Thursday, March 31, 2011

Circle of Love ~Thursday March 31

Thursday March 31 John 8:21-32

Do you know how a governor works on an engine? It is a device or mechanism that

limits or restricts or governs the output of the motor. For example, under some rules for racing cars the various vehicles will be restricted (or governed) to a certain horsepower to make the race more equitable.

You might imagine what happens if the governor is removed. That means that the engine can now perform at maximal capacity without restriction or limitations. So want does that have to do with our Lenten study or with the passage we just read?

Take a look at the end of the passage to verse 31-32. “Then, (when you hold to the teaching of Jesus and become his disciple) you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” The parenthesis is my addition to Scripture. Forgive me for adding to the sacred word but I think you get the point. Perhaps you would be willing to ask this question….what ‘faith limitations (governors) are currently restricting my spiritual horsepower?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Wednesday March 30 John 8:12-20

Wonderful Wednesday at Wilson tonight: 5:30 dinner!
Lenten Circle of Love study group meets with Randy Jessen in Room 14 @ 6:15 to reflect on the readings of the past week.

Last Wednesday we celebrated our youth mission team and supported their journey of ministry. Tonight, I want to invite you to join your Wilson friends for supper at 5:30 with a different purpose in mind.

For those of you who were a part of the Bold New Step effort…you have a rock with your name on it! Do you remember where your rock is? Do me a favor, search it out and bring it to dinner tonight. If you can’t find it or if you do not have a rock to call your own…just come and we will have some ready for you to claim. Tonight will be our time of ‘gathering the rocks’ of faith! We will tell you more about how your rock will play a significant part in the ongoing life of our congregation.

Each passage we read is filled to overflowing with insight, wisdom, and wonder. Sometimes the wonder is the strongest component because ‘we wonder what this is all about’ when we read portions of the testimony.

In this passage we have one of the powerful “I am” descriptions that Jesus uses to describe his own life and mission. In the opening verse we read, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” We might ‘wonder’ what that means on the deepest theological levels but we can also easily see the image he is presenting. Jesus, by his very inner nature, helps people move from dark to light. It actually is one of John’s favorite images to describe the activity and ministry of Jesus. It is all about shifting from darkness into the light of Christ.

It is true; we could ponder this and stir it around with the desire to gain understanding and deep insight. Or we could simply let it speak to our own lives today. Would you do something for me please? Would you take a moment of prayer and just ask God, through Jesus, to show you where darkness has been dominate in your life and to demonstrate the abundance of light for your path? Go ahead, just ask.

Perhaps your area of ‘light’ will be in one of the key stewardship and discipleship areas that we have been exploring. Maybe it will be light that will allow you to gain clarity about how and where you can serve others. Maybe it will be light that will illume your path of prayer, or enlarge your spirit of generosity, or even give you strength to build something special with your Bold New Step rock. Who knows! God knows!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Circle of Love ~ Tuesday March 29

Tuesday March 29 John 7:37-52

For Jesus, it was the last and most important day of the Feast of Tabernacles. With people filling the streets of the city, Jesus stepped forward and made a proclamation in a very loud voice. He wanted everyone to hear his word of hope. He proclaimed that whoever believes in him will have streams of living water flowing through their life. For extra credit (just kidding) you may want to look at the opening verses of Ezekiel 47 so you can understand the power of living water just a bit better.

It was a wonderful offer! In response, there were many who believed and began to proclaim their faith by declaring that Jesus was a great prophet. But others were stressed. They did not know what to think. They had lots of questions.

Some of them are the same questions you might carry in your spirit. Is this really the Christ, the Messiah? Can it be true? Is this Jesus / faith stuff actually real? How then shall I respond? Let me suggest a specific possible response. What if you found a new way to serve? How about using the gifts God has given you to make a difference in the world? What if you celebrated your commitment to tithe by adding an offering that would be directed to a mission project that you love to support? What if…

Monday, March 28, 2011

Monday March 28 John 7:14-36

It is a new week! I praise God for the blessing of worship within the Wilson

community of faith. It is always wonderful to gather together so we can hear the Word, lift our prayers, and discover new ways to serve the Lord in our community. I pray that this season of Lent will be a time when you increase your commitment to be a deeply connected part of the Body of Christ that we know as the Wilson United Methodist Church!

As we read the passage from the Gospel of John today we discover something very interesting about Jesus. Take a look at verse sixteen. Other rabbis and great teachers spent long days at the feet of other teachers. They gained their wisdom from others so they could pass it along to the people. But Jesus is different. (That may be the biggest understatement of the year!) He did not gain spiritual knowledge from other great masters of the faith. He received it directly from God. As a result, he could speak with great authority.

Authority is an interesting thing. Who (or what) holds authority over your life? Is it the unspoken but powerful rules from your family of origin? Maybe it is your employment? Or perhaps there is something that no one else really sees…it is unseen but powerful in your life.

It may be just the right time (remember Kairos?) for a shift of authority. After all, that really is our Lenten journey. It is a long forty day walk with God that always carries the invitation to consider shifting our faith, lightening our load, and allowing God to have greater leadership in our lives.

Authority is an interesting thing.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Circle of Love ~ Saturday March 26

Saturday March 26 John 7:1-13

Did you notice the ‘lectionary jump’ as we shifted from John chapter five to John

chapter seven? Don’t worry, we will find our way back in about a week so we can fill in the gaps.

Meanwhile, let’s go on a journey back into time as Jesus faces a significant challenge. People were conspiring to take his life. They were working hard to get him to make decisions that would provide an excuse for him to be eliminated from the scene.

But Jesus says, “The right time for me has not yet come.” He means that the ‘Kairos’ moment is not yet at hand. Kairos represents the perfect timing of God. It is the time when all good things are in alignment.
For you a Kairos moment may have happened when you met your spouse or when you gave your life to Christ. For Jesus, it represented the fulfillment of his journey on earth. The time was not correct. There would be a right time in the near future but this was not the moment.

