LENT 2024

A season not just to be observed, but to be transformed.

Lent is the 40 days leading up to Easter. It is a time we set aside each year to remember the love of God that is poured out through Christ Jesus on the cross in His death.

 

It begins on Ash Wednesday and ends at sundown on Holy Thursday. We want to do more than just observe the season, we want to be transformed by the mercies of God.

 

As a church, we are encouraging each other to walk through Romans during this Lent season, and experience his transforming renewal.

A 40 DAY JOURNEY

ASH WEDNESDAY PRAYER MEETING

14 February 2024
Wednesday
8.30 PM – 9.30 PM
The Chapel (Basement)

LENT WEEKDAY PRAYER

19 February – 28 March 2024
Monday – Friday
7.30 AM – 8.30 AM
Zoom Meeting ID: 853 4944 2203
Passcode: pjefcpray

GOOD FRIDAY

29 March 2024
Friday
8.30 PM – 10.00 PM
PJEFC Main Sanctuary

EASTER SUNDAY

31 March 2024
Sunday
10.00 AM – 12.00 PM
PJEFC Main Sanctuary

DAILY DEVOTIONALS

The Riches of God’s Kindness

Ξ SCRIPTURE PASSAGE

Read Romans 2:1-11

 

1Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. 2 We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. 3 Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.

 

6 He will render to each one according to his works: 7 to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. 9 There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 11 For God shows no partiality.

 

Do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” Romans 2:4

 

Ξ REFLECTION

God’s character can shape the human heart. His unconditional love and reassuring presence comforts the lonely. His promises give hope to those who suffer. And, according to the apostle Paul, God’s kindness, tolerance and patience lead sinners to repentance. His kindness is displayed in many ways, but most notably through his Son, Jesus Christ. God’s righteous judgment was revealed and his wrath was satisfied when his own Son chose to bear the punishment for our sins. Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection conquers the power of evil and gives peace to the burdened soul. Those who rest in Christ need not fear Judgment Day or evil. They cling to the cross through faith and live daily in repentance. They are shaped by God’s character and the riches of his kindness.

 

Ξ PRAYER

Righteous Father, reveal your character to me so that I rest in your Son Jesus Christ until he comes again. Amen.

Sunk

Ξ SCRIPTURE PASSAGE

Read Romans 2:12-29

 

12 For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. 14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them 16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

 

17 But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God 18 and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law; 19 and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— 21 you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. 24 For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”

 

25 For circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision. 26 So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? 27 Then he who is physically uncircumcised but keeps the law will condemn you who have the written code and circumcision but break the law. 28 For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. 29 But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.

 

You… rely on the law and boast…” Romans 2:17

 

Ξ REFLECTION

When I was a boy living in Iowa, a shallow creek ran through our farm. I can still hear my parents warning me about the sandy shore at one of the creek’s bends. “Watch out! Watch out for sinking sands!” they would say. They told me stories of people who walked too close to such water-saturated sands. Suddenly they would sink deeply and couldn’t get out by themselves.

 

In today’s scripture passage, St. Paul warns his readers to stop counting on their lineage, traditions, and performance. You get no bragging rights for that, he says. If you trust in them, you will sink. But Christ is a firm foundation. Edward Mote put it well in his hymn, “My Hope is Built on Nothing Less”:

 

On Christ the solid rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand.

 

Now there’s a solid thought. Let that sink in! 

 

Ξ PRAYER

Loving God, you are my solid rock. Keep me from sinking sands. Amen.

God’s Faithfulness

Ξ SCRIPTURE PASSAGE

Read Romans 3:1-8

 

1Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? 2 Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God. 3 What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? 4 By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written,
“That you may be justified in your words, and prevail when you are judged.”

 

5 But if our unrighteousness serves to show the righteousness of God, what shall we say? That God is unrighteous to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.) 6 By no means! For then how could God judge the world? 7 But if through my lie God’s truth abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? 8 And why not do evil that good may come?—as some people slanderously charge us with saying. Their condemnation is just.

 

Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? By no means!” Romans 3:3-4

 

Ξ REFLECTION

Have you ever let someone down? Has someone ever broken your trust? When something like that happens, the consequences are significant. Broken relationships, dashed faith, deep disappointment… the list goes on and on. The process of regaining trust is hard work. Sometimes, it doesn’t end in the way we hope.

 

In the passage for today, we hear great news about our relationship with God! God’s faithfulness isn’t dependent on us! Even when we let him down or lack faith, God continues to be faithful and true. We see this faithfulness, truth, and glory in the very words that God has entrusted to us. Praise God for his faithfulness!

