The Bread From Heaven

One thing we know about Jesus, he was terrible at PR….or at least he didn’t care about it. He makes bold statements that confuse his listeners and causes them to bristle and push back – but Jesus never flinches. He keeps right on pushing an agenda and worldview that completely upended the religious expectations of the day. It’s important that you understand, what Jesus is going to be saying in the verses we’ll be looking at is meant to be shocking. There was no age or culture where his words wouldn’t be weird and offensive. What we really want to consider is why Jesus would want to use such disquieting language.

We’ll be reading  John 6:22-59 this Sunday. It’s the famous “Bread from Heaven/Bread of Life” discourse that Jesus gives.

As this section begins, Jesus makes a pretty clear delineation between  physical and spiritual bread. What do think an example of spiritual bread is? How was looking for physical bread revealing bad motives for the crowd? When you consider your own relationship with Jesus – what kind of “bread” do you value most in life?

When the people realize that Jesus is describing something more than normal bread, they ask what they must do to work for the bread Jesus is describing. What is his answer? V29 is the key to understanding all the imagery Jesus will use in the rest of the passage.

Jesus ignores the growing hostility of the crowd and takes things even further – describing himself as the bread come from heaven that the manna from the Exodus story was simply  foreshadowing. He describes his flesh and blood as elemental food and drink – what does that make us think of immediately? Jesus said that the bread that gives life to the world (v51) is his flesh. What do you believe this is a reference to? In what way can you imagine that Jesus’ flesh gives you life?

The language Jesus uses for eating grows progressively more intense as the discourse goes along. He begins by using a word that simply means to consume, but in the later verses of this passage, he says feed, which in the Greek is the word trogo, meaning to chew, crunch or gnaw. He’s talking about how it is that we believe on him – the intensity of the word he uses is trying to tell us something. What do you think it is?

This will be an admittedly heady study. It’s just the nature of this passage, and we certainly won’t plumb the depths of it by any means. We’ll only scrape the surface, but that in itself is a lot to wrestle with. Hope to see you Sunday!

More Than Moses

I think everyone here knows this, but I (Janelle) come from a big family. I’m the youngest of four kids and the family of 6 that I grew up in has turned into a family of 17. My siblings and I have all gotten married and we have a combined total of 7 kids

One thing you should know about our family is that we quote from a few movies and tv shows constantly. Seriously, it’s constant. Sometimes it feels like half of our communication is quoting from shows or movies with the other person. This happens so much so that whenever a new person would show up (like someone that was marrying into the family) we would often be tempted to give them a list of movies and shows to watch so they can understand the majority of what we’re saying to one another.

It is especially important to know what we are referencing because we never stop to say what movie we are quoting from, why we quoted it, or how it fits the conversation. My husband says, “It’s real fun” marrying into the Woodrum family. While I know he is being sarcastic, I like to take it literally and say, “Yeah, it IS fun.”

For example, there is a scene in Christmas vacation when the beloved Christmas tree gets burned up in the living room. While Clark Griswold watches helplessly as his most special tree burns to a crisp, a relative walks in the room and callously responds to Clark’s despair by saying, “It was an ugly tree anyway.” Another older relative pipes up and responds, “At least [the tree] is out of its misery.” The unabashed insensitivity makes me giggle even as I write this.

 Now, when things break, we quote this line. For example, if a car breaks down we might respond to the situation by saying, “It was an ugly car anyway.” Someone else would likely jump in saying, “At least it’s out of its misery.” At this, the newcomer to the family would probably be confused at our lack of sensitivity to a stressful situation. The truth is, we are not saying the car was ugly, we are just quoting back to a movie line where someone was being insensitive about a difficult situation. My family knows this and they are immediately making the connection without anyone having to stop and explain it.

THIS SAME THING is happening with the Jewish readers of the gospel. They are making all sorts of connections that we today do not easily see. We are the new family members coming into the story and the best way for us to get caught up is not to watch the list of movies that we suggest to the in-laws, but to read the Bible stories. Not just from the New Testament, but the Old Testament too. We might not make the connection as easily as the people who lived 2,000 years ago, but when the connections are referenced we will be able to place the story and the concept in a way that we couldn’t if we don’t read the Bible.

