Our August 2016 Prayer Challenge

“The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”  James 5:16

compass of faith

Our Texas Annual Conference offers a “Wellness Program” with a structured exercise program through our health insurance.    Each week or so we are offered a motivational “challenge” that expands “Wellness” beyond exercise and weight loss.  The current challenge is “to journal a prayer daily”.  How wonderful to remember that our spiritual side is a crucial part of being healthy people.

So here is your challenge.  Write at least one brief prayer each week and post it in a comment at the bottom of this post.  Post as many as you wish!

Check in often and pray through the prayers of others who post.  This could be a part of your personal well and a jump-start to a richer prayer life.

Below is a worksheet that I use in classes and for writing group prayers in strategic planning.  If you are not sure how to form your written prayer, this provides a starting place.

As for me…..  I am going to write 100 brief prayers of this style in August!  Each time the Spirit moves, I am carrying a blank notebook to write them down.  Please join me and share how Jesus is touching your heart in prayer.

collect worksheet for individual prayer in gif

 

June 2016 Sermons at Cheatham Memorial

compass of faith

The Cheatham Memorial Family invites you to join us for worship at 10:00 am each Sunday.  We have a variety of activities and service projects that you can check out at our WEBSITE!

Do you ever feel like you have lost direction?  We will discuss ways to “Face the Fire by Faith”.  What do I do with faith in a world that seems so random.   Transformation is a mystery that begins and ends with faith.  The fun stuff lies in the middle.  Find your way with us as we seek Christ together.

June 5:  The 3rd Sunday of Pentecost, Communion Sunday,

Text:  1 Kings 17:8-24 “Now What”

Transformation in the soul is built by our experiences in the day to day.  We need companions for the journey and our eye on God.  With each day’s ups and downs, let’s face it, faith can just be difficult.  And yet we grow through these experiences.

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June 12: 4th Sunday of Pentecost. 

Text: Galatians 2:15-21,” Faith is Dead Right”

The way to faith is faith.  God is faithful to plant the seeds of faith within us and water them with our experiences. Faith expressed leads us to faith experienced.   “Paul speaks of what kind of sinner he is and asks, “what kind of sinner are you?”

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 June 19: 5th Sunday of Pentecost, Father’s Day

Text Luke 8:26-39  “Hey, those are my pigs!”

A dad’s promise does not come from a perfect life but by following a perfect Jesus.  Faith opens our eyes to our own brand of distress and randomness.  Rather than excuse our lives as “Just the way it is”, a new way is given, by faith, to all who will fearlessly face the challenge.

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 June 26:  6th Sunday of Pentecost

Text:  2 Kings 2:1-14  “Pass it on”

Faith is not a possession to hold but one to nurture and pass on.  Our companions in life feed our faith but also depend on us to build them up too.  Leadership is successful when we let god and watch another grow.

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Praying hope when hope is hard to find

IMG_5224Our congregation is a praying congregation and I am a blessed pastor to serve here.  Payer is a craft and a learned skill.  Part of our teaching focus this year, and one of our three key drivers, is “Developing skills for ministering” and one key skill is praying with and for hurting people. (Note:  we have two other ‘drivers’; loving God’s word, and deepening our prayer life.) But how do you pray for hope when things seem hopeless?  In times of hospice care, terminal illness, tragic accidents, catastrophic relationship breaks and other final and un-fixable situations, how do you pray with the hope of Jesus Christ in the face of hopelessness?  Here are some things to think about and you are welcome to comment your thoughts below. The scriptural focus will be 1 Corinthians 15.

In Christ nothing is hopeless even if it cant be seen.  This may be a hard sell to the wounded, especially if this person does not have a faith foundation.  The caregiver needs to firm in this fact and know  scriptures of comfort.  It seldom  a good care to preach them in a time of stress.  Pick one and offer it as a comfort, a medicine, but not a magic spell.  To an unchurched person it is probably better to paraphrase.  God has your back, caregiver, and God has healing for the hopeless.

Look at death from a God’s eye view.  “Where o death is your victory, where o death is your sting”.  (1 Corinthians 15:54-56).  Flesh and blood is not the point of life and living is eternal in Jesus Christ.  Death is not the enemy but sin is-anything that separates us from the love of God in Christ Jesus for you.  Death is the human condition.  From God’s perspective, death is merely a way to show us how precious life is and how crucial to make our lives matter by investing them in Faith.  Tragedy is not a punishment!  They are the product of a broken world.

