The Good Old Days?

After reading chapters 6 & 7 of Ecclesiastes, this is what stood out for me:

“Say not, ‘Why were the former days better than these?’ For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.”  Ecclesiastes 7:10”

It seems that I hear many people my age bemoaning the present, and longing for the past.  Things were better then;  people were more courteous;  more people went to church;  children were not so spoiled, and so on. Some of these things may be true, but bad things are always going on (I talked about this in a previous post– Hoping for Something New?. It also depends upon your particular situation and perspective.  For example, somebody recently who is a bit older than I am said she grew up in the best of times — however, if you were a person of color during that era, you probably wouldn’t look back on those days so fondly.  Jim Crow laws, segregation, and discrimination were widespread.

God calls us to look forward, not back.  When He punished His Old Testament people by exiling them to Babylon, they were told by the prophet Jeremiah:

Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” Jeremiah 29:5-7

 

In other words, make the best of things in the place and time where God has placed you.  He has work for you to do. Stop complaining and concentrate on being a blessing to others.

In the New Testament Paul echoes the same sentiment:

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 3:13-14

Yearning for the good old days is not helpful or God-pleasing.  It is not wise.  It is not even realistic!  Instead  look forward to the future God has prepared for you.

 

 

 

For more posts about the book of Ecclesiastes see:

God Moments in Ecclesiastes

Ecclesiastes 3:3

Two Are Better Than One

Help! I’m Married to My Pastor by Jani Ortlund–Book Review

Many of the problems addressed in this book by Jani Ortlund are common to all marriages.  Everyone wants to support their spouse in his or her calling, everyone sometimes struggles with putting romance back into their relationship, managing a career while raising small children or dealing with depression. As the wife of a pastor for the past 16 years, I’ve also been the wife of banker, a financial advisor, a political appointee (yes, they were all the same man) and faced many of the issues that the author describes before I was the pastor’s wife.

Of course, there are some areas that are unique to being a ministry wife.  Mrs. Ortlund discusses how to respond to hearing her husband criticized, the hurt experienced when members who are also friends leave the church, or when false rumors circulate.  Families of pastors often feel pressured to be everything to everyone in the church, and to be perfect.  These unreal expectations can lead to disappointment and burnout.  This book will be helpful to any pastor’s wife who needs to know shie is not alone, that others have walked in her shoes and understand her feelings.  It will be especially helpful to younger women who find themselves immediately in a role that demands both self confidence and humility.

At the end of each chapter there is a short letter to the pastor, explaining how he can help his wife cope with the pressures of her position within the church.  The book also includes  an appendix of scriptural prayers a ministry wife can pray for her husband.

VERDICT:  3 STARS.  Well written and practical, but  it was not especially useful to me. Younger wives may appreciate it more.

The Lutheran Ladies received a free copy of this book in return for a fair and honest review.  Disclaimer pursuant to FTC 16 CPR 255.

For more on being a pastor’s wife see:

What’s a Pastor’s Wife To Do?

 

Being a Biblical Christian, part 2

This is part 2 of my husband’s sermon on living biblically.

George Barna, who is well-known for his work doing surveys about the church was asked how we can know what another person truly believes?  How can asking questions open up something which can be kept hidden?  In his answer, Dr. Barna said that he does not just ask people what they believe, he also questions them about what they do.  The he said this:

“You do what you believe.  If your behavior doesn’t represent your (stated) beliefs, it’s not really a belief.”

Jesus says the same thing.  At the close of the Sermon on the Mount, he speaks of false prophets and how to tell who they are, saying:

“You will recognize them by their fruit…. every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. “

In other words, if you are believer, you will have a living faith, one which presents itself to the world through deeds.  Let’s continue with Paul’s words in the book of Romans:

For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. For just as we have many parts in one body and all the body’s parts do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually parts of one another.  However, since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to use them properly: if prophecy, in proportion to one’s faith; if service, in the act of serving; or the one who teaches, in the act of teaching; or the one who exhorts, in the work of exhortation; the one who gives, with generosity; the one who is in leadership, with diligence; the one who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.” Romans 12:3-8

Essentially what Paul does here is move everything that is spiritual out to the rest of our lives..There are people whose Christianity is limited pretty much to an hour or so on Sunday;  but our worship isn’t confined to one space, once a week.  Rather, our entire life is worship.

When someone lives a life of faith that is framed by a truly biblical worldview, they will come to understand how it is that God has blessed them in terms of the tasks prepared for them to do which build up His kingdom.  As Carl Olaf Rosenius said:

“Believers are not to use their time and gifts according to their fancy, but these are to be used for the glory of Him who paid such a tremendous price for us.”

Being a Biblical Christian

This is from the 2nd sermon my husband gave on having a biblical worldview.

