Reflect and Renew

The Blog of Pastor Alan Cassady of Navarre United Methodsit Church

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Lent 1 – 2016

As an aid to you devotions during Lent this year we will read through Matthew’s Gospel together. Each week I will post the reading schedule for you along with a prayer from the early leaders of the Church.

Prayer

Origen

Jesus, my feet are dirty. Come even as a slave to me, pour water into your bowl, come and wash my feet. In asking such a thing I know I am overbold, but I dread what was threatened when you said to me, “If I do not wash your feet I have no fellowship with you.” Wash my feet then, because I long for your companionship. —Origen (c. 185–254)

Readings

February 15      Matt 1:1–2:12

February 16      Matt 2:13–3:17

February 17      Matt 4:1–5:12

February 18      Matt 5:13–48

February 19      Matt 6

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Lent 5, 2014

Prayer

O good shepherd, seek me out, and bring me home to thy fold again.St. Jerome
Deal favourably with me according to thy good pleasure,
till I may dwell in thy house all the days of my life,
and praise thee for ever and ever with them that are there.
(Jerome, c 342 – 420)

Scripture Readings

March 31   John 11:1–27
April 1        John 11:28–57
April 2        John 12:1–26
April 3        John 12:27–50
April 4        John 13:1–30

2013 Christmas Letter

Alan and PennyThis year has been a remarkable year full of blessings of many kinds: health, enough, love, laughter, family, friends.  Penny and I have continued our ministry in Navarre, Florida:  preaching, teaching, singing, praying, enduring and loving.

Penny continues to work from home and on the road (providing Alan some alone time, then he really likes it when Penny comes home!).

On April 15th Alan went into the hospital to have an aneurism repaired on his ascending aorta. It was a very complicated surgery and a longer recovery than Alan wanted, but he is back to full strength and working hard again.

This year also marks the five years for Penny being cancer free. After two surgeries, and 3 rounds of chemotherapy, her ovarian cancer has disappeared; praise God!

ImageThis spring we welcomed another grandchild to our family. Callie Paige Hart was born to Charity and JD on June 22. This brings our total to 6 and one on the way. That’s right; Jared was married in September. He and Asheia are expecting their first child later in the spring. Jared has re-enlisted in the Air Force and is looking forward to new opportunities. Penny’s son, Ron, married Amelia, April 1st in Navarre (they live in KY). They have 2 kids. Penny’s daughter, Rose is working night shift at a nursing home and loves it.

Revival in South AfricaThe ministry highlight on the year was our mission trip to South Africa. Penny and I traveled with about 13 Imageothers from our church to Orange Farm, South Africa, about an hour south of Johannesburg. On this trip, Alan preached a six night revival and did some devotions and a motivational talk at some of the primary schools in the area. Souls were saved-24 people that we know. We provided a “vacation bible school” after school. One day we had about 800-1000 kids! We visited a Rhino and Lion Preserve and petted lion cubs.

ImageWe pray that you have a blessed new year.

Alan and Penny

South Africa 2

During the Sunday morning worship service, we gathered with the people of Christian Revival Ministries. We had been working in their community for four days and had come to appreciate all that God was doing through them in the community.

But during the service, I got a tremendous shock. The pastor told the congregation that our coming to this community was, “a direct intervention of God.” Later Pastor Josiah’s wife Mary welcomed us and told the congregation that one day she was praying and she said, God what have we done to deserve this team coming to us?” She then told us, “We do not want you to feel at home, but to be at home!”

I just sat there in the congregation in a kind of stunned, humble silence. How could we be a direct intervention of God? How could we measure up to being the kind of blessing they saw us to be?

I have prayed many times, “Lord if I can be the answer to someone else’s prayer I willing give my self to you.” And now it was happening! All I can tell you is that at that moment I wanted to do everything I could to serve and preach the best I could for these people. If I, and the rest of the team, were a direct intervention of God, I wanted to measure up to that billing.

I often remember hearing people say things like, “Well we don’t have to try real hard to make sure things are done well, because after all it is only the church.” I heard people say that about music in worship, Christmas performances and even outreach events – and it makes me cringe. If we are doing things for God, shouldn’t we give it our best effort? Shouldn’t we strive for excellence instead of just slopping through?

