Lenten Study 2021

Wednesday, March 31, 2021 – Holy Week

Jesus is right at the end of his time with his disciples, and he wants them to remain in him and to remain in sacrificial love with each other. I love the metaphor of the vine and the pruning that he uses to start off this discourse. I especially like the comparison of the Father as the gardener. The gardener’s intention is the wellbeing of the vine and the gardener will do whatever it takes to help the vine grow and produce. Then, Jesus moves on to speak about “remaining” and “abiding.” These two words essentially describe what we are called to be as disciples—People who abide in Jesus. Finally, Jesus issues a new commandment to “love one another.” Jesus re-emphasized that there’s no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. Jesus also makes a claim in this paragraph that we can ask the Father what we need in Jesus’ name and it will be given to us, followed with a final, “Love one Another.” I wonder if Jesus wanted us to ask the Father to help us love one another, because this loving one another is hard. Pastor Kristyne talked about it on her sermon just a couple of Sundays ago, Love is hard. Yet, as disciples, we can ask the Father in Jesus’ name to help us truly love one another. Today, if there is someone that you are having difficulty with, just say a short prayer and ask the Father to show you how to love that person, in Jesus’ name. 

Read: John 15:1-17

Questions to Consider:

  1. What are some of the things you do in order to “remain” or “abide” in Jesus?
  2. Is there someone that you have struggle to “love” in the last few days? Can you open your heart to the Father and share your struggle with Him asking that he would clear a path for you to learn how to love?

So What Activity:   Today, prepare your heart for celebrating Holly Week. Mark in your calendar to reserve a time to go through the prayer stations at Lake Deaton UMC either tomorrow or Friday morning.

Blessings, 

Lenten Study 2021

Thursday, March 25, 2021 – Sorrow Turned to Joy

Reading these last few chapters of John is like being able to enter into a deeply personal time between Jesus and his disciples. Imagine the scene: Jesus is speaking, and his voice is a little broken because what he is saying is hard… “In a little while you will not see me…” The disciples, men and women, sit around quietly, trying hard to understand. The remnants of a meal remain on the table. They sit comfortably around the room. But their hearts are heavy. They feel that something hard is approaching and yet they don’t fully understand. Then Jesus talks about a woman going through the pain of labor and delivery, yet there’s joy when the baby is born. They understand that. They have seen that many times, pain and joy experienced at the same time. If you and I were sitting right there with Jesus, what would we understand? 

We are aware of the many sorrows we face today. Maybe the sorrow of a world in chaos, a world filled with violence, poverty, hunger, and pain. Maybe the sorrow of the loss of a loved one, the sorrow of loneliness, or financial distress. Maybe even a little closer to home: the sorrow of a diagnosis we’re still trying to wrap our minds around, or a broken relationship, even that of a child gone astray (the list could go on and on)… and we wonder, how could that sorrow ever turn to joy. Are Jesus’ words relevant to our world today?

What if that situation we are in is pregnant with a possibility of unexplainable joy ahead? Today, we may not understand our circumstances and we may not be able to change them. However, let’s not miss the possibility of a transformational joy that can invade our every corner through the power of the Holy Spirit! Amen!

Read: John 16:16-33

Questions to Consider:

  1. If you were sitting in that room with Jesus, what question would you ask of him?
  2. Do you know someone who is going through a time of “sorrow?” How can you send joy their way?

So What Activity:   Next time you are sharing a meal with someone, today, tomorrow or next week, pay attention to their words. There might be some unexpected joy in the words they are sharing with you.