 

Ξ PRAYER

God, increase our faithfulness to you. Amen.

Nobody’s Perfect

Ξ SCRIPTURE PASSAGE

Read Romans 3:9-20

 

9What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written:

 

“None is righteous, no, not one;
11 no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
13 “Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
14 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16 in their paths are ruin and misery,
17 and the way of peace they have not known.”
18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

 

19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

 

None is righteous, no, not one” Romans 3:10

 

Ξ REFLECTION

When our children were very young, my in-laws spent the weekend at our home babysitting. A new washing machine arrived and they thought it would be nice to place the machine in the laundry room so it would be ready when we returned. As they pushed the washer into place, the threads on the feet scratched our oak and laminate flooring. To cover up the scratches, they used liquid brown scratch cover. That only exacerbated the gouges in the floor.

 

When we arrived home, we immediately saw the damage. The laminate was unfixable and the wood floor required sanding and a new finish. It was going to cost a lot of time and money. We saw from my in-laws’ faces that they felt terrible. Even when we try to do good, like my in-laws did, “there is no one righteous, not even one.” No matter how hard we try to “be good,” as humans we cannot pay God back for all the wrong we have done. The Bible tells us that, “Christ died for sins once for all.” What a comfort to know we have a compassionate God.

 

Ξ PRAYER

Thank you, Lord, for pouring out your love to me and declaring me forgiven. Amen.

What We Cannot Achieve

Ξ SCRIPTURE PASSAGE

Read Romans 3:21-31

 

21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

 

27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. 31 Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.

 

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” Romans 3:23-24

 

Ξ REFLECTION

“Work hard and you’ll be rewarded.” That’s a popular message today that holds a lot of truth. Students who study hard are rewarded with diplomas and degrees. Athletes who train regularly are rewarded with favorable results. People set goals and celebrate when they hit the mark. But when it comes to achieving results for God, we all miss the mark. The Bible says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”

 

Sin literally means “miss the mark.” No matter how hard we try, we break God’s commands. But God never misses the mark. God sent his perfect Son to fulfill the law for us. By faith in Christ, we inherit the perfection of Christ. By his grace, God gives sinners the eternal rewards of his Son, namely, forgiveness and eternal life. Praise be to the God who saves us by his grace.

 

Ξ PRAYER

God of grace, remind me that I cannot achieve your favor, but that you give it to me freely through your Son Jesus Christ. Amen.

What’s New?

Ξ SCRIPTURE PASSAGE

Read Romans 4:1-12

 

1What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” 4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. 5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, 6 just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:

 

7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
and whose sins are covered;
8 blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”

 

9 Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? For we say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. 10 How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. 11 He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well, 12 and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.

 

Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Romans 4:3

 

Ξ REFLECTION

God blessed Abraham with his promises and with the gift of faith. By faith, Abraham trusted God and was blessed. In this, we see wonderful blessings for ourselves, too. Paul’s quotation from Genesis 15:6 was good news in early Christian times and is a central truth for us. Abraham is the father of all who believe.

 

Paul uses another Old Testament verse to show even more good news. According to the psalmist, we are made right with God through the forgiveness of our sins. “Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity.”

 

By grace, the Lord will not count our sin against us and we—like Abraham—are counted as righteous before God, “…the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, for all who believe” (Romans 3:22). God puts us in his “credit” by his gracious gift. So we will follow the example of Abraham and rely only on faith.

 

Ξ PRAYER

Loving God, your mercy is new every day. Renew us through Jesus in your forgiveness for lives of peace and service. Amen.

ARCHIVE

The Junk Drawer

Ξ SCRIPTURE PASSAGE

Read Romans 1:1-7

 

1 Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3 concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 4 and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, 5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, 6 including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ, 7 To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

you… are called to belong to Jesus Christ.” Romans 1:6

 

Ξ REFLECTION

We have a junk drawer in our kitchen. It is filled with pencils, tools, markers, magnets, sunscreen, tape, pushpins, and a whole lot of other stuff. As the weeks go by, the drawer gets so packed that we forget what’s in there. When that happens, we dump the contents of the drawer on the counter and sort through all the items to determine what stays, what goes, and what needs to be put back in its rightful place. 

 

Sometimes our lives are like junk drawers. We add activities and stuff to our calendars and, before we know it, there is no room for Jesus. He’s lost in the shuffle of life. We try to squeeze him in, but with so much going on, it’s difficult.  

 

Lent is a season when we think about weeding out the “junk” in our lives. On this Ash Wednesday, we confess all our sinful junk, and remember that, without Christ, we are only dust. Yet we remember all he has done for us and the life that we receive through him. We confess, but have hope in him.