These days in South Africa have reminded me that no matter what I do, I am part of God’s answer to someone’s prayer – and that deserves my best, today and every day.

Fighting Fair

As some psychologists tell us, it is not that happy couples do not have conflict, but that happy couples know how to handle and resolve conflict.

Below you will find some help for fighting fair. Below these you will find several websites which I used as reference for these points along with a process to resolve conflict.

1. Face your fear of confrontation

2. Keep your fight between the two of you.

  • Don’t bring in third parties like your mother-in-law, his best friend, or your children.

3. Discuss the conflict as soon as possible

  • Don’t let little things that bother you build up until one of you explodes the issue into a large fight.
  • • If you are angry about something and don’t try to talk about it with your spouse within 48 hours, let it go.
  • • If your spouse doesn’t want to discuss the matter, set an appointment within the next 24 hours to have your fair fight.
  • • Avoiding or ignoring an issue your partner feels is important
  • • Gunny sacking – saving up little hurts and hostilities then dumping them on your partner all at once
  • • Don’t bring up an issue at time embarrassing to partner
  • Don’t give them “the silent treatment"

4. State exactly what is bothering you

  • Fighting fair means you know what the issue is.
  • Stick to the subject at hand
  • Fighting fair means you don’t bring up past history.
  • Fighting fair means you don’t blame one another make accusations.
  • Try to use ‘I’ sentences instead of ‘you’ sentences. “I” statements as a way to show you are taking responsibility for your own feelings and actions.
  • Deal with partner’s behavior, not his/her personality.
  • Attack the issue, not the person. Name-calling puts people in a position to respond angrily and defensively. This is usually used when a person feels he is losing. Name-calling breaks down communication and destroys trust in the relationship.
  • Don’t argue about details. Avoid exchanges like, “You were 20 minutes late,” “No, I was only 13 minutes late.” (An easy way to distract from the problem.)

5. If they say you do, then it’s true

  • Perception is reality. How is it that your partner sees things so differently from you?
  • Do not invalidate perceptions or emotions
  • Be open to asking for forgiveness and being willing to forgive.
  • Even though it may be hard to forgive your spouse, not forgiving can cause more harm both emotionally and physically to yourself and to your marriage. Holding a grudge is letting someone else live in your head rent free.

6. Avoid generalizing

  • Don’t use the words "never" and "always" in your statements to one another
  • No one always or never does anything
  • Don’t make comparisons to other people, stereotypes, or situations.
  • Don’t involve other people’s opinions of the situation (e.g.: “John’s mother agrees with me.”) The only opinions which are relevant are those of the two attempting to communicate at the time.
  • Don’t make threats (e.g., “Do this or else!”). Threats back people into a corner and they may choose the ultimatum in order to save face. You may find later you really do not want to carry out your threat.

7. Avoid personal insults and character assassination

  • Do not yell. Do not scream. Do not talk in a threatening tone.
  • Belittling partner or issues
  • Assuming partner should know what you are thinking or feeling when you haven’t said anything
  • Don’t walk away or leave the house without saying to your partner, “I’ll be back”.
  • No finger pointing or yelling
  • No talk of Divorce. In the heat of an argument, threatening to leave the relationship is manipulative and hurtful. It creates anxiety about being abandoned and undermines your ability to resolve your issues. It quickly erodes your partner’s confidence in your commitment to the relationship. Trust is not easily restored once it is broken in this way. It makes the problems in your relationship seem much bigger than they need to be.
  • Don’t use the following: swearing, denunciation, obscenities, character assassination, contempt, sarcasm, or taunting.
  • Don’t belittling each other’s accomplishments. No matter how small or odd they may be.