Two things are important if we are to be biblical Christians.  First, we must understand and admit to the total sovereignty of God over His whole creation –including us.  Far to many people don’t do that.  I contend that one of the main reasons for our failure to admit God’s rule over our lives is our sinful desire to deny the truth of election  (see         –in other words, we want to believe we have some part to play in our salvation and having convinced ourselves of that, we then begin to think that if I’m in control of my salvation because I’ve made a decision for Christ, then I also have the right to determine which parts of Scripture I’m going to follow and what I can ignore or deny.

While few people express themselves that clearly, study after study has shown that is precisely how many who call themselves Christians think and act.  I want to turn our attention to the 12th chapter of Paul’s letter to the Romans:

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”  Romans 12:1-2

Paul doesn’t begin with an order to people, because he expects Christians to want to live their lives in a holy and acceptable way.  Luther says of this verse:

“For he who does it (presents his life this way) not willingly, solely as a result of admonition, he is no Christian.”

In other words, Paul is speaking here to believers and he is saying that he knows this is how you want to live — as a living sacrifice.  You do not do it out of some desire to appear good to the world, or to earn credit with God, you offer yourself as a sacrifice because God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him shall be saved.

The Apostle then shows us what it means in our day to day lives — we won’t conform to the world, but we will be transformed by the renewal of our minds.

To be continued …..

For more on sacrificial living see:

Living Sacrifice

What is a God Pleasing Sacrifice?

Be Transformed

 

The Perfect Pastor

My husband is retiring soon, and a call committee has formed.  I came across this list of qualities for the perfect pastor in a book I’ll be reviewing soon (Help My Husband is My Pastor) and I thought it would provide a bit of humor to a serious situation.  I’m sure you’ve read similar lists in the past:

  • He preaches a sermon of exactly 20 minutes in which everyone is convicted, but no one is offended
  • He is 27 years old and full of energy, but has thirty years of preaching experience.
  • He invests 25 hours a week in sermon prep, 20 hours in counseling, 10 hours in meetings, 5 hours dealing with emergencies, 20 hours doing visitation and evangelism, 6 hours at weddings and funerals, 30 hours in prayer and meditation, 12 hours writing letters, 8 hours on administration, and 10 hours in creative thinking.
  • He is a seminary graduate who uses only one and two syllable words.
  • His children are perfect
  • His mother is rich
  • His wife plays the piano
  • He doesn’t need his salary and gives most of it away
  • He is talented, gifted, scholarly, practical, popular, compassionate, understanding, patient, level-headed, dependable, loving, caring, neat, organized, cheerful, and above all humble.

Let’s face it, ministry is not an easy job and it’s difficult for any human being to live up to the expectations of others.  So, give your pastor a break — I’m sure he’s not perfect!

 

For a similar post see:

The Perfect Church?

 

Do Not Be Rash With Your Mouth

Here’s what stood out for me in my lection divina reading of Ecclesiastes, Chapter 5:

“Do not be rash with your mouth …. therefore let your words be few.” Ecclesiastes 5:2

Sins of the tongue are among the hardest to avoid.  I’m an introvert, so I do tend to think before I speak, but my tongue still gets away from me!  I like to use the acronym T.H.I.N..K,

  • T — is it true?
  • H–is it helpful?
  • I–is it inspiring?
  • N–is it necessary?
  • K–is it kind?

Most of the time, it works.  However, recently I was speaking with a neighbor about somebody else in our neighborhood, and I made a few comments — they were true, and I wanted to think they were helpful;  they weren’t even unkind — but in retrospect, I’m not sure they were necessary.  I fear they were thinly disguised gossip.  I simply got carried away with displaying my more intimate knowledge of this person and it was not God-pleasing.

No wonder the tongue is described this way:

“… the tongue is a small part of the body, but it boasts of great things. Consider how small a spark sets a great forest ablaze.  The tongue also is a fire, a world of wickedness among the parts of the body. It pollutes the whole person, sets the course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell” James 3:5-6

Words are an instance when less is more.  Keep your words few and gracious.  Once spoken, they can’t be called back.

For more posts on the tongue see:

Hold Your Tongue!

Live at Peace/Tame Your Tongue

Zip It by Karen Ehman–Book Review

 

Little Things

“Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up.”  Romans 15:2

Sometimes we feel inadequate to do God’s work in the world, but there is always something we can do.  Start with the “little things” mentioned in this quote– they may be more important to someone you know than any great thing!

“Look around you, first in your own family, then among your friends and neighbors, and see whether there be not some one whose little burden you can lighten, whose little cares you may lessen, whose little pleasures you can promote, whose little wants and wishes you can gratify.  Giving up cheerfully our own occupations to attend to others, is one of the little kindnesses and self-denials.  Doing little things that nobody likes to do, but which must be done by someone, is another.  It may seem to many, that if they avoid little unkindnesses, they must necessarily be doing all that is right to their family and friends;  but it is not enough to abstain from sharp words, sneering tones, petty contradiction, or daily little selfish cares;  we must be active and earnest in kindness, not merely passive and inoffensive.