 

Lent is also a time when we take on new things, like daily time in God’s word. May this Romans series help us to do both this Lenten season. God bless, enrich, and guide you as you do so.

 

Ξ PRAYER

Heavenly Father, weed out the junk in our lives so we can focus on Jesus. Amen.

Trapped in a Bubble

Ξ SCRIPTURE PASSAGE

Read Romans 1:8-15

 

8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. 9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you 10 always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you. 11 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— 12 that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. 13 I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles. 14 I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. 15 So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.

 

I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish.” Romans 1:14

 

Ξ REFLECTION

I am often amazed when I look at my life and realize how many Christians I hang out with. Not that this is a bad thing, necessarily, but how many times do I seek out being with those who are far from God? Dan Kimball wrote, “We are content living in our little Christian subculture as citizens of the bubble, but we don’t even know it, because everyone in our social circle is also in the bubble.” 

 

St. Paul never stayed in a bubble; he was not ashamed to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with everyone he encountered, “both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish.” More than being unashamed, Paul feels obligated to share the message of hope found in Jesus Christ no matter who they are. Do we? Do we feel obligated to share with those who are not anything like us? 

 

As we walk through Romans this Lenten season, think about your relationships. Are you surrounded with people just like you? The Great Commission in Matthew 28 applied to Paul as it does to us today. Like Paul, we are blessed to share the Gospel.

 

Ξ PRAYER

Triune God, strengthen me to be your witness to all people in my life. Amen.

Not Ashamed

Ξ SCRIPTURE PASSAGE

Read Romans 1:16-17

 

16For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

 

I am not ashamed of the gospel.” Romans 1:16

 

Ξ REFLECTION

At some point, most parents are confronted with a crushing fact: their children are embarrassed by them. They want to be dropped off and picked up at the curb without their parent getting out of the car. They’re OK with their parents being at events as long as they don’t stand out. Don’t draw attention to yourself! Usually this is a passing phase, and parents typically understand, but it still hurts.

 

We boldly proclaim our support for some things. We brag about our favorite sports teams and wear the logos of our preferred brands. We talk about things that drive our passion. But maybe we are more timid in matters of faith. Perhaps we seek to keep faith private, lest we be embarrassed or singled out for proclaiming Jesus as our Lord and Savior.

 

That’s a temptation to sin, and Christ forgives it. Now, empowered by his Spirit, he calls us to a bold, confident faith. Knowing what he has done, how can we hide it? Gratitude and joy overflow. This is why Paul says, “I am not ashamed of the gospel.” Why? Not because of himself, but because of Jesus. “Because it is the power of God for salvation for everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16)

 

Be bold for Jesus!

 

Ξ PRAYER

Lord, I believe. Empower me to boldly confess you before the world. Amen.

Have I Got Good News for You!

Ξ SCRIPTURE PASSAGE

Read Romans 1:18-32

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

God’s invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” Romans 1:20

Ξ REFLECTION

At St. Joseph, Mo., stands a monument honoring 400 men and boys who rode for the Pony Express. The route established in 1860 began at St. Joseph and extended to San Francisco. But this amazing system soon gave way to the telegraph, speeding up communication.

The spread of Christianity is another, far more significant chapter in communication. Jesus initiated it: As you go, proclaim the Gospel to the whole world. After Pentecost, the disciples went quickly into all of the then-known world as messengers of the resurrected Christ. They traveled on foot or by ship, always under this urgency: “We cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard…the love of Christ constrains us.”

The Pony Express riders carried dispatches concerning important news, including the good word of Abraham Lincoln’s election to the presidency and bad news of the approach of the Civil War. What news did the apostles have to carry? Bad news pertaining to the wages of sin and death; good news that “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

This will always be good news. And each one of us can be a messenger to tell the good news with love in word and deed.

Ξ PRAYER

Dear God, help me be a messenger of the good news of Jesus and his love. Amen.

Faith Enables Hope

Ξ SCRIPTURE PASSAGE

Read Romans 4:13-25

 

13 For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. 14 For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. 15 For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression.

 

16 That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, 17 as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. 18 In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” 19 He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. 20 No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. 22 That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” 23 But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, 24 but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, 25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.

 

It depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace.” Romans 4:16

 

Ξ REFLECTION

It was faith – unconditional certainty – that God would do the impossible. It was neither Abraham’s lineage nor other conditions. It was simply trusting everything in God’s hands. Abraham expected God to do the impossible and would have been shocked if the impossible did not happen. Abraham’s faith was based upon the nature of God – omnipotent, merciful, and dependable. He believed in God who says, “I the LORD do not change” (Malachi 3:6).