8. Listen to learn

  • Listen to one another fully while you fight. This includes watching body language. Look at one another while you speak.
  • Don’t interrupt during your fight.
  • Cross-complaining; responding to partner’s initial complaint with one of your own
  • Ignoring partner
  • Try to deal with the other person’s perceptions of the situation as well as your own. Be aware of his/her feelings as well as your own. Check to see whether what you heard is really what the other person is trying to express, and ask him to let you know what she hears you saying.
  • Take a breather by paraphrasing what you think you heard them saying. “I understand you want to tell me about your day but I need a few minutes to finish what I am doing.” This gives you time to think about your response.
  • Ask questions that will clarify, not judge. A question should never begin with the word “why.” That puts people on the defensive — and we know that defensiveness stops conversation rather than continues it.
  • Do not assume, guess, imagine, take for granted, theorize, surmise, speculate, make gestures, judgments, funny glances or faces about what your partner means. Find out!

9. Ending an argument well

  • Having physical safety valves for excess emotion (Jogging, biking, listening to music, etc.).
  • Call a foul when you feel a guideline has been broken.
  • Be ready to forgive.
  • If the fight isn’t resolved right now, make an appointment to finish it later. Allow for interim solutions.
  • If the fight is resolved, try to finish with an expression of positive feelings that you’ve worked together successfully.
  • Don’t pretend to go along, or to agree when you really don’t
  • Don’t withhold affections or breaking previous agreements
  • Don’t continue with repetitious, stale arguments with no progress being made toward resolution

10. Confront to heal, not to win

  • Remember don’t fight to win; fight for your relationship

Sources:

Fighting the Fair Way

http://ub-counseling.buffalo.edu/fighting.shtml

How To Fight Fair in Your Marriage – – Conflict Management in Marriage

http://marriage.about.com/cs/conflictandanger/ht/fightfair.htm

How to Fight Fair in Marriage

http://www.lifetoolsforwomen.com/f/fight-fair.htm

Conflict Resolution Process from Prepare/Enrich

Jesus: Lord

Revelation 19:11-16

We all love the end of a story, especially when it says, “…and they lived happily ever after.”

We love it when the villain gets punished, when the lost dog finds his way home, the teacher finally turns her class around, when the underdog team wins the championship or when the dedicated musician finally gets a big break.

Let’s face it we like resolution, solved mysteries, happily ever after. Maybe we like that because that is seldom the way we find this world. We can’t stand it when resolution does not come, primarily because we have lost sight of the fact that Jesus is Lord!

A Dangerous World

In the book of Revelation, The Apostle John is writing to seven churches under the power of Roman. The Romans were very suspicious of new religions. The Jews had won a little freedom in their worship and were tolerated in the Roman world, which was not the case with the Christians. Christians found themselves on the outs with the Romans on a number of points. They refused to be part of the trade guilds because they refused to honor the gods associated with those guilds. They were branded as traitors by the Romans because they refused to burn an offering of incense to the Emperor and make the declaration, “Caesar is Lord.”

When new Christians were baptized they made the confession, “Jesus is Lord,” it put them in conflict with the whole culture of that day.

To remain faithful to Christ they had to be in conflict with every other aspect of life. So, they were persecuted, oppressed, denied rights branded as criminals, traitors and enemies of the state. They became the scapegoats of the whole empire and were killed by the thousands just for the entertainment of the crowds in the Roman Coliseum.

As the Book of Revelation opens John encourages and corrects the churches of the empire toward to ideas faithfulness and hope.

To make the confession, Jesus as Lord in that context was seen as stupid, irrational and dangerous. But, Christians knew something – Jesus was indeed Lord, so how could they say any different. They also had the hope that one day Jesus would come back to set everything straight. Their confession put them at odds with everything in their world, but that world was not the last word.

Revelation

The book of revelation reminds us of a truth we cannot see because we are blinded by our current circumstances. It tells us that in spite of how everything appears Jesus Christ is the true king. “[These verses] describe not what Christ is going to do but what he is: conquering King, righteous Judge, Captain of the armies of heaven.[1]

Look at the way Jesus is described in those verses:

  • Faithful and True,
  • A Judge and Warrior, leader of the armies of heaven
  • His eyes are like a flame of fire – he is able to see into the hearts of all
  • On his head are many diadems – he is the absolute ruler of all
  • He has a name written that no one knows but himself – he is under the control of no one
  • He is called is The Word of God and by his word he conquerors
  • The agent of the wrath of God the Almighty
  • King of kings and Lord of lords.