Here are four things to remember.  Four ways that this craft works out in the real world. 

Ask permission to pray.  If the answer is yes then you have an opportunity to open the door to the Holy Spirit in a situation that does not immediately point to hope.  If the answer is no, then you have been given permission to pray without speaking and pray you must.  This is God’s domain and not ours anyway.  It is not our spoken words that heal but God’s movement within them.  When you can’t put hope into words, pray to the God of all hope to make it known.

When you pray aloud, pray what you know and not what you do not know. How do you pray when a person is in agony without any treatment options left?  No one wants them to die, yet the comfort of a faithful persons death is peace.  One of our church members who was attending to a dear friend said, “When I don’t see the way to pray, I simply pray for mercy, and then take the opportunity to prayer for myself.

Hopelessness is often forced change in disguise.  A lengthy process of dying will often bring faith to a whole family.  A tragic accident can bring about major changes to people who would have never considered. and a situation from bad choices that has only bad solutions  can bring a person to their knees and see God.  The situation may be dire and unfair but the God led outcome can bring a victory that we cannot ask for or imagine.  Caregivers can always pray for guidance for a person that is on a dark path even if they cannot know what the destination might be.

Never Give up and never give in to hopelessness.  I believe in prayer for impossible things because that is where God intersects our lives.  Even when the outcome is not what I have chosen, God has spoken.  Who am I to put words in God’s mouth.  Who am I to think that I have the big picture at hand.  Pray like you mean it and know that God will meet you there.  “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”                    -1 Corinthians 15:58.

 

 

 

Monday School: November 30, 2015, Coping with Christmas 1 of 3, Matthew 20:20-28

This is an overview of our discussion and not a text for success.  This is not just a Holiday thing either.  We are sharing stories and principles for coping with life and not just Christmas.  This is not a discussion of right and wrong behaviors but of healthier and unhealthier.  This is not a discussion of living stress free wither-only dead people are stress free. The trick is living in heathy stress and not constant distress. There are no quick fixes but this story gives us a framework for discussion.

Read our story from the Gospel of Matthew and follow along as we ask the text some questions:  Click here for Matthew 20:20-28

Our discussion of the text:  James and John show up to see Jesus with their mom.  She asks them to make these two the number two and three people in His messianic kingdom.  She misunderstood the kingdom to be an earthly-political one while Jesus was teaching that it would be one in heaven.  While she only had her community model to understand a kingdom, she knew Jesus, recognized  and she had faith that He could make her request happen.

Jesus gave them all a question as an answer and used Holy Communion language to teach them.  He is asking, “do you really know what you are getting in to.  They said sure and then Jesus said, “You’ve got it!”  BUT the three seats of leadership are not His to give nor theirs to receive-they are for the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Later, Jesus would gather them together, with all of the grumbling, and explain that their mission was not to set up another human led, lord and master government system.  The Kingdom of God would be spiritual and focused on serving others rather than being the big dog in charge and being served.  Jesus did not die the make them power people but to be their ransom-payment-redemption, freeing them for a rich life that changes the world.

After this rather lively discussion of the text, we turned the worksheet over and asked these question.

