Encouragement for a lifelong journey of faith

Category: Lent 2021 (Page 4 of 10)

March 15, 2021 – Gifts, Not Wages

Today’s Bible Reading

The wages that sin pays are death, but God’s gift is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 6:23

More thoughts for meditation

Our society values work so much, that until very recently, aid to families in need was tied to whether or not they worked. Paul and Jesus have a much different idea of how we get our value. We get it from God who gifted us our very lives.

I love this translation of this familiar passage. The payment for the work of sin is death. When we labor for injustice and evil, death follows. So wherever we see death in our world, we know that sin is lurking closely by. If you want to uncover the sin, look at our society and see where death is.

The contrast that Paul makes here is topsy-turvy though. Instead of assigning us to do more work, for better or different wages, he offers something else entirely. Life is given to us, and eternal life through God. We know this to be true in our hearts because we have not worked to collect the very life we live now. Our existence, on its own, is a miraculous gift. We did nothing to “earn” it. Our life isn’t the result of compensation, it’s a result of unending love.

That unending love and generosity of God is made fully known through the work of Jesus Christ on the cross. Jesus gifts us eternal life, and so we no longer need to toil to try to achieve it. We can freely receive it and we are transformed by it. Paul suggests that the free grace we receive is not an excuse to continue to labor for death, but to be transformed, and start acting in collaboration and allegiance with Jesus. So yes, we continue to labor, but not for our own salvation, but rather in partnership with God for the redemption of the world. So others may partake in this gift, too.

Suggestions for action

Consider your relationship with work and wages today. Are you tempted to believe that your redemption or salvation is a matter of your own labor? To lower the volume a little bit, do you think you have to work for the love from your family and friends? Today, pray that God releases you of that burden and frees you to receive love with no labor agreement. If you already feel liberated from such a burden, pray for others to be freed similarly.

March 14, 2021 — Grace over judgment

Today’s Bible reading

Now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation. — Colossians 1:22

In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace. — Romans 6:11-14

You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. — John 15:3-4

More thoughts for meditation

The apostle Paul wrote those first two passages in a law-based society like ours, where the lens of law can divide people’s thinking into binary categories like good and bad and label everything accordingly.

The gospel of Jesus is a radical expansion from this narrow way of judgment. God has a much fuller way of knowing and being known. It starts with grace and ends with grace, like Andrew’s song goes: grace over grace out of You overflowing. It looks like acceptance over rejection. It looks like patience and hospitality in real time. It looks like Jesus’s outstretched arms on the cross. It looks like knowing that we’re on the journey to resurrection, and things aren’t all finished yet. It looks like making space to learn to see ourselves as God sees us: without blemish and free from accusation. The law constricts like anxiety; grace makes space for something new to grow into wholeness and maturity. Grace invites an embodied flow of service, participation, and expression.

Grace is always available. It’s who we are, alive in Christ! But the way to experience it is to keep offering ourselves to God. This turning to Christ shields us from the accusations of our own hearts. We are already clean by the Word he has spoken to us — his own self! But turning toward him again and again and again helps us know and LIVE from our firm standing in body, mind, and spirit.

Suggestions for action

Listen to First, the Word on our music table to help you center in on the truth about you and God. Then pray:

Grace over grace out of you overflowing

Join in our body and make it your home.

Plan to be in our at-home Sunday meeting today, to help make our whole Body a grace-filled home! Receive the gift of Jesus in the communion meal.

 

March 13, 2021 — Vision over reaction

Today’s Bible reading:

If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. — 1 Corinthians 10:12-13

More thoughts for meditation:

This week we are exploring what it means to be dead to sin and alive in Christ. This involves realizing that there are more options and resources available to us than we may know. There is a way out of old patterns, even when we can’t see it. Being alive in Christ involves imagination.

I come from a long line of quick reactors and over-reactors. Most of the reactions come from fear of something worse happening than what is already happening. Dying to sin for me means pausing in that fear and considering what else God might have on the table. What else is possible? What does God want to do? Being alive in Christ means moving with that vision instead of my fear.

Suggestions for action: 

Think about the next year of your life in one big picture, like you are standing on a vista and looking out over the horizon. What would you like to accomplish or become? Invite Jesus into this consideration with you, because more might be possible than you even imagine. Write down your conclusions so you can refer back to them later when you’re tempted to simply react to life’s circumstances.

March 12, 2021 — Connection over separation

Today’s Bible reading:

The Spirit then compelled Jesus to go into the wilderness, where he was tempted by Satan for forty days. He was out among the wild animals, and angels took care of him. — Mark 1:12-13

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. — Romans 8:38-39

More thoughts for meditation:

A fast from some regular comfort during Lent can simulate a “separation” that causes us to seek more connection with God. Jesus did this by fasting from food in the desert, and he was not abandoned in his distress. The Father responded to his need for care with connection that was much greater than his lack of food.

On the cross he may have feared abandonment and disconnection under the weight of sin. But his quote of Psalm 22 (My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?) actually reveals a trust that leads to great rescue. There was never any abandonment or disconnection; how could God be separated from God’s self? But sin can threaten our experience of connection. The Psalm ends in ultimate victory: that all the earth will turn to the Lord, for he has done it! “He has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.” Jesus was proclaiming eternal connection for all on the cross.

Being alive in Christ means dying to the fear that we will NEVER be abandoned by God. Separation is impossible; he is the ground of our being, as the mystics say. We can draw from his life by seeking and noticing and enjoying his presence.

Suggestions for action: 

Read Psalm 22. See if you can relate to the feelings. See if you can see Jesus, and yourself in him. Take heart that there is always victory and rescue by trusting in God.

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