Balancing Heart and Life

This is a comment on this week’s GODWORD text devotionals. 

 On a usual morning, speaking on the usual phone, to a print shop about mundane things, in my everyday office, I look down at my feet…. 

My first thought was that Karen was messing with me.  Then it moved. 

I didn’t say anything that momma Jean would spank me for but this fellow did hijack the conversation.  My speech was less than grace-filled and reflected, shall we say, an anxious response. Most of it was not heard by any other person. 

This is a chicken snake and a beneficial animal.  I sweep them off of the back porch now and then. They won’t hurt you but in a surprised moment can make you hurt yourself.  Beneficial or not-snakes don’t belong in my office. 

This week’s GODWORD’s have been looking at some poisonous words directed toward me and our congregation.  Some from without but sadly, some from within. Toxic words, toward me or from me, don’t belong in my life either. 

Jesus had a run in with church-folks who sought to straighten him out. He said in Matthew 12:34-35 , “You family of snakes! How can you say good things when you are sinful? The mouth speaks what the heart is full of. A good man will speak good things because of the good in him. A bad man will speak bad things because of the sin in him. ”

 Messiah is standing fast and correcting them without hate.  The mouth can fool you.  But, You cannot bless and curse with the same heart. The truth of our heart always reveals itself in our words.  

I have little control over what others say but total control over my response. My response reflects what is in my heart. If Christ is in my heart, my response can be uplifting even in an angry moment where no one but God is listening. 

Do you need uplifting? Could you use a little encouragement? Ask Christ to give you encouragement  to share. Send an encouragement to someone else.   Build your own heart by sharing a Christ wrapped word with another soul in need . 

Our church is sharing a verse or two each day If you are interested in a daily text devotional, click here.  

https://thethoughtfulpastor.com/2017/04/25/want-a-godword-to-wake-up-your-morning/

New Beginnings: May 2017 Sermon Series

 

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May Marks our “ A Day of New Beginnings”.  Easter marches into Pentecost with new opportunities to grow in Christ.  Cheatham Memorial United Methodist Church invites you to join us for worship at 10:00 AM each Sunday.  Click Here to learn more about our active and loving church family. Make church worship and service a part of your new beginning. 


“Christ is alive, and goes before us
to show and share what love can do.
This is a day of new beginnings;
our God is making all things new.”

-Brian Wren 

(This is a Day… UM Hymnal 383)

 May 7:  4th Sunday of Easter

John 10:1-10  “Hey Porter!”  This rich parable has a special meaning to the resurrected Church.  Where are you in this story?  I want to be the gatekeeper. 

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 May 14: 5th Sunday of Easter Mother’s Day

John 14:1-14  “Which Way’s What” Followership is the first step in leadership and discipleship.  What way do we go and how do we know?  This is a lesson in listening to the Holy Spirit. 

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 May 21:

1 Peter 3:13-22  “Free to Obey” Obedience isn’t giving in and being tied down.  There is great freedom in knowing Christ through obedience. 

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 May 28:   Conference Sunday, Confirmation Sunday

Acts 1:1-11  “Lifted to life” Jesus was lifted to his rightful place-he did not jump up there.  In Christ we are lifted up.  Not by our own strength, but the very hand of God’s grace.  This marks a new year for us to minister together!

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The GODWORD: slowing down your spirit in big hurry

We live in a blind rush. Slow down for a minute and breathe-even if you have to do it in a hurry.

I start my day with a single focusing word-a GODWORD. This is a guide word to snap me back when my mind get away from me. It is prayerfully discerned, reinforced by scripture and stays on my phone as a touchstone. My word usually come from some experience from the previous day. 

You are invited to receive & share this guide-word/Godword with me by text or email. The devotional usually goes out from 8:00-9:00 am central or other important moments. I do miss one now and then. PLEASE READ THE WHOLE BIBLE PASSAGE. I use the Bible Gateway app . 

Anyone wishing to receive them can email their cell number or email address to revavanhooser@aol.com.  This is a private list and comes as an Individual contact-not in a group.

If you ever wish to be removed from the list, simply contact me and I will take you off without comment at any time.

The purpose is to connect my day with friends and be held accountable to a daily discipline.  Comments are welcome at this site. 

Thanks for being my fellow traveler in Christ. Please share your GODWORD and other scriptures that give you focus in a comment below.  

My Holy Week Journal 2017: The Scriptural Stations of the Cross.

