Daily Lent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Sunday, April 4, Evening

By Johnie Elliott, March 18, 1979

Doubt to Dedication

Read John 20:24-28

The world sometimes has a way of remembering the bad that we do and forgetting the good. Thomas is an example, as a usual thing, when people think of the doubting Thomas. Thomas was the real skeptic. When they received news that Lazarus was dead, it was Thomas that said, “We’d better not go. They will kill us.” When Jesus said, “I go to prepare a place for you.” Thomas said “Lord, we don’t even know where you are going, how can we know the way?”

When Christ appeared to His disciples Thomas was not present. When he heard the news that Christ appeared earlier Thomas said, “I will not believe except I see.” How often we miss a wonderful experience when we neglect to be in the congregation of those who are worshipping.

Let’s not condemn Thomas too harshly. The world has moved forward because people have dared to doubt. The Wright brothers doubted the axiom that only something as light as a bird could fly. Many doubted that we would ever be able to place a man on the moon. Our age is an age of doubting. Some doubt that religion is the answer to Peace. Others doubt the ability and integrity of our leaders.

There is a difference in honest and dishonest doubt. Thomas wanted to believe but he still had his doubts. Jesus saw in Thomas a valuable quality needed in the Kingdom. He saw in Thomas that quality which was eternally grasping for new truths. Thomas was not gullible to every fad that came along. He could not believe that his Lord was alive when he had seen him crucified on Friday. Yet when Christ revealed himself to Thomas, Thomas cried “My Lord and my God.”

Doubt had given way to dedication. So should it be with our honest doubt. We must work through our honest doubts to dedication to Christ and his church.

Prayer

Lord I Believe, but help me through my unbelief. Amen.

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Daily Lent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Sunday, April 4, Morning

By Rev. Dr. Tooms H. Kay, Jr., March 26, 1978

From Death to Life

Read John 19:41-42 (J.B. Phillips)

“In the place where he was crucified, there was a garden containing a new tomb in which nobody had yet been laid. Because it was the preparation day and because the tomb was conveniently near, they laid Jesus in this tomb.”

One of the most moving experiences of a visit to the Holy Land will be found at Gordon’s Calvary and the Garden Tomb. This is a traditional site of the crucifixion and burial of Jesus, and is about three blocks northeast of Herod’s Gate. This place of crucifixion is named for Charles George Gordon, a British general. As he walked atop the wall of Jerusalem, he pointed to a hill and said, “That looks just like Calvary.” What he saw resembled a skull, with two eyes, a crooked nose, and a distorted mouth.

Later excavations conducted at the base of the rocky cliff uncovered a garden in which there was an empty tomb. Could this have been the private garden of Joseph of Arimathea? The tomb was shaped like a bathtub and had been lengthened about a foot to accommodate a larger person. Was not Jesus buried in a tomb not his own? In January of 1977, as a group of us studied that rocky hill, pointing out to each other the form of the skull, we were caught up in the immensity of Christ’s sacrificial love. We sang one verse of “There Is A Green Hill Far Away.”

From that vision which recalled agony and death we walked down a lovely garden path to a limestone wall in which there was an opening. One by one we entered, “stooping down” as did that “other disciple” (John 20:5). Here was the place where Jesus might have been laid. We spoke in quiet whispers. Outside again we stood around our guide, a gentleman with a marked British accent. He reminded us that these were merely traditional sites, and the important thing was to remember that our Lord had risen.

As we departed, I thought, “The place of crucifixion and the place of resurrection are not very far apart. How quickly we may go from death to life!” May that message become real to each of us this Easter Day.

Prayer

O God, we accept the promise of Jesus that “I am the resurrection and the life.” Let our experience confirm the truth of that proclamation, not only at Easter, but every day of our lives. Amen.

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Daily Lent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Saturday, April 3, Evening

By Dr. Don Rhodes, February 29, 1980

Our Church

Read James 2:26 (Living Bible)

“Just as the body is dead when there is no spirit in it, so faith is dead if it is not the kind that results in good deeds.”