I invite you to join us this Sunday as we read John 6:1-21. I encourage you to read these verses and think through the stories you know from the Old Testament. Are there any connections that jump out to you? Consider the fact that the ancient writers of the Bible did not include unnecessary details. Look at the details of the setting and the time of year that is noted by John. Is he using these details to clue us into connections that the Jewish audience may have understood immediately?

The initial reading of this can spark so many questions within us. Why would John ask Philp how they were going to feed everyone if he already knew the answer? Why would Jesus hide from the crowds who wanted to worship him as king? Why would Jesus send the disciples in a boat that was going to get caught in a storm? 

Join us this Sunday at 10:00AM as we work to discover the meaning intended behind this story and the way that it can affect how we live today.

Jesus Examined

This Sunday is Mother’s Day…so, uh…Happy Mother’s Day!….but we’re going to be continuing in our study of John. Sorry about that. We’ll be reading John 5:16-47 – a fairly long and dense passage.

Jesus finds himself in the midst of a growing hostility from the religious leaders in Israel. The passage we’ll be reading is a long monologue where Jesus is responding to his critics.

This section is where the majority of our Christology comes from, because within this text Jesus makes some bold and startling statements about himself.

It’s a lot to try and unpack in one teaching, much less a short entry like this. Suffice it to say that Jesus is in trouble because the religious leaders rightly pick up what Jesus is laying down – he makes himself equal to God. Jesus never denies that, but instead drives the point home with the force of Scripture. If you get the chance, read Daniel 7 and see if you pick up any similar language being employed by Jesus. The same applies to Daniel 12:1-2.

It seems pretty clear that Jesus is identifying himself as the mysterious Ruler, the Son of Man, whom Daniel foretold.

Jesus points to the witnesses that testify about him in v31-40. He mentions God, John the Baptist, his own good works and teachings, and Scripture. How persuasive would those witnesses be for you? If you had been there when Jesus was ministering, what might have convinced you that He is Messiah? It’s an interesting thought experiment.

Jesus closes his speech with some harsh warnings for his critics. According to v42, what is it that they lack which seems to be the root of their unwillingness to believe Jesus as at least God’s messenger?

I’m looking forward to digging into this text with you on Sunday – hope you can join us!

A Wholeness in Life

What are the plans you had for life – the ones you thought for sure would complete you as a person? Was it a relationship, a career, some possession you wanted to acquire? Did you ever find yourself unable to achieve that plan? Did you ever feel like people not only let you down but even got in your way, which kept you from getting the thing you believed you needed?

If you’ve answered yes, you’re not alone, you know that, right? In fact, there is an account we’ll be reading this Sunday in John 5:1-15 where a guy faced those same type of frustrations but found that what he really needed for a whole life was an encounter with Jesus.

Archaeologists have identified where the pool of Bethesda is located in Jerusalem in 1964. If you haven’t watched The Chosen, the episode which deals with this story is really good – I highly recommend it. You can watch it HERE.

When Jesus meets the man who has been unable to walk for 38 years, he asks if he wants to be healed (or come into existence as a whole person). That seems like such an obvious thing, why do you think Jesus asked the man this question?

What is the man’s response? What do you think he had in mind when Jesus asked him this?

As usual, our perceived solutions for life are in stark contrast with Jesus’. This man had one idea about how to become well, but Jesus had a plan to make him whole. What are the bubbling pools that we stare at, what places are we hoping to get to that we think will change our life for the better? What can we learn about our perceived solutions in light of this story?

If Jesus were to pass by your pool today, what would he ask you? What would he tell you to do?  How can we take steps to find our solutions in Christ?

Good stuff to ponder – hope to see you Sunday!

A Deeper Faith

We all know the phrase: “seeing is believing”. It’s a saying that communicates the idea that if we see something with our own eyes we will believe it to exist or be true, no matter how unexpected or unusual it may be. On the surface it expresses a willingness to accept a reality that is verifiably evident.

What’s interesting is that the phrase was coined by Thomas Fuller, a 17th Century clergyman, and the whole phrase is: “seeing is believing, but feeling is the truth”. He was suggesting that truth and evidence are sometimes differentiated. Some truths can’t be verified so neatly.

