It hasn’t been a peaceful year. We’ve been anxious and worried about many things –our health, politics, the state of the world. It’s been said that only God can make a bad man good, and that’s true. I’d liked to add to that statement here at the end of 2021 and say, only God can give a worried man (or woman) peace. I wish all of our readers peace in the New Year.
“‘These things we write unto you, that your joy may be full.’ What is fullness of joy but peace? Peace is the privilege of those who are ‘filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.’ ‘Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee, because he trusteth in Thee.’ It is peace, springing from trust and innocence, and then overflowing in love towards all around him. He who is anxious thinks of himself, is suspicious of danger, speaks hurriedly, and has no time for the interests of others. He who lives in peace is at leisure, wherever his lot is cast.” John Henry Newman
Thenext few posts are taken from Advent reflections written by another Lutheran lady who has posted in the past (Martha). They were used in her own congregation during the Christmas season and focus on the roles of Jesus.
Priest: Most of us have heard Jesus called the Great High Priest before, but that’s not a role in which he was seen during his time on earth. For one thing, Jesus was of the tribe of Judah. The priests, on the other hand, were descendants of the tribe of Levi–in Deuteronomy, God establishes the priesthood in the family of Aaron, Moses’ brother. They were Levites. There was, however, a precedent for having a High Priest outside of the Levitical line, and that was Melchizedek, a king of Salem (associated with Jerusalem). He was also a High Priest. He lived in the time of Abraham, and Abraham honored him as a priest. Jesus, as Psalm 110 tells us, was “a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.”
What does it mean that Christ is our High Priest? Israelite priests followed rules of ritual purification and the High Priest was the only one who could enter the Holy of Holies (but only on Yom Kippur). Jesus, being without sin, was pure from the beginning. The priests served as intercessors between the people and God. Jesus (with the Holy Spirit) became our intercessor; moreover, by tearing the veil of the temple with his death, he gave us direct access to God the Father. The High Priest made sacrifices for the people on the Day of Atonement. Jesus sacrificed himself in the final atonement for all of our sins. Remember as you contemplate the baby in the manger that this tiny child is for all time the High Priest of all people at all times in all places.
Remember, too, that we are called to be “a royal priesthood” because we have been adopted as children of God.
In our class about false teaching, we learned there that there are two main ways the church falls into error today. These are not associated with a particular denomination, but one or the other can be observed in any number of church traditions.
The first is legalism. Some churches may require adherence to laws that are impossible to keep. (This is the same problem that the Jewish people faced.) When this kind of error is present, it often leads to the church either diluting the law, to make it easier, or inventing new rules that are easier to keep, but not biblical.
The second way churches can go astray is by espousing antinominanism. This is a big word which basically means that the law is no longer of use to Christians because it has been superseded by the gospel. In this case our behavior really doesn’t matter.
Lutherans, of course would say we need a balance between law and gospel. Both are necessary, neither should dominate. We must teach the law in order to see that we are sinful people who can’t save ourselves. We must teach the gospel to understand that through the sacrifice (once and for all) of Jesus we are saved saints of God. We will never be able to keep the law perfectly, but good works are our response of gratitude to the One who loved and saved us.
Our weekday Bible study has been discussing various false teaching– but what is that? How can it be defined? Well, we started out by reviewing the things that are essential to the Christian faith. You might say these are core values, and the basics are found in the Creeds– the Apostle’s Creed, the Nicene Creed and the Athanasian Creed.
Revelation, both general (things everyone can see and be aware of, as the complexity of nature) and specific (the Bible).
God is the starting place for truth–everything must be tested against His Word.
Man was created in God’s image, to relate to God.
Sin. Man sinned and that sin became part of us.
Christ is the perfect teacher and our atoning sacrifice.
Salvation is by grace alone, faith alone, scripture alone, through Christ alone, for the glory of God.
Eternity. Christ will redeem us, there will be judgement and God’s chosen people will live with Him forever.
False teaching always says Scripture can’t be trusted, at least not alone. However, God’s Word is a clear and sufficient guide. It has three functions: as a curb (keeping us in the right path), a mirror (revealing our sin) and a ruler (a guide with which to compare ourselves).
All of us, and all denominations are sometimes guilty of false teaching. That is why the apostle John advises us:
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 1 John 4:1
In order to do this, we must know the Scriptures well and be ready to contend for the faith by describing our beliefs.
