March 3, 2021 – Defection, Deterioration and Determination

Greetings Lake Deaton Family,

I hope you are all well. I had my surgical procedure on Monday, and all went well. I will now wait until next week to find out if the cancer had spread through my lymph nodes, but I am anticipating that it had remained localized and that all is complete. Thank you all so much for your prayers and cards!!!

The scripture from yesterday’s and today’s reading is pretty much in-your-face Jesus 101! The people want Jesus to perform miracles like he is a carnival side show. Jesus is trying to point them to real life, which is found through complete surrender to Himself. Often, we read things like this and think those people are all messed up, don’t they know who it is standing before them? But I think we haven’t changed much in 2,000 years. Today we are looking at a different kind of show, but many of us still are in it for the show. We talk about the music, it was too loud, or not loud enough, it didn’t speak to me, or the pastor’s comments didn’t grab me. The list can go on and on. We live in a consumerist world and we take our consumerism with us as we enter into the church. 

You may need to read the first part of John chapter 6 again today, before reading the scripture below. As you read think about why some people left Jesus, and then think about what Jesus was offering to the people that we might desperately need today. 

As you read, I invite you to open your heart to being messed with. Maybe some of us are looking at Jesus and wanting the wrong thing, let’s open our hearts to the real Jesus and the real message of the Gospel. 

Read: John 6:60-71

Questions to Consider:

  1. Why did the people leave Jesus? (Vs 66)
  2. What do you think it means when Jesus says that he is the bread of life and that unless we eat his flesh and drink his blood, we cannot have eternal life?
  3. What would it mean for you today to eat his flesh and drink his blood? What does that look like in the 21st century?

So What Activity:   Spend some time today in quiet meditation before Jesus. As you spend this time write down any areas in your life where you feel you may be looking at Jesus (or the church) as a carnival side show. Then write down what Jesus is asking of you in order to move into a deeper surrender into discipleship. 

Blessings, 

Saturday, February 27, 2021 – Life and Judgement

I know that you will find this hard to believe, but sometimes pastors get attacked by their parishioners! Here’s the even harder thing to believe, sometimes we deserve it!! As a human I have to be real with myself and realize that I sometimes do things wrong, hopefully not with intention, but whatever it is that I am doing still ends up being the wrong decision. 

I have learned over close to 30 years of ministry to examine myself whenever I am getting accused or attacked for something I’ve done. If it is because of my own wrong decisions I try to make amends, but if it is because I am being faithful to the will of God, in love, I try to stay on course!

Today’s passage is Jesus’ response to being attacked by the religious insiders of his day. Jesus has just healed a man on the Sabbath day and the church people go after him. The difference between Jesus and me, is that Jesus doesn’t do it wrong. He is living into a new system and His system often brings about conflict with the established church. As you read Jesus’ response to the attacks being leveled at him, think through the power of his words, then watch the video and take time to think through the questions to consider. 

Read: John 5:19-47

Questions to Consider:

  1. What does Jesus say about his relationship with the Father? 
  2. How do we bring honor to the Father as Christians today? 
  3. How do we find life in Christ today?

So What Activity: As you go through your day, look out for opportunities to bless someone else that crosses your path. As God to give you a way to bless someone, if you are unable to think of a way yourself, and then send me an email to share what you have done at jdivine@lakedeatonumc.com.  

Blessings,

Wednesday, February 24, 2021 – Living Water

Welcome to week two of our Lenten Study. While we are only a few short chapters into the Gospel of John there has been so much that has happened. One thing that has stuck out to me this year, as I have been reading John, is the variety of people with whom Jesus is connecting. We first had the couple from Cana, basically nobodies from an out of the way little village. Then we had Nicodemus, a Pharisee of some influence and importance. Today we see Jesus first with an outcast Samaritan woman, and then with the whole community of the Samaritan Village of Sychar. 

As you read the story today, think about the people Jesus has already connected with and then think about the people he connects with in this story and see if you can find a pattern. I then invite you to watch the video, work through the questions and finish with the “So What Activity” for today. 

Read: John 4:1-42

Questions to Consider:

  1. What Is consistent about the people that Jesus has connected with so far? What is different?
  2. Why do you think it is important that we have found Jesus interacting with three very different groups of people within these first chapters of John?
  3. What does this mean for the people of the world today? 

So What Activity:  As you go through your day today think about the different people you see on the journey and remind yourself that they are each of vital significance for Jesus. Then, as you are able, lift up a prayer of blessing upon each of them within your heart.

