2020 Lenten Devotional
This year’s theme is “Journeys to Jesus”.
Each of this year’s contributors chose a scripture that helps them to understand this theme in the context of their life, and wrote a devotion focused on the scripture you have chosen, keeping in mind the year’s theme. The devotions include the chosen Scripture for the day, a short prayer, and sometimes a spiritual exercise.
SCRIPTURE: Matthew 28:1-2
“After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it.”
The details of the Gospels are fascinating. Whereas Mark’s Gospel is sparse, Matthew’s Gospel offers intriguing and extended narration. In Matthew, the women go to the tomb of Jesus and face formidable barriers in the guards patrolling the tomb’s perimeter as well as the heavy stone sealing the tomb’s entrance. The obstacles would be too powerful for the women. Suddenly, there was a great earthquake and an angel, who looked like lightning, rolled back the heavy stone. The angel then leisurely sits on the stone, thereby drawing our eyes to that angelic resting place. The Guards faint in fear at the appearance of the angel.
Can you imagine? This awesome display of light and power, and the angel finishes it with a relaxed demeanor atop the stone that had formerly sealed the tomb. Whether the rock of the stone was igneous, metamorphic, or sedimentary, now it had holy purpose serving as a place of angelic proclamation. That stone had once been a sturdy barrier; now, it was a living pulpit where the Good News was proclaimed. That stone had once sealed in the dead; now, it served as a springboard to eternal life. From that perch, the angel tells the women that Jesus is no longer in the tomb; they are told to go tell the disciples that Jesus has been raised from the dead and that he will meet them in Galilee. The seated angel drains the dreaded rock of its dark symbolism.
In our lives, we will face our share of daunting impediments to joy and the fullness of life. We confront stones blocking us from a holy way forward; we encounter stones that seal us away in the dead places of our own making, depriving us of Light and Life, hope and love. Like the women on their way to the tomb of Jesus, we wonder who will remove the obstacles, lest we have to turn around and live in strife and misery.
Today is Easter Sunday. Today is the day when what was an obstacle – a cross, a stone, a bad habit, a hidden sin, a deep fear, or an empty life can be transformed by the power of the Risen Lord, who conquered the greatest obstacle of all– death. We worship the Risen Lord who moves stones and transforms lives, and who makes our stumbling blocks become stepping stones. On this Easter Sunday, may God roll away the obstacles of your life and transform them into holy vantage points, showing you the way to life– abundant and eternal.
Have a blessed and Happy Easter Season!
Rev. Joseph James, Jr.
Senior Pastor, Trinity United Methodist Church
Scripture: John 4:1-26, the story of the Samaritan Woman
My Small Group is experimenting with a Bible study concept of reading the Bible stories and placing yourself in the story – as either one of the main characters or as one of the by-standers. As I read this story, I found myself trying to imagine the heart of Jesus. When I thought of this in the context of “Journeys to Jesus” I wondered about several things: Why did Jesus go through Samaria when Jews usually went around that country? Why did Jesus stop at the well in the desert in the hot middle of the day when the disciples went on to town to get food? Why did Jesus engage the woman who arrived at the well in the middle of the day in conversation when a Jewish man wouldn’t speak to a lone woman, much less to a hated Samaritan? Why did Jesus take the time to explain “living water” to her and give her a chance at eternal life? My answer to all these “whys” is that Jesus loves us so much that he is willing to go before us so that we can find him! He is ahead of us on all our journeys toward him so that he can meet us in our time of need.
The Samaritan woman was not perfect; in fact, she was far from it. Who she was or what she had done did not deter Jesus. Jesus’ love for us is complete, even though he knows everything about us. He will meet us where we are.
Prayer: Holy Jesus, thank you for loving us so much that you go ahead of us so that we can find you. Help us on our journey to you so that we can see that you are always with us even when we are not looking for you. Amen
Spiritual Discipline: Each day look for the ways that Jesus is stretching out his hand to guide us on our journey to him.
