Carl Blackburn • April 08, 2020
Most of my life, I’ve felt like using the word “good” to describe the day that Jesus was crucified just didn’t feel right. I’m sure that this has to do with the way that I tend to define the word “good.” I typically think of “good” as referring to something that is positive and uplifting, something that brings delight.
As far as I can discover from my web searches, the Friday of Jesus’ crucifixion—and thus the annual Friday that so many people around the world set aside to remember that Jesus was cursed, beaten, mocked, tortured, hung from a cross by few steel spikes, pierced in His side and died—likely began being called “good” sometime around the 12th Century AD. There are a number of theories as to how the word “good” came to be used; ponderings about whether or not the word was derived from a similar sounding word or meaning. However, I found no historical trail leading back to some particular Greek word from the Scriptures that would help me understand why we use this word, “good,” to describe the day that Jesus died. One more time for “good” measure, there is no conclusive evidence explaining why we use this seemingly ill-fitting word, “good,” as the label for the day Jesus died. (Perhaps you can feel my tension.)
Let’s set the word “good” aside for a moment—before we talk about what we DO know about the day Jesus died—and, let’s take a quick look at John 1 for a necessary reminder of who Jesus really is.
In the very beginning the Living Expression [JESUS] was already there.
And the Living Expression [JESUS] was with God, yet fully God.
2 They were together—face-to-face, in the very beginning.
3 And through his creative inspiration
this Living Expression [JESUS] made all things,
for nothing has existence apart from him [JESUS]!
4 Life came into being because of him [JESUS]….
10 He [JESUS] entered into the very world he [JESUS] created,
yet the world was unaware.
11 He [JESUS] came to the very people he [JESUS] created—
to those who should have recognized him [JESUS],
but they did not receive him [JESUS]. ~ JOHN 1:1-4a, 10-11, TPT
From the very beginning, Jesus was. He was with God in the beginning, and He was God in the beginning. He was/is the author of all creation, bringing every human being into existence. It is this very same Jesus who willingly and intentionally allowed some of the very same people who He brought into existence to spit on Him and hurl insults at Him, mocking and cursing His name. This very same Jesus willingly allowed some of the very same people who He brought into existence to beat Him and whip Him almost to the point of death. This very same Jesus willingly allowed some of the very same people who He brought into existence to torture Him as they hammered spikes through His flesh, nailing Him to a wooden structure, on which He would willingly give His very last agonizing breath.
NOTE: Lest we forget, we are a part of the very same people who this very same Jesus brought into existence. Someone else might have wielded the whip or swung the hammer, but it is because of ALL OF OUR SIN that Jesus willingly allowed His life-giving, perfect, sinless blood to be completely poured out.
And then, my mind drifts back to this word, “good.” Willingly and intentionally, Jesus was cursed, beaten, mocked, tortured, hung from a cross by few steel spikes, pierced in His side, suffocated and died. There is no way around the reality that these were HORRIBLE acts. Is “horrible” not the opposite of “good”? So why call this day “GOOD” FRIDAY?
7 Now, who of us would dare to die for the sake of a wicked person? We can all understand if someone was willing to die for a truly noble person. 8 But Christ proved God’s passionate love for us by dying in our place while we were still lost and ungodly! ~ ROMANS 5:7-8, TPT
THIS…THIS IS THE “GOOD” NEWS, FRIENDS! The absolute reality is that without Jesus’ death, there would be no resurrection. And, without Jesus’ resurrection, there would be no restoration or redemption for humanity. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us! Jesus willingly and intentionally allowed His life-giving, perfect, sinless blood to be completely poured out to cover over the wretchedness of our self-serving, others-diminishing thoughts, actions and behaviors (ie. SIN)…because He loves us! In 2 CORINTHIANS 5:21, it says that Jesus, WHO HAD NO SIN IN HIM, BECAME OUR SIN so that we—some of the very same people who He brought into existence, who would otherwise be covered in guilt and shame—might become His righteous ones.
…for his [JESUS’] life is light for all humanity.
5 And this Living Expression [JESUS] is the Light that bursts through gloom—
the Light that darkness could not diminish!
9 For the Light of Truth [JESUS] was about to come into the world
and shine upon everyone.
12 But those who embraced him [JESUS] and took hold of his [JESUS’] name
were given authority to become
the children of God! ~ JOHN 1:1-4a, 10-11, TPT
JESUS, the Light and Life of humanity, gave His life for you and me that we might live! This certainly fits my definition of “good”—positive and uplifting, bringing delight beyond understanding! So is today “GOOD FRIDAY”? ABSOLUTELY!