 

Paul stressed that this is a universal principle. For all who expect God to be God, it will be counted as righteousness. God’s will is accomplished.

 

Once, my father-in-law needed to purchase mission property. He found it and agreed upon the price, promising to pay cash in one month. When fellow workers challenged his agreement, he reported, “God will provide.” They told no one about the agreement. Thirty days later, he paid cash for the property. God still does what we consider to be impossible.

 

Ξ PRAYER

Gracious God, help us to have faith where we cannot see and trust to see the impossible accomplished by your will. Amen.

Love for Sinners

Ξ SCRIPTURE PASSAGE

Read Romans 5:1-11

 

1Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

 

6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

 

God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

 

Ξ REFLECTION

Many words could be used to describe our state before Christ: unclean, impure, steeped in sin, or dirty. In that state, there is no way to make ourselves clean or to bring about this cleansing. We are sinners from birth. But Christ died for sinners, washing us clean by his blood and in the waters of baptism.

 

Most of us have experienced demonstrations of undeserved love. The embrace of a spouse after a fight. The child running into your arms unconditionally. The friend you have hurt who is still there for you. Whether you are righteous or not, they still show their love for you. Even more, Jesus loves unconditionally. He did not die for righteous people, but for sinners. No matter what we have done or where we have been “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” This is the love of God. It is amazing love, amazing grace given to us freely. You are loved, loved dearly by your Father in heaven.

 

Ξ PRAYER

Lord God, by your love, I am set free. Lead me to others who need to hear of your love for them. Amen.

Abundant Grace

Ξ SCRIPTURE PASSAGE

Read Romans 5:12-21

 

12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— 13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.

 

15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. 16 And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. 17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

 

18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. 20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

…by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.” Romans 5:19

 

Ξ REFLECTION

When I was a kid, I remember my parents saying that if you even just hung around people while they were doing something bad, you were as guilty as they were. In a simple level of comparison, that’s like our sin. Being part of the human crowd means we are sinful. This sin and the death it brings entered the world through Adam’s disobedience and rebellion against God. We are a part of the crowd of sinners called humans. It’s not just their sin, though. It is ours, too.

 

Sin is part of our human condition, but through one man, Jesus Christ, we receive a gift of God. In Jesus’ obedience, grace reigns and many will be made righteous. Through him we have eternal life. Rejoice! As Christ’s follower, you have been made righteous and are justified before God. Because of Christ you have received God’s abundant provision of grace!

 

Ξ PRAYER

Jesus, thank you for the righteousness and the life that you have given me through your obedience. Amen.

Water and Word

Ξ SCRIPTURE PASSAGE

Read Romans 6:1-14

 

1What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

 

5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

 

12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

 

We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” Romans 6:4

 

Ξ REFLECTION

God’s gift of Baptism saves by the resurrection of Christ (1 Peter 3:21). It is amazing what God does through water and the word. Martin Luther wrote, “In Baptism there is freely brought to everyone’s door such a treasure and medicine that it utterly destroys death and preserves all people alive.”

 

I once saw a movie where an escaped criminal happened to see a preacher baptizing people in the river. He looked at his two friends, who were also escapees, and said, “I want to be baptized.” He rushed down into the water and got in line. As the next person in line came to the front, the preacher dunked the sinner into the water and then lifted him up. When the criminal was dunked, his hands began to flail, his legs began to splash. There, with the water and the Word, the old Adam died. Thankfully, the preacher lifted him out of the water and a new man was born. It wasn’t the water or the preacher that did the work, it was God. In baptism, we die with Christ “so that we too may walk in newness of life.”

 

Ξ PRAYER

Lord God, you have given me new birth by water and the word. Help me to daily remember my baptism so that I too may live a new life. Amen.

Seeking True Fulfillment

Ξ SCRIPTURE PASSAGE

Read Romans 6:15-7:6

 

15 What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves,you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.

 

20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

1Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? 2 For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. 3 Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.

 

4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. 5 For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

 

But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed?” Romans 6:21

 

Ξ REFLECTION

Adrenaline junkies thrive on the thrill they receive from a 60-second freefall, a bungee cord jump or class-V river freefall. They chase that feeling in many activities. Seeking after sin sometimes has the same effect. We chase after something that seems to fulfill us temporarily because it satisfies our sinful desires. But it doesn’t truly satisfy our real needs. In fact, it makes them worse. In the end it can result in boredom, guilt, anger or dissatisfaction. Paul tells us that, in the end, there are no benefits to sin. In fact, seeking after this kind of high eventually leads to death. True freedom comes from belonging to God. His good and gracious will for us brings true, lasting, and satisfying freedom.