Scripture: Luke 23:26-46, and/or Mark 15:16-37, and/or Matthew 27:32-54
The spiritual name for the day Jesus was crucified is “Good Friday.” I often felt uncomfortable referring to it by that name until I learned a valuable lesson from the BC comic strip written by the late Johnny Hart. Johnny Hart was a Christian and did not shy away from using comics to make subtle theological statements. My favorite was the one in which the character Peter, who was a philosopher, is staring into space and says, “I hate the term ‘Good Friday.’” “Why?” BC asks. Peter responds, “My Lord was hanged on a tree that day.” BC then asks, “If you were going to be hanged on that day, and he volunteered to take your place, how would you feel?” Peter answered, “Good.” BC says as he walks away, “Have a nice day.”
I have tried to understand the significance of Jesus’ willingness to suffer the indignity of public execution, and am not yet satisfied with the usual explanations of preachers and other theologians. I know about “blood sacrifice” from reading the Old Testament, and from singing “there is a fountain filled with blood, drawn from Emmanuel’s vein, and sinners plunged beneath that blood lose all their guilty stain” But blood sacrifice refers to the Mosaic Law which, carried to extremes by evil kings of Judah led them to sacrifice their own sons to whatever god-image they worshipped. I have also heard sermons on John 12:32 when Jesus said, “when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to me.”
What I do understand is that Good Friday was the day Jesus endured the worst that evil could do, and transformed it into the best thing that could happen – the resurrection from the dead. Without Good Friday there would never have been that resurrection, which proves that “death cannot hold its prey. . . . “ That is the reason I call it “Good Friday.”
Prayer: Holy God, for the willingness to allow Jesus to suffer and die so that you could prove that evil can never win, we give you thanks. We thank you for the good you made happen on that Friday. AMEN.
Reverend Dr. Regi Thackston
Trinity UMC Pastor Emeritus
Scripture: John 13:31-35:
Maundy Thursday is sometimes called “Holy Thursday” because it is based on the events of the night Jesus was betrayed. The name “Maundy” comes from the Latin word “mandatum” which means “commandment”. It was during the events surrounding Jesus’ last supper with his disciples that he said, “And now I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”
The gospel of John is unique. It does not sound like Matthew, Mark, and Luke. John sounds like a poet – a dreamer – who paints pictures with words. He does not tell parables, he uses allegories. And he adds a significant event to the “Last Supper.” In addition to the bread and wine, John adds a towel and a basin, and washes the feet of the disciples. He did it to demonstrate, as he said, “he who would be your master must first be your servant.”
In Palestine the practice of washing the feet of a guest was normal. The roads were dusty, footwear was usually loose- fitting sandals, so when visitors arrived the host was expected to wash their feet. It was an act of hospitality, a normal way to say “welcome.”
While the Last Supper, as told in John’s Gospel, appears to be about practicing good hospitality, and Christians should certainly be hospitable to everyone, John takes this opportunity to make clear the “mandatum” to “love one another.” That was Jesus’ last – and perhaps greatest – command. “Love one another, as I have loved you.”
Maundy Thursday says to me that Jesus wants us to treat everyone we know, and even those we don’t know, as welcome guests, by loving them as he loves them. And as he loves us.
PRAYER: Divine Creator, who has loved us through loving people, and in so many loving ways, as we grow in our spiritual journey make us aware of opportunities to keep the “mandatum” – Jesus’ final command. Amen
Rev. Dr. Regi Thackston, Pastor Emeritus, Trinity United Methodist Church
Scripture: Genesis 3:8: “And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden.”
On our journey to Jesus how often do the we, like Adam and Eve, hide ourselves from the presence of the Lord God? It is when we ignore the poverty and suffering around us; when we have it our way instead of God’s way; when we pass judgment on someone else’s actions or behavior; when we give lip service and not real service to a call for help. It is when we do any of these things and a thousand other day-to-day things and do not recognize the presence of the Lord – it is then that we hide ourselves from His presence and delay our journey.