Welcome to my Lenten journal for Holy Week.  You are welcome to follow along and comment.

Our Lenten worship and activities this year were meant to be practical, “Make God Make Sense” and lead us to a breakthrough of God’s Spirit in a particular place.  This might be in our life or in the life of someone else.  One of our activities was a contemplative walk through the 14 “Scriptural stations of the cross.

This is such a rich experience and I am always shocked when it draws such a small crowd.  We non-Roman Catholics don’t have a lot of experience with this sort of practice and we cheat ourselves when we don’t try them.

The stations are a virtual pilgrimage with Jesus during the last week of his earthly ministry.  They date back to the fourth century when Christian pilgrims could actually go to Jerusalem and walk the footsteps of Jesus.

The emperor Constantine permitted Christians to worship openly in 313 after 250 years of persecution. In 335, he erected the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and processions of pilgrims came to walk the “Via Dolorosa” until the 7th century when it became too dangerous to make the trip.

These stations became a tradition that allowed this pilgrimage to be experienced at home. Centuries passed and the stations become more a part of church decor than a journey. The church divides many times and they become distinctly Roman Catholic. (Click on the images to enlarge them)

 

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One person wanted to  know how important it was to walk around the sanctuary looking at pictures.  These comments tell the real response to the Stations.

 

Many protestant churches did not use the stations because six of the stories were not specifically described in the Holy Bible.  In order to share the stations with all Christians, Pope John Paul II introduced the “Scriptural” stations in 1991.  These are both an option for Roman Catholics and an invitation for non-Catholics to worship through the stations.

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Notes from the Pilgrim’s reception book

The Meditative process is simple and effective. The journey has 14 stations that follow the scriptural story.  The “Pilgrim” pauses, reads the scripture and prays while experiencing that part of Christ’s story.

There is no rush.  There is no worry if people come behind you. You can take the stations at your own pace.  You can always sit and pray after you visit each

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lots of emotion from experiencing the story while reading it.

station and even return and reflect on a station that is especially meaningful.

 

At the end of the journey, we had reception book and a special hand made prayer cloth to take home.  These prayer squares, shown in the photo at the top, are crafted by the ” Cro-knitter” prayer ministry at our church.  Eac stitch is a prayer.

The stations aren’t meant to replace Bible study or any other means of Grace.  They provide a special moment and a new beginning.  This is a total experience and not just a mental one.  God’s Grace go with you as you find your new beginning each day  in Christ.

 

 

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Thanks to the many creative ministers at Cheatham Memorial UMC. In Edgewood Texas. 

 

 

My Holy Week journal 2017: Silent Saturday 

Welcome to my Lenten journal for Holy Week. You are welcome to follow along and comment. 

On silent Saturday Jesus laid in a grave waiting and grace became a buried treasure.  The only gospel scripture from Saturday is matthew 27:62-66 and tells of the trickery of the church leaders.

“62 The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. 63 “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ 64 So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.”65 “Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” 66 So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.”

On Saturday tradition is that Jesus descended to the dead (literally jail) on Saturday.  1 Peter 3:19-20 says, “After being made alive, he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits…”It’s cryptic but may refer to hell. Then again…

The full tomb wasn’t a problem.  The empty one changed the world. This frightened the church politicians but gave hope and purpose to the rest.

We aren’t totally sure what Jesus did but we know the faithful were in a locked room praying like their life depended on it. Well, it did.  Faith made them wanted men even though they didn’t fully understand what they had gotten mixed up in.

It would be this resurrection that would welcome them to rebirth and transform them.  This living resurrection would put the fire into their bones.  After meeting Jesus the next day they would be bold gospel warriors and not scared little bunnies. Scripture informs my life in a big way this Holy Week.

My silent Saturday was spent greeting twin grandsons that were born on Good Friday. Held in the womb instead of the tomb, they burst into our family and brought us all to life. We too are changed forever.  Life changed us with the power of birth and re-birth.  This is what we anticipate on Holy Saturday.  This is the gift that  excites to our very core.

While preparing for Easter I held the love of God in my Hands.  Looking at these two makes me passionate about my reborn and resurrected life.  I want it for them as desperately as I want it for myself.

As one friend said, ” how wonderful to be loved by someone so fresh from God. “. May your resurrection be as overwhelming and real as mine today.  Blessings to you as you prepare for Easter.