GRACE & PEACE, MY FRIENDS, ON THIS TRULY GOOD FRIDAY!
Carl Blackburn • April 08, 2020
As a child, I remember being a bit confused when the Thursday before Easter rolled around each year. My ears always heard “Monday” Thursday. I remember thinking, “OK, which is it, Monday or Thursday…it can’t be both!” I’m pretty sure I never said that out loud for fear of sounding stupid. It makes me chuckle now, though.
Many of you are perhaps savvy church historians and know that the word “maundy” is evidently a shortened form of the Latin word “mandatum,” which means “command.” The mandate, or command, that Jesus gives takes place in the part of the Gospel story from John’s account when Jesus was at His “last supper” with the disciples. Preceding His mandate, I really love the candid snapshot of Jesus in John 13, TPT. He gets up from the meal, takes off His outer clothing, wraps a towel around His waist and begins washing the disciple’s feet. My friends, this is a radical picture of love! And, of course, we remember “Impetuous Peter’s” re-actions to Jesus, and Jesus’ beautiful inter-action with Peter:
8 Peter looked at Jesus and said, “You’ll never wash my dirty feet—never!”
“But Peter, if you don’t allow me to wash your feet,” Jesus responded, “then you will not be able to share life with me.”
9 So Peter said, “Lord, in that case, don’t just wash my feet, wash my
hands and my head too!”
Note that washing His disciples’ feet and having this interaction with Peter comes BEFORE Jesus’ sharing His new “command/mandate” with His beloved disciples. Jesus was always so intentional. He didn’t simply say things expecting His disciples (us) to automatically understand. He always lived out what He said.
In John 13:34, Jesus gives His “mandatum.” He says, “So I give you now a new commandment: Love each other just as much as I have loved you.” The absolutely astounding thing to me is that Jesus makes this “maundy” statement AFTER He predicts Judas’ betrayal; and, more or less, in the same breath that He predicts Peter’s denial. If this doesn’t make the picture clear enough to us what Jesus means when He says, “Love each other just as much as I have loved you,” then all we have to do is read what Jesus willingly endured in the moments following His last meal with the disciples—denial, betrayal, cursing, beating, mocking, torture, physical, mental and emotional anguish, crucifixion…death.
As we spend time with Jesus today, “MAUNDY THURSDAY,” contemplating the amazing things that Jesus willingly endured to show His love for us, may we grow exponentially in our understanding that to “love eachother just as much” as He loves us isn’t a choice, it’s a mandate. And, may we increasingly grasp that this mandate is only possible as we continually and completely surrender to HIS lordship in and over our lives, trusting in HIS Holy Spirit to fill us with HIS love.
GRACE & PEACE TO YOU ON THIS MAUNDY THURSDAY, MY FRIENDS!
Ps. Over the next few days try to take the time to read the accounts of THE PASSION STORY in the four Gospels for a powerful reminder of just how much Jesus loves you. And, for a great way to put some action to your love today, check out the suggestion in this devotional for Lent, “TREASURE IN JARS OF CLAY.”
DeAnna Prather • April 04, 2020
This graphic appeared in my Facebook feed from First Things First. If you would like more of their tips on maintaining healthy relationships during this season, check out their quarantine page: First Things First (also if the whole picture isn't showing up)
I struggled a LOT when the changes first happened. We had just moved into a new house. Everything I own is in boxes and I don't know where anything is, except for the pajamas I'd packed in my overnight bag for the first night. So that first day, I stayed in my pajamas. I unpacked a little, but the only clothes I found was leggings, more pajama pants and t-shirts. So the first week, I wore pajamas all day. Then at bedtime, I'd shower and change into clean pajamas. I would lay in bed at night and wonder where the day had gone and why I hadn't accomplished more.
Skip, on the other hand, got up and dressed like he was going to work. Not just from the waist up because that's all that will show in a video call. But exactly like he was going to walk out the door (minus shoes - he wore slippers or flip flops at home). On the 3rd day, I asked why. He said he just needed that to get in the work mindset.
I realized that day that even though everything was upside down right now. We needed to stick to as regular of a schedule as possible. I couldn't really wear what I'd normally wear to the office, because I hadn't found anything besides pajamas and leggings (which are really just fancier pajamas) PLUS dirty laundry and we didn't have a washing machine yet! BUT I did get up and change clothes. I didn't just sit on the couch with my laptop; I moved to the table and set up my mouse and keyboard. It's amazing how different that day was!