Jesus is the One to whom all people owe allegiance, the one before whom every knee will bow, the One who has the final word.

Our World

For us in the western world the danger is almost nonexistence. Instead of lions we have the ACLU, instead of burning incense we are asked to go with the flow – and many do!

The fact that Jesus is Lord calls forth two very important traits in those of us who claim to be his followers.

Faithfulness

If Jesus really is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, what other response could possibly be appropriate?

For faithfulness to be real it must be unconditional. When we chose to follow Christ we didn’t know what that choice would involve. We made the choice because in light of what we knew about Jesus there was no alternative. No one else can forgive sin; no one else can give new life; no one else can save. What life circumstances could possibly change that truth?

The truth that Jesus is Lord is the same in good times and bad, in prosperity and poverty, in sickness and health, in peace and in peril, when prayer is answered the way I want or not. And our only response is faithfulness – what else is there? Here was Paul’s experience:

[2 Co 4:8-11 ESV ] We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.

And yet he remained faithful!

The circumstances we face in this world, whether personally or with our families and friends, don’t change the fact that Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. We remain faithful because there is no other option.

Does God do miracles, healings? Yes, they are wonderful gifts of his grace. But if God never did another thing for us, if all he did was forgive us and grant us new life here and in heaven…it would be enough for us to be faithful for all eternity!

What does faithfulness mean?

It means we maintain the relationship through prayer, we continue to obey, to worship, to learn and grow and gather with God’s people.

Since the fact of who Jesus is doesn’t change with the circumstances, neither does my faithfulness. Do the circumstances hurt, make me sad, cause me to doubt? Yes. But our doubt is expressed in relationship not out of it.

Many people only come to Jesus because of the personal benefits they will receive from him. If Jesus does not fulfill all of their expectations, they get upset and stop honoring God. If that is the case, who is really Lord?

Hope

If Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of Lords that means my circumstance doesn’t have the last word – Jesus does!! And because of that I have hope!

Paul kept preaching and traveling because of this hope. In spite of all that happened to him. Listen to what he says:

[Ro 8:35-39 ESV ] Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

We can continue to pray, obey, worship, toil, grow, witness and even die because no matter what, Jesus has the last word! Do you believe that? That is what hope is all about!

An Invasion

When we understand that Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of Lords, that truth has a profound effect on our everyday lives. In reality it is not something that will happen in the future, it is something that is a fact now and because of that it affects our lives now.

That fact invades the present and affects the way I treat others, my decisions, my entertainment choices, the way I do my job, the way I dress, my dating life, if I am single, my married life, the way I view the government, the way I spend my money, the way I see the world and even the way I see my current circumstances.

The declaration, “Jesus is Lord,” is not about emotion, but the alignment of my life with the truth of who Jesus is. It is not about adopting a new philosophy of life, or merely reframing the world or my circumstances in the world. It is about a commitment to the One who not only will rule the nations with a rod of iron, but who allowed iron nails to pierce his hands and feet to show you how much he loves you. Isn’t it time you acknowledged Jesus is Lord? If not now when?


[1]Michael Wilcock, The Message of Revelation : I Saw Heaven Opened, Reprint. Originally published: I saw heaven opened. Downers Grove, Ill. : InterVarsity Press, 1975., The Bible speaks today, 183 (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., U.S.A.: Inter-Varsity Press, 1986], c1975).

Jesus: Rabbi

Luke 13:22-30

We are not really acquainted with the term rabbi. Many of us may know that Rabbis are the leaders of Jewish Synagogues, but who were they in Jesus’ time? What is a rabbi? How do you become a rabbi? What do they do?

Rabbi means “My Master” it was a term of respect and not an official title until after A.D. 70. A rabbi, in Jesus’ time was more than just a gifted teacher; he strove to be the embodiment of Torah, the Law.

Jewish boys in Jesus time began reading and memorizing Torah by 5 or 6. At age 10 began learning the oral Torah called the Mishnah – the rabbinic traditions. By this time they knew many scriptures by heart. At age 13 they concluded their formal training and began learning a trade. The most gifted were encouraged to continue studying until they were 18 or 20 or until they married. Only the most brilliant would go on to study under a great rabbi as Paul studied under the great Gamaliel.