Pastor Alan

Holy Week 2017:Good Friday

Welcome to my Lenten journal for Holy Week. You are welcome to follow along and comment.  

On Good Friday Jesus died on the cross for us. The full reading is in John 18-19. its worth the time on this Good Friday to read it all and know our blessing.  Here are a couple of observations out of many that are running through my mind. 

“Into thy hand I commit my spirit; thou hast redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God. ” psalm 31:6

“So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. 17 Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). 18 There they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle.19 Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: jesus of nazareth, the king of the jews. 20 Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. 21 The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews.”22 Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.” John19:16-22

So why is it”good” Friday after all of that?  Used to be that any day observed as special by the church was prefixed as “good”.  So Monday of this week was technically “good” Monday. It is the outcome of the day and not this horror that we celebrate. 

 I am filled with wonder that Jesus would use the same words than the psalmist was led to use in his own moment of spiritual breakthrough.  

I am filled with wonder at how easy a crowd of believers could be whipped up ito a violent frenzy while the hard hearted Pilate was hard to convince. 

I am filled with wonder that those who knew more about the coming messiah than anyone would demand that his identity be changed.  They would not allow him to be king, regardless. Jesus and Pilate got it.   The crowd didn’t. 

So, here we are on the eve of our highest holy day. Do we get it?  Will we claim our identity as God’s child or will we allow the crowd to who why and why we are?  

As for me, I am going to decide what a Christian is by searching scriptures,  scrutinizing church tradition, filtering with my own experiences and Spirit led reason.  I am not suggesting a systematic theology class but a lifestyle of intimate reflection on God and the amazing life in Christ.  

We have a decision to make on this Good Friday.  Will the sad bureaucrats of television and social media define our King through our screen time?  Or, will we choose our King by a life of faith. 

The greatest proof of Christ is our life lived healthy, peacefully and boldly.  Today I will choose Jesus as King. 

Holy Week 2017: Thursday 

Welcome to my Lenten journal for Holy Week. You are welcome to follow along and comment.  


On Mandy or Holy Thursday, Jesus has home church with his closest and most trusted disciples.   Now we get to the more familiar parts of Holy Week. Studying through Monday- Wednesday  and reading all of Matthew 26 creates a perspective for today’s text. It was eye opening for me.  Hope it is for you too. Here is one thought among many. 

“7 a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table…26 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body”… 56 But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.”

This is a story of immeasurable grace wrapped in abandonment, betrayal, cowardly back stabbing and abuse of power.  These acts are not done by the bad guys but by his friends and Sunday school teachers hiding behind the Roman’s skirts and pretending to do no harm. Knowing this, Jesus gave us all THE gift.  Communion.  Communion is both an ordinance of the church and a condition of the heart, binding us to Jesus. 

I love Holy Communion.  It is Jesus’ most intimate gift to His Church. Within it is mystery and a remembrance of all of God’s promises.  Within it is also our need for forgiveness.  As the original disciples took that first communion, one betrayed Jesus to death, the rest abandoned him as He completed his ministry to us.  I ne d the have given them today. 

I am confronting myself this morning. I have no judgement of you. I have forsaken Christ and walked apart myself. Even though my sins may seem mild, this is a day of decision for me. I must make the choice for Grace. 

 You and Me and we have a decision this Holy Thursday. Will we choose the bunnies and eggs and forsake the cross?  Will Easter be about new clothes and the annual trudge to church or will we embrace the gift of life that is the life in Christ. 


This is more than heaven or hell or choosing more acceptable sins. Will I, will we, choose to live larger, healthier life in Christ. 

That is what Maundy Thursday means.   In Christ’s offering on that Thursday so long ago we were given a way to connect and stay connected with God. We have to choose one way or another. We can’t not choose.  Today I choose Jesus. 

Holy Week 2017: Wednesday 

My Lenten journal for Holy Week. You are welcome to follow along and comment.  

On Wednesday Jesus taught the church professionals and took his closest disciples on a retreat in the mountains (Matthew 24-25).   To get the whole picture we should read Matthew 21-25.  Here is one thought of many for today.

Matthew 21:23-27 ” Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you this authority?”24 Jesus replied, “I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. 25 John’s baptism—where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or of human origin?”

They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘Of human origin’—we are afraid of the people, for they all hold that John was a prophet.” 27 So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.”Then he said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”

So the temple “board of directors” looked the savior in the eye ask asked, “who do you think you are and who told you that you could say such things here in OUR house?” Jesus deftly turned the the question against them.  Jesus answers them by asking them who HE is and what is HIS authority.   Rather than discern an answer from God,  these scholarly believers looked for political answers. Rather than seeking to God, they worried about how things appeared to those looking at them.

