with God in good working order, as they help us grow in our Christian faith. Wesley included six ordinances in his list:
~ The public worship of God
~ The ministry of the Word, either read or expounded
~ The Supper of the Lord
~ Family and private prayer
~ Searching the Scriptures
~ Fasting or abstinence1
The six disciplines listed by Wesley are by no means exhaustive. There are many other ways that we maintain our link with God. But these six are essential for ALL believers. I pray you would make them a part of your spiritual maintenance.
Prayer: Risen Lord, as we seek to live out our lives as your Easter people, strengthen our commitment to you and to the spiritual disciplines we will need to practice in order to stay strongly wired to you. Amen.
In His Word,
Reverend Dee Dee
( The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church – 2008, “The General Rules”, ¶ 103, p. 74.)
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me,
he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
“So-o-o,” my friend asked, “What did you give up for Lent this year? I gave up coffee.” “Well,” I answered. “I had thought about giving coffee up, but after the folks at my last church passed a resolution forbidding me to ever do that again, I decided to give up working… No, just kidding!”
Lent is the forty day period prior to Easter. The word comes from the Middle English and means “springtime” – it literally refers to the lengthening days of spring. Lent is a time when we ask God, “How can I love you better?” It is a time for repentance, when we look at our lives and admit that we are sinners. It is “housekeeping for the soul” where we clear out the sin in our lives to receive God’s gift. Traditionally, Christians “give up” (fast from) something during the season of Lent. The act serves as both a discipline of self-denial and a reminder of Christ’s love and sacrifice for us.
Unfortunately, the Lenten discipline has lost much of its meaning in the contemporary church. “Giving up” something for Lent has become the equivalent of Spring-time New Year’s Resolutions that we never mean to keep. Giving up chocolate, soft drinks, cussing, smoking, television, the Internet and – gasp – Facebook, to often sounds like self-improvement projects rather than spiritual disciplines.
While there’s nothing wrong with these resolutions, and I believe they can help draw us closer to God, they often serve as pale imitations to the deeper disciplines of Christian discipleship. What Christ is really concerned about is what is in your heart. I would invite you to consider a twofold question about Lenten Disciplines: “What will you give up this Lent?” And the companion question is: “What will you take up?” Pairing the disciplines of “giving up” and “taking up” can transform our Lenten journey. Here are some suggestions to help you get started.
Give Up Take Up
Chocolate/Sweets Kindness to others
Facebook Face time with God in prayer
Fast food Donate the money to a shelter
Gossip Building others up
Surfing the Internet Reading the Bible
TV Time with family
(“Give Up/Take Up” in part courtesy of Dr. Bill Burch)
Prayer: Dear Lord, as we draw closer to the cross of Good Friday, give to us an awareness of our sin. By fasting from certain things, we practice denying ourselves and put our focus on Jesus. May all we do help us grow into the people you desire us to be. In Jesus name. Amen.
In His Word,
Reverend Dee Dee
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only Son,
that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”
Most of us know this verse by heart. Many of us learned it in Sunday School. William Barclay said, “All great men have their favorite texts; but this text, this verse has been called “Everybody’s Text.”
We often get a shot of this verse from that guy who shows up at all the Sporting Events. You know the one, waving the big white sign in front of the TV cameras with “JOHN 3:16” in giant letters. I want to know what job he has. It must pay tons of money, cause I see him at football games, golf tournaments, tennis matches, NASCAR races, baseball games and now he’s starting to show up at the the X-Games. I don’t know how he finds the time. He waves that sign as if everybody knows what it is and what it means. It’s almost like some mysterious code. If you get the number you understand the Gospel.
The truth is this verse does have a coded message. One God has been transmitting since the beginning of time. Love. According to John 3:16, God loves each and everyone one of us and His divine love reaches out to all the world; not just the church people, not just the people who read the Bible, not just those who love God. The unlovable, the lonely, the poor and the rich, sinners and saints are all loved by God.