But when we step out of our comfort zone and truly become a servant, a helper or a guide to someone in need, regardless of their life or circumstances, then we will know as the hymn says:
“Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place;
I can feel his mighty power and his grace.
I can hear the brush of angels’ wings; I can see glory on each face;
surely the presence of the Lord is in this place.”
Scripture: Genesis 9: 8-17
Key Verse: Genesis 9:9: “…as for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you…”
God made a covenant with the world through Noah that He would never again destroy the earth by a flood. By doing this, God’s love and grace was given to us. God did not limit His grace to one certain group of peoples, but extended it to everyone and everything.
We, of course, see this love again through the life of Jesus Christ. Jesus did not come to earth to save one specific group of individuals, but he came for all people. As we see in John 3:17, God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. Through Jesus we can all be renewed and saved.
As we reflect this Lenten season on the life of Jesus, let us remember that His acts and ultimate sacrifice were to show the love that God has for all the world. May each of us share in, and pass on, the love that God gave to us through His covenants and His son.
Prayer: Almighty and loving God, we stand in awe of You and are thankful for the love you have for each of us. No matter how small we may feel at times, You are constantly there with us reminding us of the love and grace You gave to Your world. Let us be ever mindful of the acts and sacrifice Your Son Jesus Christ made, so that each of us might have a personal relationship with You. May You grant us the power each day to keep You alive in this world. In the name of our loving Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen
Carol Kirven ( from the 2018 Lenten Devotional)
“Therefore, kind Jesus, since I cannot pay thee,
I do adore thee, and will even pray thee,
Think on thy pity and they love unswerving,
Not my deserving.
This is the final stanza of the hymn “Ah, Holy Jesus” written in 1630 by the Lutheran minister Johann Hermann and published in our Methodist Hymnal as #289. The English translation is by British poet laureate Robert Bridges and is based on Matthews 26: 59-68.
As we enter Holy Week we reflect on the times when we have rejected Jesus by our thoughts of hatred, prejudice, jealousy, and disregard others in need; we reflect on our actions which have not reflected our Christian values. These sins we do not need to carry with us forever because through His passion and death Jesus made the sufficient sacrifice that we are forgiven of our transgression. We need to make conscious efforts to follow His examples, teachings and principles that through faith leads us to life everlasting. This week let us understand that we are not perfect humans and our faults are many, but in His love there is compassion and forgiveness.
In Jesus Name, Amen.
Dr. Arland Compton
Scripture: Exodus 14: 13-14
Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still.”
Lately I have struggled with the enemy of indecision, longing for a heavenly “GPS” such as the cloud by day or pillar of fire by night. I have wondered if my ears and heart are plugged or if the simple instruction to “be still” is my “Siri” to spiritual peace. Certainly an enemy as ominous as the Egyptian warriors thundering toward the Israelites as they stood trapped on the shore of the Red Sea doesn’t compare to the silent enemy of indecision; however, God’s little instruction book never changes. Just as we learned as children the firefighter’s code to “stop, drop and roll” (should we ever have our clothing inflamed), so should we memorize our Lord’s code when in a fearful situation: Do not be afraid…stand firm…look for the Lord’s deliverance (not my self-styled plan) …and be still. The reward for obedience? (drumroll, please)
– The enemy you see today “you will never see again.” Now that’s worth engraving on our hearts!
Scripture: 2 Timothy 1:6 (NRSV) – “For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands…”
Sometimes we walk alone on our Journey with God, and with our faith, and sometimes we walk with company. Tabitha (my wife) and I had the privilege of being mentors to Trinity’s most-recent Confirmation Class. In that role, we were asked to attend the Confirmation retreat at Lake Junaluska with the class this past April.