Blessings, 

Lenten Study 2021

Friday, March 19, 2021 – A Place for You

I love this beautiful passage. As I read the story, I picture Jesus inclined towards his disciples in love, understanding fully their feelings of remorse and sadness as he shares with them that he will leave them soon. It’s kind of like if you were about to take a very long trip and you wanted to share words of advice for your children or loved ones, what would you say? “Don’t let your hearts be troubled… I am going to prepare a place for you.” I have a confession to make. I suffer from a recurrent dream. I am always at a new house and I am rearranging furniture and organizing where the beds will go, etc. and it is always exciting, this feeling of a new home. In my dreams, these houses are never ostentatious, in fact, they are always simple, yet different. On one occasion that I was talking to a Spiritual Director we discovered that this speaks of a need for safety and security for me. My father was a very strict man, while he provided food and shelter, he was never affectionate toward us. My dreams of finding the right “place,” is my need to be safe and secure. What amazes me, is that Jesus knows our very need. He has proclaimed that he is the bread of life, the living water, the good shepherd, the way, the truth and the life!!!! Everything you need, Jesus has already thought of. In fact, Jesus prepares the right “place,” the safe place and the fruitful place for you, for this season of your life right now. 

Read: John 14:1-14

Questions to Consider:

  1. What do the words of Jesus mean to you when he says, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled?” or the words, “I am going to prepare a place for you.”
  2. Is there a need from your childhood that you need to surrender to Christ today?

So What Activity:   Today, take five minutes to express your gratitude to Jesus. Sing a song, write a journal entry, go for a short walk; just let him know that you are thankful He has provided a place for you today.

Blessings, 

Lenten Study 2021

Wednesday, March 17, 2021 – Serving – Washing the Disciples’ Feet

Most of us are very familiar with today’s scripture. Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. From commentaries we read, we know that this was a regular practice in first century Palestine. The streets were dusty, crowded, and dirty. Most people wore sandals and while you had bathed and cleaned yourself, by the time you arrived for dinner, your feet were covered with dirt, maybe sores, and who knows what else. A lowly servant was always available with a bucket of water to clean everyone’s feet so they could recline at the table to enjoy dinner. 

Every time I read our passage, I am struck by the sharp contrast between vs. 3 & 4 (you may have to read it twice so you don’t miss it). In vs. 3 we are told that Jesus knew that all authority and power had been given to him. What do most of us do when authority and power are given to us? We lead, we direct, we put on our CEO hat. Yet Jesus, knowing he had all this authority and power, grabbed an apron, a towel, and a bucket of water and began to wash feet. No wonder when he is done, he asks the disciples in vs. 12, “Do you understand what I was doing?” This is such an oxymoron. The one who has the most power and authority is the one who kneels down to do the most menial task making others feel comfortable. How do we live this out today? Maybe, it is by giving the best seat in the house to someone else, waiting to be the last one to serve our meal, or simply to see that everyone has what they need before we sit down? Can you think of other ways? In the end Jesus says, “Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them.” We are praying that God will bless Lake Deaton UMC, we also know how to receive that blessing, by blessing others!

Read: John 13:1-20

Questions to Consider:

  1. Do you see the contrast in those two verses, vs. 3 & 4? 
  2. Do you know someone that has acted in the way that Jesus did?

So What Activity:  Is there something, maybe something menial, you can do today to bless someone that works or serves under you? Make a commitment to serve them in the manner of Jesus.

Blessings, 

Lenten Study 2021, Uncategorized

Saturday, March 13, 2021 – Emotions

Lazarus is sick. Lazarus dies. Lazarus is resurrected by Jesus. The array of emotions in today’s short reading is too much to be grasped in these few verses. Anxiety, sadness, grief, amazement, wonder, delight, joy, anger… they are all there in this recap of this event. There are many participants besides Jesus: disciples, Mary and Martha, Lazarus, neighbors, relatives, priests, the high priest Caiaphas, and maybe even others. All these characters experienced many different emotions through this episode. The disciples were anxious about Jesus going toward Jerusalem, Mary and Martha were joyful and the Pharisees were angry. 

Did you know that there is really no scientific consensus on a true definition for emotions? I am not a doctor nor a psychologist, but I know we all experience emotions. Emotions are messages from our brain that guide how we react to events happening around us, and what an impact they have on us. Sometimes, we become “too emotional,” while other times, we might be “hiding our emotions.” One thing I know for sure, is that we were created in the image of God, and Jesus himself in his humanity experienced emotions. Therefore, I can allow emotions to help me as I live my daily life. Maybe joyful one day, a little sad the next. What do you think? As you read this scripture, see if you can observe the shifts in emotional levels as the story unfolds.