Henrietta Wilson, 1852

For more on kindness see:
The Kindness Crown

Deep Kindness by Houston Kraft–Book Review

A Quote on Kindness

What Do I Do With Worry by Dr. Josh and Christi Straub

Willow is a child who worries.  She’s just moved to a new neighborhood and has a ton of “what ifs.”  What if nobody likes me?  What if my new bedroom is scary?  What if the store doesn’t have my favorite cookies.  She even worries about telling her parents she’s worried because “what if they get mad at me?”

If you have a youngster who is a worrier, you’ll want this book.  Willow’s grandma gives her some simple and effective advice for handling those squirmy worries.

  1. Name your worry
  2. Talk about your worry to someone you love
  3. Draw a picture of what you would do if God held your worry for you
  4. Talk to God and thank Him for holding your worries

Will this solve everything or make worries go away?  Probably not.  However, it opens the discussion and encourages children to trust God and others by being open about the things that cause them anxiety.  It also has some helpful first steps for dealing with worry.

This is a sturdy board book suitable for children from preschool through grade 3.

For another book by the same authors see:

What Am I Feeling? by Dr. Josh and Christi Straub–Book Review

VERDICT:  5 STARS.  I think it could be a helpful way to approach this important subject with young children.

The Lutheran Ladies received a free e-copy of this book in return for a fair and honest reviews.  Disclaimer pursuant to FTC 16 CPR 55.

Can We Pick & Choose?

This is a continuation of my husband’s sermon on the Christian worldview.

For the previous posts from his sermon see:

What is my Worldview?

Some Scary Statistics

Predestination?

Decision theology has contributed to our troubles by focusing the theology taught in the Church less on God than it should and more on man.  This feeds the sinful desires of our hearts to be in charge of our lives, both in the world and eternally.  It teaches us to look not to God alone, but to ourselves.

Over the years this has translated into the widespread idea that we can pick and choose what bits of Scripture we want to believe and those which we don’t want to believe or accept as motivators in our lives.  It hits at the very center of our faith by undermining our belief in the sacred Scriptures where God reveals Himself and His plans to us.  So if the words bound together from Genesis to Revelation are not trustworthy and true in their entirety, then just what can we trust and what can we believe?  Instead of clinging to divine revelation, we cling to our own sinful selves, and that is dangerous.  Paul wrote to us, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Christ” and we have changed that phrase to “blessed be me, for I can decide what I believe and what I choose not to believe.”

As you and I go about our life, we must ask ourselves several questions.  First do I know what the Bible teaches about faith and life sufficiently well for it to guide me in all I say and do?  Frankly, I suspect few can say “yes” to that question because they have not taken the time or made the effort to study the Scriptures.  They don’t go to Bible studies or Sunday School, they don’t read their Bibles in a deep way which leads to a firm grasp of its teaching.  We need to understand the whole counsel of God, not just some parts of it.

Second, am I willing to stand out in the world as someone who does not seem to belong here?  We are citizens of another land, where there is no illness, death, or weakness, only joy and peace eternal.  And that should make us seem unusual, maybe even a bit foolish.

The third question we must ask ourselves is what do I have to change in my life so that I an be counted as one who lives the way God wants me to live, who thinks the way God wants me to think, and who is truly a disciple.

Predestination?

This is the third in the series about my husband’s series on having a Christian worldview.

For the first two sections see:

Some Scary Statistics

What is my Worldview?

“Praise be to the God and Father of our LORD Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will- to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.’  Ephesians 1:3-6

The doctrine of predestination or election is spelled out very clearly in these verses.  Indeed, this doctrine is central to Lutheran understanding of how sinners are made right with God, how we, who are by nature sinful and unclean, can be brought into the presence of a holy God in whom there is no imperfection.  In chapter 2 of Ephesians, Paul writes this to us:

“For by grace you have been saved through faith.  And this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God …”

And yet, throughout the history of the Church, there have been those who taught that our salvation depends, not upon God’s sovereign choice, but at least in part, on our own efforts to be saved.  The idea an be seen in the Roman Catholic teaching that we are to do our best, and God will supply the rest.  For example, if a full glass of water represents a place of salvation and I can only, by my efforts fill it half full — God will supply the other half.

While the 16th century Reformers rejected that idea, another form came into being not long afterwards.  We find this error today called “decision theology.”  It says that we must “make a decision for Christ.”  He is offering us salvation, but we have to say yes to the offer.  I’ve heard it described as a man drowning in a swimming pool and God throws a life preserver to him, but the man must grab it in order to be saved.  It’s a nice analogy, but it’s wrong.  We are already dead in the bottom on the water and only by being lifted out of the pool and resusitated  can we be saved.  It’s too late for us to grab onto anything.

Stay tuned for more ….