 

Ξ PRAYER

Lord God, guard our hearts from sin and lead us to righteousness. Amen.

Trust Me, It’s Good for You!

Ξ SCRIPTURE PASSAGE

Read Romans 7:7-25

 

7 What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” 8 But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. 9 I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. 10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.

 

13 Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. 14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

 

21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

 

Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin.” Romans 7:13

 

Ξ REFLECTION

“Eat your vegetables. They’re good for you.” Do you remember hearing these words as a child? My guess is at some point in time all of us had to be told to eat our vegetables, despite not liking them. But despite our initial response, they actually were good for us.

 

In today’s reading we are met with a similar truth – if we let the God’s commandments work in us, they will reveal not only what is wrong in us, but actually show us the goodness of God in our lives. Since sin dwells within us from the very beginning, we lost the ability to do the good that we should. As Paul says, “What I want to do I do not do.” Our sinful nature causes us to fail. The Law, which we cannot keep, condemns us. We need this message because it is God’s diagnosis. The Law crushes us because we cannot keep it and save ourselves.

 

But, in Christ, our sinful nature and actions are crucified. We rise forgiven in him. With all sin forgiven, we see the good that God intended for us all along. His will is good for us.

 

Ξ PRAYER

Heavenly Father, your word has shown me the sin that controls me. Help me to see freedom through the cross of Christ and use your word to guide me in living for you. Amen.

Count Your Blessings

Ξ SCRIPTURE PASSAGE

Read Romans 8:1-11

 

1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

 

9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

 

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you.” Romans 8:9

 

Ξ REFLECTION

This passage contrasts those “in the flesh” and those “in the Spirit.” Those “in the flesh” focus on things of the flesh, are hostile toward God, and, are unable to be subject to him. That applies to every person on their own. They cannot please God or belong to Christ. Those “in the Spirit” participate in an intimate relationship with God. They have no condemnation. They are free from the law of sin and death. They focus on things of the Spirit which dwells in them. Because of the work of Christ, God gives them life through the Spirit.

 

As a child, my family assisted in a skid-row church on a weekly basis. We handed out sandwiches. I remember a man who was carried through the line to get food. Years later, I attended a mission service in Chicago. I discovered that the pastor of that church was the man to whom we had given a sandwich years before. His life was transformed by God’s grace. We notice dramatic stories like this, but, in reality, they are true for all of us. Our lives have been transformed by Christ and his Spirit dwells in us. We belong to him.

 

Ξ PRAYER

Gracious Father, thank you that your Spirit dwells in us and is always with us. Lead us in your ways. He daily leads every step. Amen.

Hope in the Midst of Hopelessness

Ξ SCRIPTURE PASSAGE

Read Romans 8:12-25

 

12 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

 

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

 

The sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Romans 8:18

 

Ξ REFLECTION

Recently I read an e-mail from a young man who is struggling to understand why God allows suffering. He is not alone. Countless people wonder why an omnipotent and merciful God would allow all the difficulties and atrocities of this world to go on unhindered.

 

As Paul points out in today’s reading, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” Things are often not well on planet earth. There is sickness, hunger, brokenness and unbearable pain. These are signs of a broken world. However, the same God who bought our redemption through the cross will one day bring the fullness of this redemption to the whole world. That is why Paul, in hope, encourages us to “consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” One day Jesus will come. Sin and suffering will be done away with. Harmony will replace brokenness. But this will take place in God’s time, not ours. Until then, we wait in patient hope. We fix our eyes on Jesus. We take comfort, knowing that we are his children. Because of Christ, we have hope in the midst of hopelessness.

 

Ξ PRAYER

Jesus, when I can’t figure out why things happen as they do, renew my hope and help me look to you. Amen.

The Gold Star

Ξ SCRIPTURE PASSAGE

Read Romans 8:26-39

 

26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

 

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,

 

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

 

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

Neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39

 

Ξ REFLECTION

Scottish entertainer Harry Lauder lost two sons in quick succession in a World War I battle. In the depths of sorrow, he took a walk one evening. He saw gold stars hanging in the windows of many homes. Then he looked up into the evening sky and saw a very bright star. This reminded him of his heavenly Father who gave up his Son for the salvation of all. Lauder found comfort in this good news.

 

St. Paul writes, “God did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all.” No matter how great our trouble, how dark our night, Jesus Christ shines for us. The message beams from his life, death and resurrection. It radiates from Gospel and sacraments. The word, as St. Paul declares, “is a lamp shining in a dark place until the day dawns and the Morning Star rises in your hearts.”