Blessings, 

Friday, February 19, 2021 – Moving the Spotlight

One of the hard things that we all have to learn in life, is that it’s not about us! Most of us learned this truth very early in our life journey. As young children, we didn’t get our way, maybe we had to submit to our siblings or parents or maybe we were just told, “No” to our self-centered request. Whatever the circumstance we learned that we are not the center of this world! We hate to admit it, but even with these early life lessons most of us still carry a certain amount of self-centeredness into our adult years. 

If we are ever going to journey to the highest level of being truly human, we have to continue to learn the lesson of John the Baptist, that we are just beacons of light and voice pointing others to the person of Jesus Christ. As you read the scripture today, think through John’s process of declaring Christ and diminishing to self. 

Read: John 1:29-51

Questions to Consider:

1. What is the lesson we can learn from the actions of John the Baptist found in this passage? How did John point to diminish of himself and point others to Christ?

2. How would you tell this story in a modern setting?

3. What are some practical ways that you can point people to Jesus instead of to yourself in your daily interactions with others?

So What Activity: Take some time to be by yourself and examine your daily interactions to see where you may need to move away from the spotlight. Write this in your journal and then write a prayer of confession and repentance.  

Blessings,

Jesus Heals a Man with Deformed Hand

Entering into the Story…

As you read and reflect on Jesus stories, you will find that Jesus is always healing people. In fact, in a couple of places it says that Jesus healed everyone that was brought before him. This story unique because of when Jesus heals. 

The Story…

Jesus went into the synagogue again and noticed a man with a deformed hand. Since it was the Sabbath, Jesus’ enemies watched him closely. If he healed the man’s hand, they planned to accuse him of working on the Sabbath.

Jesus said to the man with the deformed hand, “Come and stand in front of everyone.” Then he turned to his critics and asked, “Does the law permit good deeds on the Sabbath, or is it a day for doing evil? Is this a day to save life or to destroy it?” But they wouldn’t answer him.

He looked around at them angrily and was deeply saddened by their hard hearts. Then he said to the man, “Hold out your hand.” So the man held out his hand, and it was restored! At once the Pharisees went away and met with the supporters of Herod to plot how to kill Jesus. (Mark 3:1–6 NLT)

Adding depth…

First century Israel had strict laws about working on the Sabbath (the set apart day of rest, which was Saturday). Healing would be considered work and so the religious leaders, like they typically did, wanted to find a way to accuse Jesus. 

Asking Questions…

  1. How would you re-tell this story in a 21st century context?
  2. What does Jesus say to the leaders by healing the man’s hand on the Sabbath?
  3. What do you think is really important to Jesus?
  4. How can you live out the example of Jesus today in your actions towards others?  

The Woman Caught in Adultery

Entering into the Story…

We all find ourselves with different baggage we carry in our lives, some of us have backgrounds that we feel disqualify us from true community and some of us have a spirit of judgement. In this story Jesus deals with both someone who is caught in an act of sin as well as a bunch of people caught up in judgement. How he deals with them both is very revealing about the nature of God.

The Story…

Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, but early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them. As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd.

“Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”

They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.

When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”

“No, Lord,” she said. 

And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.” (John 8:1-11)

Adding depth…

There are two things of note within this story to help give it clarity: first, when it says, “the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees,” it means, the religious leaders. Often, this is the group that attacks Jesus. The second, that adultery was a capital offence in first century Palestine, so the typical response to a woman being caught in adultery is to be stoned to death. It is also a very male dominated society and while a man could also be stoned for adultery, it would not typically happen. 

Asking Questions…

  1. How would you re-tell this story in a 21st century context?
  2. Who do you most associate (the woman, the crowd, the religious leaders) with within the story and why? 
  3. How can you live out the example of Jesus today in your actions towards others?  

Jesus Calls Peter

Entering into the Story…

From the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry, he was constantly surrounded by crowds of people. They wanted to learn from him and see him perform miracles. Jesus almost always spent time with the crowds, but Jesus also began to develop a smaller group of people to walk with him and learn from him and they were called disciples. This is a story of Jesus beginning to call his disciples. 

The Story…

One day as Jesus was preaching on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, great crowds pressed in on him to listen to the word of God. He noticed two empty boats at the water’s edge, for the fishermen had left them and were washing their nets. Stepping into one of the boats, Jesus asked Simon, its owner, to push it out into the water. So he sat in the boat and taught the crowds from there.

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Now go out where it is deeper, and let down your nets to catch some fish.”

“Master,” Simon replied, “we worked hard all last night and didn’t catch a thing. But if you say so, I’ll let the nets down again.” And this time their nets were so full of fish they began to tear! A shout for help brought their partners in the other boat, and soon both boats were filled with fish and on the verge of sinking.