It is Saturday, perhaps we can take a bit more time to reflect. What would be the two or three Kairos moments that have occurred in your life? Have you experienced those moments when God was present and your life was in alignment with the love of Christ. Take a minute to reflect, then ask yourself, what difference has it made in my life of service, generosity, and dedication to God?

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Character of A Methodist

Notes on The Character of A Methodist
Circle of Love Lent 2011

Please excuse the long post. I pray that it will be helpful to your journey!

The Character of a Methodist was originally published by John Wesley in 1742 as a small pamphlet that was distributed in worship, through small groups, and on the streets of England. It was created as a way of overcoming some core questions what were coming to the surface during the time or great revival in England. During this time people were coming to faith in great numbers with John Wesley at the center of the conversation. The booklet went through 19 printings and was widely distributed to believers and non-believers alike. The language that follows contains the original language that was captured in The Works of John Wesley by Thomas Jackson in 1872.

The Character of a Methodist contains the core elements of the Wesleyan / Methodist system of faith development along with specific life style elements. Wesley often referred to himself as ‘a man of one book’ in regard to his faithful commitment to the Bible. As you will see, his language is clearly that of his time and is spiced thoroughly with Biblical references in his familiar King James style. I invite you to ‘filter’ the language of Wesley’s day to discover essential truth that will apply directly to this day.

Wesley’s focus in this tract was to call attention to the essential beliefs of the Christian faith while connecting personal faith to individual behavior. His 18 ‘bullet points’ help us understand his thinking as they continually shape our modern model of Christian discipleship.

The Character of A Methodist
Prologue to the core statement)
John Wesley 1742

Not as though I had already attained. [Philippians 3:12]

To The Reader:

1. Since the name first came abroad into the world, many have been at a loss to know what a Methodist is; what are the principles and the practice of those who are commonly called by that name; and what the distinguishing marks of this sect, "which is everywhere spoken against."

2. And it being generally believed, that I was able to give the clearest account of these things, (as having been one of the first to whom that name was given, and the person by whom the rest were supposed to be directed,) I have been called upon, in all manner of ways, and with the utmost earnestness, so to do. I yield at last to the continued importunity both of friends and enemies; and do now give the clearest account I can, in the presence of the Lord and Judge of heaven and earth, of the principles and practice whereby those who are called Methodists are distinguished from other men.

3. I say those who are called Methodists; for, let it be well observed, that this is not a name which they take to themselves, but one fixed upon them by way of reproach, without their approbation or consent. It was first given to three or four young men at Oxford, by a student of Christ Church; either in allusion to the ancient sect of Physicians so called, from their teaching, that almost all diseases might be cured by a specific method of diet and exercise, or from their observing a more regular method of study and behaviour than was usual with those of their age and station.

4. I should rejoice (so little ambitious am I to be at the head of any sect or party) if the very name might never be mentioned more, but be buried in eternal oblivion. But if that cannot be, at least let those who will use it, know the meaning of the word they use. Let us not always be fighting in the dark. Come, and let us look one another in the face. And perhaps some of you who hate what I am called, may love what I am by the grace of God; or rather, what "I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus."
The Character of a Methodist

1. The distinguishing marks of a Methodist are not his opinions of any sort. His assenting to this or that scheme of religion, his embracing any particular set of notions, his espousing the judgment of one man or of another, are all quite wide of the point. Whosoever, therefore, imagines that a Methodist is a man of such or such an opinion, is grossly ignorant of the whole affair; he mistakes the truth totally. We believe, indeed, that "all Scripture is given by the inspiration of God;" and herein we are distinguished from Jews, Turks, and Infidels. We believe the written word of God to be the only and sufficient rule both of Christian faith and practice; and herein we are fundamentally distinguished from those of the Romish Church. We believe Christ to be the eternal, supreme God; and herein we are distinguished from the Socinians and Arians. But as to all opinions which do not strike at the root of Christianity, we think and let think. So that whatsoever they are, whether right or wrong, they are no distinguishing marks of a Methodist.

2. Neither are words or phrases of any sort. We do not place our religion, or any part of it, in being attached to any peculiar mode of speaking, any quaint or uncommon set of expressions. The most obvious, easy, common words, wherein our meaning can be conveyed, we prefer before others, both on ordinary occasions, and when we speak of the things of God. We never, therefore, willingly or designedly, deviate from the most usual way of speaking; unless when we express scripture truths in scripture words, which, we presume, no Christian will condemn. Neither do we affect to use any particular expressions of Scripture more frequently than others, unless they are such as are more frequently used by the inspired writers themselves. So that it is as gross an error, to place the marks of a Methodist in his words, as in opinions of any sort.

3. Nor do we desire to be distinguished by actions, customs, or usages, of an indifferent nature. Our religion does not lie in doing what God has not enjoined, or abstaining from what he hath not forbidden. It does not lie in the form of our apparel, in the posture of our body, or the covering of our heads; nor yet in abstaining from marriage, or from meats and drinks, which are all good if received with thanksgiving. Therefore, neither will any man, who knows whereof he affirms, fix the mark of a Methodist here, -- in any actions or customs purely indifferent, undetermined by the word of God.

