First United Methodist Church Downtown - 422 Church Street Heritage - 4344 Heritage Avenue Grapevine, TX 76051 817-481-2559 www.firstmethodistgrapevine.org
What Is Lent?
In Christian tradition, the season of Lent is the 40 days before Easter, not including Sundays. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and ends the day before Easter. Sundays aren’t included in the 40 days because Sundays commemorate the Resurrection. Lent is considered a time of soul-searching and preparation. Some Christians engage in added spiritual disciplines during this season—more intentional prayer, fasting (giving up food for a period of time), spiritual reading or writing, acts of compassion. In more recent times, some Christians have fasted from other things—such as watching television or other types of media, drinking soft drinks, etc.— as a way of focusing and preparing for Easter. In the act of giving up or trimming away distractions, we become more able to receive the new life Christ offers. Some Christians enjoy being able to give a special offering during this season in order to help others in need. It is our prayer that this devotional guide will help you to focus and prepare during this season. You may want to read the scripture and devotional thought together as a family or with friends during this season. Feel free to share this booklet with others as a way of encouraging them and including them in an invitation to share in this holy season. These daily devotions are also available online via the 10 & 10 blog on our website at www.firstmethodistgrapevine.org/10and10. Trusting God, we prepare our hearts and souls for the new life God will stir in us this Lent and Easter 2014!
Lenten Devotional 2014 Our sermon theme for Lent is “Childlike Faith.” One of the ways that Jesus made his message accessible for people of all ages was by using parables. Our daily devotionals for the season of Lent will focus on Jesus’ parables. There is one devotional for each day, not counting Sundays. The final week of the devotional readings follows the passion of Christ. There is a scripture reading, devotional thought and prayer for each day of Lent.
Ash Wednesday, March 5 The Parable of The Growing Seed
by Teresa Agler Read Mark 4:26-29.
The parable of the growing seed is one of three “growing” stories in the gospel of Mark. Jesus explains in Mark 4:10-12 that the purpose of the parables is to reveal the Kingdom of God to all who would understand and believe. Not all who see will perceive and some may hear but not understand. God’s people are likened to seeds that grow into plants in the “growing” parables. A seed will take root, sprout and grow on its own if it has fertile ground. Like the seeds, we people of faith can take root in our beliefs, learn and grow in our faith with our own fertile ground—our minds and hearts that are open to hearing and understanding God’s word. As the plant in the ground reaches maturity, it can be harvested and used for good. We also continue to grow in our faith until we reach maturity. In Jesus’ time, people believed that this maturity—the coming of God’s Kingdom on Earth—would happen suddenly. It began then, and it continues to grow today, much as the seeds of the earth do. We must continue to believe and pray for understanding of God’s word. May my mind and heart always be open to understand and believe God’s word. Amen.
Thursday, March 6
by Kathi Shaw Read Matthew 13:24-30.
The Parable of The Weeds
Why Does God allow evil to exist in the world today? There have been so many times in my life that I have looked around and asked that question. Why do so many of those who cheat, or steal or bring harm to others seemingly thrive and end up with so much, while there are so many good people who follow God’s laws and seem to have so much less? The Parable of the Weeds seemed to answer that question for me. It’s as if, through the parable, I could hear God say: “My Child, I did not plant those weeds among you. After I had sown you and so many others in good soil to prosper and grow, evil scattered weeds among you to undermine me. Your roots are not deep or strong enough to withstand the tugging at the weeds whose roots have entwined with yours in my fertile soil. Nor are you mature enough yet to yield the bounty of your grain that will come one day. Be patient and tolerate the weeds as I must do until your growing is through. Do not look left or look right at the weeds, and do not compare yourself and your place in my field against them. Simply look UP, to Me, and be strengthened by the sun (Son) who nourishes you with all it has to give. Trust that I know my grains of goodness from the weeds of evil and that I will separate you from them when your growing season is through. Then you will have your rightful place with me and the weeds will burn and perish. I am not neglecting my field of precious grain, nor am I giving anything to the weeds of evil. But they are there among you, and so it must be for now. For I keep from extracting them because you may be harmed in the process, should I destroy them. I allow them to continue to exist only because I will never allow an action on my part to bring any harm to you whatsoever.” Upon that realization I pray: Dear Lord, I am ashamed that I have thought you have turned a blind eye to the world in allowing evil to exist, and wondered why you allow such things to be. I am humbled that you are so unwilling to allow harm to be done to us by your hand in retaliation for the spiritual warfare waged against you. You willingly tolerate the weeds of evil in your sacred field during this “growing season” of your beloved souls, rather than harm us in the process of extracting evil. I feel safe knowing you are watching and waiting, knowing that your purpose and our destiny will be realized nonetheless. If you can remain patient and undeterred by such a deplorable act of defiance, certainly I can put aside my comparisons, questioning and doubt and watch and wait with you and for you. How Great Thou Art. Amen.
Friday, March 7
by Ann Hailey Read Matthew 13:31-32, Mark 4:30-32, Luke 13:18-19.
The Mustard Seed
When I was a teenager, I was fortunate to attend International Gideon Conventions for families of Gideons who give out Bibles. This verse reminds me of a familiar song that I learned at my first convention—Pass It On. The lyrics read: It only takes a spark to get a fire going Then soon all those around will warm up in its glowing That’s how it is with God’s love Once you have experienced it... The mustard seed parable was in response to the question, “What is the kingdom of God like?” Jesus provided a visual picture for the people of his time and for us today. A mustard seed (as tiny as a pine nut) when planted grows into a huge, flowing tree giving shade and a place for rest and life for the birds—even the eagle in one translation. A spark or seed of God’s love in us can have enormous effects on growing God’s family in the church and community. The kingdom can expand when we use the seeds he plants in us. What seed will you plant? Father, I pray that you will use me to plant tiny seeds in God’s people to grow your tree of ministry. Help us to remember Jesus’ words in Matthew 17:20, "If you have faith as the grain of the mustard seed… nothing will be impossible for you!" What a promise! What a Savior! Thank you Jesus! Amen.
