Things We’re Not Meant to Learn

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“Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you.  For you yourselves are full aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.”  1 Thessalonians 5:1-2

Well, I guess you’ve all heard, once again someone is predicting the end of the world.  The date?  September 23rd, 2017.  Tomorrow!  Yikes.  There have been many, many predictions of this sort, and it’s plain to see they’ve all been wrong. Not surprising when we actually examine what the Bible has to say. In the verses above, the apostle, Paul, says there is no need for Christians to concern themselves with this question.  The end will come without warning.  Jesus, in the book of Mark says that even HE does not know the exact date:

“But concerning that day or hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”  Mark 13:32

Trying to figure out what God has specifically told us we can’t know is pretty presumptuous, not to mention downright sinful;  probably right up there with Eve eating the apple.  There is however, one big thing Jesus wants us to learn about the end of time, and here it is:

“Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know what day your Lord is coming.  But know this, if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into.  Therefore, you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”  Matthew 24:42-44

Don’t waste your time speculating about when Jesus will come again.  Simply be ready ALL THE TIME.  This passage is immediately followed by two parables:  the Ten Virgins and The Talents.  The wise virgins didn’t wait to purchase oil for their lamps;  the good servant used his talents to produce more. Don’t put your relationship with God on hold for the things that seem more important today.  Be faithful now.  Stay awake.  The Lord IS coming.  We just don’t know when.

P.S.  I fully expect to be blogging tomorrow!

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Open My Eyes

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“Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.”  Psalm 119:18

Think back to elementary school.  Two of the first words you learned to read were “look” and “see.”  They’re easy but important words.  If we really “look” at what’s around us, we see God through His creation.  You can’t look at the beauty, the design and the power of nature without marveling and realizing there must be a creator.

In the same way, we can look at people and see God’s work in their lives.  Somebody once said, “only God can make a bad man good.”  That’s true.  God changes lives, and when we look closely, we see that.  The apostle Paul changed;  Martin Luther changed;  no doubt you have changed as well.

If we open our eyes, we will see God’s presence in our worship service and in Holy Communion;  we will hear God speaking to us through the Scriptures and in all of history;  we will find God’s purpose for us in the world and society in which we live.

When we look with the eyes of faith, we will see amazing things.  So open your eyes and look, look, look!

Testing Times

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A Prayer for Times of Testing

God our Father,

Life pulls us in many directions,

and presents many possibilities.

Sometimes we do not know which way to turn.

There are so many claims upon our time, so many demands for our attention, that the very range of choices drives us to distraction.

 

It is then that we need you.

Yours is the ultimate clam on our lives;  help us to listen for it in all the other claims that are made on us.

Because we cannot do everything, help us to get our priorities right, to know what you want us to do now, and what we have to leave.

May the stress and strain of life not break us, but make us stronger for Jesus’ sake.

from The Lutheran Prayerbook

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Bonhoeffer on Learning to Listen

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listenLearning to listen is an important part of all relationships; every Christian should listen to others and to God.

PacificPilgrim

Photo Credit: B Rosen via Compfight cc (https://www.flickr.com/photos/82763263@N00/4255321476/)

The following quote is from the German theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his essay, Life Together.

“The first service that one owes to others in the fellowship consists in listening to them. Just as love to God begins with listening to His Word, so the beginning of love for the brethren is learning to listen to them. It is God’s love for us that He not only gives us His Word but also lends us His ear.

So it is His work that we do for our brother when we learn to listen to him. Christians, especially ministers, so often think they must always contribute something when they are in the company of others, that this is the one service they have to render. They forget that listening can be a greater service than speaking.