4. Nor, lastly, is he distinguished by laying the whole stress of religion on any single part of it. If you say, "Yes, he is; for he thinks 'we are saved by faith alone:'" I answer, You do not understand the terms. By salvation he means holiness of heart and life. And this he affirms to spring from true faith alone. Can even a nominal Christian deny it? Is this placing a part of religion for the whole? "Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid! Yea, we establish the law." We do not place the whole of religion (as too many do, God knoweth) either in doing no harm, or in doing good, or in using the ordinances of God. No, not in all of them together; wherein we know by experience a man may labour many years, and at the end have no religion at all, no more than he had at the beginning. Much less in any one of these; or, it may be, in a scrap of one of them: Like her who fancies herself a virtuous woman, only because she is not a prostitute; or him who dreams he is an honest man, merely because he does not rob or steal. May the Lord God of my fathers preserve me from such a poor, starved religion as this! Were this the mark of a Methodist, I would sooner choose to be a sincere Jew, Turk, or Pagan.

5. "What then is the mark? Who is a Methodist, according to your own account?" I answer: A Methodist is one who has "the love of God shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Ghost given unto him;" one who "loves the Lord his God with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his mind, and with all his strength. God is the joy of his heart, and the desire of his soul; which is constantly crying out, "Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee! My God and my all! Thou art the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever!"

6. He is therefore happy in God, yea, always happy, as having in him "a well of water springing up into everlasting life," and overflowing his soul with peace and joy. "Perfect love" having now "cast out fear," he "rejoices evermore." He "rejoices in the Lord always," even "in God his Saviour;" and in the Father, "through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom he hath now received the atonement." "Having" found "redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of his sins," he cannot but rejoice, whenever he looks back on the horrible pit out of which he is delivered; when he sees "all his transgressions blotted out as a cloud, and his iniquities as a thick cloud." He cannot but rejoice, whenever he looks on the state wherein he now is; "being justified freely, and having peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." For "he that believeth, hath the witness" of this "in himself;" being now the son of God by faith. "Because he is a son, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into his heart, crying, Abba, Father!" And "the Spirit itself beareth witness with his spirit, that he is a child of God." He rejoiceth also, whenever he looks forward, "in hope of the glory that shall be revealed;" yea, this his joy is full, and all his bones cry out, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, according to his abundant mercy, hath begotten me again to a living hope -- of an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for me!"

7. And he who hath this hope, thus "full of immortality, in everything giveth thanks;" as knowing that this (whatsoever it is) "is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning him." From him, therefore, he cheerfully receives all, saying, "Good is the will of the Lord;" and whether the Lord giveth or taketh away, equally "blessing the name of the Lord." For he hath "learned, in whatsoever state he is, therewith to be content." He knoweth "both how to be abased and how to abound. Everywhere and in all things he is instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and suffer need." Whether in ease or pain, whether in sickness or health, whether in life or death, he giveth thanks from the ground of his heart to Him who orders it for good; knowing that as "every good gift cometh from above," so none but good can come from the Father of Lights, into whose hand he has wholly committed his body and soul, as into the hands of a faithful Creator. He is therefore "careful" (anxiously or uneasily) "for nothing;" as having "cast all his care on Him that careth for him," and "in all things" resting on him, after "making his request known to him with thanksgiving."

8. For indeed he "prays without ceasing." It is given him "always to pray, and not to faint." Not that he is always in the house of prayer; though he neglects no opportunity of being there. Neither is he always on his knees, although he often is, or on his face, before the Lord his God. Nor yet is he always crying aloud to God, or calling upon him in words: For many times "the Spirit maketh intercession for him with groans that cannot be uttered." But at all times the language of his heart is this: "Thou brightness of the eternal glory, unto thee is my heart, though without a voice, and my silence speaketh unto thee." And this is true prayer, and this alone. But his heart is ever lifted up to God, at all times and in all places. In this he is never hindered, much less interrupted, by any person or thing. In retirement or company, in leisure, business, or conversation, his heart is ever with the Lord. Whether he lie down or rise up, God is in all his thoughts; he walks with God continually, having the loving eye of his mind still fixed upon him, and everywhere "seeing Him that is invisible."

9. And while he thus always exercises his love to God, by praying without ceasing, rejoicing evermore, and in everything giving thanks, this commandment is written in his heart, "That he who loveth God, love his brother also." And he accordingly loves his neighbour as himself; he loves every man as his own soul. His heart is full of love to all mankind, to every child of "the Father of the spirits of all flesh." That a man is not personally known to him, is no bar to his love; no, nor that he is known to be such as he approves not, that he repays hatred for his good-will. For he "loves his enemies;" yea, and the enemies of God, "the evil and the unthankful." And if it be not in his power to "do good to them that hate him," yet he ceases not to pray for them, though they continue to spurn his love, and still "despitefully use him and persecute him."

10. For he is "pure in heart." The love of God has purified his heart from all revengeful passions, from envy, malice, and wrath, from every unkind temper or malign affection. It hath cleansed him from pride and haughtiness of spirit, whereof alone cometh contention. And he hath now "put on bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering:" So that he "forbears and forgives, if he had a quarrel against any; even as God in Christ hath forgiven him." And indeed all possible ground for contention, on his part, is utterly cut off. For none can take from him what he desires; seeing he "loves not the world, nor" any of "the things of the world;" being now "crucified to the world, and the world crucified to him;" being dead to all that is in the world, both to "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life." For "all his desire is unto God, and to the remembrance of his name."

11. Agreeable to this his one desire, is the one design of his life, namely, "not to do his own will, but the will of Him that sent him." His one intention at all times and in all things is, not to please himself, but Him whom his soul loveth. He has a single eye. And because "his eye is single, his whole body is full of light." Indeed, where the loving eye of the soul is continually fixed upon God, there can be no darkness at all, "but the whole is light; as when the bright shining of a candle doth enlighten the house." God then reigns alone. All that is in the soul is holiness to the Lord. There is not a motion in his heart, but is according to his will. Every thought that arises points to Him, and is in obedience to the law of Christ.