Saturday, March 8 The Parable of the Sower
by Melburn Sibley Read Matthew 13:3-9, Mark 4:3-9, Luke 8:5-8.
Who of us has not been disappointed at times when we have tried to help someone and have been rebuffed or have tried to tell someone about Christ to experience a cold shoulder? This parable gives us a word of encouragement. When a farmer sows seeds, could he realistically expect every seed to germinate and produce food? As the parable teaches, some seeds will be picked up by the birds or blown away (people who have no interest), some will start to grow but will be short lived because the ground is hard (people who are shallow), some will be choked out by thorns (people who are influenced by the wrong people), but some will grow and produce food. Here are several principles. Don’t be discouraged and give up if the growth is not seen as quickly as you expect. God’s timing may not be like ours. Our job is to sow the seeds; God gives the harvest. We read that anything as simple as giving a cup of water will be rewarded. Our primary purpose in service is not to be rewarded, but isn’t that a wonderful side benefit! Loving God, we have been given so much. May we be faithful in sharing your love and truths with others. Amen.
Monday, March 10 The Leaven
by Herb Fry Read Matthew 13:33 and Luke 13:20-21.
Jesus taught in parables to make his message easy to remember, relate to, and understand, leaving the true hearer with a simple, but profound point. The parable of the leaven or yeast, fits that mold precisely. It is only a few words long and tells us simply that, as part of the Kingdom of Heaven (body of believers current and past), we have the ability to change the world in a very positive way, much like yeast affects dough and the bread made from it. This is something that sounds good and seems simple enough, until you try to become that good yeast. Does this mean we should live a moral life of not cheating or stealing, being fair and kind to others, etc.? Or is there more to it than this? There are many moral people in the world, but that does not make them the good yeast that Jesus is describing. He knew that the most important thing is what is behind what we do. People need to see the why, not just the good deeds themselves. This brings to mind the first day on my first mission trip, when I had a local ask me why we were in his country. In the best broken Spanish that I could muster I said “por amor de Jesus.” Let’s share the “why” as we strive to be the good yeast of the world. Father, I thank you for your presence in my life and for giving me a true purpose. Help me keep my spiritual antenna up today so that I will recognize the situations that arise to be able to share your love with others. Amen.
Tuesday, March 11 Parable of the Pearl
by Melissia Mason Read Matthew 13:45-46.
How can something—anything—be worth enough that you would sell everything you have to acquire it? Growing up, my family was always frugal. My parents set money aside for vacations and college tuition and retirement. I was taught to count the cost of things. So when I read this short parable, I’m taken aback. How in the world can one item—one physical possession—be worth enough to give up everything to get it? No worldly possession could be worth so much… not to me anyway. But the Kingdom of Heaven… now, that’s something so wonderful that we could imagine giving up every single thing to achieve it. The beautiful thing about the Kingdom of Heaven, though, is that we have a part in creating it. This priceless pearl is our legacy to the world. Every time we choose God’s way, we make our world a little bit more like the Kingdom of Heaven. Every time we remove a little of the world’s rough edges… every act of loving kindness we do, every Jesus-like quality we display molds our world into that priceless pearl. God, guide us today in trading our kingdoms for the Kingdom of Heaven. Move our spirits so that we make a priceless, eternal contribution to the world. Amen. 5
Wednesday, March 12 The Hidden Treasure
by Pam Fry Read Matthew 13:44.
The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. We hear, through the media, stories of people who have won unexpected treasure, perhaps through a lottery ticket or a very lucrative contract. They have gone on to spend it, surrounding themselves and those they love with a luxurious lifestyle. In the case of this parable, however, Jesus focuses instead on the price a man is willing to pay for the treasure. As was common in the ancient world, the treasure may have been buried in the ground by its owner for safekeeping many years earlier. After finding the treasure, the man hid it once again and considered it of such great value that he was willing to sell all he had in order to purchase the field and rightfully own the treasure. The found treasure Jesus speaks of in the parable refers to Jesus himself and the good news of the Gospel. When the man found this treasure, he realized that the kingdom of heaven was greater than anything he owned, and he was willing to pay any price to be part of it. Jim Elliot, a Christian missionary, said “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” Lord, many have heard of the treasure of the kingdom of heaven, yet few are willing to act as the man in this parable did and value it above all else. Please help each of us to understand that your kingdom is greater than all that we have, and help us to respond accordingly. Amen.
Thursday, March 13 Drawing in the Net
by Armando Alvarado Read Matthew 13:47-50.
As I meditate on this passage I begin to think how we as a church, as the Body of Christ, fish everyday of our lives. Just about every day in the morning and afternoon I cross the Grapevine Lake Dam. There is always someone fishing on a boat. Fishing poles, nets, fishing lines are all instruments to catch fish. What instruments does God give us with which to fish? When you talk about how God is making a difference in your life, you are casting a net for the people who are listening. Your words of hope and love are portions of the net that encourage and capture people’s hearts. This Gospel of a net encapsulates the good and bad, the true and false, the honest and dishonest people of this world. Only God will know who will stay and who will go. Have you spent time praying for your family, friends and neighbors? How can you be messengers (fishers of men) for God? Let us celebrate this Easter— the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, the victory over death—as a turning point in our lives to share the Good News of hope and love. Father God, create in us the capacity to forgive and embrace our brothers and sisters of this world. Give us the tools so that we may cast the Good News net into the world as we continue to have faith in you every day. Amen.
Friday, March 14
by Anne Rhoades Read Matthew 22:1-14.