  1. Who brought whom to Jesus? Did mom bring the boys? Or did the boys bring mom to fade the heat?  Who brings their mom to something like this!  Perhaps mom was that strong willed and didn’t trust her kids to stand up for themselves.  Maybe the sons brought mom to take the heat and passively do their talking to Jesus for them.  It makes a difference in our family dynamics.  Who is the strong willed in your family and who waits to be brought along.  Neither is more right or more wrong but you need to understand how that works to understand how a group of people come together and operate in a healthy way.
  2. Why did anyone have to bring anyone? The short answer is anxiety.  one or another was worried more than the other and pushed this action to relieve the anxiety.  Mom worried about sons, or sons worried about what Jesus would think or all of them just wanted to make sure they got to the front of the line.  Some things to consider
*The anxiety of each person in any group or family effects the anxiety of others.
*Some handle stress and anxiety better than others but everyone is two people; how they are normally and how they are when anxious.
*Self identity effects how we see God and hence how we see everything.  “Know thyself!”
*When unhealthy living is all you know, that’s how you go about living and will strive to make that happen.  Likewise when your family is healthy you will strive to maintain healthy living.
  1. First from verse 22: He calmly refocused the question in a spiritual way  in a calm place in a focused way.  When our family is in crisis we can begin by getting focused around facts and not emotion.
  2. Second from verse 23:
  3. And third from verse 25     How did this effect the group dynamic?  I made the other 10 “indignant”!  It caused stress and acting out.  He and gathered this family of disciples.  Being together in a familiar place is powerful but has to be mutually respectful  to be healthy
  4. What happens in football when you have 12 players on the field.. “Too many players on the field” gets a flag and the loss of control.  When an outsider or one unhealthy voice gets control the play has to change directions!  This is hard and usually goes against long standing patterns.  Jesus didn’t let the two define the mission that was to be their lives.
  5. What happens when one (or more) try define a group members identity.  anger with yelling?  anger with silence, isolating?  or….calmly sharing the cause and asking God to lead rather than the emotion of the moment.  Prayer is amazing when we do it at first instead of as a last resort.  Following Jesus’ calm yet firm persona.  He did not yell back and taught then retaught the role they would have and the one they would follow.  Consistency and discernment is a key.  Seeing God clearly through the fog of anxiety is key to getting started.  Knowing whose you are is key to knowing who you are and living in the healthy light of faith.
  6. What correction did Jesus offer?  Seek to serve and not be served.  Seek to follow God in spirit and truth rather than lead from your own limited vision and strength.  His witness and example would lead and guide all of those who follow.  It was suggested that this confrontation by James and John’s mom was embarrassing!  They probably knew the answer but pushed the point any way.
  7. Fusion versus differentiation:  Sometimes we are “Fused” as a group to the point that we lose all individuality-this is called fusion.  Sometimes we are so focused on ourselves that we don’t need anyone else-this is called differentiation.  The truth is that we float around somewhere in the middle.  We must know ourselves well enough to go to Jesus without mom making our case for us.  We also have to take on our life’s role with or without Mom’s approval and be ok.  We must be connected to our group but not to the point we have no identity-that describes a cult.  To lack any need for our family makes us empty shells and narcissists.
  8. Ideally, who should we “fuse” with?  The only perfect person that ever walked was Jesus.  He is the one who gives us an identity that gives us a life of significance here and life eternal hereafter.

 

 

 

 

 

Sermon Brief: James 3:1-12 “But We All Must Learn”

October Theme

This is the final offering in a series of sermons with the goal of clearing the clutter that we tend to pile around the Bible.  Join with us as we explore these stories together.  This week we are invited to match up what God puts in our heart and what we say with our tongues.

FIRST!    Click here to Read the Sermon Text: James 3:1-12

James 3 1-12On a Sunday afternoon in Freestone County Texas drought had plagued the land, humidity was about 15% and the wind was blowing about 30 miles per hour and there was not a chance of rain.    In the mid afternoon in an area called “Cotton Gin” a pasture caught fire and started a wild fire that burned for almost two weeks, destroying homes, outbuildings, woods and pasture.  the question would be asked many times, How did it start.  The story was that it began when  a squirrel got tangled up in a transformer and our corner of the world changed forever.   It is a good story whether true or not.  The conditions were perfect and only by the efforts of scores of firefighters from a dozen fire departments was the fire contained and eventually put out.

Looking around at our church we are experiencing the perfect conditions for a fire of another sort, that of God’s revival fire.  People are looking for answers in a culture that has none.  The church of Jesus Christ is still alive and relevant though not in fashion for the moment.  The fire of the Gospel is poised to catch and brings the fruit of joy and peace and takes away anxiety and death.  Only by the efforts of God’s faithful will THIS FIRE, one so desperately needed be contained and extinguished.   God is going to win.  Will God do so because of us or in spite of us.

The key to stoking this positive fire of revival, one that takes away devastation, is what my mom told me too many times, “Watch your mouth!”  This is central to James’ message to us in our scripture text today.

Remember!  There first person the preacher has to preach to is the Preacher.  I am not on any pedestal here.  We all stumble, we all shouldn’t teach but we must all LEARN! Disciples are students and can learn to control our tongues.  The call of God is spiritual maturity.  Maturity is best understood as growing in the Christ centered single mindedness of “Loving nothing but God and hating nothing but sin”.  Maturity is best seen when what we speak reflects how we are in Christ, maturity in this sense is being and saying exactly what God has called us to be.  This involves  focusing the tongue more than “taming”.

James tells us that no one can tame the tongue but we can grow and focus our words on the things of God. We keep our words from burning a life down and use them to  inspire spiritual greatness. These words are the seed of Revival fire, one that we don’t want to quenche. Only God can start it, and only We can prevent it.

