Growing Closer to Jesus This Season!

The Season of Lent.png

Lent is a time for self-reflection and deepening one’s relationship with God in Jesus Christ. For many this season leading up to Easter will be weeks of giving up something they enjoy as a sign of contrition for mistakes they have made. Others will spend extra time in devotions and prayer, while a few more will carry a cross or nail in their pocket as a reminder of the sacrifice Jesus made for them and the whole world.

If those practices work for you, wonderful! Others may want to find different ways of observing this holy season. Consider adopting one or more of the following creative uses of the days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday.

  1. Pray for others you see as you walk to and from throughout your day
  2. Volunteer one hour or more each week with a local shelter, tutoring program, nursing home, prison ministry.
  3. Participate in a Lent-a-Day-practice and pray each day with your camera in your hand. start praying
  4. Cultivate a life of gratitude. Write someone a thank you letter each week and be aware of how many people have helped you along life’s journey.
  5. Create a daily quiet time. (this is something I do, I drive my youngest back and forth to school, and when I pick her up I am at her school an hour to spend time alone with God. Read a daily devotional for the season of lent.
  6. Give up soft drinks, fast food, tea, or coffee. Give the money you save to help local folks or those in a different part of the world who are in crisis.
  7. Forgive someone who doesn’t deserve it ( maybe even yourself)
  8. Go deeper into your study in the Bible, be a part of a study group, and meditate on the words “I Am” sayings of Jesus in the Gospel of John
  9. Start a prayer rhythm. Each day of Lent, pray for another person.
  10. Tray and electronic fast, give up tv, face book, tweeting, e-mail and all things electronic for one day each week.

 

Grace and Peace to You My Friends

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Ash Wednesday

25446120_10156169087488627_7353441604527499735_n    Today is Ash Wednesday the beginning of the Lent Season which is forty days between now and Easter Sunday, except that each Sunday in the season of lent in not counted. Ashes is a reminder that we are dust, and to dust we shall return, and repent, and believe in the gospel. Ashes were an ancient symbol of our humanity. In Genesis 2:7 Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. On the first day of lent, we come before God recognizing our humanity and repenting of our sins. Lent leads to Easter the day we celebrate that though our bodies are flawed, a day of resurrection will come when we lived in the presence of God forever. On Ash Wednesday we go to church remembering who we are, with the hope of who we can become. 

Why Ashes? In Jewish and Christian history, ashes are a sign of mortality and repentance. Morality, because when we die, our bodies eventually decompose and we become dust/dirt/ash/Repentance because long ago when people felt remorse for something they did, they would put ashes on their head and wear “sackcloth” to remind them that sin is pretty uncomfortable and leads to a sort of death of the spirit. This was their way of confessing their sins and asking for forgiveness.

Where do the ashes come from? On what we now call Palm Sunday, when Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem while people waved and cheered him on. Less then a week later, Jesus would be killed. The palms that were waved in joy became ashes of sorrow. We get the ashes for Ash Wednesday by saving the psalms from Palm Sunday, burning them, and mixing them with a little oil. It’s symbolic.

What Do Christians do with ashes? At a service which is held on Ash Wednesday people are invited to come forward in the service and a pastor or priest make a small cross of their forehead by smudging the ashes. While the ashes remind us of mortality and sin, the cross reminds us of Jesus’ resurrection (life after death) and forgiveness. It’s a powerful, non-verbal way that we can experience God’s forgiveness and renewal as we return to Jesus.

Grace and Peace to You My Friends 

 

A Season to Change

Isaiah 11.pngA shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him, the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord and he will delight in the fear of the Lord. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; but with the righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give with justice he will give decision for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked. Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist. The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.        Isaiah 11:1-5                          I will baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, who sandals, I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirt.                                              Matthew 3:11

