Lent Day 20 Difficult People

Lent – Day 21

Difficult People

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34

Have you ever experienced a situation where you have to spend time or work with someone who is difficult to get along with?

Someone has hurt you in so many ways that it actually affects your character. While we’re responsible for our own character, the effect others have on us develops our character. For example, if you’ve experienced abuse, you may be distrustful. Maybe you have a competitive personality and it has left wounds on your soul. Sometimes, you wonder if they hurt you intentionally or if it’s just second-nature for them.

Jesus, hanging on the cross, looked down and saw soldiers — the ones who had beaten and ridiculed Him and who nailed His hands to the beam. They were gambling to see who could get His only possessions: His worn out clothes.

In that moment, Jesus’ character — who He was at His core — rose above unimaginable pain. Seeing beyond the rough exterior of foreign, dirty soldiers, Jesus peered deep into their souls. He saw their pain from the past. He also saw their pain in the future. It all hinged on His forgiveness.

Would He be able to forgive these men? Would He be able to take on the sin of not only these people but of all mankind? Would He take on my sin?

Even in His weakened and vulnerable state, Jesus did not give into anger, self-centeredness, self-righteousness or revenge.

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing,” he pleaded, requesting forgiveness from His Father, who had the power to rain fire on the soldiers.

In that moment of human weakness, Jesus didn’t sin. He selflessly laid down His rights to grant others something they didn’t deserve: forgiveness.

If you have been hurt so deeply that you still struggle to forgive? Please hear me. That is fair yet an unhealthy thing in the long run. But just as Christ forgives me and those soldiers, we have the choice to look at the person who hurts us and pray, “Father, forgive them, for they really don’t know what they are doing.”

Reflect and Pray

Who is the person you struggle to forgive? Why?

What is a past situation or harm that is difficult for you to forgive?

What is something Jesus has forgiven you for?

Pray that Jesus will give you the grace to forgive your difficult person, just as He has forgiven you.

Lent Day 19 Where God Sets The Lonely

Lent – Day 19

Where God Sets the Lonely

“Sing to God, sing in praise of His name, extol Him who rides on the clouds; rejoice before Him — His name is the LORD. A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families, He leads out the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.” Psalm 68:4-6

“In My Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to Myself, that where I am you may be also.” (John 14:2-3, English Standard Version)

In the early 1990’s, Monty and I left behind cherished friends for Muncie, IN. We unloaded our car full of belongings into an empty room. In a few days we would move in our furniture and the things that help us create our home. Yet even all the things familiar did not fill the gap that spanned the gap between friends and family who were half way across the country from us. More specifically, I quickly found that the wave of transition and loneliness were inseparable. We struggled to find a church that met our needs. That connection has always been the difference for our family and it was a so very challenging. It took almost a year before the sadness slipped into a sense of belonging. Over time, we would find friends that remain as true as any we have ever known. There will be seasons like this where God becomes our closest, dearest friend.

The start of a new season might feel isolating, or maybe you sense a missing connection with people in your day-to-day life. Maybe the recent pandemic has made connecting regularly with people difficult for you. You feel it deep in your soul: God made you to be among others.

At the very beginning, in the book of Genesis, God said it was not good for Adam, the man He created, to be alone (Genesis 2:18). So He crafted a companion: Eve. Human community comes in many forms. For me it came in the shape of a new church family, friends and co-workers who kept me from hiding my struggles and encouraged me to get help when I needed it.

But even more than the physical presence of relationships, humans need a spiritual connection. The Scripture readings today point to where you can ultimately find a home and the dearest friend. God meets His people in their need for family and community. The fatherless have a father because God draws near to them in their loneliness.

You were once separated from God. After Jesus died on the cross to bring forgiveness for sin, He came back to life so that you could live forever with Him. Every person who accepts this gift experiences never-ending togetherness with their Creator and will one day live in a home that Jesus has prepared. Have you accepted Him?

Respond

If you feel alone, sometimes it can seem impossible for your situation to change. But you can take a small step forward. Try writing down your thoughts to God and sending a text message to a friend. Community requires a jump to enter in and faith that God will provide.

Lent Day 18 Who Do You Play For?

Lent – Day 18

Who Do You Play For?

“Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands) — remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

For He Himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in His flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in Himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which He put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through Him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of His household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the chief cornerstone. In Him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in Him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit.” Ephesians 2:11-22

What makes a movie great? In my opinion, it’s when it touches on themes that reflect the passions in me. I love watching movies about unity; even the thought of a team that’s not united makes me feel anxious.

A favorite movie of mine is “Miracle,” based on the 1980 U.S. hockey team that beat the odds to win the gold medal. If you haven’t seen it, then after you read this, you have to check it out!

Here are the basics: the team is filled with former players from Minnesota and Boston — arch rivals. The task given to coach Herb Brooks is to get this divided group to play as one united team. Good luck.

At the film’s turning point, the players realize they no longer play for Minnesota or Boston, but for Team USA. They only begin moving toward their goal once they realize that what unites them — that greater identity — is stronger than what divides them.