Read: John 11:17-57

Questions to Consider:

1. Do you know someone who hardly ever shows any emotions? Do you know someone who is very expressive with their emotions?

2. What about people who are totally controlled by their emotions? How could we be helpful in their lives?

3. How can we  commit our own emotions to the work of the Holy Spirit within us?

So What Activity:   Today, thank God for your emotions and then ask the Holy Spirit to help you keep those emotions in check. Be aware of what your emotions tell you about how you are abiding in Christ for your every-day living.

Blessings,

Lenten Study 2021

Thursday, March 11, 2021 – Trust

As we stated at the beginning, John does not waste time in his gospel, bringing things quickly to a climax. In today’s reading, the crowds seemed to have had it with Jesus. Jesus continues to make claims about who he is, and the crowds are offended. Offended to the point that they want to stone him (a practice left for criminals and heretics). They even tried to arrest him, but he escaped their attempts as it was not yet his time. As the end draws near, in the next few days we will hear how Jesus prepares his disciples. Even in this chapter we see there are a few, that in spite of the opposition, have come to believe and trust in Jesus. Jesus’ words of assurance are powerful, “My Father and I are one,” and “My Father is more powerful than anyone else.” That’s the one in whom we have placed our trust, the one who is more powerful than all else. So even, when there is opposition, our confidence and faith reside in the one who is more powerful! Amen!

Read: John 10:22-42

Questions to Consider:

  1. Have you faced any opposition lately? What have you done about it?
  2. How does the words, “My Father is more powerful than anyone else,” might bring strength in difficult times?

So What Activity:   If you know of someone facing hardship and opposition, call them today and encourage them. Remind them that Jesus, the one more powerful than anyone else is with them today.

Blessings, 

Lenten Study 2021

Wednesday, March 10, 2021 – Good Shepherd

When my children were little, they could be in middle of a large crowd of screaming children and I had the ability to instantly spot them if they began to cry! Now I wonder how that works? How is it possible that I could hear all those children’s voices and yet recognize my own child? Maybe it was something deep within me or maybe it was because I heard day in and day out that specific cry and it became ingrained in me. Such is the assertion of Jesus regarding his sheep. His sheep know his voice. How? Something has happened that the shepherd’s voice becomes ingrained within them. To the point that when other voices come, the sheep will declare this is not their shepherd. Jesus was using words that people could understanding. Those in the crowds following Jesus knew about sheep. It was part of their livelihood. They knew their own sheep would not follow anyone else. Only the true owner. They understood that. 

We often hear many voices telling us what we should do and how we should do it. Are we able to recognize the voice of our master? Read the words from Jesus and then watch the video.

Read: John 10:1-21

Questions to Consider:

1. Did you notice that the Good shepherd leads the sheep, and the sheep follow the shepherd? Are you a follower of the master or do you try to lead the way?

2. If Jesus was talking to us, what example would he use instead of sheep? Maybe our children and grandchildren hear our voice, and they recognize it? What else?

3. What are the strong voices that pull us away from the master?

So What Activity: Take 5 minutes to pray. The master knows your very voice. Breath in his presence and enjoy a few minutes with the shepherd who loves you unconditionally.  

Blessings,

Lenten Study 2021

Saturday, March 6, 2021 – Light of the World

In our lesson today Jesus was making strong claims about himself, “I am the light of the world.” In Jewish culture that was unacceptable. The law was clear, two witnesses were needed to believe what someone stated. Simple and clear, two witnesses. Therefore, if I don’t see two witnesses, I don’t need to bother examining the statement because the basic requirement has not been met. I have known people, and to be truthful, I myself have taken this stand, if something doesn’t meet the qualifications, I will not consider it. Such requirements are often placed for our own protection, but do we have to stick to absolutes? Do we neverconsider a new idea unless it meets certain prerequisites? 

