This week’s memory verse: And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.”Mark 16:15

Pray the week: Lord, grant me the courage of the Samaritan woman – accepting my conviction and witnessing to the whole city.

Bewildered, convicted,
witnessing.

The woman left her water jar and went into the town and said to the people, “Come see a man who told me everything I have done. Could he possibly be the Christ?”

This Lent we continue our focus on the fruits of conviction. Because of our jealousies and selfishness, we face God’s conviction. In our weakness, we chose desire over faithfulness, temporary and fleeting satisfaction over eternal joy, conflict over peace, labor over work, shame, worry, cares, and threats. If we accept our conviction and plead guilty we are given access to the full treasury of God’s grace that starts with His forgiveness, the washing away of our sin.

As new people in Jesus our conviction moves from the conviction of guilt to a conviction in righteousness. We live in the assurance of God’s blessing and become all that God has called us to be.

The story of the nameless Samaritan woman at the well, recorded only in the Gospel of John, is a revealing one, full of many truths and powerful lessons.

This was an extraordinary woman. She was a Samaritan, a race of people that the Jews utterly despised as having no claim on their God, and she was an outcast and looked down upon by her own people. This woman was not welcome at the well while the other women were there – she had to come alone. She was ostracized and marked as immoral, an unmarried woman living openly with the sixth in a series of men.

What happens with this woman is a perfect parallel to the experience of all people. Her conviction by both Jews and her own people was tough to bear. She may have felt terrible about it, yet she refused to admit – really admit – her sin. She persisted in it. Yet God waits to meet her.

Jesus waited for her. Jesus meets her at the well as He meets us when we are in sin and desperate. He is there, even if we haven’t fully accepted our conviction, waiting.

In their conversation, Jesus opens the truths of His care – these truths apply to all of us. He cares, so He encounters us and speaks to us. He has something to give us that no one else can give – living water, truth that gives life. He teaches us about right worship – stemming from Sprit and truth; not just form or function or place. He knows our reality and He holds it up to us asking us to accept conviction – because in the end, we are asked to be honest. He values us enough to not just seek us, but to give us the freedom of choice; conviction or excuse. Like us, she had a choice. Like us, the gifts awaited.

The woman came to recognize God – more than the disciples had. All from one encounter. She went from bewilderment at this encounter, to conviction, to acceptance, to finally witnessing and drawing her community to Jesus. She was saved, fruit from conviction.

This week’s memory verse: What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?Romans 8:31

Pray the week: Lord, grant me true conviction in righteousness. Grant me the confidence to build Your Church and your kingdom.

Conviction from
the other side.

“Every branch of mine that bears no fruit, he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”

This Lent we are focusing on the theme of God’s conviction. Jesus told us that the Holy Spirit would come to convict the world – clearly declaring our guilt.

Recognizing the Holy Spirit’s conviction, we have a choice. We can acknowledge and accept our guilt and flee to Jesus. We can declare our faith in him, admit our sin and conviction, and make Him the Lord of our life. In doing that, all sin is forgiven and we have access to the rich treasury of grace and mercy won for us by Jesus.

On the other hand, we can ignore or self-excuse our conviction. We can bury it, and try to fill our lives with the kinds of noise that shuts out the work of the Holy Spirit. When we do that we grow deaf to God’s call. We condemn ourselves to the coldness of outsider status.

For those who accept God’s conviction, who put their faith in the Lord, something amazing happens. They move from the conviction of guilt to a conviction in righteousness. This is what happened 120 years ago.

In 1897, a group of church goers moved from the hopelessness of external faith to the deep conviction born of a declaration of faith in Jesus alone. Today we celebrate and recognize that day.

The Christian conviction they experienced, their acceptance of the Lord over “going along” transformed their hearts. They moved from an outward conformity – casual agreement and compliance with their Church’s religious rules – to a deep conviction in what God promised them.

People can casually agree or conform with a lot of things and not be fully convinced of them or even believe any of them. People can go for many years living a lie, being deceived about what they believe and what they practice. It isn’t until they face the winds of affliction that the truth of their beliefs is tested. That is when they find out whether their house is built on the Rock or it was built on the sand.

The faithful of 1897 found Christian conviction built on salvation in Jesus. With that revelation, they faced the onslaught of the enemy, of persecution, trials, and affliction standing on the Rock. They found out that their old conformity could not carry them.

As they did, we must do. The Lord knows our choice. Our challenge is to examine ourselves to see whether we are in Lord. If we have accepted our conviction and live true conviction we, like they, like the Apostles, saints, martyrs, and heroes of the faith, will move mountains, change the world, bear much fruit, and be truly victorious.

This week’s memory verse: Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.John 3:36

Pray the week: Lord, grant that I rely on Your victory. Free me from self-reliance.

Convicted and
choosing freedom.

“We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; it is only about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden that God said, ‘You shall not eat it or even touch it, lest you die.'” But the serpent said to the woman: “You certainly will not die! No, God knows well that the moment you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods who know what is good and what is evil.”

God set forth very clear directions for the young couple in the garden, the archetype (i.e., model) for all of mankind. Through them a state of sinfulness entered the world. This is not to say that we are born evil or full of sin, but like that couple, we easily fall into sin because of its allure; because we follow their model.