“… in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 1 Peter 3:15
Maybe you think of spiritual formation as something privately undertaken by individuals. James C. Wilhoit promotes the idea that it is the primary responsibility of the church to transform members into Christlikeness. This is not a new idea, but one that has been neglected in recent years. Too often churches have been primarily concerned with their own “success” or survival, and too many Christians approach the congregation as consumers. Formative practices such as Bible memorization and reading; Sunday evening services with a focus on testimonies and mission, Christian summer camps, and pastoral visitation have been dropped and not replaced with any alternatives. The stated purpose of the author is to call congregations to become intentional about spiritual formation and to repent of their failure to prayerfully seek ways to open our lives and our churches to God’s grace and guidance.
The topics covered include:
*Formation through the ordinary events of life
*Responding in love and service
*Relating to others
*Practices that foster formation
There are lots of quotes, a number of appendices at the end, and references to many other books that would be useful for further study.
VERDICT: 5 STARS. Truly spot-on and helpful. It will interest both pastors and lay members who wish to revitalize their lives and their congregations.
The Lutheran Ladies received a free e-copy of this book in return for a fair and honest review. Disclaimer pursuant to FTC 16 CPR 255.
Most of you are probably already familiar with the VeggieTales series, which seeks to teach Bible stories and a biblical worldview to young children. Created in the 1990’s, it became the most popular children’s Christian franchise of all time, distributing books, CD’s, video games and more.
This particular offering is a small board book which is just the right size for little hands. The message is simple and suitable for 4-6 year olds. Jesus is the light of the world, He guides us and shines through us. The artwork features bright, primary colors, making it attractive to young children. Bouncy rhymes encourage youngsters to name the lights they see around them — the fire, the stars, fireflies, the lighthouse, as illustrations of God’s light.
VERDICT: 4 STARS. Nothing extraordinary, but perfectly fine for introducing your child to some biblical concepts.
“‘Oh, we poor people that we should be so cold and indifferent to this great joy that has been given us. For this is indeed the greatest gift, which far exceeds all else that God has created. Yet we believe so sluggishly, even though the angels proclaim and preach and sing, and their lovely song sums up the whole Christian faith, for ‘Glory to God in the highest’ is the very heart of worship.”
Here are some facts you probably don’t know about this well-known and loved Christmas song.
*It was written in 1847 by the commissionaire of wines of a small French town. He was known for his poetry but was not devout and later walked away from the church entirely.
*The music was composed by a Jewish musician, a friend of the poet.
*It became one of the most popular Christmas songs in France but was eventually denounced by the church when the backgrounds of the poet and the composer were discovered.
*It was introduced in America by a Unitarian minister who was an abolitionist. He was attracted to the song because of some lines in the third verse: “Chains shall he break for the slave is our brother; and in His name all oppression shall cease.”
*In 1906 it became the first live song ever sent via radio waves.
*It’s also my husband’s favorite Christmas song, so I’m putting it up for him (and you) to enjoy on Christmas Eve.
“We ask to know the will of God without guessing that His will is written into our very beings. We perceive that will when we discern our gifts. Our obedience and surrender to God are in a large part our obedience and surrender to our gifts. This is the message wrapped up in the parable of the talents. Our gifts are all on loan. We are responsible for expending them in the world, and we will be held accountable.” Elizabeth O’Connor in Eighth Day of Creation
When our congregation went through the Fanning the Flame process (How it Works — the Fanning the Flame Process, part 1) a few years ago, my job was Spiritual Gifts Coordinator, and it involved asking our members to complete a spiritual gift assessment, and then meeting individually with each person to help them understand the results. Some were reluctant to do this, and I have a hard time understanding why. A few people said they were leery of being “pigeon-holed.” But being aware of our natural gifts certainly doesn’t mean we can’t try something new. It may actually help us to see how our particular abilities fit into a new project. I suspect some members saw the assessment as a “test” and therefore something they could fail. This is a misconception as well. We will have high scores in some areas, and low scores in others. The point is to discover what you are best at, and everyone is good at something. I can’t help but wonder if gift assessment is avoided because once we know our gifts, we may be asked to use them, and many would rather just sit on the sidelines. We know from the parable referenced in the quote that God expects more than this. He wants our involvement and engagement in His plan to evangelize the world.
So if you have an opportunity to learn more about your spiritual gifts, please do it! You may be surprised, you may be affirmed, and you will be better able to serve God and your neighbor.
This quote seemed to go along well with my previous post about really seeing those around us.
“Jesus stands at the door knocking (Rev. 3:20). In total reality, he comes in the form of the beggar, of the dissolute human child in ragged clothes, asking for help. He confronts you in every person that you meet. As long as there are people, Christ will walk the earth as your neighbor, as the one through whom God calls you, speaks to you, makes demands on you. That is the great seriousness and great blessedness of the Advent message. Christ is standing at the door; he lives in the form of a human being among us.” ― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, God is in the Manger