Ashes and Crosses: A Deeper Lent

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Lent is a 40-day season of preparation that reflects Jesus Christ’s 40 days temptation by Satan in the desert. It begins with acts of fasting and self-denial on Ash Wednesday.  The season is actually 46 days before Easter Sunday – the six Sundays in between are not counted, as they are “mini-Easters” and feast days.  People follow Jesus’ example and give up something important to grow closer to God as Easter approaches.

The dates for Lent and Easter follow the Lunar Date of Passover.  We know from scripture that Jesus was crucified on the Friday of Passover.  Passover begins on the first full moon on or after March 21. (The Spring Equinox) That gives us the date of the Sunday for Easter. You then count back six Sundays for season of Lent and the Wednesday before the first Sunday of Lent is Ash Wednesday.  Before the glorious celebration of resurrection, we look at our sorrow and mortality, represented in the ashes, which makes the cross necessary.

The ashes are an ancient symbol of death and an expression of sorrow.  One of the earliest uses of them in worship is found in the book of Job.  The ashes used in worship are traditionally made from the palm leaves from the previous year’s Palm Sunday.  Mixed with a little oil, they become a rich and meaningful means of grace.

2018 is an oddity of Lenten tradition.  The Fast Day of Ash Wednesday and the Feast Day of Valentine’s Day fall on the same day, Feb. 14.  That presents a problem for some people who observe both holidays.
The observance of Ash Wednesday requires fasting and “giving up” something for Lent that fosters spiritual growth. Valentine’s Day is a time for celebrating love, often celebrated by eating out and giving gifts of candy. Some will just allow the overlap while other Christians will celebrate St. Valentines feast on the previous Sunday.

The Ashes of Wednesday are placed on the worshiper’s forehead in the sign of the cross withAshes and collin the words, “remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return,” The cross is worn until the next morning as a witness to the Work of Jesus

Our prayer for you is that the season of Lent is more than just giving up Diet Coke or chocolate but provides a time to meditate on the deeper things of God.  Find that one thing that pushes your soul along that internal journey of salvation.  Rather than food fast, try a technology fast, give up a grudge or even a bad habit.  Consider giving up a block of time each day to devote yourself to searching the scriptures. It is between you and God what this sacrifice should be.

You are welcome to join the Cheatham Memorial United Methodist, 205 S. Houston (859 at US 80) in Edgewood invites you to two worship services on Ash Wednesday, February 14.  From 10-11:00 AM we will have “Come and Go” time to share the gift of ashes with a full service at 6:30 PM. Check out www.cheathamumc.net for further details.

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The First Step to Success, STEP UP!

(This is the second post from a January 2018 sermon series at Cheatham Memorial UMC, Click here for more information)

Enjoy the Lord, and he will give what your heart asks. Commit your way to the Lord! Trust him! He will act and will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, your justice like high noon.” Psalm 37:4

I am in the first few hours of the morning of New Year’s Day 2018 and will choose my first words, first foods, first TV images, first posts and first influences of this year. These choices at the start will define the results at the finish. I choose Success and I know that God will be central to that living success. I don’t have this figured out, so we can do that together. Comments are welcome.

My first step to success, or better seeing daily success, is to define what it is. This exploration of personal success began at a retirement retreat hosted by our denomination and redirects my attitude. I was very anxious about providing for my wife in retirement and the planning set my mind at ease. The plan includes financial, tax and health care BUT also adds physical wellness, mental health and spiritual preparation. What failure it would be to gain a huge retirement and forfeit my soul to get it. Ultimately it must lead to more than that to be called a map to success.

The First STEP: START. Success is lived in the present moment-not in a vague goal in the life future. Working toward goals is necessary for healthy living. However, the goals themselves are not success but the life that is guided by them. We need that step by step SMART* plan. That plan must reflect a God sized definition of success or we plan to fail. How is my life a success and how can God use my first step to guide me to a deeper sense of success? Here is my start.

Seek God: There no wholeness without the Creator’s vision, focus, and eternal connection. Searching the scriptures, listening in prayer, engaging worship, and learning in small groups are powerful tools to understanding and achieving true success. Psalm 37 will be my meditation scripture for the year.