Once again, we have entered into the season of advent, anticipating the birth of Jesus and hoping that soon very soon that the promise of peace on earth would become true, but can we change our own lives if not the world. As we stop and look into the manager of a tiny little baby perhaps we can say to ourselves what does this all mean. We can pick up a newspaper, watch the television to take notice and to say where is this peace on earth? So much violence in our world and at times so much hate, where is this love that people seems to be talking about especially that we seem to hear it more during this season. As we begin to prepared for this season in many ways such as baking with our children or grandchildren, going shopping in a crowded mall where at times people can be a little crazy, okay you may be thinking they can be nuts at times, the beautiful lights we all see, and the music that is playing on our car radio, and even the movies on television which reminds all of us this season. I personally love the smell of a fresh Christmas tree in my home, which reminds me of the season. Are all the different traditions that we have in our own families does this tell others and also us that we are ready to make a change in our own lives? Are we showing others of what we do or say that we are followers of Jesus, we are his disciples. Even thro this is a beautiful season there are so many people who are hurting this time of year and need to hear about the hope we have in Jesus. Christmas is a profoundly beautiful season, but for some it also highlights the losses, griefs, and heartbreaks in their lives. In Isaiah 11, the prophet Isaiah speaks of a ruler who would be a descendant of Jesse. Jesse was the father of ancient Israel’s great King David. This descendant would rule with true justice and true faith, and he would establish true peace. This peace would be so great that even wild animals would be able to lie down next to one another and even a child will lead them. This descendant would also become a standard for people throughout the world. And, this descendant would be sought by people throughout the world. As Isaiah talks about this future King, he is telling us that he will be able to look into the hearts of people and judge based on the truth. The poor and oppressed will find a champion in him. This ruler to come will stand for justice and will impose punishment of evildoers. This King will not be clothed in royal purple or anything so fancy, his garments will be righteousness and faithfulness. As we heard from the gospel of Matthew we come to learn that John the Baptize was the one to prepared the way of the coming of the Lord. In most households when someone says, “Company’s coming! Everyone works and clean up the entire house in preparation of their guest. The gospel of Matthew has John proclaiming, “Messiah is coming! But do not go and clean up your house. Instead, mend your heart! Clear your lives of any obstacle that would hinder his coming.” Housework requires the right tools to use. The type of tools John has in mind are repentance and baptism. Repentance comes from the Greek word metanoia, which means change of mind, to change one’s life completely. Repentance is like driving down the wrong road, then turning around and going in the opposite direction. Baptism is the symbol that one has repented and been cleansed of sin. This was important to John’s ministry that he became known as John the Baptizer. How do we, as followers of Jesus Christ, return the purpose of Christmas to the focus of Jesus? How do we prepare for his birth and for the second coming, it is not by having parties, decorating our houses, and giving gifts wrapped in fancy paper, but instead by giving ourselves anew over to the way of Christ? I suppose giving ourselves over to Jesus Christ begins with God’s gift of grace to us. It is something we feel inside. Some call it a moment of conversion. Others call it baptism by the Holy Spirit. John Wesley the founder of Methodist called it assurance. Maybe during the season of Advent, we could call it the Spirit of Christ coming into our hearts. But whatever we call it, we will know when it happens to us, because it does cause us to confess our sins and turn ourselves away, over and over, from the trappings of this world so that we can reorient ourselves back toward Christ.

Grace and Peace yo You My Friends

 

Christmas, The Season of Hope

Ecclesiastes 3.pngIt is that time of the year once again, when so many of us begin to prepare for the holidays in many ways. However, there are so many in this dark world at times that have lost all hope. During this time some come to realize once again that they are all alone in this world, and why should they celebrate. Others have heard some bad news in one way or another, they buried a loved one this past year, their child, loss a job, a home even losing their pet to some may not seem important but to them it is truly a terrible loss for them. Then their are others who struggle with bad health either with themselves or even their loved one, and the hardest one at least with myself is having your child become chronically  ill and being on chemo. Yes my daughter does get relief from her serve difficult pain she is left deal with on a daily basis with the medication but at times doesn’t make it any easier to see her suffer. When I spend time alone with God I begin to understand the purpose of this season and why it is a time to celebrate who God is and what he means to me.

When Jesus was born and entered our mortal frame, God was burrowing down into the marrow of our grief.  His mother Mary endured pain.  Her future with this child was one of deep sorrow.  She had to watch the lifeblood which she gave him be drained out as her son was killed.  Simeon was right when he warned her, “A sword will pierce your soul.”

All of our souls are pierced.  We all suffer inevitable losses.  But God is there, beside us, beneath us, around us, within us.  That is what Christmas is about.  Martin Luther told us that God became small for us in Christ: he showed us his heart, so our hearts could be won.  And, I would add, comforted.  God enters our pain, so that we never suffer alone. Some of you might be saying as you are reading  does anyone know what’s happening to me or does anyone even cares!  But God also whispers to us that there is a future, God’s future, that we can ultimately trust, and hang on to.  That’s why God came as a child – for all mankind. “A child, more than all other gifts that earth can offer to declining man, brings hope with it, and forward looking thought.”  From the inside of our lives, the Christ child points beyond whatever we see in this single moment.

