The Catechism Teaches

The book I’ve been using this month for my daily devotional time (Be Thou My Vision by Jonathan Gibson–Book Review) includes a reading each day from one of the Reformed catechisms. I’m finding that to be a good exercise, and one that I would recommend to others. I had my husband (a Lutheran pastor) write an article about the why the catechism is important for teaching us the basics of the faith. It follows below.

A major concern for Luther and other Reformers was the level of ignorance about the basics of the Christian faith amongst lay people. This led to a number of different catechisms throughout the newly established Protestant churches. Luther published his Small Catechism in 1529. It was meant for use in the home where the father would teach his family and servants the fundamentals of the 10 Commandments, the Sacraments, the Lord’s Prayer, the Office of the Keys and the Apostle’s Creed. There was a short explanation of each of these topics.

Luther also wrote a Large Catechism which expands the teaching on the fundamentals and was intended for use by pastors and more educated adults. Both the Large and Small Catechisms are included in the Book of Concord, the Lutheran confessional documents.

Over the years the Small Catechism became the basis for confirmation studies and Luther’s goal of having it taught in the home fell into general disuse. This change led theologians to add more detail to the explanations as a teaching vehicle.

The Catechism itself spurred governments to expand free education so their people could read and understand them. In the 18th century the Danish/Norwegian king asked Erik Pontoppidan to write a detailed explanation of the Catechism which was then used as part of the public education in that realm. Pontoppidan’s work remains the basis for newer issues of the Catechism to this day.

P.S.(a note from Joan) In case you are interested in the origin of words, as I am (probably another English major trait), it comes from a Greek word, which simply means to teach or instruct, especially in a face-to-face manner.

For more about the Reformation see these posts:

How the Reformation Changed the Environment

The Importance of The Reformation

A Book of Questions — Luther’s Catechism

The Word Teaches

Of course, the best teacher, aside from Jesus Himself, is the Bible, the Word of God. In Isaiah, we read:

so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:11

That means if we’re serious about being teachable Christians, we should be reading the Scriptures regularly, if not daily. When we read, it’s helpful to use a commentary or a study Bible that can put the Word into the proper historical context, explain what those words would have meant to the original hearers, link the words to other references in the Bible, and so on. Of course, you also need to make sure the commentary you are using is a good one. Ask your pastor for suggestions,or check out what is available at Concordia Publishing (, a safe source for Lutherans.

In addition, read slowly and carefully. Think about what stands out for you, and how it may apply to your own life. Bible study is not only about book learning, being able to spew out facts and information — it’s about allowing it to transform our lives.

Currently I’ve been using a tool called The M’Cheyne Reading Plan. It was developed by a 19th Century Scottish minister, Robert Murray M’Cheyne, (sometimes spelled McCheyne) who lived from 1813-1843. It takesreaders through the New Testament and Psalms twice a year, and through the rest of the Bible once each year. There are approximately 4 chapters per day in this plan. If you would like to give it a try, you can download a copy from this site:

Tomorrow, I’ll be posting more about what the Word has been teaching me. Stay tuned!

For more about Bible study see:

The Greatest Bible Study

The CSB Worldview Study Bible

Study Resources for Ladies

Prayer for a Teachable Spirit

Divine Spirit, illumine to me the words of the Lord. Show me the wealth of glory that lies beneath the old familiar stories.

Teach me the depths of meaning hidden in the songs of Zion. Raise me to the heights of aspiration that is reached by the wings of the prophet.

Lift me to the summit of faith that is trod by the feet of the apostle. Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law. Amen.

George Matheson (27 March 1842 – 28 August 1906) a Scottish minister, hymn writer and author).

For more prayers see these posts:

Martin Luther’s Prayer about the Word

Prayer to the Holy Spirit #2

A Prayer to be part of Christ’s Victory

Martin Luther on False Teachers

When the devil sees that he cannot hurt the cause of the Gospel by destructive methods, he does it under the guise of correcting and advancing the cause of the Gospel. He would like best of all to persecute us with fire and sword, but this method has availed him little because through the blood of martyrs the church has been watered. Unable to prevail by force, he engages wicked and ungodly teachers who at first make common cause with us, then claim that they are particularly called to teach the hidden mysteries of the Scriptures to superimpose upon the first principles of Christian doctrine that we teach. This sort of thing brings the Gospel into trouble. May we all cling to the Word of Christ against the wiles of the devil, “for we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”

Martin Luther

For more quotes by Martin Luther see:

Martin Luther on God’s Word

Martin Luther on Sin

Martin Luther Quote #2 on Facing Challenges

A Praying Life by Paul E. Miller–Book Review

I’ve read many books about prayer, but I still got some new and interesting ideas from this one. The first is Paul Miller’s recommendation that we write our prayers on index cards, one for each person or category we are praying for. I’m going to try this. It should make it easier to add requests for the same person as things change, and also to remember exactly what my prayers for that person have been recently. He personally includes a Scripture verse that helps him to focus on what he is asking for that particular situation or person.

