...but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:8 (NIV)
Flowers, cards, heart boxes of chocolates and “I Love You” balloons... On Valentine’s Day women dream of deliveries from the florist, and men dread the hassle of it all (well not all men...) The one day of the year designated as the day of love.
Love... In our English language we use one word to describe love. It can get pretty confusing. We say we “love” a hotdog and we “love” our spouse. In some cases, it might mean the same thing. We love our new car and we love our children. The New Testament was written in Greek. Ancient Greek had four distinct words to describe love.
Storge: Relates to natural, familial love such as the love between a parent and child or patriotic affection.
Eros: Describes passionate, romantic physical love. It is the root word for the English word “erotic.” It is nowhere found in the New Testament.
Phileo: Refers to companionship and friendship. It is a mutual or reciprocal love. The name Philadelphia literally means “the city of brotherly love.”
Agape: Is unconditional love. A self-giving, self-sacrificial love of others. It gives never expecting anything in return. It is what I call “the nevertheless” kind of love God has for us. It conveys the idea of limitless compassion and care, boundless beyond measure. Love that gives for the sake of giving, asking nothing in return. Though we be sinners of the worst kind, nevertheless God loves us.
Each of these types of love is appropriate in the Christian life. However, Jesus went to the cross out of an agape sense of love for us. Bearing Christ’s cross means that we do the same for others. In a culture of narcissistic self-gratification and disposable relationships, Christ reminds us of love’s true nature.
Love is not love until it costs something. True love costs a lot. Real love demands costly action. More than a “sentimental journey,” Christian love is an active, selfless, and sacrificial willingness to seek out the best for others. Jesus taught his disciples that true love means the willingness to “lay down one’s life for his friends.”
Godly agape is not ultimately based upon feeling but willing. Deep love is not an emotion of the heart but a discipline of the soul. Warm, fuzzy feelings will only carry us so far. Christian love is much deeper and sterner stuff. We love because God first loved us. With such confidence, we can risk loving others.
How great is your love for us. May we come to love as you do. In Christ’s name. Amen.
In His Word,
Reverend Dee Dee
His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by his own glory and goodness.
(2 Peter 1:3 NIV)
One afternoon, I heard some commotion in the back of the house and went to see what was going on. Seven-year-old Chancey was trying to wrestle his G.I. Joe toy from his younger brother. Tanner had been playing with it, but older brother suddenly wanted it back. I said to Chancey, “Remember what you learned in church about sharing? Don’t you want to be a good Christian?” With a frown on his face, he responded, “No! I don’t want to be a good Christian.” Well, I certainly didn’t expect that answer. And, we had our own church meeting right then and there.
Later that evening, when I was praying that my second son not end up in hell, it occurred to me there was truth in what he had said. And, geez, I might be headed for hell with him. For when I thought about his words, I realized I didn’t want to be just a good Christian, either. The word good is defined as “satisfactory in quality, quantity, or degree.” Never do I want to be content with only a satisfactory quality and quantity of my life as Christian. Never do I want to be just a “good” student of God’s Word, satisfied with hasty readings of it. Never do I want to be just a “good” church attender, comfortable with what fits with my schedule. Never do I want to be just a “good” disciple, quietly pursuing my faith, but never sharing it with others.
No, I realized I did not want to just be a good Christian. For Jesus does not call us to simply be good. He calls us to be godly. For all the wrong reasons, Chancey had it right that day. My hope for you in 2015 is that you would not be satisfied with being a good Christian, but seek to be a godly Christian.
Thank you for the life you have given us. As we enter into this new year, may we each strive to be the godly people you desire us to be. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
In His Word,
Reverend Dee Dee
According to ancient lore, if you find the magical rock known as the Touchstone along the shores of the Black Sea, it will make you very wealthy. It is said you will know if you find it, because you would recognize it by its warmth. All the other stones feel cold, the legend goes, but the touchstone would be warm in your hand.
One man sold everything he had, went to the Black Sea, and immediately began picking up stones, hoping to find the touchstone. After some days passed, he realized he was picking up the same stones over and over again. So he devised a plan: Pick up a stone; if it’s cold throw it into the sea. He did this for weeks and weeks and it soon became a hurried and mindless activity.
One morning, after he had thrown hundreds of cold stones into the sea, he picked up another stone and it was warm in his hand. But, before he realized what he was doing, he also threw it into the sea. He had the touchstone in his hand and yet he had thrown it away. So dulled by his routine, he had absentmindedly tossed away his fortune.