 

God gave up his Son. The sacrifice is not in vain. He has gained us as sons and daughters. “We are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”

 

Ξ PRAYER

Dear Lord Jesus, continue to light up my life. Amen.

Holy Discontentment

Ξ SCRIPTURE PASSAGE

Read Romans 9:1-13

 

1 I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit— 2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. 4 They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. 5 To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.

 

6 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, 7 and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 8 This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. 9 For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” 10 And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— 12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

 

I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart.” Romans 9:2

 

Ξ REFLECTION

It is easy to be amazed at the life of St. Paul. He had a courageous, even fearless dedication to the Gospel no matter what the cost. As we learn in 2 Corinthians, Paul was nearly beaten to death, stoned, shipwrecked, adrift at sea, and at times cold, hungry and homeless. Yet it was not a difficult life that caused him sorrow and anguish. It was that his own people turned away from God. That broke his heart. He spent his life in a holy discontentment for all those around him who were far from God.

 

Are you in anguish for anyone close to you? I often wonder if our busyness keeps our hearts from breaking as Paul’s did. Let’s remember that we are God’s elect, saved by Christ and given the mission to go out and tell of the love that changed everything for us. In love, be like Paul this Lent.

 

Ξ PRAYER

Lord Jesus, by your blood, we became God’s children. Give us the courage of Paul to tell of your love to those near us. Amen.

It Depends…

Ξ SCRIPTURE PASSAGE

Read Romans 9:14-29

 

14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

 

19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? 25 As indeed he says in Hosea,

 

“Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’ and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’

26 And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’”

 

27 And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved, 28 for the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth fully and without delay.” 29 And as Isaiah predicted,

 

“If the Lord of hosts had not left us offspring, we would have been like Sodom and become like Gomorrah.”

 

It depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.” Romans 9:16

 

Ξ REFLECTION

“It depends…” Those two words can sound slippery. “Dad, can I have the keys?” “It depends.” That’s not a straight answer. On what does it depend? Dad could string out a long list of demands before parting with those keys!

 

Speaking about how people are embraced by God, St. Paul gives a different kind of “it depends” answer… God doesn’t give a list of demands that people must meet. It depends on God’s mercy. It doesn’t depend on us, but on him. It’s that simple.

 

God says, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy.” While he doesn’t force people to receive his gift, and is grieved when they reject him, the focus of this passage is on God. All blessings are found in him. They do not depend on us, but on his grace and mercy. Since we know that gift, we can say with the hymn writer:

 

“All depends on our possessing God’s abundant grace and blessing!”

 

We do have his grace and blessing, because it depends on him.

 

Ξ PRAYER

Loving Father, help me to reflect your mercy by making your glory known. Amen.

Living by Faith

Ξ SCRIPTURE PASSAGE

Read Romans 9:30-10:4

 

30 What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; 31 but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. 32 Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, 33 as it is written,

 

“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

 

1 Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. 2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

 

Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith.” Romans 9:30

 

Ξ REFLECTION

Paul talks about two kinds of sinfulness in this passage. That of thee Gentiles, who were secure in their sins and not even trying to pursue a righteous life, and that of Israelites, who felt they could make themselves righteous by their own abilities. Neither of these is what God desires. Rather, faith in Christ saves. Yet even this faith is impossible for us to attain! It is a gift of the Holy Spirit, not a human accomplishment.

 

Luther said this about faith, “One of the noblest and most precious virtues of faith is to close one’s eyes to this, ingenuously to desist from exploring the why and the wherefore, and cheerfully to leave everything to God.” Even when we do not understand it all, by faith, we believe in Jesus Christ and him crucified, and we believe he will guide us through this life and into the next.

 

We do have his grace and blessing, because it depends on him.

 

Ξ PRAYER

Lord God, you give us faith through your Spirit. Preserve us until you come again. Amen.

The Faithful Witness

Ξ SCRIPTURE PASSAGE

Read Romans 10:5-13

 

5 For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. 6 But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); 9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

 

With the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved… Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:10, 13

 

Ξ REFLECTION

When I was teaching in a Moscow seminary, I met a former Russian KGB agent. He was confronted with the claims of Christ upon his life, and came to faith, as did his wife. He went to the KGB office to resign knowing this would land him in prison. That day, the former Soviet Union collapsed and everyone scrambled. No action was taken against him. When I met him, he was a brilliant student. Today, he is the president of that seminary where he was trained. He believed and courageously witnessed what he believed, and God used his faithful response.