So I just want to remind you, as I needed reminding, LIFE IS NOT CANCELLED. Going out might be cancelled. Parties, gatherings, and going to the office might be cancelled. But life is STILL happening. So stay on schedule as much as possible. Do whatever you would be doing normally, but find a way to do it at home. Find the things you can do now that you couldn't do if everything was "normal."
One day, this season will be a memory, so let's not waste it!
DeAnna Prather • November 16, 2019
Last Sunday, Jeffrey Corley did a deep unpack of the infamous 23rd Psalm. If you were raised in church like I was, you probably memorized that in elementary school. I got the amazing pleasure of being in Mrs. Bachman's 2nd grade Sunday school at Glen Alpine UMC. Some kids dreaded this year of Sunday school because this was the year you were expected to start memorizing things longer than a single Bible verse. Most left her Sunday school class having 3 stars by your name - one each for memorizing Apostle's Creed, The Lord's Prayer, and the 23rd Psalm.
I couldn't wait, because I loved Mrs. Bachman. I couldn't wait to be in her class. She was my favorite person at church. She always had a warm smile and a hug for me. I don't know if she was like this for everyone, or if we had something special. I like to think it was the latter.
My maternal grandmother passed 6 months before I was born. My paternal grandfather died when my father was only 5. My paternal grandmother lived in the same town but went to a different church. My maternal grandfather remarried when I was about a year old to my Mammaw Bonnie. (Yes, that is my daughter's namesake!) They lived next door and attended Glen Alpine with us on Sundays. I was very close to my Mammaw Bonnie. When she died when I was 6, I was devastated. Maybe this is why I attached so strongly to Mrs. Bachman. She became my spiritual grandmother.
Memorization didn't scare me - I guess no one should have been surprised that I majored in Theatre & Speech later in college. And no shock, I got my 3 stars. Even now more than 30 years later, I still see Mrs. Bachman standing just behind me tapping on each word of the scripture as I say either of these verses. I am so glad that I memorized these core passages so young. These are great cornerstones for my life and they are surely my anchors.
But the 23rd Psalm is the one passage that invades part of my life. I remember the 23rd Psalm at these times:
When I see a lamb - because the whole passage is a metaphor for a shepherd.
When I see a cat - because Mrs. Bachman was always sewing these little embrodiered cat "dolls". I actually had a basket with a family of Bachman cats.
When I'm scared
When I'm upset
When I'm happy
When I'm grateful
Jeffrey's take on the 23rd psalm was fascinating to me and I am so glad I got to hear it twice! If you missed it, you can watch that worship service here: fb.me/StJohnUMC
DeAnna Prather • November 10, 2019
On Nov 2, the United Methodist Women of the Scenic South met for our Annual Meeting at the Bethlehem Center in Chattanooga, TN. Every time the United Methodist Women meet, we like to do some type of mission project or giving. Since we were meeting at the Beth, we wanted to find out how we could bless the community there.
We already knew that the Bethlehem Center provided after-school
programs, leadership programs, a food pantry, and community functions for the
community of Alton Park. We knew that the staff were invested in the lives in
the community they served. What we learned though is the staff members had
begun to stash extra clothing in every spare nook & cranny of the center
after realizing one of the biggest needs for the young people in Alton Park
were basic clothing, especially outerwear. This practice has gone on so long
that they had completely run out of spaces to store things and everything was
so disorganized that it was difficult to find the correct sizes needed. In order to solve this problem, they found a closet they could repurpose to start a clothing closet at the Bethlehem Center.
On my morning drive to work, I see kids standing at the bus stop in wintertime with little or no coat at all, and it breaks my heart. But this is more than keeping kids warm. By providing coats & shoes to these young people, it is also cutting off a means of gang recruitment. Gang leaders see these kids in need and see an easy mark. They promise new shoes or a new coat if they would do something for them first. This can lead to a lifetime of crime and violence.
The clothing closet at the Bethlehem Center accepts all sizes of clothing & shoes. Gently used and new items are accepted; however, socks & underwear are only accepted new, in package. Right the highest need is for winter wear, shoes, and socks. Since the closet is still in the process of being organized, you can also donate closet hardware and storage bins. We focused on socks, coats, & shoes as our hands-on giving project that day, but I want to do more. I want to get more people involved.
