Union or Communion?

If you are part of a Cursillo community, you will be familiar with the idea of reunion groups. A reunion group is a meeting of friends who hold one another accountable in their spiritual life. The discussion centers around our piety, study and action, and how we have been doing in those areas. One of the questions we ask one another about study is, “What was the most helpful Spiritual insight from you study? (since the last meeting). Here’s a recent one of mine. It’s a quote from a book I’ve been reading by John Ortberg.

“Rankin Wilbourne writes about an old distinction between union with God and communion with God. Union is an objective connection –for example, I will always be my parents’ child; whereas communion is a subjective sense of closeness that will wax and wane.”

A while back when our Bible study group was learning about union with Christ, I found myself wondering, “If I have this wonderful union with Jesus, why do I still sin? Why don’t I feel closer to Him?” This is the answer. I hope it helps you understand this concept better, too!

For more about union with Christ see these posts:

Sinclair Ferguson and Union with Christ

Union With Christ — Four Principles

How Big is Our Union with Christ?

A Failure to Commit

Lately I’ve been thinking about commitment. It started with a discussion in my bible study group. As we talked about church discipline, we realized how seldom it happens these days. Rather than accept discipline (which admittedly is not pleasant at the time), people simply change congregations. It’s easier to move on to a community that doesn’t know about the sin or doesn’t care about it.

At the same time, I’ve been reading a book by John Ortberg which I’ll review in a later post. It’s about relationships, and in one of the chapters, he deals with commitment, especially commitment to our marriage and to friends. Many people don’t want to get married any longer. Younger people tell me, “Why bother? It won’t make my partner any more willing to stay with me.” High divorce rates have eroded our trust in this important covenant. Many people don’t have deep or lasting friendships, either. Friendship is measured by the number of followers we can attract on our social media accounts. It doesn’t involve face-to-face interaction, and those who dare to disagree with us can easily be “ghosted.”

Finally, I spent some time talking with a lady at church on Sunday. She bemoaned the fact that the community service ministry she was part of seemed to be dying out. The volunteers are all older and soon won’t be able to do the work. People just don’t care to get involved. They have no connection to their neighbors, or the community at large.

God doesn’t want us to live an uncommitted life. In the book of Genesis, He says:

“It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.” Genesis 2:18

Marriage is meant to be deep and enduring. Over time, we become “one flesh.” Friendships are also important. In interacting with others, we grow in wisdom and understanding. “Just as iron sharpens iron, friends sharpen the minds of each other.” Proverbs 27:17. The congregation is described as a body, the body of Christ. When we walk away, we damage not only ourselves, but also Jesus and His mission on earth.

Commitment is not easy. It involves enduring through seasons of dryness. It means continuing to love people when we don’t agree. It requires us be vulnerable and admit our failures. However, in the long term the rewards are great.

“Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart.” Proverbs 3:3

For more posts about marriage and friendship see:

The Marriage Challenge – A Book Review

Spiritual Friendship — What is it?

Friendship Promises – Book Review

Rosa Young, the first Lutheran Rosa

Rosa Young

Today’s post is about an incredible saint of the church whom might not be very famous among us women.

Rosa (1890-1971) was a black girl living in the countryside of Rosebud. She always had the desire to study and teach, and thankfully her parents always backed her up. She attended the African Methodist Episcopal School and won several scholastic awards and even became editor of the school newspaper. After graduating, she started teaching at different African-American schools until she got determined to build her own private school. In the same year the school was inaugurated and it was a success, she had support from her family and neighbors. The thing is that some years later a plague reached out and her school struggled a lot to survive. She heard about LCMS and sent a letter to them asking for help so she wouldn’t have to close the school. The Missouri Synod sent veteran missionary pastor Rev. Nils J. Baake to survey the situation. Rosa then turned the management and property of the school over to the Lutherans and stayed on as a teacher and advisor there. The Lutheran Church provided money, materials, and other forms of help to maintain the quality of the school.

Afterwards she was confirmed as a Lutheran and founded more and more schools. Many of her students entered the Holy Ministry or became parochial school teachers. She served the church as not only a teacher but truly as a missionary. Her support and service lead to the foundation of many churches and Lutheran schools.
It is important to bear in mind that she was not only a woman but a black woman. It was definitely not easy for her to go through prejudice, insecurities and frustrations because of her historical background, but she didn’t give up. Her strength was in Christ and He was the one guiding her and opening the doors so His work would be done through her life.

May God give us all her strength and perseverance!

If I Were a Mouse by Karma Wilson–Book Review

Children love to pretend. In this beautifully illustrated book, a little boy imagines what it would be like to be a mouse, an owl, a squirrel, a chickadee or a cat. Finally, he thanks God, the creator who made him a little boy.

The story is related with bouncy rhymes that youngsters will enjoy. There is very little in the way of religious teaching, but it may help parents begin a discussion about God as the maker of all things.


For more Christian books for children see these posts:

I Can Only Imagine by Bart Millard — Book Review

God Loves the Animals by Jan & Mike Berenstain–Book Review

The Promises of God Storybook Bible by Jennifer Lyell–Book Review

All Creatures of Our God and King

The words of the hymn, “All Creatures of Our God and King” were taken from the poem, Canticle of the Sun, written by St Francis of Assisi in 1225. (This poem is based upon Psalm 148.)  The words were translated into English and set to music by William Draper sometime between 1899 and 1919. Draper at the time was rector of a Church of England parish church at Adel near Leeds. It was written for the church’s Whitsun festival celebration, and later published in 1919 in the Public-School Hymn book. It became a very popular hymn and is currently used in 179 different hymnals.