The task given to coach Herb Brooks is similar to the one Jesus took on Himself: to bring two radically opposed peoples together as one. The Jews, who were God’s people from the start, and the Gentiles, who had always been their enemies. The solution found in “Miracle,” though, is only a shadow compared to the ultimate solution found at the cross.

At the cross, Jesus reconciled both people groups to God the Father and, consequently, to one another. If the church today is going to bring the gospel to all nations, then, like the U.S. hockey team, we will have to see that what unites us is stronger than what divides us. We, too, will need to believe that the team we play for now is more important than any one we played for before.

Reflect

As a Christian, before you are anything else, you are a follower of Christ. Often, nationality, church denomination or even political affiliation competes for this top spot in our identity.

What is fighting for that top spot in your heart? Confess this to God, knowing that He has already forgiven you for placing something other than Him first in your life. Pray and ask that the church today would see that what unites it is stronger than what divides it.

Lent Day 17 Looking For Water And Roots

Lent – Day 17

Looking for Water and Roots

“For My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” Jeremiah 2:13

You stuck your foot in your mouth — again — and you can’t rest as your mind rolls endlessly through the ways the conversation should have gone.

You study your bank account history to try to match up where your money went this month and wonder what you can cut out of your spending in order to pay those unexpected bills.

You feel lonely and constantly scroll on your phone to see if anyone commented on your most recent social media post — and to see if friends are hanging out without you.

When the stress of life bears down on you, where do you turn? Does your solution make everything better, or is it only a temporary fix for a deeper issue?

While I might figure out how to cope with any of these examples from my own life in the moment, there’s always something else — another problem or obstacle — waiting to keep me awake. How can I rest when I’m so easily shaken by the next thing?

We all wander, looking for answers to whatever challenges we encounter. It can feel like an endless journey, as our temporary solutions never fully fix our problems.

God identifies our problem in Jeremiah 2:13; His people have turned their backs on Him, the true source of life.

Not only that, but God says His children have a second problem. We look for what we need for life — water — in places that regularly run dry. But Jeremiah 2:13 also gives us the solution: God Himself is “the fountain of living waters.” While a tank for storing water may become empty, a fountain has its own source and continuously flows with fresh water.

A few chapters later, Jeremiah tells us what happens when you go to this fountain as your source of life:

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-8

Isn’t that what we all want? Instead of wandering, we want to be rooted. Instead of anxious* and fearful, we long to be calm and unafraid.

When your trust is in the Lord, you find your roots in Him. Christ satisfies your deepest longings. When you are rooted in Him, you can rest secure because the living water He offers will never run dry.

Pray and Respond

Set aside some time to spend in silence and in prayer, asking God to reveal to you where you are wandering, looking for stability and meaning from things that will never fully satisfy.

How are you craving “rootedness,” and what would it look like to bring that need to Jesus and find your roots in Him? Take some time to explore what Scripture has to say about Christ’s character and how He can help you rest from your particular wandering.

Lent Day 9 Shared Glory Shared Suffering

Lent – Day 9

Shared Glory, Shared Suffering

“For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by Him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs — heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory.” Romans 8:14-17

I remember the moment I realized how tightly my heart and spirit were gripped by fear. On a summer mission trip to Juneau, Alaska, I watched everyone around me take steps of faith despite their fear. One student stepped toward vulnerability, sharing her story with courage. Another stepped toward bold evangelism, inviting locals into community with us and with God. As I observed from a comfortable distance, it struck me that I’d never experience the Lord like my peers were if I stayed on the sidelines.

I took my first real leap of faith into a lake, hand-in-hand with my small group. In total disregard for my fear of water, I jumped; when I climbed back onto the dock, I couldn’t believe I had done it. I finally turned away from fear and stepped out in faith, trusting God completely, and I felt weightless. It was liberating. No longer bound by my fears, I was free to experience the fullness of God’s presence with me as I discovered new courage to do things I had been afraid of for so long. This is exactly what the Spirit’s presence promises: disencumbering assurance, peace beyond measure and freedom from fear.

This same kind of freedom comes with your adoption into the family of God. When you invite Jesus to be your Lord and Savior, the Holy Spirit enters your life. At that moment, you become God’s child. Like an orphan adopted by a loving family, you do not do anything to earn your place as God’s child. Your adoption is a permanent gift given through the Holy Spirit.

The Greek word used in this Bible passage for “adoption to sonship” refers to the full legal standing of an adopted heir in Roman society. Through adoption, you gain an inheritance — but what do you inherit? Romans 8 says that you are God’s heir and a co-heir with Christ, meaning you share in Christ’s inheritance. Your adoption into the family of God qualifies you to share in the same victory and joy as Jesus.

