The Meaning of Lent

 

Lent is the season that lasts between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. It is time of spiritual preparation for Christians through prayer, repentance of sins, almsgiving and self-denial. It had become popular many years ago for Christians to think about what they would “give up” for Lent as a way of teaching themselves the meaning of self-denial. In the many ways Christians practiced this discipline, giving up chocolate was one of the most popular. The idea was to give up something you like so that you had that chocolate to look forward to having and really enjoying again on Easter Sunday.
 
 
What has become more popular in the past decade is the practice of taking something on for Lent. Let me encourage you to consider the options that speaks most to you. What do you need that will help you focus on your relationship with God? Maybe it is spending more time with the Bible? Maybe it is spending more time in prayer or worship? Maybe it is adopting a practice of giving that allows you to give time and service to help others – like volunteer time with a social agency? It may also include spending more time with your family and less time at work. There are many ways you can add something to enrich your life.
 
 
The important question to ask is, “What will help me grow closer to God, family, and my neighbor?” Perhaps you should begin first with simply a time to pause, reflect on your sins that need to be repented of and forgiven, and then ask God to show you what you can do in coming weeks to help you live a better life, becoming more gracious and kinder in the way you deal with yourself, your family, and also your neighbors. It begins with a time of self-introspection and prayer and repentance. It’s what Lent is all about, and if you take it seriously, Easter takes on a whole new and deeper meaning for your life.
 

 

Pastor Dennis

 


A Critical Distinction

C.S. Lewis writes, “All sorts of people are fond of repeating the Christian statement that ‘God is love’. But they seem not to notice the words ‘God is love’ have no real meaning unless God contains at least two Persons. Love is something that one person has for another.” Lewis suggests that God is not a single Person who is constantly in search of being loved in order to be fulfilled, but a reality where love is constantly being poured out for another. God as three persons has created out of love and continues to do so. Jesus knew this dynamic, outpouring love between him and the Father, where in love he and the Father are one. Jesus prayed for his disciples to know this reality when, in John 17:23 he prayed, “I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

 

​This reality, ‘God is love’, is what Lewis called the most important difference between Christianity and other religions.God’s love is not a static activity, but a dynamic, and pulsating activity. Lewis referred to God’s active, ongoing love as a kind of drama, and in his own words, “if you will not think me irreverent, a kind of dance.” Why not ask God to teach you how to dance with him today and learn to love as He. The world can be a much better place if we learn to dance well.

Blessings,

 

Pastor Dennis



Tough, but Tender

Remember MLK, “Tough, but Tender”

I was only a kid when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. marched through the streets of America in protest of unjust racial laws. He wasn’t the first to protest, not the last, and even in his day there were many others leading their own movement. So, what made his movement so special.

King had a way of merging together two great elements into a movement that called on the best of our humanity to rise and seize the day. In book, Strength to Love, King quotes a French philosopher who once said, “No man is strong unless he bears within his character an antithesis strongly marked.” For King, this called for a balance of a tough mind with a tender heart. He said that a tender heart without a tough mind often makes us softminded, which fears change and makes us prone to many kinds of superstitions. But on the other hand, a tough mind without a tender heart often leaves us as cold and detached, creating in us a person who never truly loves; and lacks the capacity for genuine compassion. King went on to say that Jesus chose the way that combined toughmindedness with tenderheartedness. He said as much in Matthew 10:16 when Jesus said, “Be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.”

Spend some time thinking and praying on Matthew 10:16. Imagine how better our world would be if we all lived that way.

Blessings …

 

Pastor Dennis



Diligent are They Who Find

 

​Dr. A.J. Levine is a University Professor of New Testament Studies at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN. In her book, Short Stories by Jesus, she offers us a fresh look at some of the parables of Jesus as seen from a Jewish point of view. When looking at the parables of a lost sheep, a lost coin, and lost sons found in Luke chapter 15; Levine points out that a coin does not lose itself and sheep do not have a theological awareness of sin. A shepherd lost his sheep. A woman lost her coin. And there’s a father who lost two sons.

 

​One can argue that the younger son walked away on his own, but this father lost his younger son long before he left, and he lost his oldest son, even though he never left. Yet Levine’s interpretation is not about how bad are those who lost, but how diligent are those who find. Levine’s own words, describe these parables as stories of “finding the lost, reclaiming children, reassessing the meaning of family.” When I rethink these stories from A.J. Levine’s perspective, and see these stories as a unit, and not as separate, unconnected stories; what I see are stories teaching more on God’s grace.

 

​As you think about all the choices you will make in 2019, where will the focus of your choices be around – what you have lost – or what you will diligently seek to find? Don’t wait for what is lost to find you. Go, seek, and let His Word be a lamp to your feet and a light to your path. Psalm 119:105
 

Happy New Year!