Tabitha and I were excited, but did not really know quite what to expect – this was an adventure in asking youths to open themselves up, after all, to us and to complete strangers! Some of the Confirmands Tab had known since they were newborns, and some we went in with an almost new relationship. What would this have in store for these young women and men? We were blown away by their willingness to share! We were proud of their behavior, poise, presence, and excitement. One of the high-points of the weekend involved the adult-leaders getting to lay a stole designed by one of the Confirmands on their shoulders, and say a few words, lay hands on them, and offer a prayer. The presence of the Holy Spirit in that room, in those moments, was overwhelming for me. The feeling of a rekindling of the gift of God that the faiths of each of these youths represent – the maturing of their faith into their own on this journey to confirmation, is one that will stay with me, and I pray will stay with each of them. In these moments we were blessed to be with company on our Journey with God.
Prayer: Father, God, I pray that you lay your hands on me so that I might do your work and build your Kingdom.
Scripture: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17
I recently saw a slow motion video of a caterpillar forming a chrysalis and the transformation of the crawling, land-based insect into a beautiful butterfly. As the time lapsed, I could see the various stages of the formation of a new creature that was completely different from the one with which the metamorphosis began. I came away from watching, thinking what a miracle that process is and how beautiful and majestic the butterfly was. Later, it struck me that without the caterpillar there would be no butterfly. When the transformation has taken place, the creature hatches for the second time in its life. Once the new creature gets its bearings and its wings and antenna are ready, it takes off into the air to begin a new life.
So it is with our past lives; the life we lived in the flesh. Deciding to live into God’s grace and our calling as disciples does not mean that we forget or ignore our past. What has come before is part of our journey, our story; it makes us who we are. Just as the butterfly doesn’t crawl on the ground or think itself unworthy to fly, we must use our perspective as a witness to the future and live as a new creation.
The Good News of Jesus Christ is that the chains of our past have been broken! Our ransom is paid. Live as a new creation, not in the flesh, but in the Spirit. Truly, the old has passed away.
Heavenly Father, we are thankful that in Jesus we are made completely new. The old is gone. Help us to use our past to learn, to guide us away from sinful behavior and as a part of our witness, as we break free and move on, living into who you have called us to be. In the name of Jesus our Christ, AMEN
My Journey to Jesus has been one with lots of blessings. I was blessed to be the seventh (and last) child of Bill and Reona Hodge. What a great life my parents and siblings have provided. I was born into a Christian and church-going home. I had Christian leaders from the start. I’ve been blessed with a Christian husband who has a great sense of Christ-centered values and strength, two healthy daughters and great sons-in-law and five fabulous grandchildren. So, family has been key in my journey.
When my father was diagnosed with leukemia and did not have much time left with us, I could not understand why he, or anyone, had to suffer. I knew we all had to die and end our earthly lives, but I just could not understand the suffering. I searched the Bible, the hymnal, a concordance, etc., looking for “understanding.” I came to a scripture that I’m convinced God used to answer my searching. You all know Philippians 4:4-9. It was as if God sat down with me and said “Eva Marie, why are you asking me for “understanding,” when I can give you something much greater…. I can give you PEACE.” And He did!
“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” 2 Timothy 3:14-15
Dear Lord, thank you for all of your blessings and for those who have gone before us and who have guided us in your teachings. Help us to always seek your will and carry out the sharing of your message in this world. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.
Eva Marie Reynolds
Jesus says: “I Will Put My Trust Him” (Hebrews 2:10-13)
“In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered. Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters. He says: “I will declare your name to my brothers and sisters; in the assembly I will sing your praises.” And again, “I will put my trust in him.” And again he says, “Here am I, and the children God has given me.”” (Hebrews 2:10-13, NIV)
Mr. Jack Howle recently blessed me with the wonderful gift of the complete Works of John Wesley. This means that I now have 14 Volumes, comprising 7318 pages, of Wesley’s journals, sermons, letters, dialogues, essays, personal advisories, thoughts, prayers, suggestions, and lessons in both grammar and music. Upon considering that the theme for this year’s Lenten Devotional Series is “Journeys to Jesus,” I decided to see what Mr. Wesley had to say about journeys.