The Great Banquet
When God invites us to feast at his table, we don’t always accept this gracious invitation. Even when he repeats the invitation, and sends out another round of encouragement, we sometimes don’t get it. He continues to invite us, but gives us the choice of how we react to that invitation. To me, the most interesting part of this parable is the last part. How could it be that God could see someone who was dressed inappropriately and punish him so severely? This doesn’t seem like the New Testament God to me—and what does it mean that he sent this poor man to hell for wearing the wrong clothes? What this says to me is that even though God’s grace is freely and generously offered, and even though we are free to ignore it, when we do decide to come to God, we do so with a responsibility. Figuratively, when we sit at God’s table, we should do so with a certain amount of respect, showing that we are taking his generosity seriously and not just gorging ourselves on his meal. God, let me come to your table each day with energy, respect, and engagement. Let me never take your generosity for granted. Amen.
Saturday, March 15 The Ten Virgins
by Cindy Ryan Read Matthew 25:1-13.
I love the way The Message translation spins this parable. God’s Kingdom is like ten young women who took their oil lamps and went out to greet the bridegroom. Five were “silly” the translation reads and five were “smart.” It seems the silly young women had their lamps but not enough oil. The smart women were prepared with extra jars of oil to feed their lamps. The bridegroom took his time showing up and everyone fell asleep. When he finally arrived in the middle of the night, the silly young women had to run to the store for more oil and missed the whole wedding feast, finally finding themselves locked out. The bridegroom didn’t even recognize them when they showed up. “Do I know you? I don’t think I know you.” Jesus sums it up, “So stay alert. You have no idea when he might arrive.” I sure would prefer to be among the “smart” ones when God’s Kingdom arrives, wouldn’t you? We know it is coming. We know it is imminent. It could even be today, here and now, I suppose. We want to be ready, but how? Lamps and oil? Bibles? What provisions will we need? Jesus just says, “Stay alert. You are going to be surprised when God’s Kingdom arrives.” God, we watch and wait for so many things. Teach us how to watch and wait for you. Teach how to be alert to your arrival in our lives. Prepare us so we can be counted among the “smart” and not the “silly.” Amen. 7
Monday, March 17 The Lost Sheep
by Teresa Agler Read Matthew 18:10-14 and Luke 15:4-6.
The parables of the lost sheep and searching shepherd are the stories of believers and non-believers in the world. In the parable, a “lost sheep” is a reference to a believer who knows the will of God but who strays from doing that will, or an unbeliever who has not yet come to know God. As a shepherd with actual sheep will find one who was lost and rejoice greatly over it, so does God take great joy when we who were lost or unbelieving turn to God and place our faith in him. We are to be like the angels, ready to hear God’s words and do his will. In Luke 15, Jesus was criticized by the Pharisees for associating with sinners. But he uses the parable of the searching shepherd to teach them that although there are 99 believers doing the will of God, he will search for the one unbeliever who does not know him yet. Christ says in John 6:39 that God wills him not to lose any of those souls the Father has entrusted to him. In John 17, Christ prays on our behalf to the Father to whom we belong. God, help me abide in the knowledge that I am yours, that you rejoice greatly in me and you will never stop searching for those who are lost. Amen.
Tuesday, March 18 The Lost Coin
by Susan Green Read Luke 15:8-9.
Busy young mother: baby is rocking in the wind-up musical swing, husband is soon driving home from work across town, dinner is being chopped and simmered in the country kitchen, kindergarten kid bundles up to go play outside with his puppy in the whiteness of new snow... a typical, cozy night of family life expected to progress. It seems only a few minutes pass before husband is greeting mama and baby with kisses and questions. A head peeks out the back door to call kindergarten kid in for supper. Kid and puppy are not in sight. Kid and puppy do not respond to loud calls. Backyard evidence reveals footprints and paw prints leading into the surrounding woods where they begin to mingle with footprints of hunters from the opening days of deer season. These woods are called “The Lost Five Hundred.” There are many acres of hills and dales, tall trees and thick brush, wild animals and abandoned wells. Volunteer fire departments and neighbors respond to the call for help. A child is missing. Husband runs through the woods calling child and puppy along with the community support. Mom falls face down in the snow begging God to spare the little one, forming an unintentional snow angel. After what seems a lifetime, a neighbor runs out of the house with news. The child and dog are in the safety of a firefighter’s pickup. They are found! They are coming home! What relief! What rejoicing! People learning from Jesus’ parable understood the pain and fear of loss and they also understood the cause for celebration when a prized possession is found. We know that, too. Dear God, thank you for providing a way for us to all find our way home to you. In humble gratitude, Amen.
Wednesday, March 19 The Prodigal Son
by Craig & Cathy Morris Read Luke 15:11-32.
We are all familiar with this parable. Christian theologians explain the characters this way: The “Father” is God, who has provided abundantly to both sons. The younger son, the “Prodigal,” represents all of those who have turned away from God at some point. The “older son” represents those like the Pharisees, who believe in following the rigid rules. Well, we all know the “rest of the story.” The younger son goes out and makes a mess of things. Now he understands what is said in John 6:23 (paraphrased), “Sin always promises more than it gives, takes you further than you want to go, and leaves you worse off than you were before.” Sin promises freedom but brings slavery. So who are you most like? The Father who runs to meet the wayward child— forgiving, providing a way back? The Prodigal who wants it all now, no matter what the cost? Or the older son, who is so caught up in what he thinks is right and wrong that he has forgotten Jesus’ greatest commandments about Love? Thank you Jesus for this beautiful parable which shows the power of coming home and a loving, forgiving God who provides the way. Amen
Thursday, March 20 The Two Debtors
by Bev Campisi Read Luke 7:41-43.
