April 13 – Introduction To Radical Hospitality with Mike Herzberg

John 13:34-35 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Matthew 25:35 “For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

Christian hospitality is sometimes thought of as just a practice of being polite or kind even to strangers. I have attended many churches where that description would certainly apply to the reception I received. It was certainly polite, and I suppose it could be classified as kind – but I certainly did not feel welcome. Jesus expects more of us. In fact, Jesus commands it! By practicing radical hospitality in everything we do we expose ourselves as being not just self-proclaimed Christians but true and practicing disciples of Jesus Christ!

In the many years of my adult church-life there are only two churches that I visited and then came to be an active member of the congregation. There was one thing common of the two and that was the key to my staying and participating: members of both churches unfailingly displayed radical hospitality in everything they did. Radical hospitality extended from greeting visitors and congregants at the door to serving in the kitchen for Wednesday night dinners; walking into a new bible study group; serving on a mission to assist with the cleanup of a neighborhood; helping to prepare and serve food at a local outreach effort. Radical hospitality permeated every facet of worship, ministries, missions and administration. Even the valued facilities managers adopted the principle of radical hospitality and the clean and welcoming nature of the buildings reflected that dedication.

I hope you will be with me in our study of Five Principles of Fruitful Congregations. You can start by watching this video as I talk more about radical hospitality and the two churches I found that practice it!

Discussion Questions:

  1. Remembering the first time you visited Lake Deaton UMC, did you feel welcomed? 
  2. What would you do to improve what a visitor feels or sees when visiting LDUMC for worship, classes or events?

Prayer: Lord Father, instill in us a burning desire to do as You would do and help us to embrace and obey Your commandment to love others as we have loved you. Help us to shed our fear and shyness about greeting others in Your name and welcoming them as our brothers and sisters. Open our eyes and ears to others so we can see what they see and hear what they hear and use that to make them feel welcome and loved by us. Amen

April 12 – Introduction to Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations with Jonathan Baker

Read Colossians 1:1-14

The Apostle Paul begins his letter to the church at Colossae with a prayer ending with these words: “so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work …”

“Have they fruit?”  asked John Wesley, founder of the Methodist movement, of his would-be preachers. Could those who were seeking ordination show anything for their service? Was there at least one person who had found faith through the word they proclaimed? A single person whose spiritual practices had been improved by what they taught? A hungry person who found bread? Was there any sign that the ministry exercised by this person was waking the world to the dream of God?

Have they fruit? It’s not a bad question for would-be preachers, and as a denomination we’ve been asking it for more than 200 years. It’s also not a bad question for any of us who claim to be a follower of Jesus and congregations to ask themselves. Imagine the discussion that would ensue at the next Trustee or Finance or Ministry Team meeting if the question were asked, “Have we fruit?” Imagine the conversation if the topic at the meeting became, “What evidence is there? What can we point to that demonstrates that the community and world in which we live is better, healthier, and more faithful because of the presence of our church? Are our ministries making any kind of difference to our neighbors? Is the Spirit, through us, changing lives, deepening faith, seeding hope in this neighborhood? I imagine a lively scene as a congregation deliberates and discusses its missional role in its own context, all the while answering the question, “Have we fruit?”

This is precisely the question as a congregation we’ll be asking over the next 6 weeks as we begin the study and subsequent conversation of the book, Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations. We hope everyone will want to be part of that study and you can find lots of helpful information on our WEB site or call the church office if you want to join us. We also hope you will want to be part of a small group discussion of the book. It’s part of our planning process, what we’re calling Re-Visioning, for Lake Deaton. We want to prayerfully consider what God’s vision and direction is for our congregation because we want to be “FRUITFUL” – to make a different for Christ and our world.

My prayer for us and Lake Deaton is that Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations helps us grow in grace and in the knowledge and love of God. May we be changed from the inside out so God can use us to help transform the world for the purposes of Christ.

Join me in the video for the “rest of the story”!

Discussion Question:

  1. What “fruit” do you see being produced through the mission and ministry of our Lake Deaton congregation?
  2. How can you grow in grace so you can bear fruit for Christ in your everyday life: your home, community, church, nation, and world?
  3. Are you willing to invest your time and prayers in the study of Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations so God can use us in discerning God’s Vision for Lake Deaton?

Practice:  Talk to someone at Lake Deaton about joining our daily devotional and study.

Closing Prayer: Creating God, we want to be connected to our Lord. Like a branch that draws its life from the vine, so we draw our strength, courage, direction, and saving grace from you, our Vine. Open wide our eyes and ears, our hearts, and wills so we might receive your plan for our lives and for our Lake Deaton church family. Come, Holy Spirit, come and work in us. May we be changed from the inside out so God can use us as we PRACTICE our faith to help transform the world for the purposes of Christ. Amen.

Sunday, April 4, 2021 – Easter Sunday

He is Risen!  What a wonderful and glorious day the Lord has made!  You have come to the end of our study and the Gospel of John.  We are so glad that you joined us on their Lenten journey through these 40 days.  We have been blessed as we have walked with you.  We hope to see you today at Easter services.  Sunrise at 7am and then Easter Celebration Services at 9am and 10:30am, outside.  He is Risen, He is Risen Indeed! 

Read: John 20-21

So What Activity:   Attend Easter Services

Blessings,

Thursday, April 1, 2021 – Holy Week

Hello everyone!  Today we find ourselves back with Jesus and the disciples at the Passover meal.  We know this as the Last Supper.  I say in the video that I never would have had myself do this day if I had known I was going to preach on this just two weeks ago, I am kind of tapped out on foot washing.  I do however have a few things to say in my video about the whole idea of the first being last and the whole idea of having the heart of a servant.  I also think for good measure I will link my sermon just in case you didn’t get a chance to see it.  The whole service is wonderful, but my message starts at, 27:16, if you just want to watch that.  Hope to see you today at the prayer stations.  They start at 9am and will be open until 4pm. 