12. And the tree is known by its fruits. For as he loves God, so he keeps his commandments; not only some, or most of them, but all, from the least to the greatest. He is not content to "keep the whole law, and offend in one point;" but has, in all points, "a conscience void of offence towards God and towards man." Whatever God has forbidden, he avoids; whatever God hath enjoined, he doeth; and that whether it be little or great, hard or easy, joyous or grievous to the flesh. He "runs the way of God's commandments," now he hath set his heart at liberty. It is his glory so to do; it is his daily crown of rejoicing, "to do the will of God on earth, as it is done in heaven;" knowing it is the highest privilege of "the angels of God, of those that excel in strength, to fulfill his commandments, and hearken to the voice of his word."

13. All the commandments of God he accordingly keeps, and that with all his might. For his obedience is in proportion to his love, the source from whence it flows. And therefore, loving God with all his heart, he serves him with all his strength. He continually presents his soul and body a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God; entirely and without reserve devoting himself, all he has, and all he is, to his glory. All the talents he has received, he constantly employs according to his Master's will; every power and faculty of his soul, every member of his body. Once he "yielded" them "unto sin" and the devil, "as instruments of unrighteousness;" but now, "being alive from the dead, he yields" them all "as instruments of righteousness unto God."

14. By consequence, whatsoever he doeth, it is all to the glory of God. In all his employments of every kind, he not only aims at this, (which is implied in having a single eye,) but actually attains it. His business and refreshments, as well as his prayers, all serve this great end. Whether he sit in his house or walk by the way, whether he lie down or rise up, he is promoting, in all he speaks or does, the one business of his life; whether he put on his apparel, or labour, or eat and drink, or divert himself from too wasting labour, it all tends to advance the glory of God, by peace and good-will among men. His one invariable rule is this, "Whatsoever ye do, in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him."

15. Nor do the customs of the world at all hinder his "running the race that is set before him." He knows that vice does not lose its nature, though it becomes ever so fashionable; and remembers, that "every man is to give an account of himself to God." He cannot, therefore, "follow" even "a multitude to do evil." He cannot "fare sumptuously every day," or "make provision for the flesh to fulfill the lusts thereof." He cannot "lay up treasures upon earth," any more than he can take fire into his bosom. He cannot "adorn himself," on any pretence, "with gold or costly apparel." He cannot join in or countenance any diversion which has the least tendency to vice of any kind. He cannot "speak evil" of his neighbour, any more than he can lie either for God or man. He cannot utter an unkind word of any one; for love keeps the door of his lips. He cannot speak "idle words;" "no corrupt communication" ever "comes out of his mouth," as is all that "which is" not "good to the use of edifying," not "fit to minister grace to the hearers." But "whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are" justly "of good report," he thinks, and speaks, and acts, "adorning the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ in all things."

16. Lastly. As he has time, he "does good unto all men;" unto neighbours and strangers, friends and enemies: And that in every possible kind; not only to their bodies, by "feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting those that are sick or in prison;" but much more does he labour to do good to their souls, as of the ability which God giveth; to awaken those that sleep in death; to bring those who are awakened to the atoning blood, that, "being justified by faith, they may have peace with God;" and to provoke those who have peace with God to abound more in love and in good works. And he is willing to "spend and be spent herein," even "to be offered up on the sacrifice and service of their faith," so they may "all come unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ."

17. These are the principles and practices of our sect; these are the marks of a true Methodist. By these alone do those who are in derision so called, desire to be distinguished from other men. If any man say, "Why, these are only the common fundamental principles of Christianity!" thou hast said; so I mean; this is the very truth; I know they are no other; and I would to God both thou and all men knew, that I, and all who follow my judgment, do vehemently refuse to be distinguished from other men, by any but the common principles of Christianity, -- the plain, old Christianity that I teach, renouncing and detesting all other marks of distinction. And whosoever is what I preach, (let him be called what he will, for names change not the nature of things,) he is a Christian, not in name only, but in heart and in life. He is inwardly and outwardly conformed to the will of God, as revealed in the written word. He thinks, speaks, and lives, according to the method laid down in the revelation of Jesus Christ. His soul is renewed after the image of God, in righteousness and in all true holiness. And having the mind that was in Christ, he so walks as Christ also walked.

18. By these marks, by these fruits of a living faith, do we labour to distinguish ourselves from the unbelieving world from all those whose minds or lives are not according to the Gospel of Christ. But from real Christians, of whatsoever denomination they be, we earnestly desire not to be distinguished at all, not from any who sincerely follow after what they know they have not yet attained. No: "Whosoever doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother." And I beseech you, brethren, by the mercies of God, that we be in no wise divided among ourselves. Is thy heart right, as my heart is with thine? I ask no farther question. If it be, give me thy hand. For opinions, or terms, let us not destroy the work of God. Dost thou love and serve God? It is enough. I give thee the right hand of fellowship. If there be any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies; let us strive together for the faith of the Gospel; walking worthy of the vocation wherewith we are called; with all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love, endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace; remembering, there is one body, and one Spirit, even as we are called with one hope of our calling; "one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all."

Circle of Love ~ Friday March 25

Friday March 25 John 5:30-47

Today is another day of fasting. We have been setting aside each Friday to experience a fast of one sort or another. Some of you will fast from food. Perhaps a single meal or you might choose the entire day. It is your choice. Others will fast from television, or technology (imagine no Facebook or texting for one whole day!) or you might choose to fast from speaking for a certain period of time.

The goal is not to be obedient to an arbitrary rule…the desire is to create a pattern of spiritual practice in our lives that will help us focus on God and the Lord’s dream for our life. Take a risk, try it!

While we get stressed about fasting from food, Jesus reports to his disciples that he has food that they cannot see. He reports that his food comes from the spirit of God as well as food that arrives in the form of grain from the harvest. You might remember the quote that Jesus offered when he was challenged to turn stones into bread. He said that he (and the people of God) does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from God.

