On the Journey with Jesus

A collection of Lenten devotionals written by clergy and laity of the Illinois Great Rivers Conference during the 2011 Lenten season and being re-published for the 2013 Lenten season.

Blog Posts

The Unfolding of Resurrection

Resurrection and new life sometimes takes awhile to fully unfold itself in us and lead us to act in new, fresh and empowered ways. But when we get it; when it gets us we are stirred to action and given fresh speech.

Doing One Last Thing

I cannot even imagine the anguish felt by Nicodemus and Joseph that day as Jesus’ body was retrieved and prepared for burial but I do understand needing SOMETHING to do and the sense of relief that comes with being able to do one last thing for a loved one.

A Day of Infamy

On a day some 2,000 years ago all mankind raised its rebellious fist against the Almighty. The day Jesus Christ was crucified is by far the most infamous day of all humanity.

Now We Know...Let's Follow

No wonder the Bread and the Cup need to be blessed at Holy Communion before we partake. The Towel and the Basin are for each one of us to bless others to follow and obey the words of Jesus, “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done to you… Now that you do know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”

Lifted Up With Christ

Our flesh doesn’t want to suffer from our own sin and follow the temptation to seek an easier way out. We also cry out to be saved from this hour of suffering, when really it is to this point and purpose we have arrived. When we come to this hour, and God glorifies His name, do we hear thunder out of our guilt and our fallen nature, or do we hear Angels sing at our surrender to His will and mercy?

Following Jesus Daily

The question is not: Has Jesus called you? The verse says, “if anyone serves Me, let him follow Me.” If you are a believer, then you must follow Jesus. Each person must be open to personally follow Jesus wherever led on a daily basis.

The Testimony of One

A testimony can be the beginning of belief in Jesus for those who do not know him, but the only way one can truly believe in Jesus is to communicate with him themselves through the Word and through prayer.

Where's the Body?

In any good novel or show, there is always a motive and the motive is based upon sin -- greed, jealousy, hate, you know the list.  And in every sin there is always the ingredient of fear.  Fear of exposure, fear of losing, fear.  The religious authorities in today’s reading are no different than the characters in mystery novels or television shows or us -- they are afraid.  They are afraid when confronted with the possibility of loss.

Sharing the Love of Christ

Paul tells us in Philippians Chapter 2 that since we have received the love of Christ that we are to be like-minded and to share that love and concern for others, not for our own glorification, but because we truly value others. Those in Africa who are suffering the ravages of death due to Malaria truly need our help, and God willing we will stand united, and be generous in our contributions to help eradicate this disease.

Guess Who Came to Dinner

How would you have entertained Jesus in your home? Who would have been on your guest list? Would you have been pleased or stressed out about the visit?

Taking Off the Grave Clothes

The Lenten Season is a time of self-denial, reflection and spiritual renewal. I want to take off my “grave clothes and bindings” and listen but instead I keep the “grave-clothes” on.  Sometimes we have to slow down to hear Jesus saying, (verses 25-26): “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live; and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.”

Secure in God's Hand

No matter what, God is always holding onto us. He is constantly working for our good, even when we do not realize it.

The Voice of Jesus

I had always wondered secretly why God never answered my prayers with his booming all-powerful voice. After all, God led the prophets in such a way and Jesus always vocally guided his disciples even after his ascension," Brett Bottorff writes. But after a personal experience, he realizes that the voice of God can also come from those one encounters.

Jesus Spit

Jesus had so little time on earth to teach, so He often gives us two lessons in one. He heals and he teaches us about priorities in one compassionate event. He declares that he is the light of the world, and then he opens the eyes of the blind and shows us our need for spiritual enlightenment.

Looking for the Outsiders

“Who is he, Lord, so that I may believe in Him?” This is the great question of the people that surround us outside of our church. Who is Jesus? How can I believe in someone I do not know? If we want our neighbors to actually get to know Jesus and believe in Jesus as the Son of God, we have to do the same thing that Jesus did: go out to find them, confront their beliefs, and present to them our Savior as the only option for eternal life. God willing, we can all be instruments for those that are outside of his kingdom, and they can get to know Jesus Christ as their Savior.

Opened Eyes

We each have a story to tell. It might not be dramatic, but if we have met Christ, we have a valuable witness to share with others. I wish we would all respond like this man did. I hope that we will follow his example and never, ever be afraid to share what Jesus has done for us and means to us.

As for me, I once was blind, but now I see!

Where Else Can We Turn?

How often have we “taken the easy road,” tolerating sin under the pretense of maintaining harmony, or by not taking an unpopular stance in defense of our convictions and beliefs? How often have we said, “This is too hard; who can live by that set of rules?

The Living Bread

We see people who are hungry physically, emotionally and spiritually. People who seem to have everything are dying of emotional brokenness and spiritual emptiness. Even the best meal cannot satisfy broken hearts. Only Jesus Christ, the Living Bread, can fill our emptiness and heal our brokenness. 

Grumble, Grumble, Grumble...

I’m not sure how Jesus stood it. A message that should have brought his listeners encouragement and hope was shrouded in the din of their disbelief and derision.
Are we any better listeners now?

Bread from Heaven

Jesus is the “Bread of Life,” the One who provides for us now and for all eternity.

Navigating Rough Waters

Sometimes “we’re all in the same boat” as they say.  When we are in a crisis mode, it’s a good idea to let those with the particular skills and gifts, which are needful in the present situation, lead. Jesus doesn’t need to DO anything that we can do for ourselves.  And we can do it ourselves because we know Jesus is present and we are not afraid. 

So Nothing May Be Lost

As Jesus said, “the harvest is plenty.” And God has plenty of grace and love for all of us. Yet we seem reluctant to share. How many more could be filled and satisfied in a life of Christ if we were willing to take the bounty of what we have, and step out of our comfort zones to share?