Pastor Dennis



Time Well Spent

         I was reading in Thomas a’ Kempis, The Imitation of Christ.  In book three I read these words, “You can change yourself, but you won’t necessarily change yourself for the better. Try it, and see what happens. Chances are, you’ll meet your same old self coming and going.”  As I thought about these words, I realized that I become more Christ-like not by what I do, but by who I’m with.  It is time spent with God that makes me a better person.

         Time spent listening to him in prayer, reading in Scripture, going to worship church … sharing those special moments with him is time well spent.  This Advent take time to just be with God.  Why not try it, and see what happens.  Chances are, you won’t be the same old self as when you began your time with him. 

Merry Christmas,

Pastor Dennis



“The Gifts of Christmas”, 11am Sanctuary Sermon Series

“The Gifts of Christmas”

Sundays at 11 a.m. in the Sanctuary

 
This Advent season at 11 a.m. in the Traditional Service at Gray UMC pastor Dennis Flaugher is doing a four-week sermon series on the four gifts of Christmas Jesus brings to our world … his gifts of hope, peace, joy, love.  These are the gifts God brings to us. What we do with them is our gift back to God. Come and worship with us as we light a different candle each Sunday to symbolize these four wonderful gifts of this holy and blessed Christmas season.


On Pride and Prejudice

         In Mark 12:38 – 40 we are warned to avoid a desire for deference and our penchant toward prejudice.  Is pride and prejudice always bad?  Not always. When we take pride in our children’s accomplishments, our soldiers military service, and employees hard work to help business success, that is a good sense of pride.  Even prejudice can be good if we are prejudice against evil and those who do evil. 

 

         The warning is to not let pride and prejudice cause discrimination against others for personal gain.  Live a God-centered life that puts the needs of others in front of your own.  Today, be prejudice against evil, and consider the good achievements of others.  Be proud of them and tell them how proud you are of their work.  Ecclesiastes 3:1 says there is a time for everything.  Perhaps today is a time to heal and to build up.

Blessings,

Pastor Dennis



What is your Joy?

     Gray United Methodist Church is quite blessed to have three very distinct worship opportunities with three different preaching pastors.  The truth is, if you don’t like one service, or the preaching there just does not connect with you, you have two other services to check out.   We have something for everyone at the Gray United Methodist Church.
 
         If I could change anything about all three of our services, it would be to hear more joys.  We do great on bringing our concerns to God, but outside of birthdays and anniversaries, we don’t share many joys in worship.  Why is that?  When a visitor comes to our church, and they don’t hear many joys, what does that say about how we see God in life?
 
       The point of worship is to praise God and bring glory to his name, but God wants to hear our joys as well.  You and I have been blessed ~ and every week God does something good in our lives. Imagine how much God would love to hear us give him some praise by sharing our joys and saying, “Thank you God.” What do you have to give thanks?
 
 
Blessings,
 
Pastor Dennis


The Church and Mid-Term Elections

        As we approach mid-term elections there will be a lot of people out campaigning for the candidates of their choice.  I love the fact that we live in a country where we have choice, the choice to elect those we want to represent in local, state and national government.

 

It is one thing for an individual to take a stand on a given political issue, but for the church to side with a political party, crosses a line we cannot cross as the body of Christ. Charles Colson in his book, Kingdoms in Conflict, writes “Evangelism, administering the sacraments, providing discipleship, fellowship, teaching the Word, and exhorting its members to holy living are the heartbeat of the church. When it addresses political issues, the church must not do so at the risk of weakening its primary mission. As mainline churches discovered in the sixties, the faster they churned out partisan statements, the faster they emptied their pews.”

 
 
        Colson wrote those words over 30 years ago, but this truth is still relevant today. I say vote for the person you believe is best for the job, but don’t expect your pastor to endorse any candidate, lest I compromise my own witness and the church.  My focus is on a different calling, the gospel of our Lord Jesus.

Blessings,

Pastor Dennis   



Signs and Promises

          The stories in the Bible are filled with signs and promises from God.  One of the earliest of these signs, and most remembered, is the rainbow God put in the sky.  In Genesis 9:13 and 15 it says, “I have set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant made between me and the earth. … And I will remember My covenant which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh, and never again shall the water become a flood that shall destroy all the flesh.”  In this sign we have a promise from God, and it is a promise to us on the side of life.
 
            As Christians few promises are more important than the promises made at our baptism and when receiving Holy Communion, but these promises are not initiated by us, but by God himself.  Thomas C. Oden once said, “Water, bread, and wine express promises, not that we make to God, but that God makes to us, to which we may respond in obedient faith.”  This week, think of the promises God has made to you in Holy Baptism and in Holy Communion.   How you live out your life is your response to it all.  Let your responses be in obedient faith.
 
Blessings,
Pastor Dennis