Article X of John Wesley’s “Articles of Religion of the Methodist Church” reads as follows:

“Although good works, which are the fruits of faith, and follow after justification, cannot put away our sins, and endure the severity of God’s judgment; yet are they pleasing and acceptable to God in Christ, and spring out of a true and lively faith, insomuch that by them a lively faith may be as evidently known as a tree discerned by its fruit.”

We believe that our United Methodist Church is a part of the church universal and that the church itself is a community of true believers under the Lordship of Christ. Our church is the total body of faithful individuals who transcend more than buildings, properties, ministers, staff, commissions, councils, and boards. We are the church, you and I, mutually supporting each other both individually and collectively, and witnessing our faith in God through the works we do.

When we became members of the United Methodist Church we promised to be loyal to it and uphold it with our “ …  prayers, our presence, our gifts, and our service.” This our final vow of membership into this community of the faithful was to work for and in our church toward the ultimate glory of God. Our work, however, is far more than regular attendance at worship, attending church school, Bible study, prayer, or passive participation. We must be an active, witnessing, serving community that typifies Jesus the Christ whose name we claim. We must be involved, serve on committees, teach, visit, telephone, cook, clean, decorate, usher … give of ourselves, of our love, our faith, and our material goods. We must feed the hungry, clothe the poor, comfort the infirm and support the afflicted. Ministers may come and ministers may go, programs may prosper and programs may perish but we the church, the community of faithful, must continue … continue evidencing our faith by doing our Father’s work.

Prayer

Father, grant us strength and courage to face the challenge of doing your work. We live in a complex world where much suffering exists. Help us to express our love and faith through our work both in the church and out of it. Teach us to see the needs and give the best that we can.

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Daily Lent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Saturday, April 3, Morning

By Helen Smithson, April 14, 1979

Between Calvary and the Resurrection

Read Matthew 27:57-60

“And when it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus. This man came to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given over to him. And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock; and he rolled in a large stone against the entrance of the tomb and went away.”

Yesterday we thought of the darkness of Calvary – the jeering crowds, the taunts. Mary’s broken heart as she stood with John at the foot of the cross looking at the suffering of her Son, the desolate cry “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” The Lord’s triumphant “It is finished,” and then His last words, “Father, into Thy hands I commit my Spirit.” Now there is silence and a feeling of hopelessness. Yesterday was Calvary – tomorrow is glorious resurrection, but in between these two days there is gloom and despair. Many times this is where we find ourselves in life. We have experienced a great disappointment, a personal rejection, financial reverses, the sudden loss of a loved one, and we all become numb with unbelief at what has transpired. Here is where the Scriptures can hold us steady while our Lord puts together the broken pieces of our lives. He tells us that “… those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary” (Isaiah 40: 31). As we wait on Him the glory of His resurrection breaks through, our hearts are comforted, and we move forward with greater strength than before. Truly, we serve a risen Saviour who comes into our lives when we allow Him to do so with the light we need for any darkness that comes to us.

Prayer

Eternal God, our Heavenly Father, as we travel the road of life, many times we find ourselves numb with grief or disappointment. Although we know that in You there is grace sufficient for every circumstance in life, sometimes there is a period of darkness and near despair, as there must have been the day after Calvary and the day before Easter, when we need You in a special way to calm our troubled hearts and to assure us that You are the Lord of our circumstances. Thank You at these times You are near and faithful, and thank you for the blessed way You take the pieces of our broken hearts, as we give them to You, and put them back together in such a way that they are even stronger than before. Thank You that You are the Risen Lord and to those who receive You, a personal Saviour. Amen.

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Daily Lent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Friday, April 1, Evening

By Esther W. Bare, March 12, 1976

When We Don’t Understand

Read Hebrews 4:14-15; 1 Corinthians 13:8-9

We Americans are a people who want to know. Indeed, the genius of Western man, some say, has been that he was determined to push the limits of his knowledge as far as he could and then put that knowledge into action. As individuals, we follow a somewhat similar path as we grow up: we try to understand ourselves, our families, other people, and the world beyond, and as Christians we try to relate our knowledge and understanding to God and his plan for us and for the world. Surely it is good to attempt this, for we remember that Jesus expanded the Great Commandment of the Old Testament – “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy strength” – to include loving God with all our minds.