Here is what I found in his Journal from March of 1770:
“In the following days I went on slowly, through Staffordshire and Cheshire, to Manchester. In this journey, as well as in many others, I observed a mistake that almost universally prevails; and I desire all travelers to take good notice of it, which may save them both from trouble and danger. Near thirty years ago, I was thinking, ‘How is it that no horse ever stumbles while I am reading?’ (History, poetry, and philosophy I commonly read on horseback, having other employment at other times.) No account can possibly be given but this: Because then I throw the reins on his neck. I then set myself to observe; and I aver, that in riding above an hundred thousand miles, I scarce ever remember any horse . . . . to fall, or make a considerable stumble, while I rode with a slack rein. To fancy, therefore, that a tight rein prevents stumbling is a capital blunder. . . A slack rein will prevent stumbling, if anything will.” The Works of John Wesley, vol. 3, p. 393.
Wesley’s advice for the traveler is a good analogy for how Jesus wants us to trust Him to lead us in the journey of our lives. Instead of trying to control every detail of his journey, by reading and studying when on horseback, Wesley concentrated on preparing himself to be who he needed to be when he arrived at his destination. Likewise, Jesus wants us to loosen our tight grip on the reins of life so that He may lead our journey, while we personally concentrate on being the person He wants us to be. By trying to maintain too much control, we cause ourselves to become out of control. Wesley spent the first part of his life trying to control his relationship with Jesus, but he was often despondent because he was not “possessed of joy,” and felt he had fallen from salvation. Eventually, his heart was “strangely warmed” at Aldersgate, and he began to allow Jesus to take control of his life. His journey then led him to become the leader of the Methodist movement.
In the Verse from Hebrews at the top of this page, Jesus himself proclaims that he puts his trust in God when caring for all of the children of God.
Prayer: Dear Lord, please help us remember that, as a child of God, everything in life happens for a reason and You alone know why. Thank you for guiding us, but please help us remember that by selfishly trying to be in control, we can hinder the journey that you wish us to take. Please help us not only to be where you want us to be, when you want us to be there, but also to concentrate on loving you and our neighbors as Jesus instructed us to do. In his Holy Name we pray, Amen.
Scripture: Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he (she) should go, and when they are old, they shall not depart from it.”
When I read the theme of our 2020 Lenten Devotional, “Journey to Jesus,” I immediately thought of my own journey, which began with my parents and grandparents. I was blessed to have parents and grandparents who were Christians and who regularly attended church. My parents were charter members of Broad River Baptist Church in Columbia, SC, which later became St. Andrews Baptist Church. If the doors of the church were open, we were there: Sunday School, Morning Worship, Training Union, Evening Worship, Wednesday night dinner and worship, Bible School, Christmas and Easter pageants, etc. Attending church was never viewed as something we had to do, but rather something we looked forward to every week.
One Sunday morning when I was 6 years old, I vividly remember our pastor giving a sermon about accepting our Lord as our Savior. I went home after church and told my parents I wanted to, as we did in the Baptist church, make a public profession of my faith and be baptized. My parents had a discussion with me, and then they told me if I was serious about this that I would need to talk to our pastor that afternoon, which they arranged. That evening I walked down the aisle of that little Baptist church and publicly accepted the Lord as my Savior. The next Sunday I was baptized by total immersion and as the years have gone by, I have never wavered from that decision. Clearly, the understanding of a 6- year-old is very different from that of a 70-year-old, but the basic tenet of what I accepted in 1956 at the young age of 6 has never changed.
PRAYER: Thank you Lord, for Godly parents who teach their children about you and who regularly participate with their children in church activities. We pray that the children in our church will continue their journey with you in the generations to come.