I want to challenge you, my St John family. Go through your closets and purge all the winter items your family won’t wear this year. Pull out those extra sneakers that never fit you quite right and are just sitting in your closet. If your kids are like mine, you might even find clothing in your closets that haven’t even been worn because your kid grew too fast. Put those items to great use by bringing them to our Coat & Shoe Drive for the Bethlehem Center. I will deliver to the Beth on Dec. 9th or every time we have a van load!
DeAnna Prather • May 24, 2019
This past Sunday Dr. Jacqueline talked about the Power of Our Praise. She referenced the story of King Jehoshaphat who was about to fight an impossible battle. This battle was against an enemy much larger and stronger than his army, mostly because it was 3 armies joined together to come down them. 2 Chronicles 20 tells the story of this battle. King “Joe” prayed to God and He told him to send the choir before the army praising God, and God would do the rest. They praised and sang songs of worship to God the entire time they were marching into battle. By the time King Joe’s army arrived at the valley, the 3 armies had become so confused and disoriented, they had all killed each other and every enemy soldier was dead. King Joe’s army arrived at the battle with the battle already won and over. This is the power of our praise!
To the graduates that submitted bios for last week’s Graduation Sunday, you may have noticed that I changed many of your words. Many of you wrote “I plan to”, “I want to”, “I think I will.” I changed all those to I WILL’s. I will attend Miles College. I will start my own business. I will become a doctor. Speak positive prophecy into your life and trust God for the rest!
Every battle we face, we need to remember to praise first!
If you are locked in a prison, PRAISE GOD!
If you are battling addiction, PRAISE GOD!
If you lost your job, PRAISE GOD!
If you are battling illness, PRAISE GOD!
It’s in the midst of our praise that we establish intimacy with our Creator God. So PRAISE GOD, and just see what he can do in the battle of your life.
DeAnna Prather • November 14, 2018
I subscribe to a lifestyle site called "Anchored Women". The site is run by Kayse Pratt. She is a Christian mother of 2 & my current favorite blogger. I subscribe to her "Anchored Life Kit" which is a monthly kit includes all my meal plans, scripture reading, life organizing resources in one God-filled space. I am in my 3rd month and absolutely love it!
The thing I didn't expect to love is her daily emails. I already get so much email that I figured it would just be one more thing to scan and delete. But I love her voice and the wisdom and truth she delivers. I found myself looking forward to checking my email to see if there was a new email from Kayse. It might be a devotional reading, or maybe a new recipe to add to my family's growing list of favorites, or an inspiring story to brighten my day. Monday morning's email was a reflection on the Sunday message from the pastor at her church.
From Kayse Pratt of https://anchored-women.com/
Yesterday at church, the pastor told a story that I couldn't stop thinking about all day. So, I thought I'd pass it along today.
The story goes like this:
There was a very wealthy woman who needed to travel a long distance in a short amount of time. However, she was terrified of flying, so she chose to drive as far as she could for two days until she arrived at her destination.
The evening of the first day, she found herself in the middle of nowhere.
Her only place to stay? A run-down Motel 6.
This wealthy woman was used to the finer things of life. So when she entered that dirty, out-of date room, she declared it absolutely unfit for her. Never mind that she would only be there one night - she set out to fix that room up to her standards.
She went online and ordered new linens and even a new bed. She purchased new furniture and rugs and decor. Money was no object, so she had it all delivered immediately, and she got to work cleaning and redecorating the place.
The sun rose as she finished, and she realized the time - it was time for her to get back on the road. She'd spent the entire night fixing a room she didn't even get to sleep in - a room she didn't even own! She intended to create a space where she could finally relax, but she never got the chance.
This woman focused all of her effort, time, and energy on something that was completely and undeniably temporary. How foolish! How ridiculous!
Our pastor, who rarely tells stories and always opens the Bible to preach the Gospel each week, finished the story and asked us the following question,
"What is YOUR Motel 6?"
In other words, what temporary thing have your efforts, your energy, and your time been focused on?
In what ways are you building your life as though the temporary is, in fact, eternal?
I knew my own answer immediately, and teared up right there in church. More on that later. Thankfully, our pastor went on to share the Good news.
We are not temporary beings. We have been made for eternity, and our time here on earth is temporal. We are promised an inheritance, a place prepared for us in Heaven, for all who trust in Jesus's name!
Yet we often live as though this. is. it. We become too focused on our current situation, on the here and now instead of the promise of eternity, and I am the worst of sinners when it comes to this.
I see the bank account and start stressing out about how we're going to pay the bills, so I work harder, keeping only the month ahead in view.