At this moment  I am being asked the same question.  In Baptism, what authority do I give to Jesus over my life and why.   Today I will choose and so will you.  Who gets to set my standards and receive this authority? God by faith or humans by choice. 

Truth be told, I will submit to both. I give authority to my wife, doctor dentist, denomination and others. Yet, I am called  to put God first.  I must allow God to be the first and final filter.  This is not just theological but practical, not just hereafter but here and now.  Learning of God’s authority is not instant thing and will take some spiritual growth.  This process is the message of Holy Week. 

We start each day with a well intentioned parade, pass through many situations, and confront who we are. The question this Wednesday  is, “Who gets the final word in who we are and how we are?” Jesus was rock solid in his calling because he knew God had the final word. You and I can live with this solid footing too. 

Are your steps solid or slippery?  Perhaps a little of both. Jesus went on retreat. After this confrontation Jesus found time in the mountains away from the world to recharge with God. Find an hour today to pray.  Find a day this month.  Find a weekend this year and seek God.  

God is faithful to be found by all who do.  Easter blessings to you!

Pastor Alan. 

 

So this Holy Week thing?  How does it work?

Simply put Holy Week is a collection of scriptures that lead you to Easter.  God will lead you to your own breakthrough as you search them. How does this work?   There is no single right way.  Search these scriptures at your own pace and find yourself in them. Here is a help. 

Bible gateway dot com ( click here for that site) has assembled an infographic drawn from these scriptures to help us visualize our personal journey and have given permission to use it it worship. I have followed this route for my journey this year. 


In this article they also have a link to the 2015 Newsweek issue where this came from.  There is also a reference to the 2015 series AD produced by Roma Downing and Mark Burnett. 

A series of books has come from that mini-series that I find very interesting and helpful.  I understand that this show is coming soon to another cable network.  A series of books has also emerged from it.    I am currently reading “David Jeremiah’s “A.D. The Bible Continues : The Revolution That Changed the World” which follows this series. It is an excellent devotional read. 

God’s richest blessing to your Holy Week!  May Jesus come alive through his Word for you. 

Pastor Alan

Holy Week 2017: Tuesday

My Lenten journal for Holy Week. You are welcome to follow along and comment

On Tuesday of Holy Week, Jesus taught his closest  disciples in words and through objects-including an uncooperative fig tree found in Matthew 21:19-22

“19 Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” Immediately the tree withered.20 When the disciples saw this, they were amazed. “How did the fig tree wither so quickly?” they asked.21 Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. 22 If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”

It was a rainy and cool Holy Tuesday.  I got started early, studied a bit, prayed a bit and pondered my productivity that seems challenged in this story.  I even had a talk with a man from the “home office” about our attendance and such.   He wanted some numerical data to check on how a Conference program had done.

Our numbers are not dramatic but show we care about Christ and his people.  We are a faithful family at Cheatham and by any measure fruitful Tithes, attendance, new members are easily counted  but faith is more slippery.  Does my quiet day reflect spiritual in-productivity? Does living the usual “frog-in-the-blender” life make me more productive?  

Jesus did not curse this fig tree out of “hangry”meanness but to create a teachable moment.  This was a negative event that sought a positive outcome.   Jesus taught the power of faith over mere appearances and warned his closest friends to keep things real and God focused. This wasn’t a threat but a warning to judge carefully how success in the Christ-life is measures. 

The tree needed only to be what it was meant to be; which was fruitful-to feed those who were hungry. 

So it is with you and me.  Success is being willing and able to share your fruit. Hunger is present I all of those around. They might need  food, comfort, a listening ear  or other physical need.  Ultimately we will feed them through our bold faith in Christ using our spiritual gifts and resources.
In Jesus I am enough and have enough. In you too. Fruitfulness is more about willingness than our resources. It does not matter what others see, how many you have in the pews or how much is in the bank, the grace in you and in me is sufficient, And we always grow more as we share what we have. 

Pray with me this week. As you walk along take a deep breath and as you exhale say (silently or aloud) ” Jesus in you I am enough.”  Faith will come with enough to share.    Keep your eyes on Christ 

You have everything you need. Blessings to you this Holy Week. 

Pastor Alan.