Monthly Archives: January 2017

The Lack of-obedience.

Standard

 

I am not special. There is nothing about me that makes me better than anybody else. I do not have the discipline of perfect obedience. Though it seems many are under the (false) impression Christians think they are better. I can’t get inside everyone’s head, so I suppose I can’t say that there aren’t some (who call themselves Christians) that do think they’re better. To this I bring up one simple fact. They are then wolves in sheep’s clothing. That kind of thing occurs in ALL group types.

That being said- let me attempt to reassure. No true Christian thinks this. What we do know is that we have is a gift. Like a big secret no one has seen, yet is plainly visible. A secret that is shouted from hill tops and sung praises about, but no one has heard. Why are we less stressed, more content? The reason is we know no matter what earth throws at us; a brighter more vibrant life awaits us. When we make a mistake (which happens often) we are aware that grace is our lot, and forgiveness is our helper. We have placed our trust in the one name, that we believe is above all others. Jesus Christ.

It’s not that we think our “stuff don’t stink”, it’s not that we’re so much better at rules . . . (although because of our love and understanding of a great mercy given we do try, and fail) it’s simply that through the word of God and the help of the Holy Spirit, we are AWARE.

Aware of grace and love. Aware of a wonderful creator, and His steadfast love. We are aware that we’ve been adopted into His family, NOT because we have accomplished some awesome feat. But because He chose us. He first loved us, and through the power of his word alone, we now know.

It may be though as the good book says, that the deaf whose ears have been opened and the blind whose eyes see, believers in Christ, keep the secret that really isn’t secret. Will it be that no matter how much we praise God in song and show the wonders of His good and perfect creations, that some will remain blind and deaf?

For the record, I sometimes claim to be a rebel. Proof of my imperfections. I am no better than those who don’t hold to my beliefs. But I do have a secret I’d like to share.

Advertisements

What About the Women?

Standard

mother-teresaIn all of the rhetoric that comes out of things like the Women’s March and even the March for Life I never hear of anyone speaking about what happens to the women in the life or death situation called abortion.  This is a very personal and very emotional choice that happens to hundreds of women every day.

I wonder if anyone ever thinks about what happens to the women who decide to have an abortion?  Does anyone recognize the pain and the hurt that these women experience?  I don’t think that all these women walk out of the clinics thinking ‘I feel better now that it’s taken care of’.  I think most are crushed, shamed and emotionally devastated.

You see, I was one of those women, back in the ’70s, who walked out of a clinic.  The situation was bad; I was not married and had gotten myself tangled in a sexual situation that I found I couldn’t get out of.  Sexual addiction is a topic for another time, but that’s where I was.  When I got pregnant I went to the baby’s father and he just wanted me to “take care of it”.  Abortion hadn’t even crossed my mind until then.  I had to get the money together and with every ounce of courage I had, I walked into that clinic and had an abortion.  The amount of emotional pain I experienced can’t be explained.

The story doesn’t quite end there.  I couldn’t get out of this sexual situation.  It was an actual addiction; I hated and loved it at the same time.  So later when I thought I was pregnant again I couldn’t handle even thinking about it.  It was one of those stupid things that people do; if I don’t think it’s true, it isn’t true.  When I started bleeding I was relieved.  Then I didn’t stop bleeding.  I finally went to the doctor, who put me in the hospital thinking I was having a miscarriage.  This time my parents needed to be informed  and the shame was compounded.  I overheard the doctor talking to my mother that the baby was “viable” and the bleeding was from a severe infection.  He had decided to go ahead with the “D&C” (abortion) because of the situation.

I was so emotionally devastated that I couldn’t talk about what had happened, not with my parents, my pastor or my friends.  I ended up bottling it up inside me.  I would cry at night when no one was around.  Everyone around me thought I was doing alright but I was a mess inside.

One night while I was crying, I heard an audible voice (only to me, I’m sure) that said “you killed my children!”.  Of course I knew this.  I knew who was speaking to me.  I was raised in the church.  I knew the sixth commandment.  I ended up confessing it all to the Lord and afterwards I felt His love and His peace.  Yes, I’m forgiven and I know this with a peace that I don’t understand.  The emotional pain and grief that I feel now is like a person would feel when a child dies.  I mourn the loss of my children.

What about the women?  In all the talk  I don’t hear anyone address the issue of the women.  The emotional and mental stress of having an abortion is overwhelming.  These women need love and acceptance.   We must be sure that women who have made this choice in their lives get to hear that they can be forgiven.  When we are speaking against abortion, we need to be mindful of those who have walked that road.  These women do not need to be judged by others. The anger and hate that I have seen do nothing but compound the shame and pain that this procedure causes.  I know, because I have felt it.  For this reason I don’t talk about abortion very much.  This isn’t an abstract idea for me.  It’s very personal.

We need to be aware of the emotional and spiritual consequences of abortion.  It’s not just killing a baby.  It kills a bit of the mother as well. We need to hold out our hands to the women who, for whatever reason, have suffered this emotional pain in silence.  We need to reach them and let them know that the Lord loves them, even if they think that He couldn’t.  They need to see that they don’t need to carry the burden of guilt and shame.  Yes, the pain remains.  But for me it’s a reminder of our Lord’s forgiveness.  I carry those children in my heart and I hope to see them in heaven one day.

