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On June 1st, we wrapped up our study of The Gospel of John with a celebration dinner and screening of the complete movie.

For our celebration dinner, Helen ordered 4 different kinds of pizza and tempted us to drink flavored water; all the ladies brought in wonderful salads and desserts – a feast for the eyes, mouth, body and soul! I still can see the stunning greens of the salads and the fruit plate by Karyn with its sweet yellow naval oranges nestling yummy blackberries.  Donna has really spoiled me with her lovely presentations! My favorite dessert was Paula’s lemon cupcakes, the v. lemony, sugary, melt-in-your-mouth, one-is-not-enough-eat-two-or-more kind :). While eating dinner, we watched the 2-hr version of the movie and took a short break midway to listen to a short summary.  Helen gave wonderful gifts to the leadership team (Suzannne, Anne, Jennifer Y, Donna, Linda C., Christi) – inspirational journals with Scripture verses. I got a very striking hand-painted ceramic candlestand with Psalm 119: 105: Thy Word is a Lamp unto my feet. Helen is so thoughtful – she bookmarked my Psalms journal on this verse; she brought cards for all the ladies to write me Thank you notes. I love the notes – I’m -re-reading them now, one per day, so I can slowly but most surely and enjoyably savor them. My house too is filled with the fragrance of the sweet peas flowers (I still don’t know who gave this) and the flowers Karyn brought me. All the ladies got bookmarks I made (at Helen’s request and which Jennifer Y so graciously cut). Nancy C. donated her Scripture-To-Go DVDs and Helen gave them to all the ladies.  What a celebration – thank you, everybody!

I had originally wanted to stop the movie after Jesus teaching at the Feast of Tabernacles and highlight Jesus words in John 8: 32b: If you hold to my teaching , you are really my disciples. But God had other plans. We stopped the movie at end of John chapter 6. Jesus has said He is the Bread of Life and urged everybody to eat Him and drink His blood. Disciples grumble, “this is a hard teaching, who can accept it?”  We hear Simon Peter’s passionate declaration (a.k.a confession of faith), “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Now we know and believe that you are the Holy One who’s come from God.” The section closes with Jesus saying, “Have I not chosen you, the twelve? Yet one of you is a Devil” We too are chosen. Everything we have is a gift and we are blessed indeed because of the gift of faith God has given us in Jesus. For many of us this faith has come or seems easy; for some of us it is not so easy and we battle with doubts.  We must never forget that doubt and deception are the tools of the Devil. Faith itself is a theological virtue, the gift of God, as Rev. Kirk Winslow so eloquently preached in his sermon on The Theological Virtues. Its a paradoxical besides being a mysterious gift because we also have a choice: to believe in Jesus or not, accept or not accept the gift of faith and then, what do we do with our belief, our gift of faith. We must not get deceived and consider how we may be self-deceiving ourselves as we learned in James, self-deception. We are not orphaned either as God gives us plenty of support for our journey of discipleship (the Holy Spirit who dwells in every believer) and the community of the church (our local and the universal).

In our Monday night Bible study (MNBS) we clearly made the choice to spend time with God, study his Word and importantly, take some time to be quiet in order to hear His voice better, by stilling the busyness in our lives. MNBS has been our “lab of love” and during this time set aside for God, we’ve been refreshed by His Word, allowed the Spirit to pray for us when we couldn’t, learned to recognize His voice, be kind to one another, and  pray for each other. We’ve surrendered some of our desires – to be with family, to watch a game on TV, to catch up on work, get much-needed sleep – while pursuing the desire and discipline of Bible study. In short, we’ve been learning to love God by loving and serving each other while we abide in his Word. Let’s take some time this summer to consider how, in the next year, we can continue to focus on our spiritual realities and fulfill our desires and intentions to be more like Jesus. What is God calling you to next year in your journey as a disciple of Jesus?

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. Romans 8: 26-27

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