Sandwiched within the longer parable in Luke 7:36-50, “Jesus anointed by a Sinful Woman,” are these three short verses. Two debtors owed a money lender 500 denarii and 50 denarii. Neither had the money to pay him back and he canceled the debts of both. Jesus asks Simon the Pharisee which one of them will love him more and Simon supposes the one who had the bigger debt which was canceled. Jesus tells Simon he has judged correctly, and continues to compare Simon’s actions with the sinful woman’s actions. Debt. Synonyms are: being in arrears, a deficit, a liability, baggage, an IOU, being in the red. Translate all of those to sin. My sins. Your sins. Forgiveness. Synonyms are: pardon, end of blame, compassion, grace, mercy, charity, overlooking. Translate all of those to love. Love is why Jesus came to earth, to express God’s love for us and to give his life for our sins, our debts. All of them... little or big, small or much. Much sin forgiven. Much gratefulness and thanks. Lord, help me recognize what Jesus has done for me in his unmerited gift of forgiveness for all of my sins. Let my joy and appreciation, my thankfulness be translated into my heartfelt response in love and service to you. Show me where I am hard-hearted like the Pharisee who cannot forgive the sins of another. Show me what sins I am overlooking in myself so that in my repentance, and in your love, you will forgive me. Amen.
Friday, March 21
by Nicole Wilson Read Luke 10:25-37.
Parables of the Good Samaritan
To me this parable is the ultimate story of being a Christian—being the one that will act when there is a need. We can waste so much time trying to find the loophole that gives us a reason to not make eye contact, to look like you are listening when you really aren’t, to be quick to judge instead of giving a little grace to someone who is doing something that you don’t agree with, and be like the Priest or the Levite that did not stop to help. Is it human nature, laziness, self-righteousness, or the devil within? I suppose it could be any or all of those things depending on the situation. The good news is that we have a Gracious God that sent his Son to die for our sins. He always cares for us and never walks past someone in need of him. It is our job to keep trying every day to be the one that stops and acts. Lord, help me to keep my ears and eyes open to ways I can be the one to stop. Help me have the courage to act upon those opportunities. Thank you for the very precious gift of Jesus and the many examples he provided to live my life in a way that glorifies Your name. Amen.
Saturday, March 22
by Trudy Hughes Read Matthew 18:23-35.
The Unforgiving Servant
Oh my! This parable really hits home, doesn’t it? How grateful we are to receive mercy, but how difficult it is to give it. How many times do we forgive? Seventy times seven…Wow! I know you have heard the phrase, “Burn me once, shame on you. Burn me twice, shame on me.” That phrase doesn’t lend itself to the seventy times seven Jesus tells us, does it? Our Father is quick to forgive us, so why is it so hard for us to forgive? Is it that we don’t want to be hurt again and again? What we don’t seem to be able to understand is that by not forgiving, we are hurting ourselves more than anyone else. The anger and hurt isn’t affecting the one needing forgiveness, it is affecting us. Forgive, grant mercy and receive peace in your soul. Heavenly Father, thank you for your mercy and kindness. Help us to be able to show the same mercy to those who have wronged us. It is in Christ’s name we pray. Amen.
Monday, March 24
by Melburn Sibley Read Luke 11:5-8.
The Friend at Night
Do you think “trouble” when your phone rings late at night? This parable is about a knock—or several knocks—that came late at night. In the time frame of this writing and in Palestine, people often traveled at night to avoid the heat. Lodging was usually at the home of a friend. Hospitality was an important matter. In the parable, an unexpected guest came at night and the host family, not expecting company, was caught without adequate food to feed the guest. The host went to a neighbor to borrow food. The neighbor, not wanting to disturb his family, resisted answering, but the desperate knock continued until he answered. The lesson is that we may demonstrate the urgency of our need by continually calling upon the Lord. If a neighbor would respond to such an appeal, how much more will our Savior respond to our cry for help? God will know of our sincerity when we continuously ask for his help in prayer. Another way that he may know how much we desire an answer is to make ourselves available to be used by God to meet a need. Will you say, “Here am I, send me”? Heavenly Father, I feel very limited. But I am available if you can use me. Thank you for listening to me. Amen.
Tuesday, March 25
by Carmen Drew Read Luke 18:1-9.
The Unjust Judge
When I read about the unjust judge who granted the woman her request even though he didn’t even know God, I feel a little convicted. I’ve known God since I was a child yet there was a time in my thirties when I looked at life like a checklist. Life became very black and white. I think I was a lot like the unjust judge with an oversized ego. Then I learned that EGO stood for Edging God Out. I replaced that thinking with “let go and let God.” When I asked God to be in charge of my life again, joy returned to my heart. God, show me the places where I’m edging you out of my life. Guide me as I learn to let you be in charge. Amen.
Wednesday, March 26 Pharisees and the Publican
by Rob Rhoades Read Luke 18:10-14.
When you come before God in worship, the things you pride yourself on have no validity. Humble yourself before your God. Fall on your knees, ask for mercy and know that God will give it to you. When you approach the altar and kneel, there is no one between you and the Father. Humbleness and directness are key to reconnecting your relationship with God. It is a powerful moment to leave it all there and go out into the world renewed. His work in your life is renewed; your work in his kingdom continues. Depart in silence and in awe. Our Heavenly Father, we ask your mercy upon us—for we have no argument, no reasonable expectation that we deserve the grace and mercy you bestow upon us. Provide guidance for our lives and relationships. We pray that through the teachings of Jesus Christ and our reflections on them and subsequent action, we may prepare your kingdom in the world. Bless us to your service all the days of our lives. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Thursday, March 27 The Parable of the Tenant Farmers
by Nathan Firmin Read Matthew 21:33-41, Mark 12:1-9, Luke 20:9-16.
In this parable, Jesus uses beaucoup examples of farming and business that were completely familiar to Jews in Palestine at the time. Tenant farmers were common, absentee landlords, too. One thing that makes the parables so vivid and effective is that by using a common slice of life, listeners could easily identify with the actors in the story. I am ashamed to say it, but in this reading, I identify with the tenant farmers. Not the part about hurting and killing servants and the son... just the attitude. The farmers were blessed by the landlord with a top-notch facility and land to make a living. They entered into an agreement to prosper the landlord, who had given them the means to prosper. Where things went bad was when they assumed that they were the real landlords and lived as if the landlord would never know their actions nor hold them accountable. I think a way to avoid this trap is to seek God and the reality of God’s presence in our lives daily. In this age of anonymity in digital communication, we know it is easy to ‘dis’ someone we think can’t find us. Don’t make that mistake with God. Gracious Lord, keep us close to you as we tend Your vineyards. Amen.