When Simon Peter realized what had happened, he fell to his knees before Jesus and said, “Oh, Lord, please leave me—I’m such a sinful man.” For he was awestruck by the number of fish they had caught, as were the others with him.

His partners, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were also amazed. Jesus replied to Simon, “Don’t be afraid! From now on you’ll be fishing for people!” And as soon as they landed, they left everything and followed Jesus.

(Luke 5:1-11, NLT)

Adding depth…

It is implied within the story (and in other references to Simon) that Jesus already knew Simon at some level. So, his asking Peter to use his boat to teach from would not have been uncommon. What would have been uncommon would have been a Teacher (called in Israel a Rabbi) asking a fisherman to go back out and fist some more. The center of the story is that Peter does what Jesus has asked and the response to what happens when he does. 

Asking Questions…

  1. How would you re-tell this story in a 21st century context?
  2. What happens when Peter and his associates go back out to fish? What is significant about Peter’s response to the large catch?
  3. How would you react to a miracle like this happening in your life?
  4. Do you think Jesus might be calling you into something? Why or Why not?

A Wedding at Cana

Entering into the Story…

The goal of the Sobremesa Dinner Group is about great friends coming together around good food and deep dialog. The story that we are going to read today shows us that Jesus loved these things as well. In fact, the Bible is full of stories of Jesus gathering with great friends around good food while experiencing deep dialog. As you read the story put yourself in the shoes of the people who are attending the party and think about what it would be like to have Jesus do the things he does. Enjoy the story!

The Story…

The next day there was a wedding celebration in the village of Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the celebration. The wine supply ran out during the festivities, so Jesus’ mother told him, “They have no more wine.”

“Dear woman, that’s not our problem,” Jesus replied. “My time has not yet come.”

But his mother told the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Standing nearby were six stone water jars, used for Jewish ceremonial washing. Each could hold twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus told the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” When the jars had been filled, he said, “Now dip some out, and take it to the master of ceremonies.” So the servants followed his instructions.

When the master of ceremonies tasted the water that was now wine, not knowing where it had come from (though, of course, the servants knew), he called the bridegroom over. “A host always serves the best wine first,” he said. “Then, when everyone has had a lot to drink, he brings out the less expensive wine. But you have kept the best until now!”

This miraculous sign at Cana in Galilee was the first time Jesus revealed his glory. And his disciples believed in him.

(John 2:1–11 NLT)

Adding depth…

This story is the first miracle of many that Jesus preforms in the Bible. It is important to note that Cana is an out-of-the-way village of no significance, it was at this place that Jesus preforms his first miracle. It is also important to note that when Jesus mother ask him to do this there is an implied idea that she knows Jesus has the ability to do miracles. Some people get caught up on Jesus not wanting to do the miracle, but most believe this is simply because he had just begun his ministry and did not want to reveal himself yet. 

Asking Questions…

  1. How would you re-tell this story in a 21st century context?
  2. Even though Jesus is reluctant at first to solve the problem of the host of the party, he still does what his mother asks. What does this reveal about the character of Jesus? 
  3. How would it feel to be a guest at that party?
  4. How can you live out the example of Jesus today in your actions towards others?  

Three Stories of Grace

There are certain passages in the Bible that I believe God inserted to purely keep Jim Divine humble. Luke 15:11-32 is one of these!

At a surface level it is the simple story of the prodigal. Like many of us, it is the story of someone treading down a personal path of destruction, only to realize their lost state and return to find redemption and acceptance. 

Then we read it again, and like the peeling off of a layer of an onion, a new and more aromatic scent emerges. New depth and fresh understanding. Sometimes a sweetly robust scent and at other times  strongly pungent, even to the point of tears.

To start this study of the Prodigal I first invite you to listen to one of the first songs (and singers) that I got into as a young Christian over 30 years ago. 

 The Prodigal Son Suite, by Keith Green 

Now I invite you to read our passage for today and then watch the video.

Read: Luke 15:11-32

Questions to Consider:

  1. Take time to rewrite this story using your own words in today’s setting. Who would you identify with, The Prodigal or the Son who stayed home?
  2. How has the Father’s grace been offered to you?
  3. Have you accepted that Grace and are you eating at the celebratory dinner? If not, confess your need for God’s grace and ask today to receive this amazing gift of love and acceptance and then let me know about it, I want to celebrate with you!!!

Prayer: Lord Jesus, may we all today know your amazing grace and walk in your undeserved love. And, may we celebrate with you at your grand banquet of salvation.  Amen. 

Blessings,