What is Sin?

Standard

What is sin?  In today’s culture, we often trivialize it.  We don’t even like to talk about it.  Rather than admitting to sin, we say we “made a mistake”, “used poor judgement,”  or “messed up.”  We blame it on factors we can’t control–our difficult upbringing, our desperate situation, our friends or our DNA!  Adam and Eve tried that, too.  Eve told God,

“The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” Genesis 3″13

and Adam goes even further, seeming to blame God Himself:

“The woman whom you gave to me, she gave me the fruit of the tree and I ate.”  Genesis 3:12

The apostle doesn’t mince words when he describes sin:

“Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness;  sin is lawlessness.” 1 John:3:4

A lawbreaker is a criminal;  a person who deserves punishment.  Someone who is lawless is a rebel — unwilling to obey authority.  I don’t like to think of myself this way, and you probably don’t either.  However, admitting what I really am (a lawless rebel) is the first step toward true reconciliation with God.

“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar and his word is not in us.”  1 John 1:8-10

Calling sin what it is isn’t easy;  but it is necessary.

Tools of the Trade

Standard

Image result for images of the armor of godWhen it comes to obedience, Satan is our enemy.  His wiles were behind the very first instance of disobedience in the garden, and he continues to lead us astray today.  However God has given us tools to resist the devil.  In Chapter 6 of Ephesians, the apostle Paul describes these tools and calls them “the armor of God.” (Ephesians 6:13-17)

When and how do we receive this armor?  I believe it comes with our baptism.  This is the day God claims us as His own, the day that we “put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 13:14)  Only in Him do we become righteous and capable of true obedience.

Here’s what the Lutheran Catechism says about baptism:

“It (baptism) signifies that the old Adam in us, together will all sins and evil lusts, should be drowned by daily sorrow and repentance and be put to death;  and that the new man should daily come forth and rise, to live before God in righteousness and holiness forever.”

This is based upon Romans 6: 4

“We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised form the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”

So here’s the question Paul poses:

“How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Romans 6:2)

You and I are new creations.  God gave us righteousness through Christ.  We have the armor of God.  Remembering this can help us to be obedient.

 

 

 

A Prayer of Personal Dedication (Obedience)

Standard

This prayer is from the Via de Cristo Pilgrim’s Guide, so some of you will recognize it.

Lord of my life, I know that my life is not my own.  By your death and resurrection you made me your own.  Help me to live under your direction, always ready to hear the call, “Follow Me;”  always aware of your presence;  always knowing that I have received the gift of your Spirit;  always living so that others may receive your love and mercy through me.

It is not easy to ask for these things, Lord because I know I have much to give up.  I can no longer pretend that my life is my own.  My prayer is my surrender to your care and direction.  I want to follow, Lord, but it is very hard.  I will get very tired.  I will make selfish mistakes.  I will fail time and again.  I will fall.

Show me again that there is love and mercy in your hand.  Use me in spite of my reluctance, doubt and disobedience.  Pour into me your good Spirit, so that I am not afraid to follow and fall and follow again.  Amen

Image result for via de cristo pilgrim's guide images

Psalm 1–A Psalm of Obedience

Standard

Image result for images of like a tree planted by streams of water

Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers;

but their delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his day they meditate day and night.

They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither.  In all that they do, they prosper.

The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgement, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;

for the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.

Obey Your Leaders

Standard

“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account.  Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” Hebrews 13:17

Many of you know that Hebrews is my favorite book of the Bible, and so I couldn’t let the month go by without seeing what the author had to say about obedience.  These verses come from the last chapter which is titled (at least in the NIV) “concluding exhortations.”  It contains a list of instructions to the church.  I encourage you to read this entire chapter, as it gives a wealth of good advice, boiled down to succinct statements about how Christians should behave as part of the body of Christ.

Anyway, back to our leaders.  As the wife of a Pastor, I can tell you it is not an easy job.  In fact, it’s not a job at all –it’s a calling.  Most of the pastors I know would not say they chose to be a pastor because it matched their talents, gave them a steady salary or earned them respect and recognition.  They are pastors because it’s what God wants them to do and they can’t refuse to do it without great pain.

My husband is fond of saying that the pastor is not the CEO of the church.  He is not our “boss.”  God did not give him to us as a manager, or administrator, but as a teacher, mentor and leader.  Submitting to our pastor and other church leaders, like submitting to our spouse, should not be what we have to do, it should be what we want to do.

Submitting to someone you are in a loving relationship with does not mean you can never express your opinions or disagree.  It does not mean you cannot ask questions.  It does not mean you can’t try to change their way of looking at things.  I does mean you recognize that person has your best interests at heart, and you should listen respectfully and thoughtfully to what they tell you.  If that person is an authority, you should obey them.