The life of a rabbi

Most rabbis were not from the wealthy or priestly classes, they were ordinary folks. Most worked other jobs and taught and traveled during off times, or slow seasons of their work. They were never paid for teaching although they accepted the hospitality of others.

Rabbis interpreted Torah, explained the scriptures and told parables and stories to help people grasp an understanding of who God was and what he wanted of their lives. They were teachers and guides. They would take disciples who would study under their direction and travel with them for years.

The Rabbi’s disciples

Disciples not only studied scripture, but the rabbi’s life also. The disciple wanted to acquire the rabbi’s knowledge and character. Learning was not about retaining data, but about gaining wisdom for living [How do I live faithfully before God?]

How did this take place?

The disciple lived with the rabbi. He became a humble and caring companion and servant. Transformation takes time and the relationship allowed the time to be transformed. A blessing from the Mishnah depicts the intimacy and transformation that was possible: “May you be covered with the dust of your rabbi”

The Text

Now look at his passage of scripture in light of what we know of Jesus as our Rabbi.

As Jesus was teaching, something he said triggered a question in someone’s mind. That person asked the question as they might have done with any traveling rabbi. “Are there only a few who will be saved?”

To answer that question Jesus told a story and gave some instruction, like any rabbi would have done. And notice what he says…

Strive to enter the narrow gate. Strive implies agony, struggle and effort. A person must strive as a athlete strives to win a race. It does not really matter how many will be saved in the end, but only that you are saved. Salvation does not come by going with the flow. The relationship is offered freely as with any friendship. But to maintain the relationship requires work; as with marriage.

Strive for the Narrow gate – narrow implies prerequisites, not everyone who thinks they are in are in. The invitation goes out to all and for all – whosoever will…. But, in order to reap the benefits of the grace of salvation, there are certain requirements. Paul says those requirements include:

  • Confess Jesus is Lord – That means Jesus has the right to direct my life. Jesus determines what is right and wrong, acceptable and unacceptable.
  • Believe that God raised him from the dead. Jesus’ life, death and resurrection were ordained by God as the means of my redemption. God’s action validates everything Jesus said and did. I must trust that my relationship with God is based not on my effort, but God’s grace. I must seek to live in that grace for the rest of my life.

As the passages continues Jesus indicates there will come a time when all opportunities to be part of the kingdom of God are gone. At that time many people will find themselves on the outside and will want to come in. But the Master will say to them, “I do not know where you are from – I don’t know you – you have no relationship with me.

Many people want the benefits of God’s grace without the commitments of that grace. Dietrich Bonhoeffer describes that attitude as “cheap grace”:

Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, communion without confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate. Costly grace … is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble, it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him. — Dietrich Bonhoeffer in The Cost of Discipleship. Christianity Today, Vol. 38, no. 2.

Those on the outside will begin to protest, “Don’t you remember me? We had dinner with you we heard you teach we came to hear you speak when you were in our town.” The Master will say, “Get away from me all you do is evil. They thought that because they knew who he was that implied a relationship that was not there. They had a passing acquaintance with the Master and not a relationship with him.

The horror is that those people will see people they admired feasting at the master’s table, and even some people they never expected to be there. Those were the ones who strove to enter the narrow door and had real fellowship with the master.

Striving to enter through the narrow door begins with becoming a disciple of Rabbi Jesus.

Conclusion

To sit at the feet of a great rabbi, you had to excel in your study. You had to be the best of the best of the best. You had to be invited by someone who recognized your inherent abilities.

Very few of us would have been chosen. But that puts us in good company! It puts us the same company as all of the disciples all of the people Jesus hung around with.

The Apostle Paul, a rabbi in his own right, put it this way:

[1 Co 1:26-29 ESV ] For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.

[1 Co 6:9-11 ESV ] Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Today Jesus says:

I choose you. Strive to enter the narrow gate. Sit with me, learn from me, eat with me, live with me, imitate me, follow me.

What will you do with that invitation from Rabbi Jesus?

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