Monday, March 29, 2021- Holy Week

Here we are, entering into Holy Week, and as we enter into this week we will find ourselves going back over the story from the beginning. To understand the events of the cross we have to understand that, “the Word became human and made his home amount us” (John 1:14). At the core of the Gospel is that God came to walk with humanity. That God lived through everything you and I live through, he experienced everything that we experience, but he did it in a perfect way. The first Adam choose the path that ultimately led to spiritual death whereas the second Adam, walked the path that led to physical death, but to abundant life. The second Adam also broke the chains of death that keep us from life, so that we too can now experience full and abundant life.

Read: John 1:1-18

Questions to Consider:

  1. What does it mean for us that through Jesus we have received one gracious blessing after another? (Vs. 16)
  2. What does it mean to you that the Word gave life to everything that was created? 

So What Activity:   As you begin this Holy Week, take time to read through this passage slowly three times. The first time you read through focus on the whole narrative of the story being shared. Then for the second time listen for anything that God puts on your heart, a line or a phrase that sticks out and write it down. Finally for the last time look for a word that sticks out and write that word down. Then spend time in prayer praising God for what he is showing you as you begin this Holy Week.

Blessings, 

Friday, March 26, 2021 – Prayer

John, chapter 17, has often been called the Great Priestly Prayer. It is Jesus’ last recorded prayer before he is arrested and tried. In this prayer you will see that Jesus brings all the important lessons that he has been focusing on over the past three chapters together and lifts them to the father. He also prays for the new movement that is being launched by his death and resurrection. As you read, listen with an open heart to the prayer Jesus is making, not just for his Apostles, but for all who will become a disciple—even to this day. This is a prayer Jesus is praying for you as well as for those first followers 2,000 years ago. 

Read: John 17:1-26

Questions to Consider:

  1. How do we receive eternal life?  (Vs. 1-5)
  2. Who is Jesus praying for in this Priestly Prayer? (Vs. 9 and 20)
  3. What does Jesus want for his followers? 

So What Activity: Re-write this prayer from your own perspective as a 21st century disciple of Christ.   

Blessings, 

Wednesday, March 24, 2021 – Work of the Holy Spirit

There are two big things happening in this passage. Jesus is telling the disciples that they will experience persecution (and that the persecution will come from people who think they are doing the will of God). Also, Jesus is announcing the coming of the Holy Spirit. For a long time when I would read through this whole section of John, from chapter 14 through 17, with its long discourse and prayer between Jesus and the disciples, I would look at it as a long list of various last things Jesus wanted to say to the disciples. Kind of like a long list of, “oh and let me tell you this other thing,” and “Oh and there’s the other thing I want to tell you as well,” etc. etc.

I have come to realize that Jesus is very purposefully leading the disciples through a process of preparation leading up to this announcement of the Holy Spirit. Jesus is preparing this small band of soon-to-be discouraged followers to become a movement that is going to change the world and he wants them to be well informed to the hardships of this new movement, but also to the power that they will have soon through the gift of the Holy Spirit. 

As you read through the passage today, ask yourself if you are ready to give it all for the advancing of the Kingdom of Christ.

Read: John 16:1-15

Questions to Consider:

  1. Why has Jesus been sharing with the disciples all the things he has been sharing? (Vs. 1-4)
  2. What does Jesus promise to give his followers? (Vs. 7-15)
  3. What does Jesus describe is the work of the Holy Spirit?

So What Activity:  Spend some time today examining your own relationship with the Holy Spirit. Journal your thoughts and spend time in prayer, either praising God for the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life or possibly asking God to reveal Himself through the Holy Spirit more in your life.

Blessings, 

Thursday, March 18, 2021 – New Command

It has always been meaningful for me that at the very end of Jesus’ earthly ministry he repeats three times (John 13:34-35, 15:12, and 15:17) that he is giving his followers a new commandment: “Love each other.” This is a very significant commandment that Jesus is giving and I think the church has struggled with it for almost the entire 2,000 years since Jesus gave it. Jesus understood from the very beginning when calling his disciples that they were different people with different backgrounds, different views of the world, etc, etc. Jesus knew these 12 Apostles and 120 followers were going to struggle to believe in anything in unison, but they could commit to love in unison…. Even in the midsts of differing views of the world around them. 