It’s a pretty deep concept, one that is the heart of our study this Sunday as we continue in our examination of the Gospel of John. We’ll be reading John 4:43-54.

Some things to keep in mind as you read: the repeated idea of “seeing” (see, seen). This is a through-line from the last section.

In our text we are introduced to a man of means and position, a government official (likely working for Herod Antipas). He implores Jesus to come to his home and heal his son. Jesus’ response is puzzling on the surface. Who do you think he’s talking to when he says “you”? Why do you think he responded that way? In what ways do you think this man didn’t believe in Jesus?

When Jesus sends the man home, what evidence did that man have that anything had changed for his son? What was the basis for him heading home? What does that tell us about the kind of faith God is looking for from us?

The timing of the boy’s healing and Jesus’ words is highlighted by John. What might it teach us about who Jesus is and what is within his control?

In v53 we are told the man and his household believe in Jesus. How is that a different kind of faith than the believing expressed by the Galileans from v45? How would you describe the deeper faith that we are challenged to in this passage?

I’m really stoked about this section, I hope you can join us for what I think will be a intriguing but very encouraging study!

Having Dinner with Jesus

This Sunday we’ll be reading John 4:31-45 – which is basically the falling action after the story of the woman at the well.

Once again, we have a situation where Jesus is talking about one thing but his hearers are talking about another. He talked about living water with the woman earlier, but she took it to mean literal water. He tells his disciples he’s got food they don’t know about, and his disciples are looking for the snack machine that Jesus got his stash from. But in both cases, Jesus is talking about something BELOW the surface. He compares his cooperation with God’s plan to rescue people with food. Why food? What does food do for the human body? What is Jesus trying to tell us about the source of fulfillment in our lives?

The question is…how is your diet? If you look at your normal idea of food/fulfillment and compare it to Jesus’ – how do our food groups compare?

Jesus describes wheat that is ripened and ready to harvest. What might his previous conversation with the woman have to do with that? What made the fields ready? What does that mean to us right here and now?

This will prove to be a challenging study for us – but I think it will be well worth it! Hope to see you Sunday!

A Prayer for Holy Saturday

Below is a prayer to prepare our hearts for Easter morning. If you’d like to join in on praying this, find some time on Saturday where you can have solitude and read the prayer slowly and out loud. Perhaps it will inspire you to continue on speaking with God and listening for His voice. Others from our community will be praying that same prayer on Saturday, so no matter where we are, we’ll lift United voices to God!

Father in Heaven,

I know that it is always 

darkest before dawn.

The world as we know it

groans in anticipation of a new day.

Here, in this present darkness,

I live in expectation of Your light.

Resurrection is the promise of new life.

Resurrection is the promise of all things new.

I take my place with all the saints

who’ve trusted in Your name.

This day, prepare my heart for Easter.

When I was walking in darkness,

You were there.

When I was on my knees in weakness,

You were there.

When I was in need of forgiveness,

You were there.

Let hope rise in my heart

like You rose from the grave.

Living God I praise You

for the promise of the Gospel!

Let heaven meet with earth

in my life today!

I praise You, Lord Jesus Christ,

King of endless glory

I celebrate Your life that conquered death.

In Jesus’ name I pray,


A Victorious Decline

Have you ever worked really hard on some idea only to have someone else come along and suggest the very same idea and everyone congratulates that person for such clever thinking? What emotions did you feel in that moment? What are you immediately tempted to do?

The human need to be significant and important, at the very least for recognition, is universal. Ego is a tough wrestling opponent. Yet, as we’ll read in this week’s text, John the Baptist was able to find joy and peace by putting his own ego last and Jesus first.

This Sunday we’ll be reading John 3:22-36 as we continue our exploration of the fourth gospel account.

John’s gospel is the only account that indicates that Jesus and John had a time when their ministries overlapped. Jesus began with John the Baptist’s endorsement, and now, we find that he is present when the first hint of controversy arises. His disciples are jealous at the rising popularity of Jesus and his message. John was very popular, probably more popular than Jesus at this beginning stage…he had all the trappings of what is usually defined as a successful ministry. Yet it was his joy to step aside for the elevation of Christ.