One of the most widely quoted truths of The Christian Faith was made by St. Augustine. He said, “Thou hast made us for ourselves and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee.” One of the most beloved pastors of Trinity, Sumter, Francis Cunningham, said it in a more contemporary way. His quote was that “there is a God-shaped hole in our hearts.”
The problem with contemporary society is that we try to fill that vacancy with things that please, but do not satisfy, little idols to pleasure which occupy so much of our time and thoughts but only serve to further alienate us from God. The history of Judea-Christian religion calls for sacrifice as a remedy. I remember, from my childhood, the minister presiding at Holy Communion and using words like “expiation” and “propitiation for the sins of the whole world.” I did not know what those words meant, as I do now. “Expiation” provides an offering as a means of making right some wrong, and “propitiation” is the payment offered to appease the deity against which the wrong is committed.
When I remember that The Apostle Paul wrote that “salvation is a gift of God, not of works lest any should boast,” and when I sing the favorite hymn lines,
“In my hand, no price I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling.,”
I am comforted by the words in I John that tells me that Jesus “is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but for the sins of the whole world.”
Knowing that, I am reminded that any sacrifice we accept during the Lenten season does not mean the purchase of forgiveness, but is rather is an expression of sorrow for our sins, and a way to approach God by expressing our faith in Him and seeking pardon.
PRAYER: Have mercy on us, merciful God, when we miss the meaning of our Lenten sacrifice. Enable us to concentrate on filling the “hole in our hearts” with Jesus. Amen
Rev. Dr. Regi Thackston, Pastor Emeritus, Trinity United Methodist Church
Scripture: Micah 6:6-8
“With what shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
Micah, grouped in the Old Testament as one of the twelve minor prophets, gives us these words to ponder about our relationship with GOD. He shares the concerns of his times with prophet peers Amos and Hosea. He writes of his distress over GOD’s people not living their lives in complete connection with their worship. The opening study section in the NRSV Bible states: “Micah condemned religious practice untethered from ethical performance.” Is that Micah telling us in a fancy way that if you are going to talk the talk you had better walk the walk? In this passage of scripture, what stands out here, for me, is the word humbly. Merriam-Webster defines the root word humble as not proud or haughty; not arrogant or assertive. Ouch! That is not the world we live in, is it? Look at me, see me, hear me – social media, the press, our phones, Hollywood, commercials, the books we read, our music, our chosen commitments – they all tell us that we are the important ones; that we should be seen and heard and praised and acknowledged; that we are in charge and in control! A quick google search to cross-reference Micah 6:8 produces 55 scriptures throughout the Old and New Testaments containing the same message as our prophet Micah.
So, as we ‘Journey to Jesus’ this Lenten season, take a moment to step back and reflect on these words of wisdom. How does CHRIST still call us to walk with HIM today? What does HE require of us? Are we any different than the people living at the time of the prophet Micah?
Help us GOD, to walk humbly with YOU; O LORD, hear our prayer.
Scripture: John 14:6 “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one can get to the Father except by means of me.”
All of our lives, we have been on journeys long and short……..down the street, to church, to school, to work, to see relatives and friends, and on vacations. Usually, we are headed to accomplish something.
When I was a little girl, I remember walking the short distance from our house to Trinity Methodist Church, here, and down the Sunday school building hall and seeing the big picture of Jesus on the wall. I knew I was there to learn more about Jesus. As a toddler, my parents often read Bible stories to me, taking me on the” journeys” to meet Jesus through colorful pictures and fascinating words that seemed to pull you right into the scenes in the book. I remember the giant Bible that sat on the coffee table that was too heavy for me to lift, with all the red words that Jesus said and promised. As a teen, I found out Jesus was not just an example for us, that I was not superior to anyone because of my sets of actions or good deeds, and that only by bringing Jesus into my soul could I ever have the real journey to Jesus.