Friday, March 28
by Cindy Ryan Read Matthew 24:32-35, Mark 13:28-31, Luke 21:29-33.
The Budding Fig Tree
Three of the gospel writers have Jesus telling us to learn from the fig tree, “From the moment you notice its buds, the merest hint of green, you know summer’s just around the corner. And so it is with you. When you see all these things, you know he is at the door” (Mark 13:28-29). We might say, “What things?” Jesus could be talking about the doomsday deceivers or the nations fighting nations, ruler fighting ruler. Earthquakes, famines, unrest in families, time in court, hard days. “The sun will fade out, the moon will cloud over, stars fall out of the sky, cosmic powers tremble and the Son of Man will enter in grand style…” (Mark 13). What signs do you see? I see radical ways in which people love each other. I see justice emerging when we least expect it. I see resurrection when we thought there was only death. I see trouble and wars and unrest and I also see God’s presence and peace and grace. God, could it be the fig tree is showing just a hint of green? Are you at the door? Amen.
Saturday, March 29 The Faithful Servant
by Nancy Johnson Read Matthew 24:42-51, Mark 13:34-37, Luke 12:35-48.
In Matthew 24 the apostles ask Jesus about the end times. In his reply to them, he makes the point using a parable that they are to be alert and ready. The master makes each slave a ruler in his household because he loves them, wants them to be cared for and fed while he is away. Each slave is entrusted with the master’s entire household and everything the master owns. Each slave behaves according to his own character. The Greek word for “sensible” pertains to insights from understanding and wisdom. The faithful, wise slave carries out his master’s wishes. His obedience illustrates his readiness for the mater’s return. He is blessed and is awarded a position of authority by the master. The master’s blessing is not a matter of paying the slave his due wages, for none are due to a slave. The master, however, is bestowing unmerited favor. Obedience was the slave’s duty but the reward is purely from grace. The evil slave takes advantage of the master’s absence, abuses his authority and neglects his duties. This example conveys a picture of people who delay coming to terms with “God is Christ” and may find it too late to repent. God, like the master in this parable, has entrusted us all to be faithful and sensible and to be “alert,” which is how this parable began. God’s Word enables us to be both faithful and wise and enables us to “get the Word out” through our testimony and deeds. God, thank you for your grace and wisdom which enables us to be faithful. Thank you for giving us Your Word so we will be alert, obedient and ready and able to endure. Amen. 13
Monday, March 31
by Melissia Mason Read Luke 12:16-21.
The Rich Fool
It’s pretty easy to relate to the guy who wants to save up a hoard of money and retire early. Most of us in America tend to think that way. Yet there are some cultures in which retirement is never even an option. How would our lives change if we decided right now that we would never retire? Would our priorities change? Would our extra dollars go to the needy instead of into our 401k? Would we loosen the purse strings a little more easily when we see a homeless person begging for food or hear about a child who needs help getting to camp? There is some foolishness to be had in spending all your money now. After all, you have to be at least a little bit responsible for yourself in the future. However, as Jesus points out in the parable, you never know what’s going to happen tomorrow. He’s not really talking about money and prosperity, though. Jesus is talking about how we invest our lives. God, help us to not live so much for the future that we regret not acting today. Help us to make a difference in someone’s life today that will last for eternity. Amen.
Tuesday, April 1 The Barren Fig Tree
by John Mollet Read Luke 13:6-9.
The Parable of the Barren Fig Tree comes in response to two tragedies inflicted on people (see verses 1-5). Jesus rejects the notion that these extreme sufferings were punishments for greater sins, while redirecting those asking the questions about the importance of repentance. Jesus then tells the story of a man who was frustrated by the lack of fruit produced by a fig tree he had planted in his vineyard. After three years he decided there was no reason for the tree to continue to take up space in the garden, so he asked the gardener to remove it. The gardener intervened on behalf of the tree and suggested that, with some care and a little time, the tree might start producing. The parable cautions us against fruitless living, yet reassures us that there is still time to turn toward God. In Mark 11:12-14 and 20-23, there is a similar story of a fig tree. Interestingly, in this story Jesus curses the fig tree because it cannot satisfy his hunger. It sounds a little petty of Jesus, but here the fig tree represents the church of Jesus’ day. The season for its fruitfulness is over; now the Bread of Life alone will be able to satisfy our hunger. As yet another fig tree story in the Bible says, “From the fig tree learn its lesson…” Ask yourself how fruitful your life is. How fruitful are you helping the church to be? Stop just taking up space and allow the care of worship and Bible study and service in the Lord’s name to cultivate your fruitfulness. O God, may I become a more fruitful servant in your kingdom. Guide me through my times in worship and study, prayer and service, so I may become your partner in sharing the Bread of Life. In Christ’s name, Amen.
Wednesday, April 2
by Linda Almendarez Read Matthew 7:24-27, Luke 6:46-49.
The Wise and the Foolish Builders
Most of us are not aware of how many hundreds, even thousands, of choices we must make each and every day. Decisions made in a moment’s time can affect a lifetime. How often do we take a moment to pray and ask God for guidance in making these decisions? Wisdom would be unnecessary if we lived life in black and white, using a simple system of “do this, not this” and “yes or no.” Then we would face only rudimentary choices of right and wrong. Yet our lives are filled with gray or Technicolor areas. Life itself is complex and that makes decisions not as simple as doing one thing or choosing not to do it. Even though God’s rules and principles are very clear cut, we don’t always act them out. We make our own choices, which might take us in many different directions. We need God’s guidance to be able to build our foundation upon a rock. God wants each of us to trust in his way. He can reveal his will to us. Having confidence in the Lord simplifies our lives and makes it immensely easier. A fool who trusts in their own heart will sink in the sand, but when we walk with the Lord and trust in his will, we shall never fall or sink. Our Heavenly Father, may we trust in the guidance that you give us. Help us to be obedient to your word. May our foundation be built on solid rock, so when our lives are tested with crises, our foundation will stand strong in the Lord. We give thanks for the gift of your son Jesus Christ who came into this world, innocent and pure, to die for our sins and give us our salvation. Thank you for the mercy and grace we are blessed with every day. Amen.