I could also relate to Miller’s insistence that we view our prayers and indeed, our life, as part of God’s story. Often we are disappointed when we our prayers aren’t answered in the time frame or way that we expect. When this happens, we need to remember that God see the big picture, and what we want may not be what is best for us and others in the long run. We’ll often be able to see God has been at work after time has passed. Suffering, for example, may not be what we want, but may result in a closer relationship with God, greater humility, or stronger faith.

The author also weaves stories from his own life experience into the narrative, with special attention to the challenges of raising his autistic daughter, Kim. This was of special interest to me as there are several autistic children in my own extended family.

VERDICT: 5 STARS. An interesting read with some new perspectives. Completely biblical

For more about prayer see these posts:

Prayer in the Night by Tish Harrison Warren–Book Review

A Father’s Prayer–Book Review

Every Which Way to Pray by Joyce Meyer–Book Review

Teaching Myself

This year at Christmas a friend of our daughter gave us a little sign as a gift — it says “Be Kind.” Then another friend wrote us a New Year’s letter in which she suggested that we all make 2022 the year of “being kind.” Maybe that’s a coincidence, or maybe it’s what I’ve learned to call a godcidence — something God is trying to tell me. At any rate, I’ve decided it’s a great idea and so this year I’m going to make a special effort to be kind.

I like to think of myself as a kind person already, and I guess in many cases I am. However, like everyone, I have my prickly points — the things that push my buttons, that cause me to react in ways that are grumpy, irritable and yes — unkind. Here are a few of them:

  1. If I don’t sleep well — which has become a rather frequent, “age-related” problem, I can become easily impatient with my family (and just about anyone else with whom I interact).
  2. I’m a generally impatient person. I don’t wait well, and I can get feisty with others who lack my concern about punctuality.
  3. I have high standards for customer service (having worked for years in a job that demanded interaction with others) and am prone to being grouchy with anyone who doesn’t meet my expectations in that regard.
  4. I have trouble being truly generous with others (isn’t this part of kindness?) because I tend to be a worrier and that makes me want to conserve my time, talents and money, in case I am in need (guess what, being unselfish is part of kindness, too).

I’m sure I can think of other situations at well, but this is a starter. I’m going to be aware of my failings and try to behave differently– more understanding, less critical. I’m going to pray to be changed. I’m going to try teaching myself, with the help of God, to have a better, kinder attitude. What about you? What will you work on teaching yourself this year?

For more posts about kindess see:

Dare to be Kind by Lizzie Velasquez–Book Review

A Kind Word

The Kindness Crown

I Am -The Names of God for Little Ones by Diane Stortz–Book Review

This board book literally sparkles! It will attract toddlers with the bright, colorful illustrations by Diane Le Feyer, and is sturdy enough to withstand lots of handling. Starting with Genesis, and ending with Revelation, each page features a very short Bible story about one of the names of God. It also includes a Bible verse and a short prayer.

Some of the names (Savior, I Am) will be difficult for the target audience (age 0-4) to completely grasp. Others, (teacher, friend) will be easier. However, all the stories are basic and offer a starting point to discuss the attributes of God with young children. It’s a book to read again and again with your children as their grows.


For more books for children see these posts:

Because I Love You by Max Lucado–Book Review

I Can Only Imagine by Bart Millard — Book Review

Every Which Way to Pray by Joyce Meyer–Book Review

Be Thou My Vision by Jonathan Gibson–Book Review

Be Thou My Vision: A Liturgy for Daily Worship by [Jonathan Gibson]

If you love the liturgy, as I do, you’ll appreciate this book which allows you to bring liturgical worship into your daily life. There are enough entries (31) to take you through a month of private devotional time or family worship. Each one includes a call to worship, praise adoration, Scripture readings, confession and assurance of pardon, a portion from one of the Creeds, prayers of intercession and closes with the Lordi’s prayer. In addition, there are several appendices at the end of the book which include the M’Cheyne Bible reading plan, The Heidelberg Catechism and Westminster Shorter Catechism and a selection of Collects. It is suggested that a section of the Bible and one of the Catechisms also be included each day.