I see the weariness and exhaustion that's plaguing my husband and myself right now, and I try to solve our problems with better food, better routines, better sleep, better discipline. We just need a system, right?
I see the sin in my children, and I take their responsibility on as my own, letting the weight of their choices name my worthiness as a mom. I work to "fix" this too, but cannot seem to change their hearts.
I see the sin in myself, but feel so behind and overwhelmed managing everyone and everything else, that I have nothing left to deal with my own junk. I claim "survival mode", and self-medicate with Netflix, work, or Ben & Jerry's New York Super Fudge Chunk (knowing full well that these band-aids don't actually help me get anywhere).
If this life is it, if it's all we have to live for, there would be no good news.
But (thank you, Jesus!) it's not all we've got, because the Gospel is real.
Our big giant God, who created the entire universe and holds time in His hands, loves us. He created us, in His image, for an eternal life with Him. Through sin, we became separated from Him, destined to spend eternity apart from Him. But through Jesus, His only Son, we've been redeemed, brought back into relationship with our true Father. For eternity.
We belong to Him, and He made us for eternity. And this earth is not eternal.
This. Changes. Everything.
It means that, yes, we struggle here on earth, but our struggles here are temporary. It means that, yes, we are part of a sinful world that is broken and lonely and messy, but we are not alone. It means that, yes, this life is just plain hard, but we have a Father who walks through our pain + hardship alongside us, not only comforting us, but also providing for us and our needs, in light of the eternity that He created us for.
It means that our lives here on earth are truly temporary, while we mercifully have an undeserved eternity in heaven waiting for us.
This is what I know to be true, because this is what the Bible tells us.
So why does my life so often look like I'm desperately trying to spruce up a dingy Motel 6?
Today, I have no great answers, only questions I'm wrestling with in my own life. In what ways am I living as though this temporary life is all I have? How can I keep an eternal perspective in my day-to-day life, and share that with my kids, too?
And perhaps most crucially: Do I trust God to provide for me in this temporary life, the way I trust that He's prepared an eternal place for me?
I'm struggling through these questions on my own right now. I've been quiet in writing (except for these newsletters), and that's why. This weekend's sermon confirmed in my heart that God has been working something out in me for the last few weeks (months?) and it feels a little like it's breaking me along the way.
I will write more as I learn it, but for now, I wanted to simply share that story today, along with the good news I know to be true. I hope it gives you something to think about this week, too. I'd actually love to hear any of your thoughts.
I don't know how this resonates with you. . . but I immediately knew what temporary thing I had poured much into lately. I had become rather obsessed with a little game on my phone called Township. Yes, it is much like Farmville of days past. You build up a virtual town, while sustaining it by harvesting plants, making goods and trading and selling them to your virtual neighbors. I don't know for sure why I get sucked into sim games so completely. Maybe it is because I am a bit of a control freak and these games provide me my own little world that I get to be in complete control over and have everything just the way I want it. It would take a team of psychologists and psychiatrists to fix all that. But after reading Kayse's email, I realized I can make my current situation better. I could give up control to the One that knows what's best for me. Even my current situation is temporary. My level in Township is not winning me any points with God, or my husband, or even my daughter. Those are the things I want to focus on.
So I deleted, not just Township but, all the useless games on my phone that I was wasting literally hours a day. I suddenly had time to pick up around my house, do some laundry, make a dessert for tonight's Wonderful Wednesday Thanksgiving, and still some time to snuggle with Bonnie before she went to bed. I did all that and was still in bed by 10:30. I woke up this morning at 5:45, way before my alarm. Normally that would infuriate me. But I woke up refreshed and relaxed. The first thought that entered my mind was "You always say you never have time to read the Bible. Well this morning you are awake before anyone else in the house. No one will be awake for another 45 minutes. That's enough time for some reading."
I'm not gonna lie. At first I rolled over and tried to ignore that voice. Anyone that knows me knows that I am a champion of sleeping whenever I feel like sleeping. But I could NOT go back to sleep. This was NOT a mere thought in my head. This was the voice of God. I got up, restarted the dryer of not-quite-dry clothing, found a comfy spot on the sofa, downloaded the "She Reads Truth" bible app on my phone that Kayse is always talking about and started a bible reading plan on Thankfulness & Gratitude.
Bonnie woke up only 15 minutes later, but I had read the day's verses and devotion and truly felt thankful for my time with God this morning. I made us breakfast and we had a much more pleasant start to the day than most mornings.
I hope that our stories prompt you to listen to what God is telling you to focus on. When our focus is clear, everything is new and perfect.