Jesus was challenging the people of his time and he continues to challenge us today. He pointed out to his audience that He and His Father fulfilled the two witnesses required. Those still caught in the practicality of things, asked to see the father. Their eyes and minds were closed. They were not able to see the light of the world before them. How about us? How do we experience Jesus as light of the world? Have we set up our own set of qualifications for us to believe? What requirements do we need to let go off that are keeping us from experiencing the light when we feel surrounded by darkness? I love that in spite of the fact of the unbelief, verse 30 says, “Then many who heard him say these things believed in him.”  My friends, let us become people of faith. Let us go out on a limb. Let’s believe Jesus, the light of the world.

Read: John 8:1-30

Questions to Consider:

  1. What has stopped me in allowing myself to be soaked in the light of Christ?
  2. How can we as a church at Lake Deaton UMC experience the light of Christ in our congregation? Be specific.

So What Activity:   Today, share how Christ has brought light into your life with at least ONE person.

Blessings, 

Lenten Study 2021

March 2, 2021 – Bread of Life

When I was very young, my family would go on vacation to visit my aunt and uncle out at the farm. My aunt made homemade bread in a huge brick oven. It smelled so good and the bread was delicious especially coming right out of the oven. But then, I would join my cousins going throughout the small town selling the bread. Of course, most people recognized my cousins, and they knew the bread came from my aunt’s oven, they loved it. Most of the time we got paid in other goods rather than money. Our basket was filled with eggs, milk, rice, beans, or whatever goods were appropriate as payment. This simple life provided for the needs for everyone in town. In today’s scripture the crowds are following Jesus because they wanted to be fed. Possibly, they were hungry, and they had heard how Jesus had fed a multitude of people. Jesus is saddened that they were missing the point. They asked for signs so they could believe, Jesus challenged them by saying… “I am the bread of life.” Sometimes, we might have the answer right in front of us, but we are unable to see it because we are too focused on our immediate need. Jesus can see beyond the surface and see the true spiritual need in our hearts. Today you might have an apparent need, trust God with that need, lay it before him, and go about your day in confidence that the living God remains and abides with you.

Read: John 6:22-59

Questions to Consider:

  1. How does Jesus handle the crowd that wants to see miracles in order to believe?
  2. What is Jesus’ purpose in using terms such as “living water” and “bread of life”?
  3. Have you ever had an experience when God has provided a spiritual need you had?

So What Activity:   Today, as you eat and drink every meal, take time to thank God who provides spiritual food to supply your need.

Blessings, 

Lenten Study 2021

Monday, February 22, 2021 – Nicodemus Visits Jesus

Do you remember a favorite teacher? One of my favorite teachers ever was Mr. Irvin. He was my U.S. History teacher as a senior in High School, when I was exchange student living in Michigan. Mr. Irvin opened a whole new world to me that I had missed since I had studied history but not specifically U.S. history. Mr. Irvin made history class fun, adding his own perspective to his lectures. When Mr. Irvin had additional lectures, I was there. I wanted to learn from him. Today we read about this guy, Nicodemus, come and visit Jesus at night. Nicodemus is a pharisee, which means he is a student of the law. I imagine that Nicodemus was puzzled by Jesus. For one, Jesus does not follow the rules, yet people follow Jesus. Kind of like Mr. Irvin, Jesus taught in a way that drew people to him. I imagine that there was something (beyond words) that attracted the people to Jesus. Nicodemus comes in the middle of the night, why? Was he embarrassed? Was he worried that he would be labeled? Find out as you read today’s scripture.

Read: John 3:1-21

Questions to Consider:

  1. Why does it seem that Nicodemus is speaking in one language and Jesus is speaking in a different language?
  2. John 3:16 is probably the one verse most memorized in our world today, what does that particular verse says to you?
  3. If you had a chance to have a conversation with Jesus, what would you ask?

So What Activity:   Today, Monday, reflect on the questions people ask of you. Simple questions or hard questions. Reflect on the people coming to you with those questions and reflect on your responses. May the light of Christ shine through you today.

Blessings,