As adults, it is often hard to set aside our list of accomplishments as less than important factors, to sidestep our desire for recognition in this life and journey on earth. On our “journeys”, because we know Jesus, we can see his invitations everywhere to show his love, to pray, and to help others journey to Jesus because “He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” There is nothing greater than that.
Dear God, thank you for Jesus and the peace and comfort that whatever successes and challenges we encounter in life, we are on our journey with Jesus to live with Him and you forever. Amen.
Scripture: John 21:16 and Matthew 22:37
After the resurrection, Jesus appeared to Peter on the shores of the Sea of Galilee and asked him a seemingly simple question. “..do you love me?” (John 21:16). And Peter answered the way I would imagine most of us would answer. “Yes, Lord” (John 21:16). This conversation seems pretty straightforward and simple. But is loving Jesus really that simple? Is loving God as easy as we make it out to be?
Our small group just started a new book, Five Marks of a Methodist. The very first chapter begins to explore the greatest commandment that God gives us. “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart…” (Matthew 22:37). Again, this commandment seems pretty simple. I often feel like I can check the box on this one and move right along. But a closer look reveals my heart and my actions don’t always reflect that I love God.
God is love. He is the Author and Creator of love. The only reason we have the capacity to love is because He loved us first. God’s love, given to us through the Holy Spirit, is meant to spark a yearning within our hearts to love Him in response to the love He has first given us. So after reading this chapter and thinking over the above mentioned verses, I thought, “Do I really love God like I am supposed to love God?” This question has been a lot harder to answer because honestly, the truth hurts. The answer is no. Sure, I love God, but am I responding to the love He has shown me first. And am I responding to Him and others with the same type of love He has shown me? Again, the answer is no.
So where do I go from here? Well, thankfully God’s love is always with us so I get to respond again and again and again. I will always have the opportunity to respond to His love, and I just want to respond with everything I am and everything I have. I need to respond in every aspect of my life and respond every day and to everyone.
The book has a great quote from Eugene Peterson:
“First God. God is the subject of life. God is foundational for living. If we don’t have a sense of the primacy of God, we will never get it right, get life right, get our lives right. Not God at the margins; not God as an option; not God on the weekends. God at the center and circumference. God first and last; God, God, God.”
God’s love is so powerful and so supernatural that I can barely fathom it. And I must meditate on it so I can get a glimpse of how immense it really is. The awareness that God’s love brings me salvation and wholeness will help me live life abundantly and as a true disciple of Christ – who really loves God. His love came first and should be first in my life.
Prayer: Dear God, please help me feel and experience your Love. Help me understand that you love me in ways that are out of this world. Your love for me came first. You have initiated this relationship and I want to respond to You with the same love you have so graciously shown me. Help me truly love you with all my heart. Help my heart yearn to love you more – each and every day. Amen.
Scripture: Romans 8: 24 – 25
For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
How often do we use hope rather than hard work to accomplish our goals? “A goal without a plan is a wish.” The hope we have in Christ as our Savior is very different. The sacrifice that He made for us on the cross is certainly much more that a hope that our sins are forgiven. Yet, if we do wait with patience and put aside our pride, there is true hope in our salvation.
Here is hope worth patiently waiting for:
Far beyond the horizon’s edge,
Well past the scope of naked eye.
A new and wonderful world must lie.
A stronger sense of duty lives
Within that realm’s hallowed walls
And Pride is dressed in rags and falls
Upon its knees, and meekly calls
On God, who knows, and forgives.
Prayer: Lord, may we be filled with the hope that Jesus Christ has given us. We pray that your will shall be done in our lives. Amen.
Scripture: Matthew 5:16
Everyone when they were younger sang the song “This Little Light of Mine” in Sunday School. But do we actually understand what this song actually is trying to tell us? In Matthew 5:16 it says “In the same way, let your light shine before others that they must see your good deeds and glorify your Father in Heaven”.