The story of the touchstone can happen to us with Advent – if we’re not careful. We can look at these few weeks as merely a time of frantic activity, getting all the preparations done for Christmas Eve. It can become the same old routine. Been there, done that, got the T-shirt. We can miss the power, the uniqueness, the sacredness of the season. Before we realize what’s happening, we’ve thrown it away, tossed it aside – missing the wealth of peace, hope, joy and love Advent offers us. Christmas has so much to give us, so much to teach us. Advent helps us get ready to receive the wonderful gifts of Christmas, especially the gift of Jesus Christ. I hope you will look over the Advent opportunities Princeton offers and find time to participate in them with your family. Invite friends and neighbors too.
Dear God, as we wait in hopeful anticipation for the celebration of the Christ child’s coming, slow us down and fill us with your peace. Allow that we would not throw aside any of the joy and love that wish for us during this season. Amen.
In His Word,
Reverend Dee Dee
(Special thanks to Dr. James W. Moore for the inspiration of this devotion)
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love,
I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge,
and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.
If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,
but do not have love, I gain nothing.
(1 Corinthians 13:1-3)
“What do you want to be known for?” That was the question a young college student asked me. She was doing an assignment for one of her psychology classes. The question caught me by surprise. Several thoughts began to flood my mind. I want to be known as an honest person, a loving wife, caring mother, trusted friend, as a Christian who loved the Lord. Then the young lady asked, “If you had to pare it down to one word, what would be the one word that best described how you lived and want to be known?”
One word that best describes how I have lived? Is there only one word that can sum up my life? Anybody’s life? I thought of the apostle Paul and the one word he wrote an entire declaration about to the Corinthians, “love”. Boy, I would want to be known for love. I’m not there yet. As the poet, Robert Frost wrote, “I’ve miles to go.”
In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul says, if I have not love... three times. The “love” that Paul speaks about in this passage is rooted in the love of God in Christ for lost sinners. Therefore, we could read the verses, if I... have not Christ. Taken this way, the focus is not on my personal achievements of loving actions, but on the love of Christ in me, enabling me to love as Paul describes in the subsequent verses (1 Corinthians 13:4-8). Christians can only exhale love toward others after they have first have inhaled that love from God in Christ. Yes, love is what I would want to be known for.
As we enter into this season of Thanksgiving, may our motivation and expressions reflect the love of Christ in us. Amen
In His Word,
Reverend Dee Dee Lawson
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith...
(Hebrews 12:2a, NIV)
Sigh... It’s that time of the year when the days grow shorter and ever so cooler, and I decide if it’s time to store away my slalom water ski. Summer is not quite over, and Autumn is peaking in. My husband loves the Fall and its breezy days. Not me. The wind
makes the water too choppy to ski well. (Not that I ski all that well.) “You can still ride your bike,” Gary said. “I know, but it’s not the same.” I replied wistfully. “Well,” he said “we live in Georgia and the seasons change.” Sigh...So, I went for a bike ride.
As I was riding, it occurred to me, change of seasons is part of life, no matter where you live because the living of life is always changing. God made it inherent in all of creation. Our life stages – baby, toddler, adolescent, teenager, young adult, middle age, older adult – regularly bring transitions where, we are not quite over one season before the next begins peeking in.
But, life circumstances are probably where we feel seasonal change the most. When it comes to the natural seasons of the year – summer, fall, winter and spring – we know what to expect. When it comes to the seasons of life, no one knows what lies ahead. We aren’t always as prepared. In fact, the only thing we can count on in these changing seasons are “expect the unexpected.” As my mind wandered back to water skiing, it occurred to me we are not without help.
A fundamental principle of water skiing is wherever you look, that is the direction you will move. You are instructed to level your gaze and fix your eyes on the spot you want to ski to and not let your eyes wander. Otherwise, you’ll feel off balance, which takes you off course and a likely crash. Hebrews 12:2 is a good word for us and for the church. Fixing our eyes on Jesus is central to the Christian life. We don’t look to Christ in faith to be saved and then look to ourselves to figure which way to go... Whatever season of life you find yourself, if you fix your eyes on Jesus, he will help you stay level and on course. Happy sigh...
Thank you for the seasons of life you give us. May we live into and out of them as Jesus leads us.
In His Word,
Reverend Dee Dee Lawson
From now on, brothers and sisters, if anything is excellent and if anything is admirable,
focus your thoughts on these things: all that is true, all that is holy, all that is just, all that is pure,
all that is lovely, and all that is worthy of praise.