Even if it is familiar to you, you’ll enjoy hearing it again today!

For more about St. Francis of Assisi see these posts:

St. Francis Set to Music

Chasing Francis by Ian Morgan Cron–Book Review

A Channel of Your Peace

Seeking Wisdom by Julia Cameron — Book Review

I have mixed feelings about this book. The author is involved in a twelve-step program, as are many of the people she interviews. I have a great respect for AA and other similar groups, but in this book, the “higher power” most often espoused seems to be a God of the person’s own making, not the God of the Bible. The author states that:

“Their conceptions of God varied from ‘an energy’ to ‘best friend’ to benevolent something’, from Baptist to Catholic, Buddhist to Hindu, but all agreed that God is real and we can contact God.”

She even advises readers to “create the god you would like to talk to.”

If you can put all that aside, and it isn’t easy, she offers many good suggestions for journaling and prayer practices. Every page also offers quotes about prayer (I love quotes!), but once again they are a mixed bag using the words of traditional Christians (including Martin Luther) along with others that are Buddhist, Hindu or just secular.

VERDICT: 4 for readability and practical suggestions; 0 for theology. Be sure you are able to separate the wheat from the chaff if you decide to read this one. Certainly not a book to recommend to young or new believers.

For more about prayer see these posts:

The Holy Spirit and Prayer

A Prayer of Surrender

The Lord’s Prayer with commentary by Rick Warren–Book Review

What Makes Us Wise?

At church this past Sunday, these verses were in one of the readings:

“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:14-17

It’s pretty clear — the Scriptures are the source of our wisdom. They reveal the foundational truths that lead to saving faith. They are useful for correcting false beliefs. When we have a good grasp of God’s Word, we have a standard which helps us judge the many ideas we hear and read daily. They teach us appropriate behavior. The ten commandments, the parables of Jesus, and many real-life examples show us how to enjoy good relationships with others and with God. The Scriptures also teach us about our spiritual gifts, and the responsibility to use those gifts. When we seek to align our lives with biblical truth, we will be happier, and the world will be a better place.

So, the thrust of this post is — study the Bible. As the verses point out, many of us have owned one since were youngsters. Do you open it daily? Do you use commentaries to help you understand it better? Do you attend a study group? Do you ask your pastor if you have questions? If not, make a plan. You don’t have to do everything at once but begin somewhere.

Wisdom doesn’t just happen. Becoming wise is a process, one in which each of us must participate, if we hope to grow and improve. Listening to a sermon once a week is not enough. Be in the Word daily and apply what you learn. It’s the way to become truly wise.

For more about studying the Scripture see these posts:

Looking for a Bible Study?

The Greatest Bible Study

The CSB Worldview Study Bible

All Will be Well by Lacy Finn Borgo–Book Review

Author Lacy Finn Borgo is an experienced spiritual director, who loves to work with children. Her book, which combines the story of Julian of Norwich with the experiences of a modern-day little girl, also named Julian. Julian’s grandmother is ill, and Julian is worried. Through discussions with her grandmother, and experiencing God’s presence in nature, she learns to trust that “all will be well” even if Mimi does not get better.

This book is an excellent vehicle for talking to elementary aged children about their feelings related to death, illness and unanswered prayer. There is a page at the end with suggestions about guiding your child through experiences of grief and loss, sadness and pain.

The text is accompanied by charming illustrations created by Rebecca Evans.

VERDICT: 5 Stars. Practical and beautiful!

For more books for children see these posts:

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

Just Like You by Marla Stewart Konrad

Let There Be Light by Archbishop Desmond Tutu–Book Review

Wisdom and Priorities

I’ve been reading through the Psalms during my morning devotional time. Here’s the phrase that stuck out for me in Psalm 90:

“So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” Psalm 90:12

Sometimes we forget that we have a limited amount of time here on earth. The same Psalm tells us:

“The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty…”Psalm 90:10

It’s easy to get caught up in the demands of daily life — our jobs, our children, our household tasks. We neglect the eternal for the temporal. I’m as guilty of this as you are. Even though I’m retired, I load myself up with chores that are probably unimportant in the long run. Does it really matter if I wash the kitchen floor every week? Do I need to peruse the grocery store ads over and over to find the best price on every single item I need this week? Couldn’t that load of laundry wait an extra day? Must the bulletin board at church be updated TODAY? These things are not unimportant, but they are also not time sensitive and crucial. If we’re wise we’ll put first things first.

A friend recently told me that this was the message Jesus was trying to get across to Martha, in the familiar story we find in Luke, chapter 10. She was angry because her sister Mary chose to sit at the feet of Jesus, listening to his teaching, instead of helping with the housework. But couldn’t both sisters have done this, and then worked together to finish the chores? Yes, the guests needed to be served, but the words of Christ were “the good portion.” Luke 10:42b

So let’s all be wise. Do what needs to be done, but remember our time is short. Don’t neglect the best things — prayer, worship, study and service to others –these should be given the highest priority in our lives.

For more about wisdom see these posts:

Wisdom = Peace

Wisdom and Purity of Heart

Wisdom and Understanding

A Communion Hymn

Does your congregation sing during the distribution of Communion? It’s a common practice among Lutherans. Recently the church I attended used this hymn for that purpose. It was written by Friedrich C. Heyder (1677-1754), who was born in Merseburg, Germany. He was a deacon there, and later became a pastor. This hymn is highly regarded as a catechetical tool (in other words, it teaches us). Listen and reflect upon the meaning of the Sacrament of Communion in your own life.

For more hymns used during Holy Communion see these posts:

I Lay My Sins on Jesus

I Am The Bread of Life

Just As I Am