But there is a point at which understanding ends. No matter how wonderfully satisfying our relationship with God may seem at times, sooner or later most of us are brought face to face with realities we cannot reconcile with our faith, situations that jar the foundations of our beliefs. And it is here that we may turn away and abandon our faith. Or we may look at Jesus on the cross.

Our hearts shrink from His suffering, yet we must hear the words: “My God, my God why has Thou forsaken me?” For his agony was not only of the body, it was the pain of despair, of non-understanding, of alienation from the Father to whom he had dedicated his life.

Christ on the cross gives us the answer, too; not so much an answer, though, as the way in which we may follow: “Into Thy hands I commend my spirit.”

Prayer

Help us to place our spirits into Thy hands, in times of joy and in times of despair. Save us from relying too much on knowledge and from making progress our god. Help us to realize our weaknesses, that we may seek Thy guidance always, in the name of Jesus who showed us the Way. Amen.

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Daily Lent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Thursday, April 1, Evening

By Dorothy & Asa Bishop, February 21, 1980

Lent is a Time for Preparing for Living

Read Mark 14:32-42

“And they went to a place which was called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, ‘Sit here, while I pray…Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak’…”.

Lent is that period of time set aside on the Christian calendar when we direct our thoughts toward the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. This is the high point of the Christian year, and a special emphasis is required to make the proper preparation for this rapturous occasion. Although we should make an emphasis each day of the year to use our daily devotional period to help us in deepening our personal commitment to the living Lord, we may sometimes neglect to carry out this daily time of preparation throughout the year.

Through the use of the Lenten booklets prepared by fellow Church Streeters, we began a daily family devotional period which now prevails in our home throughout the year. The special emphasis on preparation during Lent stimulated us to continue our family devotionals. In this time of sharing, praying, and Bible reading, we are made more aware of how God lives and speaks through each person in our family circle. As we prepare for Easter this year, we will be looking for some additional emphasis to assist us in our daily celebration that Jesus Christ lives within us and in the world which surrounds us.

Prayer

Heavenly Father, as we prepare our hearts and minds for the death and resurrection of Your son, Jesus Christ, help us to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Forgive us for the many times we deny Thee daily and give us courage and strength to live in accordance with Thy will. Amen.

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Daily Lent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Thursday, April 1, Morning

By Mrs. Elizabeth Reagon, March 28, 2018

Do You Wait for an Answer?

Read John 18:38, 17:17 (KJV), Matthew 24:35, 7:7 (KJV)

Pontius Pilate’s life may have been dramatically changed had he waited for an answer. The crucifixion scriptures tell us, “Pilot saith unto him, What is truth?” But the Scriptures continue, “and when he said this, he went out . …”

Jesus answered this very question a few hours earlier. As He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane for his Disciples, he asked his Father, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy Word is truth.” The Word is also eternal in Matthew 24:35 when Jesus said, “… my word shall not pass away.”

Jesus told us in Matthew 7:7, “Ask, and it shall be given; seek and ye shall find …” But do we ask and fail to wait for an answer or do we ask as Pilate did and then move on? Perhaps more important, do we wait expectantly? Do we anticipate an answer?

Do we allow time to sit quietly and meditate on God and His Word and give God a chance to communicate to us? Wouldn’t we give a friend a chance to respond to an inquiry?

No answer, yet; perhaps God prefers to reply through his Holy Word.

Scripture speaks and can deliver definite messages when we are attuned.

Reverently peruse the Scriptures, read slowly, prayerfully, frequently, meditating on it and you will have answers and also a light to direct your life.

Prayer

Righteous God, sanctify us, enable us to love you and your Word more, in Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

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Daily Lent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Wednesday, March 31, Morning

By Laura Still, April 20, 2019

Affirmation of Faith

Read John 13:1

“Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.”

