Lenten Devotions 2024
Lent is a season of 40 days, not counting Sundays, which begins on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 14, and ends the Saturday before Easter.
It is a time of preparation, of self-examination and of reflection as we journey toward the cross.
The devotions in this collection, designed so that you can use one for each week of Lent, focus on love and what we learn about it from Jesus.
Love in action
By Frank Wrenn
Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for people to humble themselves?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying in sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD?
Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter — when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
— Isaiah 58:5-7, New International Version
I usually hear this Scripture at Ash Wednesday services, as my congregation begins the season of Lent. For many, Lent is a time to fast or to deny ourselves of something. It seems ironic that this Scripture would lead into this season. Yet it reminds me, even as the ashes are put on my forehead, that it is not the appearance of contrition or piety that matters, but rather the question of how I am answering God’s call to serve others.
Does it matter that I’m fasting if I’m not helping to feed those who are hungry?
Does it matter that I’m following all the rituals if I’m not fighting systemic oppression and marginalization?
Does it matter that I just attend church when I’m called to BE the Church?
There is a great difference between professing one’s faith and living it. There is a giant chasm between claiming to love our neighbor and putting God’s unbounded love into action.
Shortly after washing His disciples’ feet, Jesus proclaimed, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” John 13:34. He showed this love to His disciples by the visible action of washing their feet. The love of Christ demands action from us.
We are called not to only proclaim our faith, but to live our faith and Christ’s love through action. And isn’t that exactly what Habitat’s ministry is about? “Seeking to put God’s love into action, Habitat for Humanity brings people together to build homes, communities and hope.”
Lord, help us to know that we live in Your world and are called to love and called to be the Church: to celebrate Your presence, to love and serve others, to seek justice and resist evil. Give us the strength to break the cycle of oppression and injustice. Help us as we endeavor to be Your Church, bringing about Your kingdom on Earth. Amen.
- What am I doing to set the oppressed free? To clothe and shelter those in need?
- Do the actions of my faith community fight injustice or support the status quo?
- How am I being called to live my faith? How am I being called to love others?
Frank Wrenn is director of corporate partnerships at Habitat for Humanity International. He is based in Atlanta, Georgia, USA.
Living in love
By Karla Sandoval
Do everything in love.
— 1 Corinthians 16:14, New International Version
The command “do everything in love” is a short but powerful sentence that is both a blessing and a challenge.
I grew up in a very poor neighborhood in Costa Rica. Sometimes, when my mom didn’t have enough money to buy food for the day, she would pack up some fruits or vegetables, and we would sell them to our neighbors. Once we had enough money, we would go to the market to buy for the day. We occasionally met a family with greater needs than ours, and my mom gave away our products. I was always amazed and wondered why she did that when we needed the money, but she just smiled at me with her beautiful eyes full of love. I didn’t need any more explanation than that.
Whenever I think about the command “do everything in love,” my mind always goes to my mother’s eyes, and I remember everything she has done and continues to do because of love.
What does it mean to “do everything in love?” It is an invitation to incorporate love into every aspect of our lives. Can you imagine approaching every moment, every decision, every interaction with the thought of love in your mind?
As a part of our ministry in Habitat, it is essential for us to embrace the principle of doing everything in love and place it at the center of everything we do. This principle should guide us in our actions and goals and should be reflected in our services, programs, community initiatives and partnerships. It’s an opportunity to spread positivity and bring hope and dignity to the people we serve.
This principle encourages us to be more empathetic and understanding toward each other and to find solutions that not only address immediate needs but also empower individuals and communities with long-lasting support and care. It means taking a pause to appreciate the dedicated individuals who contribute to Habitat’s mission. It means thinking about ways in which love can be demonstrated within the team and creating an environment where each member feels valued, supported and encouraged.
Dear Father, as we reflect on Your love during the season of Lent and continue on this journey with Habitat, we humbly ask for Your guidance. May the command to “do everything in love” be more than words; may it become the heartbeat of our organization. Please bless us with the wisdom to serve with compassion, the strength to persevere in love and the humility to keep learning to love better. Amen.