We can tame the tongue but we must.  HOW??  Hit The Pause Button.  This is not merely biting your tongue or biding your time, or just cooling off.  But, Inviting the Grace of Jesus Christ to be more important than your words.  Your saying should be a reflection of your saving.

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Prayer is your pause button “pray always using spiritual Efforts”

Prayer prevents foot in mouth disease!  Our witness is more fragile, more today than ever before.  We simply must find our relationship with Christ and be a blessing and not a cursing. Our words show others what Christ looks like. Thus, you and I need to know our mission and know what that mission looks like in both our personal lives and in the lives of our congregations.

ISlide2f I know my mission, I can speak clearly of what I do.  This is the mission of the United Methodist Church.  While written to congregations, it is a solid and scriptural description of who I personally am in Christ too. Even in my congregation, my walk with Christ is person and I cannot be a transforming presence if I have not experienced it myself.  All of this is to God’s glory and not mine!

Slide3 This is our vision of what that looks like in our congregation. Welcoming, Loving with Action shown through following Jesus, Serving our community and unifying the body of Christ is what being a disciple looks like.  Saying what we mean and doing what we say is controlling our tongues.

We cannot tame the tongue but we can focus it.  We cannot remove all of our deadly poison but we can grow in grace.   Remember when we try our hardest- One squirrel can get tangled in our lives and turn our best efforts into a deadly wildfire!  Talk is cheap as “faith without works is dead”.  Be alive in Christ.

How will you and I we inspire the fires of revival.  It starts with our personal discipleship-accepting Christ as our savior.  We are formed as true disciples by Following Christ, Serving our mission field and unifying as the body of Christ.  These are the seeds of spiritual grown, thes are the seeds of revival.

This post is a follow-up to our sermon from Sunday and I pray it touches your heart and that you have a church that makes you feel “Welcome Home”.  If you don’t, please click on the link below and check out our Family.  We would love to welcome you whenever you find yourself in our corner of East Texas.  Come and see us!

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Sermon Brief: Mark 10:17-31 “O Come on….You Know this”

October Theme

This is the first of two in a series of sermons with the goal of clearing the clutter that we tend to pile around the Bible.  Join with us as we explore these stories together.

Did Jesus ever tell a joCamel-and-needleke?  Some people act like He was only the man of sorrows and that sour, and harsh actions are Christian service.  Jesus was constantly at dinner with people and speaking to diverse groups.  He was fully human and fully God, yet capable of weeping.  It is reasonable to think that he would also laugh.  Some believe that this  comment about rich people  was a joke!  Granted, the punch line is lost to the centuries BUT that does fit.

Scripture is dealing with life and death seriousness in our story today but Jesus is not afraid to laugh the truth into this crowd. Still this is not a comedy but a love story.

Click Here for Mark 10:17-31  The text will tell you where I am coming from .

Slide1This is a picture of 19th century graves of a Catholic woman and her Protestant husband, who were not allowed to be buried together. On the Protestant part of this cemetery Colonel  van Gorcum, of the Dutch Cavalry. His wife, lady van Aefferden is buried in the Catholic part. They were married in 1842,the lady was 22 and the colonel 33, he was a protestant and didn’t belong to the nobility.  This caused quite a commotion in the day.

After being married for 38 years the colonel died in 1880 and was buried on the protestant part of the cemetery against the wall. His wife died in 1888 and had decided not to be buried in the family tomb but on the other side of the wall. Two clasped hands connect the graves across the wall telling a love story that is bigger than the grave.  The barriers weren’t brick-class, denomination/style, family relationships, background, or gender-they were spiritual.  Even in death they found a way.

Their love story reflects the love story that the Gospel has for us.  Jesus is in the region of Judea and across the Jordan. He is teaching at a furious pace to prepare his followers for the crucifixion.  His inner circle of disciples is trying to “get it” and temple staff members are there to make sure they don’t.

A man rushes up and asks the central question of all life, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus starts listing the 10 commandments,  but the man hastily interrupts-saying Come on, I know this. Jesus “Looked at him and loved him”.  He saw his spiritual brick-wall and told him to give away all of his riches and follow. The man clung to his money and went away sad, unrepentant and unredeemed.

Jesus rounded up his disciples, laughed and quipped about running a camel through the eye of a needle being easier than that rich guy entering into God’s kingdom. Jesus laughed the truth into them that God gives us the gift of possibility where we have none without on our own strength.