Thursday, April 3
by Trudy Hughes Read Matthew 5:14-15, Mark 4:21-25, Luke 8:16-18.
The Lamp under a Bushel
I love this parable! It is our job to tell the world about God, to be his light and to let that light shine. He doesn’t want us to hide under a bucket! Be generous! Open up to people! Show them what it’s like to have God in your life! You will feel great and so will they! It’s contagious, this shining light. The more you shine, the more you want to shine! God will open doors you will never expect so you can show his love and shine for others. Dear God, let me shine for you! Help me to be your hands and feet and show your love and kindness to those who need You. Help me be the best light I can be! In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Friday, April 4
by Dain Schneck Read Luke 14:7-14.
Parable of the Wedding Feast
It was the Sabbath and Jesus was eating a meal with the Pharisees. They were closely watching him, as I imagine many of them were eager to condemn Him, or perhaps had done so already. The Pharisees were an extremely selfrighteous group who saw themselves as the most spiritual and holy people on earth. Possibly in order to prove he was the authority he claimed to be, Jesus even healed a man before he delivered the lesson. His address to the egotistical men pulled directly from their behavior at that very meal. By putting themselves first when they chose a seat, they demonstrated how conceited they were. To summarize the parable: You think too highly of yourself! Don’t put yourself first, for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled sooner or later, and anyone who humbles himself will be exalted. Be humble. Rather than doing good to those who can repay you, do good to those who cannot. Now that is humility and Christ-likeness! Do you think too highly of yourself? Do you help those who could not help you in return? Father God, thank you for giving us lessons like these, that we might be able to live like Christ and serve others. Help me today, to put others first. Help me to be humble and slow to judgment in all I do today. Amen!
Saturday, April 5 The Workers in the Vineyard
by Linda Almendarez Read Matthew 20:1-16.
We don’t enter the gates of heaven by our good deeds; we enter by the grace of God. Although we are not deserving of it, God gave us our salvation when Jesus Christ died on that cross. God loves everyone equally. It doesn’t matter whether you are rich or poor, black or white or even whether you go to church or not. God’s grace is for us all. Whether you attend church every Sunday, serve in all kinds of missions, or have never believed... God is there for every person in this world with unconditional love and forgiveness. As a Stephen Minister, I’m given the opportunity to work with people who feel broken, lost or lonely. I feel honored to listen to people who need someone to tell them that they are special, important and most of all loved by God. We don’t always feel deserving of his love and grace, but God seems to think we are. It is my place to make sure that people feel special so that they are able to look up to heaven and see that God is there for them, regardless of what they might have done or what has been done to them. There is nothing more comforting than the feeling of God’s arms wrapped around you telling you that things will be better. Whether you have been a believer all your life, are a new believer or even came to believe in the last days of life, God loves us all equally. We must never be jealous of God’s generosity to others that we feel are undeserving. Instead, focus on God’s gracious benefits! Be thankful for what you’ve been given. Father, we thank you for your unfailing love and grace. Thank you for the freedom to worship you. May we focus our hearts and minds only on you? Open our eyes and hearts to know the wonder of the gift of your son, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Monday, April 7
by Cindy Ryan Read Luke 16:1-13.
The Unjust Steward
This parable has a twist. We think we know how it is going to turn out. A rich man tells his crooked manager that he wants an accounting of the books. The manager forgives some of his master’s debts so that later those people might show mercy on him and take them into their homes when he has no job. The surprise: the rich man ended up praising the crooked manager because he knew how to look after himself. Jesus says, “I want you to be smart in the same way, but for what is right” (The Message). I’m glad Jesus offers us a little explanation on some of these confusing parables, or we would really be left scratching our heads. It seems Jesus is reminding us that our motive matters as much as our actions. We need to be strategizing and creative for the right reasons. We need to be law-abiding and God-obeying because our heart is in the right place. I believe this parable is also about God’s nature. Thank goodness God is willing to look past our actions, crooked as they may be, and straight into our hearts for whatever crumb of love or purity or good intention we have there. God, when you look at me, I pray you look long and hard, with merciful eyes, for the speck of good that is there. Amen.
Tuesday, April 8
by Teresa Agler Read Luke 16:19-31.
Rich Man and Lazarus
The parable of the rich man and Lazarus is a story about some nameless rich man and a child of God named Lazarus. The rich man lives in luxury in sight of the poor man, Lazarus, and yet he shows him no mercy. Lazarus would gladly eat scraps from the rich man’s table but receives nothing. Both men die and Lazarus goes to Heaven at Abraham’s side. Far off, the rich man sees them and begs for mercy from his suffering. Abraham reminds him that while he was alive, the rich man showed no compassion to Lazarus, although he knew him by name. Now that they are dead, there is a great distance between them that cannot be traversed. At this news, the rich man asks that word be sent to his father’s house to warn his brothers so they will repent and not end up as he did. Abraham admits that the prophets have warned his brothers already and not even one from the dead would convince his brethren to repent. This is our lesson: We are to hear the cry of the needy, then take action to help them whenever and wherever we can. These are not just words of a liturgy to recite in church, but an admonition for us all. Holy God, may we abide in the knowledge that we will be with you in Heaven. May we all continue to show mercy and compassion to those in need while we are here on Earth. Amen.
Wednesday, April 9 The Talents or Minas
by Nancy Johnson Read Matthew 25:14-30, Luke 19:12-27.
