“How Can I Keep from Singing” is an American Christian hymn from the 19th century, written by Baptist minister Robert Lowry. In it Lowry praises Christ and the many blessings we receive from His love every day. It was used recently as an anthem in a church service I recently attended. What a great way to start the day! If we woke up and immediately called to mind all that Jesus has given us, we would surely want to start with a song!
In our weekday Bible study of the book of Genesis, we can to some interesting questions about chapters 5 and 6. Chapter 5 lists the genealogy of Adam’s line. If you read through this chapter, you will notice how long these folks lived. Methuselah (you’ve probably heard about him) lived to be 969! How could this be? There’s plenty of speculation. Some of the suggestions are:
*Humans were purer genetically at this point in time, and there was less disease so they lived longer
*No rain had fallen yet on the earth, and the expanse of water above protected people from harmful environmental factors that hasten aging
*God gave these early humans longer life spans so that they would have more time to populate the earth
*They didn’t really live this long, they measured time differently
Here’s another mystery. Enoch, one of the descendants of Adam lived only 365 years — “he walked with God; then he was no more” Genesis 5:24. What happened to Enoch? The phrase “walking with God” is generally used in the Bible to describe someone very righteous. But did God actually take him for some reason? Or did he simply disappear, and those left behind made an assumption based on his character?
Finally, in chapter 6, we read:
“… the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose.” Genesis 6:2
Who were these sons of God? Some believe they were angels. Others suggest that the sons of God were the descendants of Adam while the daughters of man were descended from Cain.
In these and many other matters in the Bible, all we can say is that we really don’t know. God doesn’t give us every detail because that isn’t what’s important. The focus of the Scripture is God’s plan and how it will be fulfilled — and the answer to that question is Jesus.
For more about the studying the Bible see these posts:
This past week our worship service included a hymn written by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend, two of my favorite contemporary hymnists. It’s also very appropriate for Lutheran worship as the title, In Christ Alone, echos one of the Solas of the Reformation. These are five Latin phrases that state the foundational principles underlying the doctrine of salvation still taught by Lutheran and Reformed Christian. They are: Scripture alone, Faith alone, Grace alone, Christ alone, for the Glory of God alone. Listen and enjoy!
Watching this film will give you a bit of evangelical history from the 1970’s. It is the true story of a hippie street preacher, Lonnie Frisbee, who joins forces with Pastor Chuck Smith to revive his small congregation called Calvary Chapel. The movement they set off led to an explosion of baptisms and enthusiastic conversions among young people who had been (in the words of Lonnie) “looking for peace and love in the wrong places.” It was also the genesis of much of the contemporary Christian rock music used in some churches today. One of the converts is Greg Laurie, who goes on to become a well-known evangelical church leader in his own right.
From what I have read, the film is fairly true to actual events, and it does not gloss over conflicts. Some members left Pastor Chuck’s church when he began ministering to “hippies” and eventually Lonnie and Chuck disagree and go their separate ways. The acting is well done. However, the theology is all wrong from a Lutheran perspective — based on decision theology and feelings, with a charismatic flavor.
VERDICT: 3 STARS. Watch it for the history, not the theology.
If everyone I know would read this short book, the world would be a better place. It should be obvious — be polite, be forgiving, be grateful. Why don’t we follow these simple rules more often in all our relationships? I am certainly tired of the constant negativity that seems to surround us these days.
Batterson points out that “words create worlds.” The words we speak affect our mental attitude, and our attitude affects those around us. My husband (who is a pastor) if fond of saying that as Christians, we should be different. This is one very simple way to do that. In a society that’s rife with anger we can model an alternative mindset.
The book has three sections:
*The Psychology of Please
*The Science of Sorry
*The Theology of Thanks
In each one you’ll find some inspiring stories and quotes, interesting statistics and plenty of worthwhile suggestions. If you follow even a few of them, you may find yourself healthier, happier, and even holier. Give it a try.
VERDICT: 4 STARS. Basic, but certainly Biblical and refreshing.
Most Christians know about Beth Moore’s career as a speaker, Bible study author and teacher. However, reading her autobiography will give you a more complete picture of her life as a young Christian, wife and mother. Beth felt called to ministry when she was quite young, but it took years for her to discover her passion for the Bible and encouraging other women.
Beth does not present the Christian life as an easy one. She is quite candid about many difficulties in her life: the tension in her parents’ marriage, being sexually abused by her father, mental health issues experienced by her husband and her eventual rift with the Southern Baptist Church. Through it all she relies upon God and His faithfulness.
VERDICT: 4 STARS. Inspiring and insightful. It will make you laugh and cry. I enjoyed it.
In my last post, I wrote about what an ultreya is— in this post I’ll address what we actually do at an ultreya. Often the ultreya starts with some snacks (what would a Lutheran gathering be without food???). Then there is some singing. You may get a chance to hear (or request) your favorite weekend song. There are announcements about upcoming weekends and other matters of concern to the community. Then we have a speaker.
The speaker is someone who attended a weekend and is asked to share his or her struggles and successes in walking with Christ. The talk lasts about 15 minutes, and may deal with some aspect of piety, study or action (these are issues we discuss in our renewal groups). Hearing about what and how another Christian is doing helps me to make progress in my own faith walk and reminds me that I am not alone.
After the talks, the participants break into smaller groups and share a discussion question related to the talk. If a pastor is present, the meeting may end with communion and a brief worship service. Often we close with a circle prayer. Everyone is welcome to share their prayer concerns out loud, or silently in their hearts.
The ultreya gives me a sense of joy as I experience God’s presence and the love of a Christian community. It helps me to put my problems into perspective, and I feel peaceful, resting in God’s hand.
For more about Christian community see these posts:
Recently my husband and I served on a Lutheran Via de Cristo retreat weekend. The purpose of the retreat is to encourage participants to stay connected in small groups called reunion or renewal groups. There are also meetings of the larger community, and these are called ultreyas.
Via de Cristo has its roots in the Catholic Cursillo movement which originated in Spain during the 1940’s. The word ultreya is an archaic Spanish word used by Catholic pilgrims who visited the Shrine of St. James. This shrine was high up on a mountaintop, and the pilgrims had to climb to reach it, a tiring task. “Ultreya” was the word they shouted to encourage each other to keep going as they climbed, and it means to “persevere upward.”
The ultreya has been called “the reunion of the reunion groups.” It is a place to reconnect with others from your weekend. Like the renewal group, it is not a womb into which we retreat, but a springboard where we go to be energized in order to better live out our ideal to evangelize the world.
If you think of your spiritual life as a banquet, then the ultreya is a fast food stop along the way. It should never replace attending worship services at your church, or the renewal group meetings. Those are your steady meals. It shouldn’t become a duty or burden that interferes with your normal life. But now and then you need a little extra refreshment. Some comfort food. I attended my Via de Cristo weekend in 1990 and the ultreya offers a way to meet many friends I have made while serving on teams.
For the content of an ultreya stay tuned for my next post …..
For more about Lutheran Via de Cristo see these posts:
“Humility begins with seeing things as they are: God is great, and I am not. God is pure, and I am not. He is light, and the hollows of my heart are dark. He is wise, and I have miles to go. When I see things like this, I am on my way to humility. But humility will escape me if I make anything other than the Lord Jesus Christ my goal.”
From The Practice of the Presence of Jesus by Joni Eareckson Tada