Many people are looking for an ear that…

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The Greatest Bible Study

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“They said to each other, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” Luke 24:32

This has always been one of my favorite passages of scripture, titled in my Bible, “On the Road to Emmaus.”  Two followers of Jesus meet him on the way to a village called Emmaus, shortly after the crucifixion. They do not recognize him and tell him how their teacher was crucified, and that some of the women in their company claimed that He had risen.  Jesus proceeds to lead them in the greatest Bible study of all time:

“And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” Luke 24:27

Finally he reveals himself to them at the evening meal, when he blesses and breaks the bread and gives it to them.  Wouldn’t you love to have an experience like that?  Well, guess what, you can.  We have the very words of Christ, recorded for us in the New Testament gospels;  we have the opportunity to meet with Him in the celebration of communion.  You can meet Him on the road of your own journey.  Ask Him to open your eyes;  do you feel your heart burning?

Image result for images on the road to emmaus

Book Learning #2

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In my last post, I promised to share some of what I have been reading lately.  I read widely and eclectically.  I read because I’m curious, and I like to know how and what others think.  I don’t always agree with everything I read, and so I don’t want our readers to necessarily take this post as a recommendation or endorsement of every book I mention.

First of all, in our weekly Bible study, we’re doing Acts this year.  I can certainly recommend this book!  Acts is exciting reading.  It includes miraculous events, travel, interesting people, sermons and even a ship wreck!  Written by Luke (the gospel author), it can be seen as a bridge between the gospels and the epistles and also between the work Jesus did on earth, and the work He continued to do through the Church.

In our Sunday School class, the material we are using comes from Concordia Publishing House (good if you are looking for solid Lutheran teaching, I recommend you look at their website).  This quarter we are studying kings and prophets.  Our first lesson deals with Solomon, David’s son, and his prayer for wisdom.

I’m also reading two books from our library and both are fairly new.  The first is My Utmost:  A Devotional Memoir by Macy Halford.  I chose it because I’m fond of what I call spiritual autobiographies.  I enjoy hearing about the spiritual journeys of others.  Ms. Halford was raised as a Southern Baptist;  when she was twelve, her grandmother gave her a copy of My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers.  She has read this daily devotional through every year since.  Wow!  That was the greatest take away for me — I never thought of using the same devotional over and over.  I tend to use one for a year and then it remains on my bookshelf forever, seldom touched.  This is an idea I may try.  I admit I have never used My Utmost for His Highest, but I know our author, Leslie has, so maybe she’ll chime in to tell us more about it.  (hint, hint).  I learned a lot about Oswald, who was definitely not a Lutheran.  According to Ms. Halford:

“Attempts at pinning Oswald down generally failed:  ‘He was a sort of proto-Pentecostal mystic, and Wesleyan in his theology,’ wrote an anonymous commenter on Puritanboard.com.’ That was as close to correct as one was likely to get, but it still wasn’t entirely correct.”

He definitely tends toward the Holiness traditions (Methodist and Wesleyan) and my husband and I had a lively discussion about the difference between how the Lutheran view of sanctification differs from the Holiness churches– they believe in the possibility of entire or complete sanctification” — Lutherans, I guess, believe sanctification is always incomplete, on this side of heaven.  (Maybe my friend, Nancy, who is Methodist would like to comment on this).  At any rate, according to the book, someone can read the My Utmost devotional without even noticing Oswald’s views on this.  (If you enjoy theological debates, the book also covered different views on the end times — post and pre millennial, the rapture, etc.).  The author says My Utmost has been called “the little black dress of books”  perfect for every occasion.  I liked that.

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My Utmost: A Devotional Memoir                          An Oasis in Time: How a Day of Rest Can Save Your Life by [Marilyn Paul]

The second book I am reading is written by a Jewish woman named Marilyn Paul and it’s called, An Oasis in Time:  How a Day of Rest Can Save Your Life.  I haven’t gotten too far into it — just reading a chapter a day– but it is about the importance of taking a Sabbath day of rest, and she talks about Christian and Muslin traditions, as well as her own.  I found it interesting to realize how much our life revolves around a weekly routine –on Monday, we plan the things we want to accomplish, and by Friday we’re assessing how we’ve done and winding down.  Rest is an important part of the routine (built into us since creation, when God “rested” on the last day).  Without rest, we lose that routine and become more and more burned out and stressed.  There are suggestions at the end of the chapter and exercises to help learn how to celebrate a day of rest.