Jesus is responding to the apostles’ questions about the end times in Matthew 24 & 25 and provides a lot of information about the future. Why would God give us prophecy about the future? God is sovereign, in complete control and He does not want us to be misled (Matthew 24:23-24) or frightened (24:6). He wants us to endure (24:45-51) and be alert and ready (24:42-44). What does it mean to be alert, ready and looking for the coming of our Lord? This parable provides a sense of ownership, stewardship and responsibility that the master is giving to his slaves. The master also gave each one varying amounts, indicating that he understands their abilities. After reading the results of the first two slaves, we would anticipate the third would have doubled what was given to him. However this one does not grow his talents at all and hides what he was given. What is more remarkable is that he was satisfied with his efforts. God has likewise entrusted us to advance his kingdom. Being prepared is more than waiting and being alert. This parable directs us to expand and grow his kingdom by using abilities given to us by God. His kingdom can be advanced at all phases of life: as a student, in retirement, at work, as homemakers and so on. There is no neutral or coasting in Christ’s economy. God, thank you for the abilities you have given me. Help me to see the opportunities you have provided to use these abilities. Help put me in gear to do your kingdom work. Amen.
Thursday, April 10 The Sheep and the Goats
by Dain Schneck Read Matthew 25:31-46.
In this parable we see a man that is saved and a man that is lost. A superficial reading would suggest that salvation is gained by good works. However, the Bible clearly teaches that salvation is by our faith, not by our deeds (John 1:12; Acts 15:11; Romans 3:22-24; 4:4-8; Ephesians 2:8-10). Good works are not the cause of salvation but an effect of salvation—a result of being filled with the Spirit. God’s people will love and treat others with kindness, serving them as if they were serving Christ Himself. The conclusion of the parable of the sheep and goats is that the righteous (only by His grace!) will be received into heaven, and the unrighteous will be given eternal punishment. It’s an unpleasant and perhaps dark thought, but Hell is real and people will be there forever. All nations will either be brought to his right side or sent away. The good news is that anyone can turn to him, trust in him and be saved! Be a light today! Father God, forgive me of my sins. Thank you for your grace. I praise you for giving me what I don’t deserve! Thank you for sacrificing your Son so that my sins could be forgiven, allowing me to have a relationship with you so that I could live forever with you in Heaven. Today, help me make a difference in people’s needs here on earth, as well as a difference in their need after earth, their eternal salvation. Amen!
Friday, April 11
by Cindy Ryan Read Matthew 9:17-17, Mark 2:21-22, Luke 5:37-39
New Wine into Old Wineskins
In this parable, Jesus has just been asked a question about why his followers don’t fast. He answers with this, “When you are celebrating a wedding you don’t skimp on cake and wine. As long as the bride and groom are there you have a good time. You don’t cut up a fine silk scarf to patch old work clothes and you don’t pour your wine in cracked bottles” (The Message). It’s as if Jesus is saying, “I’m here right now. I’m in your midst. The Kingdom has come. There is no need to patch things up or package them in a way that is less than the reality in front of you.” I wonder how many times you and I get caught up in the wrong spiritual discipline for the season we are in? How many times do we focus on one thing and miss the fact that Jesus is right there in our midst? We fast through the wedding reception and party, believing we are doing the right thing. In reality, we’ve shortchanged the grace and wonder of the Kingdom in our midst. God, forgive us for those times we’ve been overly religious and missed your Kingdom party happening all around us. Amen.
Saturday, April 12 Counting the Cost
by Kay Green Read Luke 14:28-33.
Jesus often spoke about the cost of discipleship. In this passage, He seems to be using some extreme examples to emphasize the high cost of following Him. He says His followers must “hate” (love less) family members and their own lives—that they should give up competing loyalties and self-interests and “carry the cross.” He also uses two illustrations. The first is about building a tower—saying a wise person will count the costs before starting the project because it’s better to never begin than to leave it unfinished. The second is about a king deciding whether or not to go to war—asking whether, if he cannot win the battle, he should approach the enemy and try to make peace instead. These stories tell us that we need to have a good foundation in Christ, to be thoughtful and wise in all circumstances. Commitment to God must exceed even our deepest commitments to family and self. It was easy for me to read these verses and feel inadequate and unprepared. Like the builder and the king, I often fall short. This scripture also reminded me about what has been promised to those who do follow Jesus: A life rich with meaning and joy, God’s presence in our life on earth, and life eternal. “Follow me” is both a command and a gift! Dear God, give me humility. As Holy Week begins, I am especially grateful for the hope that is mine in the face of difficulties... even in the shadow of death. I give thanks that I can trust You in all circumstances. Amen.
Monday, April 14
by Armando Alvarado Read John 12: 1-11.
One day I spoke to a group of people who were very interested in the Gospel, the Good News. They were so excited about learning more about Jesucristo (Jesus Christ). All of them, including myself, were struggling with difficult issues and problems that this world brings. We read scripture, we prayed, we listened to each other and we sang praise songs. We cried, we laughed, and we gave each other abrasos (hugs). When we stepped out of the church, I noticed how difficult it was for this group to face people who were not on the same journey. In the scripture today, Jesus defends Mary’s act of love and devotion. Jesus explains that the poor will always be here. This is not giving permission to do nothing, but rather giving permission to seize the opportunity before you. The causes of poverty are many and people will always have occasions to help the poor. However, in this story, the opportunity to show love to Jesus was limited to this brief moment in time. As people who are on a journey for Christ, how often do we show our love and devotion to God? Have you given your attention to the One who loves you no matter how hard you’ve fallen? There should not be a limit to the love you show toward God. Oh merciful God, guide us in our journey. Give us strength to walk in the midst of tension and struggle, as we prepare to learn more and more about what it means to be a child of God. Amen.
Tuesday, April 15
by John Mollet Read John 12:20-36.
