“Staying Put in the Country of Grace”

“When we went under the water [in baptism], we left the old country of sin behind; when we came up out of the water, we entered into the new country of grace—a new life in a new land!” — Romans 6:3 (The Message)

We used to live in the “old country of sin.” In that country, sin was our master. We were its slaves. We obeyed sin by doing things that opposed God and God’s good purposes. For those of us who’ve been Christians all of our lives, it’s hard to believe that’s what our lives would be like: that sin would have such dictatorial power to rule whatever we said or did.

Thanks be to God that we don’t live in that “old country of sin!” Instead, we live in the “country of grace.” How is this possible? Because of Christ’s death and resurrection for us and the work of the Spirit in us. Jesus is our Master now. We are his servants and friends. So, we no longer have to obey sin. Rather, led by the Spirit, we obey our Lord Jesus.

Of course, temptation and sin are still able to lure us back to the “old country of sin.” Though sin is not our master anymore, it and its sidekick temptation still have the ability to lead us astray…if we choose to listen to their voices and to obey them instead.

The holy season of Lent is a special opportunity—a forty-day period before Easter—to steel our commitment to follow the lead of the Spirit, to tune out the voices of sin and temptation and listen instead to the Master’s voice and to obey it. When we do that, we stay put in “the country of grace.” That’s our home; that’s where we belong!

We’ll begin the Lenten journey on Ash Wednesday, March 6, at 6:30 PM in the sanctuary (see this website’s front page). With ashes in the form of a cross pressed on our foreheads, we’ll hear the words, “Consider yourself dead to sin and alive in Christ.” It’s a reminder that we have “a new life” in this land of grace.

On this Lenten journey, we encourage you to do things that enhance life in this land of grace: worship the Lord on Sundays; begin or end your day by reading Scripture or a devotional (see the March Tower Talk newsletter on this website to learn more); pray in your car, at work, reading the news, whenever; give sacrificially of your money and time.

However the Spirit leads, I pray all of us will leave the season of Lent more faithful citizens in the country of God’s grace.

Grace and peace,




“This is my commandment: that you love one another as I have loved you.” — John 15:12

Like many, when I turn the calendar to February, I think of Valentine’s Day. We don’t know much about its history or its patron saint. We do know that Valentine’s Day has deeps roots in both Christian and Roman tradition. As for St. Valentine, the Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of them martyrs with varying legends about what led to their demise.

One legend holds that Valentine was a priest in Rome in the 200’s AD. When the Roman emperor decided that single men were better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men. Realizing the injustice of the decree, Valentine defied it by performing secret marriages for young lovers. When the emperor learned of this, he ordered Valentine be put to death.

The legends of all three saints highlight a heroic and romantic figure. As a day of romance, Valentine’s Day celebrates that legendary status. It wasn’t until about the Middle Ages, however, that the day was definitively associated with love. Valentine greetings date to at least the Middle Ages, though written Valentine’s didn’t emerge until after 1400. The oldest known valentine is a poem written in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London.

As we commemorate the day with spouses, friends, and loved ones, I hope we’ll also remember Jesus’ command to love one another as he has loved us. Let’s particularly remember those who may feel unloved or unworthy of love, another’s or God’s. In short, may we embody the Lord’s love, wrapping our arms around not only those we know and love but also around any who need to know that love in their lives.

Grace and peace,