 

In today’s passage, Paul contrasts those seeking God’s peace through works with those seeking God’s peace through faith. Faith acknowledges that we are powerless to live righteously on our own. It acknowledges that Jesus is the master of life and firmly believes Jesus rose from the dead.

 

Paul explained that with the heart we believe and the result is a transformed, righteous life. This, then, leads to witnessing which may bring others to faith. Paul concludes with an emphatic statement that this is available to all people everywhere who call upon God and believe. His Gospel is available to all!

 

Ξ PRAYER

Heavenly Father, as Paul and Silas stood and witnessed in the Philippian jail, help me to demonstrate my faith by my witness. Amen.

Beautiful Feet

Ξ SCRIPTURE PASSAGE

Read Romans 10:14-21

 

14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

 

18 But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have, for

 

“Their voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.”

 

19 But I ask, did Israel not understand? First Moses says,

 

“I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation; with a foolish nation I will make you angry.”

 

20 Then Isaiah is so bold as to say,

 

“I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.”

 

21 But of Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.”

 

How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” Romans 10:15

 

Ξ REFLECTION

Have you ever really looked at feet? Some are calloused, others dirty, some need a pedicure, others have polished nails and are well kept, and still others have crooked toes. No matter how they look, I don’t know if I would particularly call them “beautiful.” However, our passage today calls feet beautiful. To be fair, it’s a figure of speech that isn’t describing feet themselves, but the arrival of people. But it got me thinking.

 

When someone brings good news, it is beautiful. Figuratively, it can be “balm to the hurting,” “cool water to the thirsty,” and “food for the hungry.” Good news is always welcome. We have been given the best news of all – the Good News. Jesus, who washed the dirty feet of his disciples, is our Redeemer, our Savior, our conqueror of death, and the giver of eternal life.

 

Since we have such good news, let’s make our feet “beautiful” and share this Good News with all!

 

Ξ PRAYER

Lord, I praise and thank you for the beautiful feet that brought the Good News to me. Amen.

Grace

Ξ SCRIPTURE PASSAGE

Read Romans 11:1-10

 

1 I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel? 3 “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life.” 4 But what is God’s reply to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” 5 So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. 6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.

 

7 What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened, 8 as it is written,

 

“God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that would not see and ears that would not hear, down to this very day.”

 

9 And David says,

 

“Let their table become a snare and a trap, a stumbling block and a retribution for them; 10 let their eyes be darkened so that they cannot see, and bend their backs forever.”

 

So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.” Romans 11:5-6

 

Ξ REFLECTION

Paul knows as well as anyone else that God’s work is all about grace. grace. Paul— known previously as Saul and the persecutor of those who followed the teachings of Jesus Christ—experienced firsthand God’s amazing work of grace in his own life. Even as he was seeking to arrest believers in Christ, Jesus called him to be “his chosen instrument to carry his name before the Gentiles” (Act 9:15). God has always used the incomprehensible to move his plan forward and it has always been grace at work. So as Paul explains to the Romans how God is working and has worked, he confidently says to them “So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.”

 

Grace means God is working. We do not do the work, we are not responsible for it, we do not earn it, we only receive grace and respond to it. God’s plan to work through the remnant, through Paul, through those in Rome and through you is grace at work. He wants you to know that his gift of grace is free, unstoppable and eternal. No matter who you are or what you have done, Christ came for you. He gives you this gift so that he can penetrate every area of your life and live for him.

 

You are saved by grace – thanks be to God!

 

Ξ PRAYER

Lord God, your ways are not my ways and I am so thankful that you have worked grace into my life. Help me to be a grace-filled person and live it out today, tomorrow—and thanks to your gift of grace—live it out with you eternally! Amen.

There Is Only One

Ξ SCRIPTURE PASSAGE

Read Romans 11:11-24

 

11 So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather, through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. 12 Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!

 

13 Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry 14 in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them. 15 For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead? 16 If the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, so is the whole lump, and if the root is holy, so are the branches.

 

17 But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, 18 do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. 19 Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” 20 That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. 22 Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. 23 And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. 24 For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree.

 

Remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you.” Romans 11:18

 

Ξ REFLECTION

A few years ago, there was a funny commercial featuring an actor playing an arrogant athlete. A reporter told him, “There is no ‘I’ in team.” He responded, “Yeah? There ain’t no ‘we’ either.” It is easy for us to become self-focused and overwhelmingly pleased with who we are: our gifts, our intelligence, our abilities, and our often self-given greatness. But at the end of the day, there really is only one who matters. God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit gives us all we are and have in life.