We have a hard time trying to understand this kind of love, because human love is rarely this great and wide. I remember when our daughter, Jennifer was just a little girl, about 5-years old. We were at Hartwell Lake. Jennifer and her grandfather where sitting on the edge of the dock and Paw Paw was patiently trying to untangle her fishing line. As she waited for him to work the knots out of her line, she glanced around at the water. Looking first to her right and then to her left, her eyes grew wide and she suddenly noticed something about the lake. “Paw Paw,” she said, “this is a really big lake.” Without missing a beat, my father-in-law replied, “Yeah, and that’s just the top of it.” In that moment, it hit Jennifer how large the lake was. So it is with God’s love. So wide and deep, the depths are beyond all human comprehension. For God so loved the world.
I think if we truly did “get” the Gospel message, a lot more of us would be out there flashing John 3:16 posters like divine Valentine’s cards, telling the world how much God loves them and loves us.
Prayer: Almighty God, You who are Love, offer it freely to us. May we each humbly receive and embrace your divine love and then give it away as generously as you have given it to us.
In His Word,
Reverend Dee Dee
For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you, except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”
1 Corinthians 2:2
Lose weight, exercise more, eat healthy, save money, spend more time with the family… Resolutions. Did you make any resolutions this year? I started to then, hemmed and hawed around, because quite frankly, I usually break them and the experience sends my self-esteem down the tubes. So, I generally shy away from New Year’s resolutions. Anyway, my desktop scripture scrolled past me and there it was a resolution challenge “to do nothing!” That’s more like my kind of thinking. It comes right out of the Bible, right from the great Apostle Paul in his letter to the Corinthians. “Resolve to do nothing...” Can’t go wrong with that, after all it’s biblical. I thought you might want to adopt it, especially if you haven’t yet made any resolutions this year. I certainly have re-embraced it, but, let me warn you it is not for the faint of heart.
It’s not difficult to learn about any number of things, but to know Jesus and His crucifixion, this can be difficult. To empty our minds of all easy and pleasing thoughts and plant a Cross in the middle of it, so it becomes what our thoughts and days revolve around is a challenge. In a play on words “resolved to know nothing…except,” the Apostle Paul was determined to know God more. To be focused on Jesus Christ and who He is and what His crucifixion means to us and our world may cause you to shift your priorities. You may find yourself not only resolving to study God’s Word daily, praying regularly, volunteering to do some Kingdom work and living a more joy-filled Christian life, but actually doing those things. The change in your life could be quite drastic and far-reaching in 2012, if you resolved to do nothing…except make Jesus the main focus of your heart and mind. Perhaps some resolutions are worth making and keeping. Happy New Year!
Prayer: Heavenly Father, Thank you for giving us a whole new year in which to know and worship you. May we faithfully resolve to do that. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
In His Word,
Rev. Dee Dee
10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. Luke 2:10-12 (NIV)
There is a word that we'll probably hear more than any other this month…The word “gift.”
Beginning with Black Friday some have already begun the frantic hunt for gifts. We search and search for just the right gift, at just the right price, in the just right size, in just the right color. And like a miracle right out of a Christmas story there it is, “One Size Fits All.”
Ladies know what I’m talking about. It could be a hat, a purse, a scarf, a necklace. Whatever it is, you determine, “This will be a good gift for momma… and for my sister Angie, for Aunt Cathy… the office gift exchange…” The label says, “One Size Fits All, ” so, you buy several of them.
A true “One Size Fits All” should fit every single person perfectly – right? One year I received a “one size fits all” pink nightgown with “Bullwinkle” reindeers all over it. I tried to re-gift it to a good friend. As unique as it was, she politely insisted it didn’t come close to fitting her – in size or style! Yet, we hear that claim all the time, “One Size Fits All.” Clothes, cars, furniture, jewelry - everything I have ever seen that makes such a claim falls way short, except for one gift. The Christmas Story makes the bold claim of a gift that is “One Size Fits All.” This first Christmas gift says the angel, is “for all people.”
Men and women, young and old,
Rich and poor, tall and short,
Husbands and wives, mothers, fathers, sons and daughters.