Well, that’s it for me and what I have read, studied and learned about this week.  I’d like to hear from other writers and readers:  what are you reading?  What do you like/not like?  What has been edifying?  I want to hear your suggestions, too.

 

 

Book Learning

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“One Book is enough, but a thousand books is not too many!”
Martin Luther

I definitely agree with Martin Luther on this one.  Among my friends and family, I”m known as an avid reader, and sometimes even accused of being “obsessed” with books.  I read the Bible every week, but I’m also usually reading a novel and a book on some religious or spiritual topic at the same time.  That doesn’t include magazines, articles on the internet, etc..  After I retired, I worked at the public library for a while, and I’ve been in a book club.  I love being around books and discussing books.

When you’re a reader you are constantly learning.  Even a novel may teach all kinds of things about different times, places and people, You mull over ethical questions and are exposed to different points of view.   Here are some of the ways reading is good for you:

  1. It slows the process of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
  2. It reduces stress.  Reading the Bible or other spiritual texts has been shown to lower blood pressure
  3. It expands your vocabulary
  4. Gives you stronger analytical and thinking skills
  5. Improves focus and concentration
  6. Readers are better writers
  7. Promotes inner peace and tranquility
  8. Provides free entertainment

We can thank the reformers and their desire to make the Bible accessible to everyone for our own ability today to read and learn about practically any topic we chose.  So read your Bible (and something from another book) every day.  You’ll be amazed at what you can learn!  In my next post, I’ll tell you what I’ve been reading and learning.

 

Follow the Leader

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I once read somewhere that there are three ways children learn best:  by example, by example and by example.  That’s true of adults also.  Happily in the Christian life, we have the best of examples to follow:  Jesus Christ.  This song has been in my head recently, and when we sang it in our worship service last Sunday, I knew I was meant to share it.

 

What’s My Mission?

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In a recent post, Beth Ann wrote about learning to know yourself.  Nothing has helped me more in that quest than developing a personal mission statement.  Why?  Well, a mission statement helps you differentiate between the things God has chosen for you to do, and those that may be fine to do, but not necessary and those that you really shouldn’t bother about.  I find that in this busy world most of us are overwhelmed with opportunities.  How do we choose?  What is our focus?  A personal mission statement helps with that.

So, we come to the YBH question (yes, but how?).  Here are some tips for writing your statement:

  1. Think, pray and journal about it.  Read over the Bible verses that are most meaningful to you.  Write down your most fulfilling life experiences.  What are the things you enjoy doing?  When have you felt God’s pleasure?
  2. Ask a few close friends to give you a list of your best qualities and talents.
  3. Read a book or do a Bible study on the topic of spiritual gifts. (I think I’ve recommended some in a previous post). Understand what your particular gifts and talents are.
  4. Your statement should be fairly short, and to the point.  It should give you direction but not be too detailed.  For example:  “to become a better Christian” is too vague;  “to write Sunday School materials for preschoolers” is too focused.

Here’s my personal mission statement:

“To keep in mind that I am a pilgrim on a journey to draw closer to God’;  to recognize and respect this pilgrim quality in others and use my God given talents, insights, and resources to encourage them;  to enjoy the life, friends, family and work with which I have been blessed and to be a peaceful and harmonious influence in all of these places.”

My statement focuses on my primary spiritual gift (encouragement) but allows latitude in how I might use it at any given time;  as many friends affirmed my tendency to bring peace to stressful situations, I included that quality.  I wanted to remind myself of my blessings and remember to “bloom where God planted me.”

I would love for other authors and readers to share their personal mission statements, or let me know if I can help you to develop one.  God loves you and so do I!