 

We did nothing to become a branch, nothing to tie ourselves to Christ, the root, and really nothing to possess or become who we are as people. Through God we are created, through Christ we are saved, and through the Holy Spirit we are gifted. It is through God alone we are who we are. Remembering this helps us to take the focus off ourselves and shift it back to its rightful place.

 

Ξ PRAYER

Lord God, you are great, you are everything. Teach us to put you first and make you central in our lives. Nurture us through your word, your sacraments and your people. Amen.

Blown Away

Ξ SCRIPTURE PASSAGE

Read Romans 11:25-36

 

25 Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. 26 And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written,

 

“The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob;
27 and this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins.”

 

28 As regards the gospel, they are enemies for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. 29 For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. 30 For just as you were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, 31 so they too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may now receive mercy. 32 For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.

 

33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

 

34 For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?
35 Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?”

 

36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

 

The deliverer will come.” Romans 11:26

 

Ξ REFLECTION

Mary Anne Evans, known by her pen name George Eliot, was an English novelist and leading writer of the Victorian era. She is well known for the quote “A friend is one to whom one may pour out the contents of one’s heart, chaff and grain together, knowing that gentle hands will take and sift it, keep what is worth keeping, and with a breath of kindness, blow the rest away.”

 

What a treasure it is to have friends who accept us unconditionally, keep the good, and “blow the rest away.” We have faults. We have bad days. We sin. But friends hang in there and love us through the tough stuff. God, through his mercy and gift of his Son Jesus Christ, loves us through the tough stuff too. He takes our sin and casts it as far as the east is from the west. He blows our sins away. What a friend we have in our God.

 

Even on our best days, we know that “we are unworthy servants,” as Jesus taught (Luke 17:7-10). Nevertheless, we will also remember that Jesus said: “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends” (John 15:15). Now that is grace!

 

Ξ PRAYER

“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions” (Psalm 51:1). Amen.

Not Conformed but Transformed

Ξ SCRIPTURE PASSAGE

Read Romans 12:1-8

1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

 

3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7 if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8 the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

 

I therefore urge you, brothers and sisters, through the mercies of God to present your bodies as a sacrifice that is living, holy, and well-pleasing to God; this is your reasonable worship. And do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind so that you may test and discern what is the good, well-pleasing, and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:1-2

 

Ξ REFLECTION

At some level, everyone wants to fit in. We want to belong to a group and find comfort in a shared identity. Unfortunately, many people look to conform themselves to the wrong thing. They yield to peer pressure or societal norms. They conform to the world. While this may feel like we fit in, it often means that we are out of step with God.

 

St. Paul appeals for something better. The ways of the world always fall short of God’s desires and his good plans for us. So don’t be conformed to the world. Be transformed – changed into something better. This is not by our own efforts. We are transformed by the mercies of God. By his Holy Spirit, he transforms our minds, and by his word, empowers us to know his good and perfect will.

 

When we are transformed, everything in our life, even the way we use our bodies, can be blessed by God. This is so valuable, that Paul calls it a form of worship. We worship God with transformed lives that honor him and bless others.

 

Ξ PRAYER

Merciful God, you have transformed me by your Holy Spirit. Grant that everything I do today gives honor to you and is a blessing to others. Amen.

PRAY

Prayer and fasting go hand in hand. Corporately as a church, we will meet on weekday mornings to pray together and reflect upon the sacrifice of Jesus.

 

We will be starting off the Lent season with a special Ash Wednesday Prayer Meeting, remembering our sinfulness and our need for a Saviour.

 

During the Holy Week, we will be preparing special reflection spaces where you will engage your 5 senses in reflecting on the passion and sacrifice of Jesus.

FAST

Christian fasting is abstaining from food or drink for a specific period of time while focusing on prayer and fellowship with God.

 

Fasting is a spiritual discipline, and we rely on God to give us strength. Let us not be legalistic about it, but remember the purpose of our fasting. Decide on a fast that you can be committed to, and be drawn into His presence through prayer.

 

1) COMPLETE FAST

Fasting from all food, and drinking only water.

 

2) LIQUIDS FAST

Abstaining from solid food and having only juices, soups or water.

 

3) PARTIAL FAST

A Daniel fast is abstaining from meat and only eating vegetables. You could also fast from sugar or sweets. Or even carbs.

 

4) ENTERTAINMENT FAST

You could fast from social media, Netflix, or online games.

GIVE

Isaiah 58:3-7 talks about the kind of fast that God desires: to free the captives, share with the hungry, and show hospitality to the poor.

 

One way to do this is with our giving. You can choose to give to church, a family in need, an orphanage or a charity organization.