Red and yellow, black and white,
World leaders and scout leaders,
Important people and not important people.
People who showed up to church last week and those who didn’t.
All nations, all backgrounds, All people…
God looked at the human race and determined the best gift He could give every person was to be saved from our sins. On Christmas Day, we celebrate the fact that God has given us the gift of His own Son, Jesus Christ, that through faith in Him, we might be forgiven of our sins and receive eternal life. Jesus is for everyone and truly is “One Size Fits All.” As we relive the CHRISTmas story anew, may we be mindful of this great gift we have and seek with earnest hearts to re-gift Him to others.
Prayer: Dear God, Amidst the giving of gifts, the excitement of the season, help us to remember that Jesus is the most important gift we can receive and give away. May we be His Christmas gift of love to others. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
In His Word,
Reverend Dee Dee
From the fullness of grace we have received one blessing after another.
John 1:16 (NIV)
Whether it’s Thanksgiving or not, one of my favorite dishes is turkey and stuffing, with extra gravy and plenty of cranberry sauce. The oldest reference to stuffing is from Apicius, a Roman gourmet who lived around the 2nd century BC. In his cookbook, he describes recipes for using vegetables, herbs, spices and cereal stuffed in chicken, rabbit, pig and even doormouse (yuck!). Stuffing has appeared in cookbooks ever since and was very popular at Medieval banquets. The term “stuffing” did not appeal to the sensibilities of the Victorian nobility, so the more delicate word “dressing” was substituted. A term that caught on in here in the South. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stuffing)
The word “stuff” means to cram full. After we have enjoyed our fill of turkey and dressing, gravy and cranberries, beans and greens, macaroni and cheese, hot rolls and pecan pie, we push away from the table and say, “I’m stuffed.”
Each year at Thanksgiving I am reminded my life is stuffed full of so many blessings I am thankful for. In the hymn “Count Your Many Blessings” we sing:
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God hath done!
The blessings I am thankful begin with a God who loves me and has given me life, for my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who paid the price for my sins, for the Holy Spirit who guides my heart each day… my faith, my family, my church and my friends… grace, forgiveness, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control… good health and good food, beaches and mountain tops, valleys and rivers, rest and relaxation, sunshine and star light, old people and young people, babies and teenagers, raindrops on roses, smiles and hugs, butterflies and dolphins, cats and dogs, Ice Dreams and chocolate, laughter and tears, walks in the rain and in the sun, bike rides and car rides, turkey and stuffing,…count your many blessings name them one by one.
I pray that God will grant you a grace filled Thanksgiving crammed with thoughts of how God has “stuffed” your life with so many blessings. May it be that when you say, “I’m stuffed!” it is more than just the food you ate.
Prayer: Gracious and Giving God, we thank you for the many blessings you so generously give us. Fill our hearts with a daily spirit of thanksgiving. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Next Step: During the month of November, every day write out five things you are thankful for. There is one rule: you cannot repeat the same blessing twice!
In His Word,
Reverend Dee Dee Lawson
The Book of Exodus with its great story of freedom and deliverance is one of my favorite books of the Bible. It’s a curious thing about the title. Exodus is the name English translations give it. This is actually a Greek phrase that means, “a way out,” from which we get our word, “exit.” In the Hebrew, the titles for the books in Scripture are taken from the first words of the book itself. Exodus is known as, “These Are The Names,” because the story begins, v1:
“These are the names of the children of Israel coming into Egypt with Jacob, each with his own household: Rueben, Simeon, Levi, Judah…” (Genesis 1:1-2a)
Our freedom from sin, our crossing into a new life in Jesus Christ, is a way out. That thank God has been well marked by others who have gone before us – husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, grandparents, aunts, uncles, sisters, brothers, children, friends…
On Sunday, October 30 we will celebrate All Saint’s Sunday. This is the church’s Memorial Day when we remember those who have died during the past year. We will celebrate the lives of – these are the names – brothers and sisters who in their lifetime crossed over into freedom and by the lives they led marked upon us at Princeton UMC a way out – the way out…through faith in Christ.