- Visualize your upcoming day and the tasks you may encounter. How can you approach each of these moments with a loving and compassionate attitude?
- Think about your recent interactions and decisions. Were they guided by love? Reflect without judgment, acknowledging areas where love could have played a more prominent role.
- Explore ways to cultivate empathy and understanding within your team. How can you actively listen and comprehend the needs of those we serve? How can our work be a tangible expression of love for those in need?
Karla Sandoval is international finance director at Habitat for Humanity International. She is based in Atlanta, Georgia, USA.
Being nice vs. kind
By Jennifer T. Holmes
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
— 1 Corinthians 13:4-6, New International Version
Recently, I came across a video on YouTube titled “Stop Being Nice So You Can Be Kind.” As I watched the video, behaviors that I practice regularly in efforts to be “nice” surfaced in my mind. Normally, I feel compelled to explain the “why” behind my decisions, even when no one asks. Often, I feel the need to solve other people’s problems, even when they don’t ask for my help. For many of us, the social conditioning to be “nice” — e.g., abandoning our needs to accommodate others, assuming responsibility for “keeping the peace,” being silent about our thoughts and feelings — starts at an early age. This is particularly true for individuals who identify as female and other historically and systemically marginalized people.
Being nice is centered on what we believe we can glean from obtaining someone else’s favor. Because niceness does not require authenticity, practicing niceness regularly can lead to feelings of resentment and being overextended and underappreciated. Niceness is quite different from the kindness described in the scripture above.
Kindness is a type of love that makes room for others to live their God-given purpose without our attempting to influence them. Kindness is a love action that eliminates selfish ambition and ego. When we are motivated by kindness, we use our positions to build people instead of using people to build our positions. Kindness is a love that lives in truth. Kindness speaks truth in our relationships with God, ourselves, our colleagues, our schedules, our finances and with the people we serve through our work at Habitat. Kindness leads to everyone being honored and valued equitably.
During this time of Lent, let us choose kindness over niceness as we reflect on the love that led Jesus to the cross.
Lord, You are the best and only example of true love. We pray for the help of the Holy Spirit to resist performative behaviors such as niceness and to be led in practicing kindness as our expression of love to You. Amen.
- With whom and in what ways do you find yourself desiring to appear to be nice?
- Based on the referenced scripture, can you recall an experience when you were kind, instead of nice, and the result was disappointment for someone else? How did you handle knowing that although you took the appropriate action in the situation, the other person did not see the value of your approach? Would you handle the situation the same way in the future?
- What does kindness look like in your life?
For additional perspectives on being nice versus being kind, please see “Being a Nice Person Is Not the Same as Being Kind. Why the Difference Is So Important” from CNN.
Jennifer Holmes is a development officer at Habitat for Humanity International. She is based near Chicago, Illinois, USA.
Motivating the mission: Redefining friendship in modern times
By Cheyne Collier
May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
— Romans 15:5-6, New International Version
We don’t value friendship as much in our contemporary times, and many publications report that we are in a “friendship recession” in the United States. We typically imagine it as a transition phase to other romantic or professional partnerships and forget the power that comes with supporting others. The lack of meaningful friendship in our partnerships is negatively affecting work, mental health and our ability to strive to live well together. It is easy to focus too negatively on these divisions during seasons of sacrifice like Lent, but let us also remember that we reflect on the broken to seek restoration.
In Romans, Paul sees these effects in the Roman Church as he works through conflict with many diverse people. You have the major camps of the Jewish people and the Gentiles, but each of those groups comes from various sects, ethnicities and religious practices across the world, all with conflicting views of what is good for the new Christian movement. Paul finds the solution to the issues of this community in the others-centered love of Jesus, who was friends with tax collectors and sinners and whose closest disciples were a motley crew of people with different views and backgrounds.