The order of the elements is the same each day, but the content of each element varies, so that the reader is exposed to a selection of prayers and Bible readings. Much of the content comes from The Book of Common Prayer (1552). A brief introduction to the book explains the Scriptural basis for daily worship and the format used.

I am finding this to be a helpful tool for developing the spiritual disciplines of daily worship and study. You can read through the liturgy and the suggested portions of Scripture and a Catechism in less than an hour.

VERDICT: 5 STARS. I would suggest that Lutherans may want to use Luther’s Small Catechism instead of the two included; there are some doctrinal differences, especially around the understanding of the Sacraments.

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.

If you would like to purchase this book, follow the link below:

For more about spiritual disciplines see:

Spiritual Discipline For a Spiritual Life by Donald S. Witney –FTF Book Review

Fanning the Flame #16 Personal Spiritual Discipline

What is Spiritual Direction?

Teaching by Example, part 2

My grandfather was a great influence on my life. I recall going shopping with him one Saturday. As he parked the car in a tight space, he bumped into the car in front of his, making a slight dent. He left a note with him phone number and a promise to pay for any damage. He could have just driven away, but he told me that wouldn’t be right. He also owned a small grocery store and gas station where he allowed regular customers to charge their purchases and pay him on payday. He cared for his elderly mother, always giving her a gift of cash on her birthday or other special occasions–he said she never had any money of her own when he was growing up. When I was a teenager, he often treated me and other young family members to a free tank of gas when we stopped by. His actions taught me to value honesty, generosity, respect for my parents, and concern for other people. He didn’t lecture me about those things or turn them into strict rules I had to obey. He just lived in a way that inspired my admiration. I wanted to become the kind of person he was.

My own children are grown now, but I have been blessed to see some similar results in my life as a parent. When our daughter, Kate, was a teen, another parent commented on how polite she was.

“You must be a very strict disciplinarian” she said.

My reply was, “No, I just reat her with courtesy and respect, and assume she will treat others in the same way.”

Another time, my daughter, Beth, was complimented on being a good listener, and very thoughtful.

“I get that from my mom” she answered.

I’m not trying to blow my own horn, because I’ve also failed any number of times. Often my children were the ones who called me out when this happened! For example, I once advised one of my daughters to avoid a person who had hurt her.

“But mom,” she said, “doesn’t the Bible say we are to forgive severnty times seven?”

Whoops! Thankfully admitting our sins and asking for forgiveness is also something our children need to see and imitate. My point is this: for better or worse, our children will be influenced by the way we live. So, think about it. If you have your own children–or children with whom you regularly interact–what is your life teaching them?

For more about parenthood see these posts:

Modern Parents Vintage Values by Sissy Goff and Melissa Trevathan–Book Review

Change, Loss and Faith

eat, sleep, save the World by Jamie Sumner–Book Review

Teaching By Example

I recently wrote this article for the AFLC magazine, The Ambassador. It appeared in the January issue.

Years ago when my children were youngster, I read quite a few books about parenting, where I found all sorts of helpful advice. Here’s one insight I’ve never forgotten: children learn in three ways–by example, by example, and by example. Of course, that’s an oversimplification, but it draws attention to an important truth–our core values, our traditions, even our behavior, are more often “caught” than “taught.”

How do we do this? Of course, regularly going to church, Sunday school and Bible study are important. We need to learn the basics of the faith so that we understand what we believe and why. But this kind of knowledge is not enough. Polling expert George Barna reports that only 20 percent of those who attend evangelical Protestant churches have a biblical worldview. In other words, sitting in the pew doesn’t make you a practicing Christian any more than sitting in the garage makes you a car. The Bible warns that our faith is more than just intellectual assent to a set of doctrines. True faith results in Christian action.

The Apostle John wrote,

“Dear children, let us not love one another with words or speech, but in actions and in truth.”(1 John 3:18, emphasis mine)

And James echoed:

What good is it, my brothers and sisters if someone claims to have faith, but has not deeds? (James 2:14, emphasis mine)

As Lutherans, we know that we are not saved by our works, but these verses make it clear that Christian behavior will be evident in the life of a believer. What I’m describing here is the process of sanctification, and it is a process. It doesn’t happen automatically when we are baptized, or join a church, or complete confirmation classes. It’s a lifelong commitment to being transformed by the Holy Spirit into the image of Christ. If we mode this, our children will notice and remember it for the rest of their lives.

To be continued ….

For more on sanctification see these posts:

Trust God’s Process

Keep in Step with the Spirit

Everyday Faithfulness by Glenna Marshall — Book Review