My husband (and other pastors) are not happy to have members blindly accept whatever he says.  He is also not happy when members simply walk away and abandon the congregation because they don’t like something he said or did.  He is happy when a member listens, and if he or she disagrees, studies the subject and asks questions.  He is happy when someone who is upset with him comes to him and talks the issue over.  These kinds of responses lead to spiritual growth and maturity, and trust me, this is what your pastor wants to see in you and in others!

So make your pastor joyful in his task.  Learn from him.  Love him.  Pray for him.  Obey him, because God has given to you.

Keeping it Simple

Standard

“With what shall I come before the Lord and bow myself before God on high?  Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old?

Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil?

Shall I give my firstborn for my transgressions, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?

He has told you, O man, what is good;  and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Micah 6:1-8

We tend to make things complicated that should be simple.  The Jews had over 600 rules to explain exactly how to follow God’s commandments.  I’m no different.  When I take on a task, I like to pin down the exact expectations, so I can be sure to measure up.  God doesn’t seem to work that way.  He made each of us unique and special. He knows our talents and gifts, our weaknesses and flaws.  Remember Beth Ann’s post about the talents?  Each servant was commended for using what they had been given, but they didn’t end up with identical results.  The only servant who was denounced, was so fearful, he didn’t do anything with the gift he was given.

So, in the verses above, God’s prophet Micah tells the people, there isn’t a certain number, or a specific type of sacrifice you need to make.  You just need to be fair and kind to others.  Spend time with me, have a humble attitude, and you will learn what you need to know and your efforts will please God.  He is, after all, your Father, who wants love and respect, not blind obedience.

Jesus tried to keep it simple, too.  In the book of Matthew when the Pharisees question him about the requirements of the law he answers:

“…’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and will all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment.  And …You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments, depend all the Law and the Prophets.”  Matthew 22:37-39

So, if I love God, my heart will be in the right place, and I’ll want to obey.  It’s won’t be a task to be completed perfectly.  It will be a natural consequence of who I am.  I guess the lesson for me here is, spend more time with God, getting to know Him, experiencing His presence, studying His Word, and my obedience, though imperfect, will please Him.  I don’t need to worry about the details.

 

Using our Talents

Standard

In my home, over an inner doorway is a plaque.  It’s very plain, not very tall but somewhat long and on that plaque it says:

To Whom Much Is Given Much Is Expected

I’ve had this for several years now and it’s to remind me to be faithful with the talents and gifts that God has given me.

The saying is what I call an “off-quote” (since it’s not exact) of Matthew 25:14-28 more commonly referred to as the Parable of the Talents.  Instead of copying it all here, I’ll give you a synopsis.  A wealthy gentleman was leaving the area and he entrusted three servants with differing amounts of gold, or as the coin was called back in the day, talents.  One received five talents, the second received two talents, and the last servant received one talent.  It doesn’t seem like the servants were given special instructions about what to do with the money they were given, but the first and second servant put the money to work and increased the amounts.  The third didn’t do anything.  When the Master returned he called each servant to account for what they did.  The first two servants had doubled the money and the wealthy Master says to both of them:

‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

The third servant was fearful.  He was afraid to lose the Master’s money so he had hidden it (kept it to himself) so he wouldn’t lose it.  I’m afraid the Master was pretty rough with him:

‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.

‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

This parable is tucked between two other parables.  The chapter starts with the parable of the Ten Virgins and ends with the parable of the Sheep and the Goats.  All of it is an explanation of the Kingdom of God.  It starts with how we need to be ready for the Bridegroom and then moves to what we are to be doing while we wait and the last chapter deals with what happens to the persons that don’t obey the warnings.

I believe this section describes what we are to be doing:

‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

These are our “talents”.  This is what we are to do.  We need to take what we are given from the Lord and increase it by giving it away to others.

So, I’m ending this blog with a confession.  Do I do this?  No, not the way I think the Lord would have me do.  I have a long way to go but I’m learning to listen to the Master’s voice.  I’m learning to hear it, so when he tells me to use my “talents” I can hear him.  This blog is an example.  I’ve been thinking about this topic ever since the first of the month and the topic of Obedience.  I need to be obedient and write what is on my heart.  That is something He has called me to do.  I am a reluctant writer.  This does not come easy to me, but I feel that anything the Lord calls you to do, isn’t going to be instantly easy.

I know that if I obey and keep doing what the Lord has directed me to do He will increase it.  I’m going to wrap this up with one more quote, this one from Luke 16:10:

 Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.

Setting Limits

Standard

Martin Luther: “On Secular Authority: How Far Does the Obedience Owed to it Extend?”

Martinluther

Author

Martin Luther

January 1, 1523

So, if a prince or a secular lord commands you to adhere to the papacy, to believe this or that, or to surrender books, then your answer should be: it is not fitting for Lucifer to sit next to God. My good Lord, I owe you obedience with my life and goods. Command me what lie within the limits of your authority, and I will obey. But if you command me to believe, or to surrender my books, I will not obey. For then you [will have] become a tyrant and overreach[ed] yourself, commanding where you have neither right or power. If he then takes away your goods and punishes you for your disobedience, then blessed are you, and you should thank God for counting you worthy to suffer for the sake of his Word. […] But I say to you: if you do not resist him and let him take away your faith or your books, then you will truly have denied God.