We have known the power of partnership from very early on at Habitat, and it has been a staple of our mission to build adequate housing. This is why such partnership values were at the heart of the Spiritual Life team’s work on our Faith Foundations. We recognize that walking humbly with God allows us to be open to loving all of our neighbors. We are required to love others from diverse places and support each other’s burdens, especially in this season, because Lent is not just about sacrifice but sacrifice for the restoration of right relationships in the world. As we discipline ourselves to take on difficult challenges, let’s remember that we cannot wait for others to bring these partnerships to us. We must model and seek out this burden-bearing and encouraging love because it can be the light in the darkness, not only for those we serve but for ourselves also.
Loving and ever-present God, You empower us through Your love to do the impossible, but You do not leave us to do it alone. Let us find Your image in all people and work together. May we support and encourage the friendships and partnerships that You will bring us from unexpected places. May we grow through differences and challenges to bring Your vision of adequate housing for all. May we not wait for others to find us but instead seek love and listen as we forge new connections. In Your holy name, amen.
- Have unexpected friendships or partnerships come into your life? If so, how have they surprised you with support? If not, how might you be more open to receiving such relationship partnerships?
- What are some ways you can reach out to support new friends or partnerships in life and our mission?
- What challenges do you foresee in learning to understand perspectives that are not your own, and how can this be a transformative aspect of supporting each other’s burdens?
Cheyne Collier is a Spiritual Life intern at Habitat for Humanity International. He is based in Atlanta, Georgia, USA.
By Rhoda Goremucheche
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
— John 15:12-13, New International Version
As I reflected on Jesus’ commandment for us to love each other as He has loved us, I thought about how He loves.
His love is not passive or neutral. His love decides. His love acts.
Love acted when He went about doing good. Love healed the woman with the issue of blood. Love ate with the “unclean.” Love stopped, looked up at the tree and talked to Zacchaeus. At the well, love waited for the Samaritan woman. Love drove money changers from the temple. Love reasoned with Nicodemus. Love fed the 5,000 without waste. Ultimately, love hung on the cross. Love bled. Jesus laid down His life because of His love for us.
Then I thought, “What does this mean for my work with Habitat? How do I lay down my life for the families we serve (1 John 3:16–18)? I’ll never meet most of them. How do I love them?” Maybe the best way is through my work and contribution: doing everything for the Lord (Colossians 3:23). So, I’ve decided to lay down several things, like my attitude, routines, timidity and inflexibility.
I’ve been reawakened to the reality of our work — these aren’t just houses built or repaired. These are not just water facilities rehabilitated or constructed. They are not just policy positions or wins. These are not just metrics. These are life-changing actions that benefit His people — people with destinies, dreams, aspirations and plans for future generations. Therefore, love demands that I collaborate and be patient within and outside my team and that I extend and receive grace. Love demands that I learn from and with others. Love demands that I speak truth to power. Love demands that I upskill. Love demands that I live out people-centeredness in my work.
Of course, I panicked a little about how I’d pull this off. Then I remembered the Holy Spirit is our helper who comes alongside and works in us to have the will and to act to fulfill our commitments (Philippians 2:13). During Lent, as we reflect on Jesus’ ultimate act of love, let us love each other as He loved us.
Lord Jesus, You are always good. Thank You for loving us. Please help us to love each other as You have loved us. May love fuel our work at Habitat and bring glory to Your name. Amen.
- What does laying down your life as an expression of love look like to you?
- Are there specific things or areas where you feel you are being challenged to put God’s love into action through your work?
- How do you engage the Holy Spirit to help you in your work?
Rhoda Goremucheche is global evaluation and research manager at Habitat for Humanity International. She is based in Pretoria, South Africa.
Redemptive love always hangs on a caveat
By Ronald Kiconco Ongopa
Father, if You are willing, take this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.
— Luke 22:42, New International Version
There is no love like the love between a parent and child, which is why losing a child is always difficult. As Jesus prays the words in the above Scripture on the Mount of Olives, the pain associated with loss and letting go is center stage in the back-and-forth petitioning between Father and Son. It is Father and Son venturing into a realm requiring the will to lose, to give up ownership and the familiar. It is a realm of faith in the unknown, where hope is experienced before and not after, and the unseen is witnessed but not without physical pain and loss.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in his book The Cost of Discipleship, captures this standoff neatly in describing the call to discipleship: “If we must follow Jesus, we must take certain definite steps. The first step, which follows the call, cuts the disciple off from his previous existence. The call to follow at once produces a new situation. To stay in the old situation makes discipleship impossible.”