So as we are beginning our journey during this advent season, let us all remember to slow down and look all around, through the eyes of a child, in having hope for this coming season. And I will share with you the hope in Christ to all who believes

Grace and Peace to You My Friends

 

 

A Time for Everything

 

Ecclesiastes.jpgThere is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens, a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace. What do workers gain from their toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart, yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil–this is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will endure forever, nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him.                                             Ecclesiastes 3:1-14

The book of Ecclesiastes strikes a chord in modern people who are studying the meaning of life. All things under the sun lead to meaninglessness and despair, says the Teacher, if you live a life without God. The whole duty of a human being is fear God and keep his commandments.

Grace and Peace to You My Friends

Jesus Talks With a Samaritan Woman

Woman at the well.pngIn the gospel of John in the fourth chapter, Jesus and his disciples were in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. While his disciples set off to buy some food that a Samaria woman came to draw some water from the well. Jesus ask the woman to give him a drink? The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink? (For Jews do not associate with the Samaritans) Jesus answered her by saying ” If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water. So the woman wanted to know from Jesus how can she get this living water that he is talking about, and if he is greater than their father Jacob who gave them the well and drank from it himself, as also his sons and livestock. Jesus then reply everyone who drinks the water from the well will become thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water that I give them will never thirst. Indeed the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life. The woman ask Jesus to give her this water that he is talking about, then Jesus went on to tell her to go and get your husband and she told him I have no husband. However that is not the end of the story, Jesus went on telling the Samaria woman the many men she had and the man she is with is not her husband, I can tell you this much I am sure she was very surprise that Jesus knew everything about her. She wanted to know if Jesus was a prophet, but he is the Messiah, but she reply that Jews claims that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem. Jesus replied believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on the mountain or in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know, we worship what we do know. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in the Spirit. God is spirit, and his worshippers must worship in the Spirit and truth.  Her reply is that I know that the Messiah (called Christ) is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us. Then Jesus declared I am the one speaking to you, I am He.” After her conversation with Jesus, the woman went back to her village to share with all who would listen what Jesus had said as well as what Jesus knew about her. Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony. They had ask Jesus to stay with them and he did for another two days and more become believers. They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said, now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.

Jesus didn’t just come to earth for some people, certain kinds of people, he came for all might be saved. Scriptures tells us that God so Loved the world, he didn’t say part of the world, the whole world, that he sent his son Jesus. We as Christians in today’s world need to share our own experiences why we believe the way we do. What is that one thing in your own life that allows you to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. To continue to walk with our savior each and everyday we need to spend time with him in scriptures as well as in prayer. When we do walk with Christ each day we need not worry of what to say to someone because the Spirit will do the speaking for us. As we continue to journey together let us think about this season of lent, and continue to understand why our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ had to die on the cross for all mankind

Grace and Peace to you my friends

 

 

NO GREATER LOVE

No greater love.pngJesus shared this parable ” There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, “Father, give me my share of the estate. “So he divided his property between them. Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there he squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a serve famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. When he came to his senses, he said, ” How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants. So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him, he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. The son said to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. But the father said to his servant, “Quick! Bring the best robe and out it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found. So they began to celebrate.                          Luke:15:11-24

The season of lent always follow St Valentine’s Day each and every year. As we all take the time out of our busy lives to buy cards, flowers, candies, jewelry or some kind of gift to show that special someone how much we truly love them. And yet the greatest love of all is that gift that God sent to all of us: For God so loved the world that He sent his one and only begotten Son , that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. ( John 3:16-17) Jesus always talk in parable to his disciples as well as all of the ones who followed him, they were all very curious to know who this man Jesus was, and what is this love he was talking about.  As we read the story of the lost son it reminds me of all of us, in spite of our short comings in our own lives, no matter what we did or what we may ever do, there is nothing that would separate us from God’s love. Even when we turn away from God because our faith has fallen away or perhaps we just don’t have the time for God in our own lives, God waits patiently for us to return to him and we realized that we truly need him in our daily lives for than what we truly are willing to admit to ourselves or anyone else.  Just like any father when we do return to our faith, to our Creator, our God, he welcome us with wide open arms, and say my child I love you, and I will never forsake you. As we are journey together during this Lenten season remember the greatest love is this: Greater love has no one than this, to lay down one’s life for his friends. (John 15:13)  Are you willing right now to lay down your life for your friends, for your family, well my friend Jesus did just that he laid his life down for all of us on the cross that our sin would never separated us from God because he LOVES you that much.

Grace and Peace to you my friends