We might stop to ask ourselves…are we God directed or food driven? How many times do we plan our daily activities around the food we will prepare, or the places we will eat, or the things that we need to buy so we can eat some more. Eating is not a bad thing. In fact, it is an essential part of everyday life. The question comes when we shift from essentials to obsessions.

What if we spent this day considering what it would be like to be obsessed with the love of God? Would that make a difference in the offering we prepare for the Sunday opportunity to give from our abundance?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Circle of Love ~Thursday March 24

Thursday March 24 John 5:19-29

The season of Lent is all about worship, commitment, study, prayer, and preparation through specific spiritual practices. As we read Scripture we discover that worship was a centerpiece priority for Jesus.

However, whenever we think about worship (or encounter Jesus) we also discover a variety of opinions. Some are comfortable with certain forms of worship while others are willing to explore new horizons. The reality is this; worship was never intended for our comfort or contentment. It is always directed to God. In today’s passage, we discover that worship is not about a time, place or style. Rather it is about an attitude and a focal point. We are to worship God (the focus) in spirit and truth (the attitude). See verse 24 for this insight.

In the end it is all about the Messiah who came to disclose himself to us through worship and obedience.

So how shall we demonstrate our worship and obedience? We actually have lots of options. Take a moment to reflect on your connection to Christ (the Messiah). How do you demonstrate your worship and obedience? What is the next step for you in your journey of increasing faithfulness?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Circle of Love ~ Wednesday March 23

Wednesday March 23 John 5:1-18

Remember: No Wonderful Wednesday meal tonight due to Spring Break.

Lenten Circle of Love study group meets with Randy Jessen in Room 14 @ 6:15 to reflect on the readings of the past week.

Once again, be sure to practice your prayer before and after your reading. Before reading pray, “Speak to me Lord as I read your word.” Now, read the passage and give thanks in a spirit of prayer. “Almighty God, grant me insight for this day. Amen.”

Here is a wonderful account that demonstrates the Circle of Love concept. We have

a man who has a great need. He needs healing. He doesn’t recognize Jesus even though Jesus stands next to him and inquires about his situation. In a moment, Jesus invites him to take up his mat and walk as a demonstration of his full healing. He still doesn’t recognize Jesus. He just moves away and walks to the temple. Later Jesus and the man have an opportunity to meet and interact once again.

I wonder if there have been times in my life when I would be willing to do something remarkable while humbly slipping away to avoid credit. Most of us want credit. We want our name in the newspaper, our initials on the project, or our photo in the slide show.

Not so with Jesus. He came into the inner circle to worship and pray and then moved out into the world to touch lives with no expectation of obtaining credit or recognition. His life and humility becomes a model for our best service when we seek to remain anonymous.

The circle must be porous and the spirit must be humble. How’s yours? Are you willing to give without getting credit?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Circle of Love ~ Tuesday March 22

Tuesday March 22 John 4:43-54

Jesus is back in Cana. It was the site of his first miracle of changing the wedding feast water into the finest wine. Now he is confronted with another very serious challenge. He is faced with two issues. First, there is a request for healing. But second, there is a matter of faith. In the end, both will be endorsed but not without comment from Jesus.

The father, a government official, made the request for Jesus to heal his son. But Jesus comments that there are many who will not believe unless they see ‘signs and wonders’ that qualify as miraculous events. In spite of his comment, Jesus instructs the father to go home and discover that his son will live. As a result, the whole family (the household) became believers in Christ.

We could talk about many different features of this account. Let’s focus on just

one thought. Here it is: when one person (especially someone with leadership and influence) comes to faith, others people in the household will often join them in a faith journey. The issue is clear, mothers and fathers, you make a difference for your children. You influence many features of their lives but their openness to faith will be shaped by your willingness to connect to Christ.

Influence is a gift that God provides. It carries a heavy responsibility within families, in the work place, in schools, and throughout the community. Use it well. Use it with integrity, but use it.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Monday March 21 John 4:27-42

Here is a foundational principle that applies to every person of faith and every congregation that gathers for worship. We all stand on the shoulders of those who went before us. We are all people of history, obligation, and debt. We owe a great word of ‘hallelujah’ to those faithful disciples who paved the way, shared the faith, and nurtured our convictions.

Here at Wilson United Methodist Church we stand on the shoulders of the early church in the Book of Acts. We are in debt to the Protestant Reformation, the ministry of John Wesley, and the obedience of Methodist Circuit riders who trusted the faithfulness of God as they moved to Colorado Springs before it was a city. We are privileged to build on the foundations of those who stoked the fire at the little chapel and had faith to invest in a new future for the North West part of our city. We stand on the history of teachers, leaders, and pioneers who demonstrated their faith by breaking new ground. Our fruitful present was their future dream. Our future dream will be the reality of another generation yet to come. It is the great Circle of Love!

“Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.” I don’t know about you, but I am ready to invest in the future. I want to do it with every part of my life. I especially want to invest my time and my resources. Because I know that our investment today will make a difference in the future. The positive future of God is held in the hands of the God’s people today!

Imagine what would happen if a farmer only planted one seed. His harvest would be seriously limited. It would hardly be worthwhile. But farmers don’t plant just one seed. Because they have vision of the future. They have a powerful dream of abundance. Let me ask you; are you ready to invest in the future? Do you have a vision of abundance? Generosity today is the key!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Circle of Love ~ Saturday March 19

Saturday March 19 John 4:1-26

Tomorrow is a day of worship. Today is a day to prepare. I pray that you will prepare by reflecting on the words of Scripture and offering yourself in an act of service today. Remember, our Circle of Love is always open so we can flow into worship before we are called to go out to serve others.