That call demands from our scriptural text a transition from “Father, if You are willing, take this cup from me …” to “… yet not my will, but Yours be done.” It is a call to obedience and, as Bonhoeffer aptly states, “places the disciple in the situation where faith is possible.”
Lent is a reminder not of negative natural unknowns that draw fear, but of redemptive love displayed throughout Scripture and in everyday people representing the church: from Abraham’s test of faith with his son Isaac (Genesis 22:1–19), to Levi’s loss of the tax collector’s booth (Matthew 9:9), to Millard Fuller’s journey to Habitat for Humanity. Redemptive love for a world so in need always hangs on the caveat “… yet not my will, but Yours be done.” It hangs on the will to give up “ownership” and rides on faith in God. Only then can it change intangible hope to a tangible experience as we put God’s love into action to build homes, communities and hope around the world.
Father, You are sovereign over all creation. Thank You for all You have given me to hold in trust and for the good laws You have put in place to govern life. As I go about this day, may I walk in confidence, knowing that You have a succession plan for everything and every situation before me. Help me do nothing but Your will in Christ Jesus, for Your kingdom’s glory. Amen.
- How often and in what ways does this Scripture resonate with you?
- What lessons do you draw from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s statement on what it takes to be a disciple?
- Are there some areas of your life where it is time to let go and let God’s will be done?
Ronald Kiconco Ongopa is director of individual giving at Habitat for Humanity International. He is based in Kampala, Uganda.
God’s love in action
By Terrance Gattis
God is not unjust; He will not forget your work and the love you have shown Him as you have helped His people and continue to help them.
— Hebrews 6:10, New International Version
While speaking about love, Mother Teresa offered these words: “Love cannot remain by itself — it has no meaning. Love has to be put into action, and that action is service.” Mother Teresa’s words remind us that love is not a noun, but rather a verb. Love is not measured by what we say. It’s measured by the actions we take and the service we render.
Lent is a time of preparation, self-examination and reflection as we journey toward the cross. It’s a time of hope and a time to remember the love that God demonstrated for us when He sent His Son to be our Savior. But how should we respond to God’s love? What actions should we take? The writer of Hebrews has given us an answer. We are to respond to God’s love by putting His love into action as we work to serve and help God’s people.
The practice of putting God’s love into action is what Habitat’s mission is all about. When we bring people together to build homes, communities and hope, not only are we helping God’s people by providing decent places to live, but we are also responding to the love that God has shown us by putting His love into action.
I was recently in Hendersonville, North Carolina, to speak at a prayer breakfast that was hosted by our Henderson County affiliate. I was blessed to see the new community that the affiliate has constructed, a community of 114 families and 400 children that includes parks, playgrounds and walking trails. When reflecting upon all the great work that this affiliate has accomplished, one can easily hear the words as recorded in the book of Hebrews: “God will not forget your work and the love you have shown Him as you have helped His people and continue to help them.”
In closing, I am reminded of a song that I learned as a boy in church, “And They’ll Know We Are Christians by Our Love.” This should be our focus during this season of Lent, that the world will know that we are Christians not by the crosses we wear, but rather by the people we help and by the work we do to put God’s love into action.
Eternal God, we thank You for loving us so much that You sent Your Son to be our Savior. We thank You that through Jesus Christ, You have given us a model for what it looks like to put Your love into action. So, as we move through this season of Lent, we pray that You make us instruments of Your love. Continue to remind us that we are called to put Your love into action as we continue to serve and help Your people. Amen.
- What are you currently doing to help God’s people, and what more could you be doing?
- Can you reflect on a time when putting God’s love into action seemed difficult? What actions did you take?
- Can you describe a time when putting God’s love into action yielded a result that was greater than you expected?
Terrance Gattis is global chaplain at Habitat for Humanity International. He is based in Atlanta, Georgia, USA.