Seek counsel: “Plans fail for lack of counsel but with many advisers they succeed.” Proverbs 15:22. There are only a few people that I trust enough to converse with this. SO, I have included the blog and social media crowd to weigh in. The results. have been interesting. I have a coach who helps with vocational things and a trusted friend with the personal.

Success is not one thing: Think Broader than money. The social media responses so far center on Finances, Work/Vocation, freedom, influence/power, friendships, good health, and “happiness” . Spiritual matters have not been mentioned frequently by others so I will add them. Simply achieving anyone of these is not success.

Choose your areas of success: Start with your relationship with God. Seek and you will find your way. Choose five areas of success, I chose God, maintaining relationships, finances, Church (Work) goals, Educational goals. Inventory where you are and look to where you should be. Let faith define what is realistic. Think about the end and not the rocky first steps. JUMP!

Write it down and look at the plan often: Mine is taped to the lid of my iPad. You could put in on your computer start up or tape it to your bathroom mirror but if you don’t look at the plan you lose its vision. By the way…things change. Plan for course corrections without compromising on the big picture.

A warning. Not everyone should be allowed in this part of your life. You will need people that love you enough to critique but you DON’T need people that will selfishly drag you down or talk you out of your success. Find that one companion and visit regularly. START YOUR SEARCH AT CHURCH!

More to come

*Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant, and Timely. Check out YouTube “SMART Goals, Quick Overview.”

TOUGH ENOUGH FOR TOUGH TALK

The church is the place to ask God the tough questions.  You know, the ones that you are either afraid to ask or the ones that you have given up on being answerable.  These can make faith hard to “nail down”. I won’t pretend to have all of the answers.  My faith is challenged just like yours.  I do know the source of them which is God and God is tough enough for us to ask the tough questions. Our savior is also tough enough to be yelled at on occasion. Join with me in searching for answers to salvation, death, injustice, suffering and more. The journey is the point here and not simply the answers. Come walk with us.

Here is our road map for the journey:

October 1 Pentecost 17 “OK, But Why your Son?”

Read John 5: 19-29.  The question: Why did Jesus have to die? Focusingg thought: God loves us so much that He would do anything to save us.
Couldn’t there have been and kinder way to do it than to allow Jesus to die so cruelly? We will explore
salvation, death and resurrection and look for answers to help us grow in faith. 

October 8 Pentecost 18 “But Why does it happen to the ones I love?”

Romans 5 , Why do people have to die? God is almighty and our creator. I believe in heaven and eternity but
still ask why the ones that I love have to die. We will address fearless living.  

October 15 Pentecost 19 ͞Why is life just too much sometimes?’

Job 1: Why do we suffer? Sometimes it just isn’t fair and I didn’t do anything to deserve it. Also, some people
just seem to have more struggles than others. Where is God in the hard times when it just isn’t fair.

October 22 is a special LAITY SUNDAY!

October 29 Pentecost 21 (Halloween is on Tuesday!) ͞Why didn’t you fix that͟

Genesis 3: Why is there evil in the world? God could have killed that stinking snake in the Garden? C’mon
God, why didn’t fix that. The theodolitic/Faith crisis. What happens when our faith has no answers and how that cripples some while increasing the faith of
others.

November 5 (Communion Sunday) “The Moses Seat”

Matthew 23: 1-12 Where is the source of the wisdom? I need better questions and answers!  “Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, The scribes and the Pharisees sit onMoses’ seat; 3therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do notpractice what they teach.”Where are you practicesDO. 

Do you have questions about these passages or about the Christian life in general?  You are welcome to make a comment or contact me through our church website at www.cheathamumc.net.  I can also email you a pdf of our study guide if you wish.  Blessings to you my fellow traveller in Christ!  

On Hate:  One Christian’s Reflection

Hate is the enemy and not the remedy. The outbreaks of hatred in Charlottesville and Barcelona that have made all of the news cycles are a symptom of just how sick our culture is. The surprise and shock that people have shown over this show of racial supremacy is another symptom-we as a people are not paying attention. The notion that this was settled racism in the ‘60s and we have all joined hands to sing the Coca-Cola song has been shown to be a lie. 

Another lie- Hate is being misunderstood as social action. Hate is the central doctrine of highly organized, well funded and diverse groups preaching the lie that one person’s hate is morally superior to that of another. As such, hate is justified as a tool for creative change and promoted as a virtue of strength. I am too sick to be angry, too sad to be mad, and I suspect that you are not even surprised by these horrible events. They seem to be inevitable and we are losing our shock at them. Will we wait until it hits home before we do something? But, what can we do?