In the Gospel of John, Jesus doesn’t have the internal struggle exhibited in the other gospels as he faces death. Here Jesus is shown at peace, because the ultimate purpose of his life and ministry is at hand. He explains his inevitable sacrifice by saying, “…unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” Sacrifice multiplies life. This was the case in Jesus’ sacrifice and it is the same when we give of ourselves to benefit the lives of others. Jesus’ sacrifice calls us to give a piece of ourselves away in order that another can find joy in life. Paul encourages us to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 13:14) and to “clothe ourselves in love” (Colossians 3:14). To put on Christ is to take on a life of sacrifice. During Holy Week, many will attend our Palm Sunday observance followed by our Easter celebration, neglecting worship on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. Doing so takes the sacrifice out of our faith. Jesus teaches us that sacrifice multiplies faith. What will you sacrifice to bring joy to someone else’s life? O God, direct me in the way of your love. Strengthen me to be a person of sacrifice, so I can be your partner in creating new life for your creation. In the name of the one whose sacrifice continues to bring me life, Jesus Christ the Lord. Amen.
Wednesday, April 16
by Nathan Firmin Read John 13:21-32.
This passage bothers me. How could the disciples be unsure whom Jesus was referring to as his betrayer? Judas, right? Then I tried to think of what it would be like to experience this at a really great dinner. In New Testament times, meals were communal, with stew-like dishes served family style and eaten by tearing a piece of pita bread to use as a scoop. With that in mind, we see Jesus telling his disciples that his betrayer will receive a morsel of bread dipped in the main dish (v. 26). The problem is, this is well into the meal and Jesus, as a good host, has already served everyone their morsel. So, there sat the disciples, some still chewing their morsel from Jesus, when they hear him say he would be betrayed by the one given a dipped morsel. No wonder they were confused and anxious! Jesus knew Judas would betray him that night. Judas knew, too. Jesus also knew that Peter would betray him as well. The difference between Judas and Peter was their response to seeing themselves fail Jesus. I believe Jesus forgave both. However, only one accepted that forgiveness. Will you allow God’s grace to transform your worst into something better, or even great? Forgiving God, you offer new life in our failure. Help us accept Your grace each day. Amen.
Thursday, April 17 Maundy Thursday
by Rick Mang Read John 13:1-17; 31b-35.
John 13:7 (CEB)—Jesus replied, “You don’t understand what I’m doing now, but you will understand later.” I’ve learned in my life that understanding comes in stages. Understanding is a matter of process. Certain things have to line up together before we can see the big picture. According to our scripture lesson, Peter didn’t understand how Jesus could wash his feet, let alone why he would even want to. In a loving tone, Jesus explains to Peter that he “will understand later.” The same is true for each one of us who have traveled our own unique journeys this Lenten season. We have only a few days left in this season of Lent, and yet many people may still be wondering where it all leads. “Later” for many of us will take place after we have experienced Easter morning. The resurrection of Jesus is the last piece of the puzzle. After Easter is our “later,” when we will understand more clearly what our Lenten journey has taught us. Gracious Father, we are almost done with our Lenten journey. Please help us begin the process of understanding what it has been all about. Amen.
Friday, April 18
by Rick Mang Read John 18:1-19:42.
John 19:25-27 (CEB)—“Jesus’ mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleopas, and Mary Magdalene stood near the cross. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, here is your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ And from that time on, this disciple took her into his home.” Just imagine. Jesus has been crucified on a cross, and still his focus is on others. Even nailed to a cross, he provides for his mother’s care. “What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul, What wondrous love is this, O my soul!” In my life, even in times of distress, I pray for the opportunity to care for others in a way that is a witness to the wondrous love of Jesus Christ. Gracious Father, thank you for your Son, my Savior, Jesus Christ, and for his wondrous love. Amen.
Saturday, April 19 Holy Saturday: No Stone Unturned
by Annette Sowell Read Matthew 27:57-66.
“…they put the stone in place, sealed the tomb, and posted a guard…” None of it mattered. Jesus is more powerful than any large stone. He can break any seal. He will not be guarded. The invitation of the empty tomb to you and to me is that we tap into that Jesus power for our lives and let him roll away the stones that keep us entombed. He invites us to use his power to break the seals around our hearts. He invites us to let go of our lack of trust and the guards we use for protection. One way to tap into this power is through the rituals in Healing and Wholeness worship services. When we present ourselves at God’s altar, name our need, and experience the touch and prayers of one another, no stone remains unturned in our lives. The seals around our hearts are broken and trust becomes a way of life. The Prayer Ministry Team will host a worship service of Healing and Wholeness tonight, April 19, at 6:00 PM in Founders Chapel. Lord, help us to be at peace this day. Easter is coming! Amen.
ASH WEDNESDAY Come & Go Prayer/Ashes 11:30 AM-1:30 PM Founders Chapel Lent Workshop 5:45-6:45 PM Room 1009 & 1012 of the FLC UMW Chicken Spaghetti Dinner 5:30-6:45 PM Family Life Center Worship led by the Confirmation Class 7:00 PM Sanctuary Spanish Worship 7:00 PM Founders Chapel
FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT “Childlike Faith” Sermon Series Begins >
EASTER EGG HUNT & PICNIC Details TBA
MAUNDY THURSDAY Worship service including communion, 7:00 PM in the Sanctuary Spanish worship & foot washing, 7:00 PM in Founders Chapel
GOOD FRIDAY TENEBRAE SERVICE (English) 7:00 PM in the Sanctuary
GOOD FRIDAY SERVICE OF DARKNESS (Spanish) 7:00 PM in Founders Chapel April 19
SERVICE OF HEALING & WHOLENESS 6:00 PM in Founders Chapel
EASTER SUNDAY Sunrise Service at 6:45 AM in the Grapevine Botanical Gardens Easter Worship Services Details TBA Children’s Easter Worship at 9:45 AM in Founders Chapel No Sunday School Childcare provided for each service except for the Sunrise service.