Good old clumsy Peter piped in that they indeed left everything to follow him. He was trying to live out of the rich man’s spiritual problems instead of his own. Thus pointing out that they were way ahead of that rich guy. Of course Christ’s closest ones there wasn’t whole lot of riches to leave behind.. I am sure that Jesus just shook His head.

The point is not what they lost by following but what they gained, which was everything, Nothing we can lose by faith can compare to What Jesus Gives us. Indeed the more we leave behind by faith the higher the capacity to reap spiritual riches. “But many who are first will be last, and the last first. Come on… we know this!  but it is hard to walk away from our walls.  Our real separation is not brick, class or background but a Spiritual relationship with God that show us and then removes the false separations built in our own minds.  Even in death Jesus found a way to overcome the wall that is sin/separation, and he did that through the Cross and our inheritance of an empty tomb.

So what do we learn from this?  The love story of Jesus is bigger than the grave

We have walls between us and God of our own making.  God is assertively reaching over them to grasp our hands.  Of course we have to live inside our own walls, not those of someone else.  God reveals our separation, our sin, and the Grace of Jesus removes them one brick at a time. Keep reaching!  Grace reaches back when we risk losing something personal to gain everything.  The empty tomb is a better place to live than the grave yard.

Salvation is a personal gift but is lived out in our church families.  Congregations build walls too.  When we hide behind the walls of style, denomination and tradition we slap God’s nail scarred hands away and retreat into our four lonely walls.

Unity is as tough now as it was in Jesus’ earthly ministry.  Like then, we are living in a world of change and are left to witness to an unchanging God  in our ever changing cultural reality.  How, by looking at to Jesus as our ground and goal rather than trying to cling to people.  By gladly preparing our church for the next generation instead of trying to make them look like us.  Focusing our vision is  listening to God rather than just making better plan.

At Cheatham Memorial we are unveiling our new vision statement at Charge Conference next week.  This is more than a glib slogan but a way of discerning.  Slide3

We settled on “Welcome Home!”  This is what I want to hear when my time on earth is done and what we want others to hear when they step through our doors.  Rather than just doing good things, we will test our ministry and ask if we are following Christ, serving the community and unifying the body as we do them.  If the answer is no then we are probably only serving ourselves and need to re-think.  Live in Christ, you cant lose.

Let us work according to Christ’s mission and we have already succeeded. and when we quit telling God, as the rich young man did, how smart we are and move toward disciplined listening we will grow in Grace and live a life of significance.

 

This is a follow up to our sermon from Sunday and I pray it touches your heart.  Please find a church that gives you a hearty “Welcome Home”.  If you find yourself in our corner of East Texas, Come and see us!

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“Monday School” A precept study of James; Chapter 2 week 2

Tonight we had some new folks and an excellent discussion! Our church family has set aside Monday Evenings at 6:00 for Adult Bible Study.  This is a 5-week Inductive study where we look at the whole to see where God’s direction comes from.  This group is bathed in prayer too.

In Monday School, It is as important to know HOW to study as it is to know the information. We are not seeking simple intellectual knowledge but God’s wisdom.  To do this we will hone three skills:  Observation-spiritual reading, Interpretation-spiritual seeking, and Application-putting truth into practice.  No one is an expert.  We are all finding our way.

One thing I ask!  Don’t consult any commentaries until we are done.  One goal is to build confidence in our abilities to apply scripture

Our text is James Chapter 2 (Click Here)

This week, after prayer,  we focused on the key word, “Faith”.  We discussed the definition of the word and underlined each use of the word as the text was read aloud.

Faith is ultimately relying on God and puts life in perspective-it is not about us!

The poor were used as a positive witness of faith.  Why?  They appreciate what they have, have a perspective on what “things” matter, and they relied on God because that is all they had to rely on.

The rich were a negative witness on faith.  There must have been a problem within those first readers on the issue of favoritism and injustice to the poor or these would not be so prominent in James.  The rich were in a position to judge and were harsh to the poor, They trusted in their own wisdom, relied on their own resources

We shared stories about the struggle with everyday issues surrounding helping others-cat food, pan handlers and motel rooms to name a few.

We discussed when we feel alive and how that relates to our faith more than our circumstances.  We discussed at length the death that we feel when we don’t use our faith and just talk about it.  Prayer and study are doing something about faith formation to be sure BUT nothing compares with works done in the name of Jesus for someone else.

Everyone is encourages to leave a comment, especially group members.  All are welcome next Monday at CMUMC at 6:00.

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