While you share Christ’s victory, you’ll also share His suffering. The Holy Spirit frees you from bondage to fear, but He does not eliminate suffering from your life. You will suffer disappointment, defeat, grief, frustration and obstacles far beyond your control. But the good news of your adoption is this: even when trouble comes your way, you don’t have to be afraid. Your seat at the family table is eternally reserved. Your adoption grants you full access to a heavenly Father who sees your grief, knows your heartache and delights in caring for you.

You don’t have to fear disappointment, defeat or grief because you are a child of God. And His love for you — like His love for Jesus — is infinite. Suffering will come, but so will glory, and both are shared. As a co-heir with Christ, a child of God, whatever comes, you can rest easy knowing that you’ll never have to endure suffering alone.

Reflect And Respond

Think of a time when God used your suffering to bring you closer to Him or to accomplish something that you hadn’t expected.

What might help you to remember that you are not alone when you are suffering?

In light of your adoption, what might be keeping you from experiencing the fullness of God’s presence?

Sarah Wontorcik

April 17 MRO Egg Hunt @ Bristol Motor Speedway

Please join us on Easter Sunday for an Egg Hunt at the MRO Community Center @ 2:00 p.m.

No credential. No worries. The MRO CC is located outside of the 3rd turn tunnel. You and your family can hang out with us for the entire afternoon of fun!!

2022 MRO Easter Egg Hunt

After the Egg Hunt, you and your family can enjoy an Easter Celebration sponsored by Bristol Motor Speedway @ 4:00 p.m.

Details:

https://www.bristolmotorspeedway.com/media/news/chris-tomlin-max-lucado-gary-levox-headline-special-easter-celebration-service-bms-april.html

Lent – Day 8 Lost On The Inside

Lent – Day 8

Lost On The Inside

“There was a man who had two sons…” Luke 15:11-32

Resentment about serving builds where I used to enjoy it.

Envy rises toward people who appear to lead a simpler life.

I tabulate the work I’ve accomplished for Jesus before clocking out of good deeds for the day.

Do you, as I do, tend to function like you’re God’s employee instead of a beloved member of His family?

When I’m in this kind of funk, the story of the father and his sons in Luke 15 snaps me back to reality.

A wealthy father has two sons, and one asks for his inheritance early. This son, the younger, parties his fortune away while the other stays at the family farm, working hard to build the estate. I get that life — the life of the dutiful child.

Then the younger son returns completely broke, willing to take the place of a servant. Instead, he’s welcomed back as a cherished son.

The older brother — the responsible one — now spews his resentment. He’s never felt celebrated, and he’s angry. He was there the whole time working so hard, being so good, but missing out on life.

The father finds his older son outside the house and pleads with him. “Everything I have is yours,” the father says. “You are always with me,” he adds, pleading for deeper understanding. We are left wondering about this older brother. Does he get it? Is he ever able to receive what his father wanted to give him: an invitation into his presence, to his wealth? We are left wondering how he will respond.

Regardless of whom you identify with in Jesus’ story, this invitation is extended to you too.

If you relate to the younger son, will you come home and embrace the father waiting for you? Or will you remain far from the family, hoping to work something out on your own?

If you, like me, relate to the elder brother, will you remain in the darkness, lost outside the celebration, resentful because you worked so hard for so long to earn something that was free all along? Or will you join in on the party, accepting God’s free and complete favor extended to you through His Son, Jesus?

Respond

Spend some time reflecting on Luke 15. When have you felt lost, resentful or like you had to earn God’s acceptance? What did the older son feel that he deserved? What did the father hope his older son would see about their relationship? How is the father’s character in the story similar to or different from what you understand of God?

Alison Wilson currently works with college students at Texas A&M University.

Lent Day 7 Forgiven And Free

Lent Day – Day 7

Forgiven and Free

“The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will He harbor His anger forever; He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.”Psalm 103:8-12

“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do — this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

“So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Romans 7:15-25

Reflect And Respond

What moments or patterns of sin weigh you down? Write one or two down and confess them directly to God. Give them to Him, remembering that Christ paid for these sins and more when He died on the cross. Then read Psalm 51, knowing you are a new creation, clean and forgiven in Christ.

Let’s Go God’s Story- After The Tomb

MRO Bible Time for Martinsville

“…anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” 2 Corinthians 5:17

The beauty of new life in Spring reminds me of the moment that I accepted Christ as my savior. We spend a Sunday in Spring each year to remember the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Even though we are sinners, Christ died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sin. So what do we do AFTER the resurrection? Once the tomb is empty?

For those of us who have accepted Christ as our Savior and accepted the free gift of eternal life- We are to spend our days growing in our relationship with Christ in order to be more like Him.

This week we will look at how our lives are much like planting seed, bulbs and plants that will grow and bear fruit IF we nurture and care for them.

You are fearfully and wonderfully made with a beautiful purpose that God desires you to live out through your life.

Isaiah 61:3 says it like this:

“…the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified” Isaiah 61:3

Grab your Bible, read it every day. Spend time praying and listening for God’s voice so that you will grow and become the beautiful you that only you can be!

Let’s Go God’s Story- After The Tomb