Our home (like yours) is filled with memories that take the physical form of photos, paintings, and figures. One of them is a gift Sue received from a group of women. It is a Simpich collectable figurine of the woman at the well. She stands in a prominent place as a reminder of close relationships, effective ministry, and wonderful memories.

The story is beautiful. It is a simple, yet profound, conversation between a Samaritan woman and a Jesus. On the surface, the conversation is about sustaining life by having water to drink. But the spiritual dialogue about ‘living water’ really captures the moment. You might want to read it again with an ear for the surface and the spiritual meaning of the interaction.

In the end, it is Jesus going into the world, breaking barriers, and revealing his identity. It is truly a Circle of Love interaction that produces abundant fruit. It is all focused on the identity of Jesus as the Messiah, the Christ. The last declaration in verse 26 says it all, “I who speak to you am he.”

Imagine your own personal questions of faith for a moment. It’s alright, go ahead, and remember your doubts, your fears, and your heart felt concerns about your personal life of faith. Now, imagine Jesus speaking to you. All he says is this, “I who speak to you am he.”

Worship well!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Circle of Love ~ Friday March 18

Friday March 18 John 3:22-36

Wow, is it Friday already? It is our day to fast and to uniquely present ourselves in a posture of prayer. I hope you are on

board and that you have decided the best way for you to take part in a fast. For me, it is about food but I know that does not work for everyone. I invite you to take the challenge but not to do it is a legalistic way. This is not about bragging rights…it is about placing ourselves in a posture of obedience and disciplining our lives so we can experience God in a fresh way. Think it over!

Now, it is time for our Scripture reading from the Daily Lectionary. It is another interactive passage. You might want to go back through the passage to identify the individuals and groups that are involved in the conversation. In the end, it is about the abundance of God. John says that he must become less so Jesus can become greater. The same is true for our lives. It is the principle of humility that fits nicely with a spirit of fasting and prayer.

However, in this passage, we have an additional message about the plentiful and abundant nature of God’s love. Go back to your Bible for a moment to reread verse 34. Do you see the message that God gives the Spirit without limit. How would you define ‘without limit’ in your own words? For me, it boils down to one image. It is a divine gift and a human attribute for the followers of Christ. I think I can sum it up in one word. That word is generosity.

God’s generosity is without limits. In response, believers, members of the Body of Christ, people connected to the Circle of Love are likewise called to a spirit of generosity. Do you remember our commitment to offer to grow toward a tithe as we move through Lent? Try it…you will like it…God will love it!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Circle of Love ~ Thursday March 17

Thursday March 17 John 3:16-21

Here it is. John 3:16! For believers and seekers, it is the best known passage in

all the New Testament. For the world, it is just a confusing image that appears from time to time at a football game. We think it is common knowledge but it is actually a well kept secret.

A greater concern is the reality that most Christ followers may know John 3:16 but miss the power of 3:17! “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” The Apostle Paul would say there is “no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).

Do you know how many believers feel like Jesus came to judge, find guilty, and sentence all who fall short of the glory of God? Do you know how many of us fall short? We all do! In spite of that, we have this great gift of life and the incredible responsibility of obedience. Here is the Good News…we are not alone! God sent Jesus to walk with us!

Right now our destination is a spiritual journey that will take us to the empty tomb and the celebration of Easter. But along the way we will face the struggles of feeling inadequate in prayer and frail in our attempts to serve the world. Before long we will come face to face with Good Friday where the Good News seems to be strained. But remember, God loves to turn things upside down. It is the darkness of Good Friday that brings the bright eternal light of Easter to the world.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only 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.” Amen

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Circle of Love ~ Wednesday March 16

Wednesday March 16 John 2:23-3:15
Wonderful Wednesday at Wilson tonight: 5:30 dinner! Come support the youth mission team as they prepare for their summer mission teams and raise funds to reach out into the world. Don’t miss it…you will find great joy in supporting their ministry.
Lenten Circle of Love study group meets with Randy Jessen in Room 14 @ 6:15 to reflect on the readings of the past week.

Our Circle of Love symbol is a bold circle with clear openings at the north, south,

east and west. The center of the circle is the place where we gather to worship and fellowship as a community of faith. Outside the circle is the world where we work, live, play, go to school, and share our lives in relationship with others. The open spaces in the circle are the pathways that lead us from the center to the world and back again. It is a constant need in our lives.

Scripture speaks of being ‘in the world but not of the world’ as a way of saying we experience life in both places. One place holds a gift of grace. It is about faith, friendship, and fulfillment. The outer world is the same. It too is about faith, friendship, and fulfillment. They both require faithfulness. We need both. We are called to both.

However, we can only live fully in both places if we heed the message that Jesus shared with Nicodemus. Read the interaction again in John 3:3-15. Now, ask yourself what it means to be ‘born of the Spirit’ and what would be the evidence (from the world’s perspective) that your life has been impacted by the Spirit of God? More specifically, what difference has the Spirit made on your willingness to pray, study, fast, serve, and grow in your faith through generosity?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Circle of Love ~ Tuesday March 15

Tuesday March 15 John 2:13-22

Be sure to practice your prayer before and after your reading. Pray, “Speak to me

Lord as I read your word.” Now, read the passage. Now give thanks and pray, “Almighty God, grant me insight for this day. Amen.”

Did you notice that John is writing in retrospect as he remembers this situation where Jesus created a commotion in the temple? (Check verse 22 to see how the words of Jesus had an impact on the future.)

The temple was the center of life for all who believed. It was the place where prayers were heard, where worship was offered, and where the history of the faith intersected with the needs of the people. It was a sacred and incredibly significant place where people could find God. It was a house of prayer that needed to return to a spirit of holiness.