God has given each and every one of us special talents and abilities that we use on a daily basis. As we use these given talents, we should let His light shine through us. God gave each of us our own lights; this means that they were not made to be compared to one another. YOU were made YOU for a reason, and your light will shine in every way that God designed it to. Your light was intended to be seen and not hidden from others. Use your “good deeds” given from God to shine your light and to shine His light through you.
Andi Grae Wingate
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 13 – Focus Verse: 1 Corinthians 13:11
Sometime in the mid 1990’s I was a Life Scout on the verge of completing my trail to Eagle. To be perfectly honest I would end up waiting until the last minute and scrambling to complete all of my requirements mere days before I turned 18; but that’s a different story for a different time. On this one particular day my troop was hiking into the peninsula for some primitive pack-in camping at Keowee-Toxaway State Park. The Trail to get there, Raven Rock Loop, is a strenuous one with close to 900′ in elevation change over a relatively short distance. At the time I was a well experienced backpacker with extra conditioning from wrestling season, so I was prepared. Several of our newer scouts were far less prepared. About halfway to the campsite we had already had to stop several times because our weakest scout just couldn’t make the journey with the additional weight of his pack. As we stopped one more time at the base of yet another steep climb I told that scout to take his pack off and I proceeded to strap his pack onto the back of mine. I carried his burden the rest of the way to camp, stopping only briefly to admire the beautiful view of the lake from the clear top of the ridge. I would like to say that I showed this act of kindness solely because of my Christian upbringing and because I knew my Scoutly duty to “Do a Good Turn Daily”; but sadly that was just a small part of why I did it. Mostly I just wanted to get to camp and I was tired of waiting on the weak little scouts. This was also an opportunity for me to show off how strong I was and thus how much “better” I was than the younger scouts. When we finally made it to the peninsula I set up my tent the fastest and set out to help the other scouts so that I wouldn’t get fussed at by the adult leaders when I went fishing when there was still work to do. That young scout, without prompting from any adult leader, thanked me for carrying his burden; and his father pulled me aside a little later to thank me for being such a fine example of leadership. It was a humbling experience. I believe that those words of thanks did more for my journey than my small act did for that scout.
We are all called to grow in our faith. Christianity is a perilous journey, not the safe destination that we like to envision it to be. I’m thankful to those who have helped me (and continue to help me) carry my burdens.
Prayer (From UMH #597):
From the cowardice that dares not face new truth,
from the laziness that is contented with half-truth,
for the arrogance that thinks it knows all truth,
Good Lord, deliver me. Amen.
Scripture: Romans 12: 12 – Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
This verse speaks to me every day in my journey with Jesus. I fail to be joyful in my everyday life as my “to do list” is always longer than my energy to complete; and patience has been my biggest trial through my entire life. I want everything completed now and find it difficult to wait. Faithful in Prayer: I tell myself to start the day with a daily devotion and prayer, but I find sometimes the evening is here and I have not stopped to sit and pray. We are taught in the New Testament that Jesus will always love us and be with us. He asks each of us to be his disciple in showing love and kindness to all we meet, loving our neighbor as ourselves. This is not always easy. We work hard and play hard. Even in retirement, I find too many tasks I need to complete each day. We tend to set our goals to achieve and I fail to put Jesus first. We try to solve all of our problems first. When that fails, then we turn to Jesus and ask why. I want my prayers answered in my time frame. We know that is not God’s way. His time frame is not in our mind set. I find if I am praying for family and friends due to illness, surgery or medical treatment, I will pray each morning, asking for those persons to feel his love and strength to be with them this day. This needs to be a daily habit and not when I am in a crisis mode.
Jesus tells us he is always near us. All we have to do is bring our joys, concerns and trials to him. Let each of us begin this Lenten season, with always putting God first, starting each new day with a prayer. We will feel his love and peace, making our day so much better.
Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for always listening to our joys, concerns and trials. Help us to be more patient and wait for an answer according to your will. Let us show our love and kindness to those we meet today. In Thy name, we pray. Amen