When I entered into ministry it took me about a week to realize that wherever I was going to serve as a pastor there would be a group of people who believe different things than I believe in (even though we may all be of the same denomination) and that they would believe in different things than each other believe in. This is why there are over 33,000 Christian denominations in the world today—everyone wants to find the group of people who believe just like they do. The path of division is the easy path but its not the path that reveals Jesus to the world around. When we commit to love and to stay in community with those who believe differently than we do we are truly at the place of living out Christ in the world around us.  

As you read the story today, think about this commandment to love and then ask yourself how you have lived this out well and where you have failed. 

Read: John 13:21-38

Questions to Consider: John 13:33-35

  1. Think about the contrast between Judas and Peter in your story. One went out into the night, while the other stayed focused on Jesus. Then ask yourself if Jesus love each of them? What is the significance of this love?
  2. How does the disciples love prove to the world that they are Jesus’ disciples?

So What Activity:   Take time to think about how you love others within your Church and then journal how you have done this well and where you have struggled. If need be, take time to repent for where you have put things in the path of love.

Blessings, 

Monday, March 15, 2021 – Love’s Extravagance

Today we turn a corner and we begin to walk through the Passion Week—the final chapter in the mission of Jesus. It is significant that John spends almost half of his gospel on the final week of Jesus’ life and ministry. John recognizes that this is the culmination of all of Jesus’ ministry on earth. Jesus has come to set the people (all people) free from the bonds of enslavement to our sin and our narcissism. Through the events of Holy Week Jesus finishes the mission to finally liberate all of humanity, if we receive his gift of life.

As you read the story today think about what was going through Jesus’ mind and heart as he prepared for this final week. Have you ever been preparing for some big event? What did it feel like for you? Think about your own life and the anxiety and apprehension that goes through your inner being right before the event you have been working for, and then think about the events that Jesus is walking into with full knowledge of what will happen. As you contemplate this think about the amazing extravagant love it would take for someone to knowingly choose such a course and then remember that this course was taken for you. 

Read: John 12:1-19

Questions to Consider:

  1. How does the act of Mary express the total love that she had for Jesus? How could you express that love today?
  2. When Jesus says to leave her alone, as she is preparing for my burial, what do you think those in the room thought? With the knowledge we have of hearing the story after the fact, how can we view the events of this week differently.

So What Activity:   Reflect on the extent of Jesus’ love for all humanity to go through the events of the passion week. Spend some time prayerfully thanking Him for this love and think about your own life and how you are faithfully living into the gift of Jesus’ love for you.

Blessings, 

Tuesday, March 9, 2021 – Cure for Blindness

Of all the miraculous healings of Jesus, in the book of John, this is one of my favorites. There is  so much going on in this passage. First, We see the man who has been blind since birth healed by Jesus spiting in the dirt and making mud (I love the visuals that we find in the book of John that we don’t find in the other gospels). Second, we have this man, whom we would assume is uneducated, as he has been blind since birth, teaching the Pharisees about how to interpret if something is from God or not. Third, we have the Pharisees who have come to a place of such legalism that they can no longer see God at work right in front of them. Finally, we find Jesus giving a deeper meaning to the whole episode by using the metaphor of blindness to reveal that those who have all the truth before them are spiritually blind, while the one who has struggled his whole life with a debilitating condition (blindness) is in actuality, the one who has true sight.

As you read the story today try to see with whom you most identify. Are you a church person who has been in the institutional church so long that you have become hard to the true nature of God’s work in the world today? Are you the blind beggar, who has been struggling for sight and looking for a way to be set free? Maybe you identify with the blind man after he has been given sight, you are experiencing new growth with God that is refreshing and full of life? 

Read: John 9:1-41

Questions to Consider:

  1. Why do you think the Pharisees could not understand who Jesus was?
  2. Where might you be the one missing seeing Jesus at work today?

So What Activity: Begin your day by praying the prayer of Jabez and then strive to walk through the day with spiritual eyes that can see God at work around you and where you might join in with God. 

Blessings, 

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,