I want to encourage you for the rest of this month to remember those in your own life who have been the, these are the names that helped mark the faith way out for you. Beginning October 1st, there will be index cards in the Narthex for you to write down their names and keep the card in your Bible. Maybe you are reminded on someone right now whose name you want to write down…
Prayer: Everlasting God, we gave thanks and praise for the great cloud of witnesses who have passed on the faith to us and even now cheer us onward. May their example and courage be a guide and model for our lives that we too may mark upon our family and friends the way out through Jesus Christ. Amen.
In His Word,
Reverend Dee Dee
…in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:37-39
On September 11, 2001, hijackers flew planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and crashed a plane in Pennsylvania, in the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil. Nearly 3,000 people were killed that morning. The events are permanently etched in our minds of burning buildings and billowing smoke. A gut-wrenching, heart-breaking day that changed our nation and our world. Every American old enough at the time remembers where he or she was and what they were doing. This terrible tragedy touched our generation in much the same way the attack on Pearl Harbor did the previous generation.
Stunned and shocked we saw the worst of humanity, but we also witnessed the best of humanity. That part of humanity that expressed great courage and valor. That part of humanity that reached out to each other in comfort and hope. That part of humanity that reflected God’s love in our hearts and spirits, from which we can never be separated.
God’s love was manifested as we watched through tear-filled eyes the heroism of American firefighters and police officers as they bravely laid down their lives to rescue total strangers. God’s love was seen in the people who stood in block-long lines to give blood to help the injured. God’s love was expressed in the millions of dollars donated to the relief efforts. God’s love was voiced in our prayers that filled the air for precious lives lost and their grief-stricken families. God’s love persevered in the dedicated rescue workers searching hours on end through the rubble and dust, first for survivors and later for bodies. God’s love held our nation together in unity and love against the evil intentions that were perpetrated against us that frightening day.
Sunday, September 11, marks the 10th Anniversary of the terrorist attacks on our nation. Join your church family during worship as we remember the events of that day and claim the grace and love God offers us as we look to the future.
In His Word,
Reverend Dee Dee
During one of the mission trips I took to Kenya I was introduced to a beautiful Swahili word, angaza. It means “illumination” or “light.” More specfically “be light.” Doesn’t it just roll off your tongue… angaza… “be light,” angaza… “light.”
Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 4:6
For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. (NIV)
Notice, God did not command the light to shine into the darkness. God commanded the light to shine out of darkness – God literally commanded the darkness to produce light! The light Paul is speaking about is more than just visual, it’s spiritual angaza. It is the angaza that God desires to be the compass of our hearts. Light that reflects the True Light of Christ illuminating the darkness out of us. It is what I want all I meet to see – even before they see me. But…, sometimes I fail at this.
The week I left for vacation, every moment was filled, and life was traveling faster than a speeding train. Before I knew it, my angaza dimmed and flickered. Sort of like a flashlight does when the batteries begin to fail. Only, it wasn’t God’s light growing dim, for the One who created light, and is The Light in me never grows dim or goes out.
It was me - all the busyness, I let suppress Christ’s light. Frustration and anxiety set in. Darkness began to cloud my spirit. Busyness can do that, and so can a host of other maladies (anger, hate, depression, guilt, loneliness, selfishness, ego, greed, prejudice) block out our Sonlight. When Christ’s light is shining in us, just like a flaslight, it will illuminate to everyone in the room. It is not selective, it shines for all, it includes all.
I don’t know how it is with you, but every now and again, I have to remind myself God is ever ready to shine His light, His angaza in me and from me, but only to the extent I make room for it in my life. How about you? Are you letting your angaza shine as brightly as it can? If not, what is keeping it turned down?
God of Creation, you are the Angaza of my life. Thank you Lord that your light can be a constant in my life no matter what shadows threaten to dim it. If I should flicker in the busy days ahead, command your light to shine out of my darkness. Lift up the light of your countenance that it will shine brightly in me. In Christ’s name, Amen.
In His Word,
Reverend Dee Dee