I don’t want to draw too tight a line between the temple of Jerusalem and our Wilson Worship Center but let’s think together for just a moment. In the end, the way we approach worship is really at the heart of the matter. Do we approach casually without a care or do we enter with a spirit of expectation. I am not talking about is your worship style relaxed, do you sing the right songs, or do you wear the right clothes. I am thinking about an attitude of reverence. It is an internal spirit that creates hope through anticipation because our faith finds expression in the presence of God.

Just take a moment to reflect on how you approach worship. What would be the next step of anticipation and expectation that you could bring to the sanctuary?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Circle of Love ~ Monday March 14

Monday March 14 John 2:1-12

Take a moment, sit back, breathe deep…now, offer this prayer: “Speak to me Lord as I read your word.” Now, read the passage. As you come to the end…pause once again, reflect on the reading, and lift this prayer: “Almighty God, grant me insight for this day. Amen.”

Water into wine! We know the story well. Jesus is at a wedding feast as the host runs out of wine. His mother knows that he has an answer for the problem. He is reluctant. But at Mary’s insistence he gives instruction. Before you know it, the water has been miraculously changed into wine. It is the first recorded miracle of Jesus.

But how does this speak to our Lenten journey today? One way of seeing this passage has to do with the gifts we offer. At the wedding feast Jesus demonstrated how to save the best for last. In fact, he was always offering his very best. As a result, we are invited to give our best. We don’t want to give something that has been watered down, diluted or that represents the crumbs of life. We want to give our very best.

On Sunday mornings, when the offering plates are passed, do you ever find yourself thinking about what is the least I can give to get by? Or could you imagine looking beyond the moment to engage a spirit of generosity? What would it mean if we all gave our best?

Here is an invitation to engage in a spiritual discipline. It is the discipline of generosity. From now until Easter, consider the gift of a tithe. 10% from the best you have received as an offering to God. Give it a try, not because the church needs it, but because you are a disciple of the risen Lord. Why, because he gave his very best. Look closely, maybe you will see a Circle of Love. Perhaps we will see another miracle!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Circle of Love ~ Saturday March 12

Saturday March 12 John 1:43-51

We don’t know very much about the disciple Phillip but we do know that he was a faithful follower. We know that he responded to the invitation of Jesus to “Come, follow me!” And we know that he took his faith in Jesus to the next level. He found faith in Christ and immediately went to his friend Nathanael to invite Nathanael into a discipleship connection with Jesus.

His efforts were successful! This is a wonderful example of what happens when our lives serve in harmony with the desire of Jesus. Phillip offered the invitation, Nathanael balked, but Phillip wouldn’t let his request fall to the ground. He offered a plan, “Come and see!” Can you visualize Phillip taking Nathanael by the hand to introduce him to Jesus?

Phillip provides us with a great discipleship lesson. Invitations often need action so they can take root and bloom. One of the great Christian discipleship invitations is the opportunity to share our faith with others. Have you ever found yourself a bit reluctant to share your faith, offer an invitation, or disclose your personal journey? We all have a bit of “don’t ask – don’t tell” in our spirits.

But what if we were able to overcome our reluctance? What could God do if we simply planted the seed? Perhaps a new life in Christ will germinate through your faithfulness. And what if we all offered a similar invitation? Can you imagine?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Circle of Love ~ Friday March 11

Friday March 11 John 1:35-42

Yesterday we heard John say “Look!” But today we hear a different message that comes from a divine voice. It is Jesus who now says, “Come!” It is the universal call to follow. It is an invitation, a request, an expression of the desire of Christ that we would hear the call and follow in his footsteps. It is a call to become a disciple.

As disciples, we express our faith in a wide variety of ways. Today I want to invite you to consider one particular way of articulating your faith. Through the centuries people of faith have practiced the spiritual discipline of fasting. Our Methodist founder, John Wesley, fasted each week as an act of obedience and as a way to focus his life on deeper prayer.

Would you join me in a Lenten discipline of Friday fasting? It may take a unique form for you depending on your health or other issues. You might fast for a single meal or fast from food for the full day. You might fast from talking, driving, watching television, or whatever area of life that would allow you to focus on God in a deeper way.

What if we set Fridays as a day of fasting for the next few weeks? I want to invite you to join me in a weekly ‘Friday fast’ that would begin today and move through Good Friday. You choose the method but let’s commit to this discipline together so we can remember the abundance that God has provided and have more time for personal prayer. Mark it on your calendar today. Let’s see how God will use our faithfulness!

Remember, fasting (in whatever form) is just one way of reminding ourselves that we have responded to the call of Christ to “Come!”

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Circle of Love ~ Thursday March 10

Thursday March 10 John 1:29-34

Did you catch the scene? John the Baptist saw Jesus coming. He stopped, pointed, and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.”

As we begin our journey, I invite you to reflect and give thanks for the people in your life who took time to point Jesus out and say, “Look, the Lamb of God.” It may not have happened in that exact way but we would be remiss if we did not offer our praise for the gift they planted in our lives.

Did they invite you to worship? Did they teach you how to pray? Perhaps they demonstrated a life of discipleship that became attractive to you. Maybe they taught you how to share your life through service or the joy of giving so others could find the gift of faith.

John recognized Jesus right away. Our task is to recognize the presence of Jesus in our lives and to respond to the invitation to grow. How do you need to grow during this season of Lent? Do you need to establish a stronger pattern of worship? Is your prayer life something that honors God? Are you demonstrating your Christian Discipleship through giving to others? What is your next step?

“Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.”

Circle of Love! Lent 2011

The seasons of the year have a great deal of variation depending on where you live. In the far north the days of summer are bathed with endless light. In the tropics the weather only varies with the degree of rainfall that might arrive during certain seasons.