(Philippians 4:8, CEB)
Try this exercise. Think of the color blue. Now look around the room you are in, and find at least five things that have blue in them. I bet it didn’t take you but a few seconds to find those blue items that you were looking for.
You will find what you are looking for. The question we need to ask ourselves is, what are we looking for?
When I am honest with myself, I know at times, I’m looking for the negative. I employ the ‘critic’ mentality that is so prevalent in our nation. We are hypercritical of everything and everyone. We critique meals, movies, music, television, politicians, schools, businesses, and . . . church. When all I can see is what is wrong with someone or some organization, all I will see is problems. It doesn’t take a genius to point out problems or shortcomings. Anyone can tell you what’s not working. The real genius comes in finding solutions for the problems and then being part of that solution.
The truth is, you will find what you are looking for.
If you seek to find negativity, you will certainly find it. If you seek to find mistakes, you will find them.
But, if you seek to find that what is true, holy, just, pure, lovely, and worthy of praise, you will surely find them...
Paul’s words to the Philippians, offer us a cure for a negative perception. Embracing them will enable us to see more of the beauty than the brokenness around us. What if we really choose to follow Paul’s advice? What would we see? What would we find? How different would we see and perceive the world and ourselves?
Help me to have an outlook like our Lord Jesus that seeks to love and look for the good. Amen.
Reverend Dee Dee
(Special thanks to Mary Licht for sharing a devotion that was the inspiration of this article.)
All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.”
(1 Corinthians 12:27, NLT)
"I’d imagine the whole world was one big machine. Machines never come with any extra parts, you know. They always come with the exact amount they need. So I figured, if the entire world was one big machine, I couldn’t be an extra part. I had to be here for some reason. And that means you have to be here for some reason, too." (Hugo Cabret, Hugo, 2011)
Hugo is not only a beautiful movie to watch, but it is full of hidden truths like the one above. The young Hugo Cabret echos the wisdom of the Bible: the world works together. Every piece matters. God made the world and everything he made has a unique purpose. He did not create any extra part lacking purpose.
In the same way, you are not an extra part, even though you may sometimes feel that way. You are a significant part of God’s plans. The Bible tells us God has given each of us a special purpose for our life. Just as parts of machines are crafted and fashioned for the function they are to fulfill, you were also created for your unique function. You are designed to contribute something unique to the world. We are called to discover, develop and deploy that contribution.
Without your input, "the clock" will not work as well.
We know we are made for more than mere survival – we have an innate sense that we have been intentionally placed here to contribute to God’s world. Each of us have been fearfully and wonderfully formed by our Creator who put each part in its place, and says: “Very good.” Decide today what is your divine part. What makes you tick? Get into fellowship with God and let him clarify things for you. Then get your part working so the machine can run as it should.
Help me know my part in your plans and to recognize my significance. So, that I can get to work, making my unique contribution to your world. Through Jesus Christ, Amen.
In His Word,
Reverend Dee Dee Lawson
During Sunday morning worship a few times a year, we sing Hymn 400, “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” from The United Methodist Hymnal. The first line of verse 2 begins, “Here I raise mine Ebenezer; hither by Thy help I’ve come.” I have always wondered what this Ebenezer business is, but by the time I got home from worship, I had forgotten about it and have never looked it up.
During one of our weekly staff meetings, when it was my turn to give the devotion, the answer to my questions actually found me. The devotion I shared was entitled, “Here I Raise My Ebenezer”, written by D. T. Knobel in the devotional Strength for Service to God and Country. Knobel writes:
“...An Ebenezer was a standing stone or stones set up by the Israelite leader,
Samuel, to commemorate God’s intervention in history to save His fragile
confederation of tribes from certain annihilation by the powerful army of the
Philistines [ref 1 Samuel 7:12]....An Ebenezer – not a name and not really
just a stone – is something much more relevant and precious to each of us.
It is a concrete reminder of God at work in our lives and in the lives of those
around us....An Ebenezer may be represented by a place, a person, or an
event which reminds us that God is not distant, but an active presence in our lives.”
This made me think of our bulletin board in the hallway between the office and the fellowship hall. It has become a visual way we are reminded about the work of God in the life of the church and in the lives of those around us. Through photographs and images we celebrate the great things that God is doing in and through our church on one side of the board. On the other side, we celebrate those people who have come to know God in their own lives and joined the church through the witness of those at Princeton UMC. This has become Princeton’s “Ebenezer Board”, a place where people can be reminded about the work of God at Princeton.