If you begin a sentence with who, what, where, or why, then the sentence should end in a question mark. We all learn that. During the season of Lent, there are many questions we ask. Why did Jesus have to die? Why did Jesus pray? Let this cup pass? What happened to Jesus’ body? Did Jesus always know he was going to be crucified? Why did Jesus cry out, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ These are questions asked in every Lenten study I have been a part of, and I have attempted to answer questions to the best of my ability in sermons and in lessons.

One of the first Lenten hymns I remember learning is “What Wondrous Love Is This” (#292 in the United Methodist Hymnal). It was just a decade or so ago that I paid attention to the missing question mark! The title is not a question but an exclamatory sentence! An affirmation.

What wondrous love is this!

This discovery coincided with my own spiritual growth and understanding. I had worked so hard to explain all the different atonement theories and make sense of the crucifixion. I wanted to be able to answer satisfactorily the questions people would ask in studies.

There is a freedom to accept God’s love and grace when we can exclaim, ‘What wondrous love is this!’ I encourage asking questions and I know full well that is an important and necessary part of our spiritual development. But, at some point, it became more important to me to be embraced by God’s love than being able to explain it.

What wondrous love is this!

Prayer

O God beyond all reason yet so accessible, we thank you that you love us and call us into a new understanding of life through your love. Amen.

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Daily Lent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Wednesday, March 31, Morning

By Laura Still, April 20, 2019

Among Us

Read John 1:14

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

I confess this is my favorite verse of the Gospel, but I am still finding out what it means. When I was young, I daydreamed about what it would be like to be one of the people who met Jesus during his three years of ministry on earth. Surely if I had actually seen him, in the flesh, all my questions and doubts would disappear and I would have become one of the disciples, leaving everything behind to follow him.

However, as a teenager and young adult, my certainty faded as all the complications of the living damaged my self-confidence, and failures ate away my faith. How could I follow Jesus in a world that pulled me apart? There was no sudden blinding light for me, but there were tiny flashes: kind words, laughter, the soaring trill of birds at the moment of twilight. Little sparks sent to remind me he did not leave us alone; he promised he would always be with us. In the gray winter days, the sun is hidden, but we can feel it above the clouds. Lent comes to remind us the Spirit is with us every day, still among us, still full of grace and truth.

Prayer

Dear Lord, give us eyes to see your light when it is hidden and hearts to feel your presence within us. Let us be led by your Holy Spirit in all we do.

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Daily Lent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Tuesday, March 30, Evening

By Nancy Thompson, April 16, 2019

The Love of God

Read Hebrews 13:13

You may remember the story of the “The Three Trees” accredited to folklore of long ago. Three trees grew up together on a hillside. They often shared their dreams of what they wanted to be when they were grown.

The first wanted to be a beautiful decorative treasure box in which to hold precious and priceless treasures and jewels of the king. He was made into a manger from which animals would be fed. The manger became a crib which held the Christ child – the most precious treasure ever to be known.

The second wanted to be a huge ocean craft on which he would carry many people across the seas to see God’s creation. He was crafted into a small fishing boat which carried Jesus as He taught His disciples. It held them as they rested and slept, and from which Christ calmed a dangerous storm.

The dream of the third tree was to grow to be the tallest, strongest and largest tree in the forest so he could stand erect and daily point people to God. The woodsmen came and downed the third tree and sawed it into two large square type logs with which they formed a cross. It was from this tree that our Savior was hung as the painful crown of thorns was placed on His head and the dreaded swords pierced His side until He said, “It is finished”. This tree has pointed people to Christ through the centuries.

Christ gave His perfect life on the cruel cross for us – for you and me. This realization comes particularly close during communion when the server hands us the bread and says, this is Christ’s body given for you – followed by the juice and the server says, this is Christ’s blood shed for you.

“…the love of God is greater far than tongue or pen can ever tell…”

Hymn by Frederick M. Lehman

Prayer

Oh God, thank you for your Son, Jesus Christ. Thank you for the faith with which to believe, for your love which we witness and feel every day, and for the hope of eternal life. Amen.

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