Read: John 13:1-20

Sermon starts at 27:16

Questions to Consider:

  1. What does it look like in your life to put other first? 
  2. Have you done the foot washing mental activity (from my sermon) of putting people you have a difficult time loving in imaginary chairs and symbolically washing their feet?  If you have not, why?  If you did what did you learn? 

So What Activity:  Watch The Chosen Season 2 Trailer and figure out how you are going to watch the Season 2 primer on Easter Sunday at 8pm.  Either on the App, Facebook or YouTube. 

Blessings,

Tuesday, March 30, 2021 – Holy Week

As we continue in Holy Week and our flashback of the Gospel of John today we find ourselves back with Nicodemus and Jesus.  A while back some wonderful people in our church family encouraged me to watch The Chosen.  If you have not watched it yet, well, you really should.  Season 1 is wonderful and I hear that season 2, episode 1 will be releasing on Easter Sunday, with one episode per week after that.  So today, there is no video from me, just a video snip-it from the Chosen, one of my favorites, when Jesus and Nicodemus meet for their late night chat.  Enjoy. 

Read: John 3:1-21

So What Activity:   Watch all of season 1 of The Chosen.  You can watch it on YouTube, PureFlix or on The Chosen App. 

Blessings,

Sunday, March 28, 2021 – Palm Sunday

Happy Sunday!  What a special day today is, you got a devotion in your inbox!  Plus it is Palm Sunday!  Praise God!  Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the LORD!  Hail to the King of Israel! 

We are in the home stretch of Lent!  Easter is nearly here!  It is officially Holy Week!  We have a lot going on at the church near the end of this week and we hope you come out to join in with us. 

You will also notice that until Friday we are going to flashback with some of our text to passages we have already read.  We are going this because we want you to be reading the Holy Week story during Holy Week and the Gospel of John has had us in Holy week for a while now. 

Finally, this Saturday you will not receive a devotion, just like yesterday.  But you will receive one last one on Easter Sunday. 

Read: John 12:12-19

Questions to Consider:

  1. What does it mean that Jesus is the Prince of Peace? 
  2. What do you think it would have been like to be in the crowd on the actual Palm Sunday? 

So What Activity:  

  • Make a plan on how you are going to attend our Holy Week activities. 
  • Pray about who you are going to invite to Easter services.  Invite them! 

Blessings,

Tuesday, March 23, 2021 – The World

Good Tuesday to everyone!  Do you know that Holy Week is almost here and we are almost to the end of this study?  I you haven’t taken the opportunity to sign up for the next study yet, Responding to the Light, please take a moment and click here to sign up.  We have lots of great people who are working on devotions and videos right now for you.  You will get a week long break after Easter and then the new study will start. 

As for today, read the scripture, which is a little difficult and then I will see you in the video. 

Read: John 15:18-27

Questions to Consider:

  1. Have you ever had a time when you changed the way you did something because of how you are growing in your faith and had someone react towards you? 
  2. How do you stay “in the world”, to be relevant to the people “in the world”, while still not being “in the world”? 

So What Activity:  I talked about Galatians in my video.  Your “so what” activity is to watch a bonus video by scholar NT Wright for a little more on this subject on how we live differently than the rest of the world and how the world looks at that. 

Blessings,

Monday, March 22, 2021 – The Vine and The Branches

I am sure that there are some of you out there who are expert gardeners.  You can just make things grow.  I am not one of those people.  Plants come to my house to die.  I try to keep them alive; it just doesn’t work.  The plants that live around my house are hearty.  They know how to live with absolutely no help from me.  However, I do understand some basics of gardening.  I understand if you cut a branch from the vine, that branch will die for sure.  It will cease to produce fruit and it will die.  If you leave the branch attached to the vine and you have a good gardener tending the plant, the branch will live and produce good fruit.  I know that for sure. 

The reading for today is one of my favorite passages from John and it is of course about staying connected to The Vine. 

Read: John 15:1-17

Questions to Consider:

  1. How can you “stay connected” The Vine?
  2. Has there been a time in your life when you have not been connected to The Vine?  Journal about that time. What connected you back to The Vine?

So What Activity: 

  1. Buy a plant for someone and attach a note telling them of your Christian love for them. 
  2. Check out the UMC website on the Means of Grace.  Click here.
  3. The videos I was talking about in my video about the Bible are Bible Project Videos.  I love them.  Check out the Bible Project website.  They have great videos about the Bible and other topics, plus great blogs and pod casts as well.  Click here.

Blessings,

Saturday, March 20, 2021 – The Holy Spirit

In the reading for today the Holy Spirit is called the advocate.  Jesus says his advocate.  I really love that.  I looked up the word and in Merriam-Webster it has three meanings.

  1. one who pleads the cause of another
  2. one who defends or maintains a cause or proposal
  3. one who supports or promotes the interest of a cause or group

The Holy Spirit is a gift that pleads the cause of Jesus, who defends and maintains the cause of Jesus and who supports and promotes the interests of Jesus.  This is why Jesus says that he is leaving us with a gift of peace of mind and heart, that we do not have to be troubled or afraid, because we have the Holy Spirit to help guide us.  The Holy Spirit, to be right there with us.    Read the scripture and then I will see you in the video. 

Read: John 14:15-31

Questions to Consider:

  1. What has been your experience with the Holy Spirit? 
  2. How would you describe the Holy Spirit?

So What Activity: Listen to Francesca Battistelli – Holy Spirit and think on how the Holy Spirit has moved in your life.