Some things I know for sure as a Christian. We are the Church of Jesus Christ. The Church is the engine of salvation and offers a remedy to sin. God does not hate and did not call us to these horrific events as ministry. God has the big picture but he has called us to specific action here and now. Finally, love and forgiveness are the keys to this action-Quoting Bishop Scott Jones,”Racism is incompatible with Christianity…I encourage all Christians and especially all United Methodists with whom I have a special relationship, to take steps to support people of color and condemn racist behavior.”   

By the way, I am a person of color. It is not my pale skin that is my identity though, it is the Grace of my savior, Jesus Christ. I intend to see others in that same light. My prayer is that we can be and become “Jesus-Colored” and see His grace in everyone, even those more hate filled, destructive people around us. “…unity of the Spirit with the peace that ties you together” (Ephesians 4) is God’s creative way of building community. Hate cannot build and racism is just another way to say hate.

God’s call on us is to love someone. The call on us is to love those who are scary or dirty or different. That does not mean we push safety aside, nor does it mean withdrawing from the world and living only with our own. We cannot fence off 100 acres, build in the middle, and still follow the call of an almighty and loving God. So what steps do we take. I cant speak for you but this is my stand and I pray you will join me. 

Step 1: Take our faith in Jesus personally and seriously by studying, praying, worshiping and serving. I will apply what I learn to my everyday living. I will not live in the naïve notion that I can change anyone else or that people will just naturally follow along. Before we start our day, faith has to be personal.

Step 2: Engage the Church and connect our gifts with other Christians to make a difference in our families and community. I will not tolerate institutional hatred and will reach out to others that claim Christ as the Way with proactive opportunities to work together. There are two projects with the potential to reach out today. Simply singing “we shall overcome” is inadequate. Before we start our day we need to pray for those who walk with us and those who ought to walk with us.

Step 3: Restrict our diet of media news and seek news of the good things going on. I will not be held hostage by the narrow focus of the 24 hour news providers. Some things need more time and attention while other don’t need any at all. 

Step 4: Allow God to be the majority vote and seek discernment over a popular vote. I know this takes real work, focus and courage. I am ready to step up by faith and grow in Christ rather than submit to hate.

How about you? How about us? Let the church arise and grow together and out-love the hate in Jesus’ name.   

An Honest Joe: Worship and Study Guide

honest joe source slide in jpgThe Bible is a living connection to God and people.  In Joseph, the son of Jacob/Israel, found in Genesis 37-50 is a life full of those connecting moments.  Honest Joe’s story is more than just a colorful coat and contains tips for successful living.  Our Cheatham Memorial United Methodist Church family will being studying through these chapter in our August 2017 sermons.

We welcome you to follow along and comment.  Begin with this  “Infographic”, follow the study guide and  make comments from your own experience.  Everyone is welcome to comment.  Check out our Cheatham Memorial website for more details. (  Put your US Mail address in a comment and I will send you a paper copy if you wish)

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Here are the four topics that I picked and a 30-Day reading guide.  This is less than one page per day f reading!  Please leave comments to those things that gave you something that adds value to your life!

August 6, 2017: Weekley Reading Genesis 37-39
Genesis 37:12-28 “Faith is a Journey”.

August 13, 2017: Weekly Reading: Genesis 40-42
Genesis 39:1-23 “Life Can Be a Dream”

August 20, 2017: Weekly Reading: Genesis 43-46
Genesis 45:1-18 Forgiveness: A New Beginning”

August 27, 2017: Weekly Reading Genesis 47-50
Genesis 50:22 “Faith Gives Birth to Faith”

Where do  you find yourself in Joseph’s story?  LEAVE A COMMENT! Thanks for reading along with us!  Looking for a church home?  We have a great church family. Join us!

WELCOME HOME!

Cheatham Memorial United Methodist Church

SUNDAY WORSHIP 10:00 AM

Office Hours: Monday – Thursday 9 am – 3 pm
205 South Houston Street/P.O. Box 800
Edgewood, TX 75117
Tel: 903-896-4935 Fax: 903-896-4935
www.cheathamumc.net
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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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