If we take apart the story of that couple, we see the draw of evil played out in its essence. They had everything – all of God’s gifts – food, peace, work, nothing to be ashamed of, no worries or cares, no threats. But there was that one thing, out of reach, like an apple high up in a tree.

Mmmmm, look at that, just out of reach and something to be jealous of. Why can’t I have it? Who is God to put obstacles or limitations in my way? Who is God to keep the tasty treat of full knowledge away from me? Who is God to be God – I should be god!

The young couple’s choice born of jealousy became the model for the worldly. We now have desire over faithfulness, temporary and fleeting satisfaction over eternal joy, conflict over peace, labor over work, shame, worry, cares, and threats.

Because of their choice, they had to face conviction. God enters the garden, to walk with them, and finds them guilty. Judgment falls upon them as it does on all of us – because of choices. Convicted because we, like they, fail to say, to proclaim: I will obey. I will rely.

Jesus comes into the world, as the Father did, to walk with us. He brings a new example, a new archetype, a new model for our lives. Fasting, tired, hungry, weather beaten – there it was – all power, all the food and power one might enjoy, and the fleeting promise that He could do it all without facing any consequences. Facing the same temptations that young couple faced, He chose differently. He said, I will obey. I will rely on the Father alone.

We certainly stand convicted because of our choices. The natural outcome of our choices is a judgment of guilty. It is certain death. Yet the new model, Jesus, because of His choices, because of His obedience brings us the grace of God, acquittal, the abundance of grace, and the gift of justification.

These things come to reign in our lives when we chose differently as Jesus did – You, Father, are God. I will obey. I will rely on You alone. I choose Your freedom.

He will come to convict the world of sin, to show the world what has God’s approval, and to convince the world that God judges it.

St. John relates Jesus’ last words before his arrest. Jesus tells us that the Holy Spirit is coming to convict all of us. We should be thankful! This conviction by the Holy Spirit serves two purposes. It is a starting point and an ongoing call. The Lord convicts those who are His children. It is proof that we belong to God. A believer’s conviction leads us to continuing repentance and to seeking closer union with God. Let us start Lent right, let us plead guilty, repent, and live God’s life more fully. If we recognize what the Spirit is doing for us we will be ready to truly rejoice at Easter.

Join us this Lent as we walk with Jesus so that we, together, may rejoice in His resurrection. Check out our great Lenten events, participate in directed giving, reflect during our devotional exercises, go on retreat with us, order some Easter food, and look at other great events for the months ahead.

You may view and download a copy of our March 2017 Newsletter right here.

This week’s memory verse: “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?”Matthew 16:26

Pray the week: Lord, grant that I may get up and go out, hitting the road for the Kingdom and seeking only You.

Hit the
road.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they?”

Two weeks ago, we discussed using this Pre-Lenten season as an opportunity to stretch ourselves, to warm up and prepare for the living of God’s life. We then came face-to-face with our competitive natures and how we can turn them, use them, for God’s work, not to battle each other but to build up the Body of Christ. These are both aspects of preparation – getting us ready spiritually and mentally for our Lenten journey. Are we warmed up and ready? Are we ready to compete to build the Kingdom?

We now come to how we are to live day-to-day, the words of Jesus we need to make real going into Lent.

This is the hardest part of our preparation because it is where the fullness of the faith lived life confronts us hardest. Sure, we can warm up, we can feel our competitive instinct kicking in. I’m ready to go, but then the reality of the race confronts us head on. We begin to doubt again – but the road will be bumpy, I’ll get a pebble in my shoe, my muscles will be sore, the couch looks so much more comfortable.

The couch is that comfortable place that will eventually kill us. If we sit in our habitual sins, if we rest where we are, if our charity and love do not increase, we are just inviting that heart attack. The heart attack will be that final realization that we haven’t pushed ourselves enough, we haven’t gotten as close as we can to God’s ideal life.

Jesus illustrates the various cares and worries that keep us sitting on the couch. These are the things that weigh down on us – for His listeners it was clothing, food, drink, housing, and length of life. Some of these things may be our worry, but we can certainly substitute a lot of other stuff that bears on us while we sit on our couch.

In accepting Jesus as our salvation, we were regenerated and inherited a great promise. He now confronts us with what we have done with that salvation. Have we boxed it up, put it in our laps as we sat back down on the couch or have we put it all into action?

Warmed up and ready? Ready to compete to build the Kingdom? Sure – but ready is not enough. Now is the time to get off the couch, to take the pain, to accept it with joy. Faith in Jesus, acceptance of His promises requires us to hit the road, to go. The grace of Jesus is not a cushion for our pews but is that adrenaline we need to reject worry and do all needed to seek only the kingdom.

Donna Hanson Munafo had a vision several years ago to visit a different “church” each Sunday morning and then share her experiences. After each visit she posts her impressions and thoughts to her Church Journeys website. Donna’s passion and purpose is to edify and encourage area churches, help bring unity to the Body of Christ and give insight to those who have never been to a particular “church.”

Donna wrote a beautiful reflection based on her visit with us last Sunday.

Thank you for visiting our parish and for your beautiful work for the Kingdom.