Here in Colorado, we are absolutely blessed with four distinct seasons. The winter can be a bit cold at times but it is always beautiful. For many, spring is the favorite. The tulips pop, the grass greens, and the trees begin to speak to us about the hope of resurrection as they gain leaves and start to provide the blessings of shade. We all know that the mid summer temperatures can make you wish you had air conditioning late at night. But that soon fades into beautiful blue skies, soft afternoon showers, and evenings that seem to go on forever. Personally, fall is my favorite. The evenings get cool but the days are bright and warm. The trees find their new place on the color wheel and the rhythms of life begin to change.

Seasons are important to the tempo of our souls as well. We discover seasons of growth, times of renewal, and themes that shift our attention. Christmas is not the same as the celebration of Easter. The message is different, the spirit is unique, and our hearts are open in unique ways with the seasons of the church.

This particular season is the time we know as Lent. It is an ancient part of the cadence of faith that will soon deliver us to the door step of Holy Week and the great joy of Easter. The word ‘Lent’ is shaped and passed down from various traditions. It has two basic and historic meanings. It carries the seasonal image of ‘spring’ time along with the idea of days that become ‘long’ in time. From a spiritual point of view, it is a season of 40 days that provides believers and seekers a time to prepare for Easter and the hope of resurrection.

Different groups count the 40 days of Lent in different ways. It always begins with Ash Wednesday but variation takes over from there. Some count 40 full days from Ash Wednesday (March 9th this year) to Palm Sunday leading into Holy Week. Others count 40 days (not including Sundays) from Ash Wednesday to Easter Day. For this particular Circle of Love experience, we will follow the latter model.

Our Lenten season and daily devotions will start on March 9th with a time of worship and commitment on Ash Wednesday. We will all be invited to gather for a half hour early morning time of prayer at 7:00 AM. Or come together at 6:30 PM on Ash Wednesday evening. You choose the service that works best for your schedule. I hope you will join us as we step into the Circle of Love together on Ash Wednesday.

This booklet will provide daily devotions that will move from Monday to Saturday each week of Lent. As always, Sunday worship gatherings will be critical to or combined desire to grow fully in this grand Circle of Love.

Let me tell you about the sequence of Scriptures that will center us on God’s word. We will be using readings from the Daily Common Lectionary. The Lectionary is a series of readings that include a daily reading from the Psalms, a portion from the Old Testament, a New Testament reading from one of the letters, and a Gospel reading for each day. You will find the full cycle of readings in the back of this booklet along with a schedule of events and worship services.

The devotions of this booklet will only focus on the Gospel readings for each day. You will notice that most of this year’s readings are taken from the Gospel of John. I would encourage you to read the Scripture lesson and the thoughts from the booklet as a daily discipline. Throughout the booklet you will also find other opportunities to develop your faith through the disciplines of prayer, study, fasting, generosity, and service. These are the traditional disciplines of the historic Christian faith that always become a focal point during Lent. The season of Lent will help us grow in these areas so the fullness of our faith can impact the world.

Now, let me share a word about the Circle of Love theme. Throughout time, the circle has been a symbol of completeness. It has also been a way people have represented interpersonal connections. You can imagine two circles that intersect and overlap as a way of saying ‘my life is connected to yours’ in a spirit of hope. If you take three circles and interlink them together, you will have the universal Christian symbol for the Trinity. The three circles represent the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and the desire of God to interact and intersect with our lives.

Our Circle of Love contains all these images but it is also uniquely ours. It is a circle with four openings in the ring. The four openings represent doors of life that allow us to gather in the center but be freely sent out to serve the world. It is not a broken circle; it is a path way that allows our lives to be focused on the love of God while always seeing our faith journey connected clearly to the world. We will develop the concept as we flow through the next few weeks.

For now, let me express my thanks for your willingness to be a part of this journey. I pray that it will open some new doors and expand our experience of personal faith development. I also pray that it will enhance your life through a focus on the historic spiritual disciplines that include prayer, study, fasting, service, and a spirit of generosity.

Thanks for being a part of the Wilson United Methodist family! I celebrate your journey of faith and give thanks for the ways God is leading our church.

Yours in Christian love

Randy Jessen

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Serving the Church

The church...or is it the Church?...or maybe THE CHURCH!!! How do you see it? Does it even matter. Let me say this, it matters to me. In fact, it REALLY matters to me!

It matters to me because I believe the church is the hope of the world. I should be more precise, I believe that Jesus, through the life of the church, is the hope of the world.

I was reminded today about the variety of ways people can express their deep commitment of faith. The question was asked..."can a person 'sign in blood' without being a part of the church?"

The answer is "Yes"! Now let me unpack the question. In every aspect of life (family, employment, neighborhoods, church, etc) people make commitments. Some of those commitments are written in pencil. The signature can be erased or it can fade with time. Others sign in ink. They are more certain than 'pencil' folks. They seem to understand how significant the commitment really is.

Then there are people who not only comprehend the importance, step forward, and push all their chips into the middle of the table (can I say that?). They are all in. They sign in blood. No number two pencil for them. Even ink will not do. They want to demonstrate the significance of their baptism by symbolically connecting with Christ who shed his blood for the salvation of the world. They are 'blood' folks.

Here is how the metaphor works out in every day life. Please hear the word 'metaphor'...we are not talking about actual blood! It works when leaders recognize pencil folks and give them 'pencil level' responsibility. The same for signing in ink. The problem arises when we expect pencil folks to live out blood expectations. You get the picture!

Now, for the life of the church...even through I believe the church is a wonderful way for people to serve, grow, learn, and share the fullness of life...not everyone will live out their faithfulness within the context of the church. Many (a growing number) will be faithful full time disciples in the world without ever touching the church.

I believe that Jesus, through the life of the church, is the hope of the world. I may need to adjust (read altar) my definition. One of these days! Meanwhile, connect! Commit! Communicate! Be people of faith! Amen.