What reason does he give for that in v27?

Does that help you in any struggles you may have in embracing an intentional humility?

v30 is a powerful statement. It sets the tone for the entire church movement. We haven’t always been very successful in remembering who it is that everything orbits around. How do you think you might find joy in allowing the reality of Jesus to increase in your life? What would you imagine might be decreasing in your life as this takes place?

In yet another way, the kingdom of God moves counter to the world’s assumptions, we we find ourselves flourishing through this victorious decline.

Hope you can join us on Sunday!

Nick at Night

It’s one of the most famous stories from the Gospels – the story of a religious leader who has a nighttime meeting with Jesus – where Jesus cryptically conveys the scope and power of his plan – where those famous words were uttered: “For God so loved the world…”.

We’ll be reading John 3:1-21 this Sunday.

While v16 of this section is probably very familiar – much of what surrounds that text is pretty mysterious stuff. Nick wasn’t the only one who got confused – scholars have had multiple interpretations about some of the things Jesus says here for more than a thousand years.

It says that Nick is a ruler of the Judeans – which means he’s on the Sanhedrin. That being the case, he must have been well older than Jesus, a respected man in the community as well as the temple, and he must have been a person from a wealthy family. What do you think was going through his mind as he met with this young, homeless Rabbi from the sticks?

Based on what he says, does he seem friendly or hostile to you? By the end of the gospel, he certainly shows signs of being a follower of Jesus, but how do you imagine him this night as he meets Jesus for the first time?

Jesus’ answers certainly don’t fit the paradigm that Nick tries to set up. Jesus talks spiritual rebirth and Nick talks obstetrics…it’s sort of a mess.

In trying to make sense of Jesus’ statements about being born of water and spirit, think about the creation account and the Spirit hovering over the face of the waters – what insight, if any, does this give you about what Jesus may be referring to?

What condition does Jesus put on receiving eternal life? What does this condition mean to you?

Read v17. Read it again. If God’s purpose is not to condemn the world, how do you understand v18-21?

God’s purpose is not to condemn – how well do you think the church has presented that truth? How can we better embody what the gospel message is?

Hope you can join us this Sunday!

A Better Temple

I remember when…we’ll say a friend of mine…pulled the lever on a fire-alarm at my middle school, and the gleeful chaos that ensued as classes were emptied and students gathered outside (this, of course, was in a world devoid of modern security threats and active shooter drills). One little lever pulled and it resulted in the total disruption of normal activities, for a little while anyway.

(I also remember the dire consequences that….we’ll say a friend of mine…suffered as a result of that prank – so that sort of behavior is NOT being approved by sharing that memory!)

It’s hard to fully grasp the events that took place that morning that Jesus walked into the temple grounds in Jerusalem and started throwing people out, but I think it may have been similar to pulling a fire-alarm trigger. That’s the story we’ll be tackling this Sunday as we explore John 2:13-25.

It’s easy for us to immediately assign the guilt in this scene to the people who are crassly selling the accouterments of worship at the temple. How dare they sell sacrificial animals like a commercial enterprise…and yet…there was a legitimate purpose that these vendors served. Imagine living a long ways from Jerusalem and hauling the required sacrifice with you. Imagine that a dog nips at it’s heel along the way, or worse, a wolf takes a bite out of it’s ear. The sacrifice won’t be accepted and the expenditure of time and food for the trip would be for naught. It actually makes sense to provide a way, right at the temple, to buy a pre-approved animal to sacrifice.

In truth, we have no historical evidence or citations that would prove corruption or price gouging in the sale of animals or exchange of money in the temple courts.

There was actually something else going on that morning. Jesus was acting as an Old Testament prophet, staging a protest to momentarily stop the temple system. Why? A disruption and a replacement was being made.

If Jesus was forecasting the end of and replacement of the temple – what are the implications of that as you read it? V19 is a major clue as to what God intends – religious structures both physical and organizational will be replaced by a person. What can it mean to us today, as his followers in 21st century America? How can we prevent our own practice of faith from devolving into consumer ritualism?

This should prove to be a compelling study – hope you can make it!