If you have not had the chance to check out the “Ebenezer Board,” you can find it on the Fellowship Hall. Updates are made regularly, so be sure to check back often to see the ways that God is working in the lives of those at Princeton
Ben Wilcox, Children’s Director / Administration
Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight...
Kids do say the darnedest things, especially sitting around the dinner table. Case in point. One evening while we were passing the potatoes and pouring sweet tea, out of nowhere, 9 year old Chancey declared, “God doesn’t know everything!” It was as if he had been pondering the issue all week and finally arrived at that answer. Immediately, a theological argument ensued with his old brother, Bo and sister Jennifer. “You better be careful, you might go to H-E, double hockey sticks for saying that about God. God does know everything. It’s in the Bible. Right, mom?”
Before I could finishing chewing and respond, Chancey defended his statement. “God doesn’t know any person, besides Jesus, who has not done something wrong.” Well, that hushed everyone up. The kid had a point. One that was true and biblically based. Romans 3:23 came to mind, For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. That’s pretty advanced theology for someone who has to be reminded to take a bath. “Son, where did you... how did you come up with God not knowing any person who has not sinned?” Rolling his eyes at me like I was the dumbest person on the planet, he replied, “It’s in the Bible! We learned it in Sunday School.”
I never did forget Chancey’s declaration and even used it to win a seminary debate one time. It’s funny how we can say something is true by stating it in the negative. Scripture clearly tell us God is all-knowing or omniscient. God’s eyes run everywhere (Job 24:23; Psalms 33:13-15). He searches all hearts and observes everyone’s ways (Daniel 2:20-22; Luke 16:15). Our hearts and ways time and again have exposed everyone of us as sinners. Chancey was right, God does not know a person who has not sinned.
Taking his negative play on words a step further, we see there is more God doesn’t know. God doesn’t know of any sin that isn’t forgiven by the blood of Jesus. That is what the old rugged cross of Easter reminds us. Though we have ALL sinned and fallen short of God’s glory, we ALL can be forgiven through the sacrifice of Jesus. For by the blood of Christ we are set free, that is, our sins are forgiven. How great is the grace of God… (Eph 1:7 GNT). Amen!
All Knowing God, Jesus died with his arms wide open as an everlasting reminder of our pardon for our sins and your great love for us. May we receive this saving knowledge with our hearts wide open. Amen.
In His Word,
Reverend Dee Dee
Worship the LORD with gladness; come into his presence with singing.
8,797 is the number of documents, Powerpoints, .pdfs, etc. in my laptop that have the word “worship” noted in them. As a United Methodist pastor and preacher one of my primary responsibilities is to lead worship. Rarely a day goes by that I don’t think of worship in some way or another. Worship for me is not something I do just for an hour on Sunday morning or at an occasional special service. It is, or at least I seek to make it something I am always doing…
The word “worship” is used over 240 times in the NIV Bible. A quick scan makes it clear that worship is not about us or something we do for ourselves. Worship is always upward focused to and for an Audience of One – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Our word “worship” comes from the old English word that meant, “worth-ship.” To worship is to recognize the worth of the One we worship. I think most of us agree God is worthy of our adoration, submission and reverence. Where we have differences is the worship style with which we feel most connects us to God. Thankfully, there are many ways and styles to worship God.
That’s why I am excited to share with you that we will have a new Praise and Worship service this Easter at 9:00 am. I am delighted to announce our own Hannah Schwartz will be leading the singing at that service, accompanied by David Knauft on the keyboard. A less formal setting than our traditional service, the sermon will be the same, but the music will be contemporary praise songs with lyrics projected on screen.
Easter is the Super Bowl of Christianity. More people come to church on Easter than any other day, especially if they are invited. 80% of all new Christians first came to church because they were personally invited by a friend or relative. It’s not complicated or difficult. Pick up the phone. Go across the street. Send a personal email. At the very least, post something on Facebook.
The new 9:00 am Praise and Worship service, along with our 7:00 am Sunrise and 11:00 Traditional services offers a variety of times and styles to experience the joy-filled worship of God. Easter is coming, Jesus is risen! Who will you invite?
Father, Son and Holy Spirit, our souls bow in reverence before your holiness. Whatever our style of worship, may it be filled with gladness and expressions that are pleasing to you. May our hearts be filled such that we cannot help but invite others to know you and your love. Amen.
In His Word,
Reverend Dee Dee