Being Part of the Blessing

Whether it was a miracle of multiplication or a miracle of sharing, Jesus provided more than the crowd needed. Hunger was satisfied and disciples experienced God's generosity. This eucharistic preview meal only hints of the feast prepared.  
"Blessed are those who hunger for they shall be fed."
How shall we and Jesus bless the hungry?

Required Repentence

God requires no scourge, only repentance. I knew that I was made in God’s image and that if I failed to love myself, no matter how I have strayed, I would fail to honor God, for I have been created in God’s image.

Becoming Fully Christian

How can we become “fully” Christian, rather than only “halfway” having faith? How do we move beyond clinging to lies of our lives (verse 44), being average people - only “with a faith”? We do these great things for others and God, but we still claim the things of the past, just as the disciples claimed Abraham as their father, when their Father was talking right to them. 

No Shades of Gray

Lent is the season of the cross, the season which calls for a choice: will we die in our sin or live as faithful disciples of the One who died for us?

You Will Never Be Alone

When I felt like my prayers were not getting answered, it was because I was not listening. When I prayed, I had always felt like there was a voice telling me that everything would be okay, but I never felt reassured....The day that I realized I had shut myself off from God, I realized that little voice had been God all along. He was always there.

Conduits of the Spirit

Jesus' death and resurrection became the great opening-up of the Spirit's gifts to believers everywhere, at all times. As water is indispensable for life, the Spirit is "living water" indispensable for our eternal life with God and our relationship with God right now. 

Making Things Fit

Life is never sure, smooth or guaranteed....What happened a moment ago, yesterday or even a decade ago is history; what we have is now, this moment.

Law May Have No Heart, But Love Has No Limits

Love looks for the heart, reason, circumstance. It judges rightly and then pulls up its sleeves, gets down into the dirt, and helps us clean up our messes. God, through Jesus, has done the same for us:  applying the law, but loving deeply and without limit.

The Right Time

 Lent is the right time to turn from evil and all works which harm our relationships with God and people. It is the right time to draw nearer to God.   It is the right time to become authentic in sharing Jesus with others. It is the right time to be a disciple of Jesus.

Opening Our Eyes

People still display public signs of obeying God - maybe they’re “suffering” for Lent, without making any true transformation of the heart. People buy popular spiritual books that offer quick steps in faith rather than understanding the scriptures themselves. 

John’s Gospel reminds us that the Word came in the flesh to bear witness to the Father. This passage in particular from John is reminding us that we don’t need to search so much as we just need to open our eyes.

The Hour is Coming and is Now Here...

In this discourse on his own authority, Jesus talks about the coming of the Son of God who has already come. Amazingly, all in one sweep, Christ transforms the past, the present and the future!

Blessed With Healing

There are a great number of people who refuse to believe that God still heals. The Good News is: God still heals, even today!

Doubting in the Face of Truth

Sometimes a truth will reach up and smack us upside the head – and we will still doubt.

Transformed and Empowered by Christ

The heart’s desire of people ... is the same: to be empowered to witness to the ways God has touched us, to become leaders, and to minister to others. When this happens they become transformed disciples of Jesus Christ!

The Kindness You Do Today Comes Back Tomorrow

Jesus showed us that it didn’t matter who a person was or how they lived when he talked to the Samaritan woman. She was a sin-stained person longing for a change of life, and Jesus gave exactly what she needed through his kindness.

Decreasing...So Christ Can Increase

The Lenten call to humility is a reminder to those who equip others that they need to get out of the way so that men and women and young people can fulfill their calling.

Whoever Gets the Son, Gets Everything Else

May we never grow impatient waiting for the “treasures” of life, but yearn instead for the Son.

Born Again

 It is also important to note that nowhere else in the gospels does Jesus require a disciple to “be born again” in order to see the Kingdom of God. Indeed, in the other gospels, Jesus tells all who hear him, “The Kingdom of God has come near to you.” When Jesus approaches Peter, James and John to make them his disciples, he does not ask them to be “born again”; he simply asks them to “follow me”. So it is with us.

Cleaning House

Jesus was concentrating on each moment of sin and shame you felt, taking it upon Himself. He was giving Himself up, His perfect self that didn’t need to be remade, and washing you clean. At the end of it all, He looked evil in the face and came back to show us that we were free. And we believed.

"Let's Party!"

During this Lenten journey, I challenge you to find ways to spread joy – smile at the stranger pumping gas next to you, speak kindly to the Walmart checker, call or drop a note to someone you know who needs a friend, commit a random act of kindness. Let the joy of the Lord shine through you.

The Power of Invitation

 Thank you for the “Philips” who constantly seek “Nathanaels” and invite them to “come and see”.

"Come and See!"

Nathanael gives me hope that although I may not get all the facts straight all of the time, I can still be a messenger of the good news. I can still ask people to follow. I can still say “Come and see!” And with God’s grace, they will.

Special Enough to Introduce to the Family

This world is full of empty, longing people. Many of them don't even know how bad things are.  Some of them might wander into our lives. Maybe at work, maybe at school, or they might even wander into our churches on a Sunday morning. When they do, what, exactly, will we be pointing toward to fill them?

Are We Alive with the Holy Ghost?

John foretold the coming of the Lamb of God who would be the sacrifice for the sin of ALL. John was sent out to witness to the world about the power of the Holy Ghost which would descend upon and remain with Jesus allowing Him to live as a mortal and as a spirit. When we are baptized, we, too, become alive with the Holy Ghost: on fire and “for real” with ourselves and others.

The Unfolding of Resurrection

Resurrection and new life sometimes takes awhile to fully unfold itself in us and lead us to act in new, fresh and empowered ways. But when we get it; when it gets us we are stirred to action and given fresh speech.