The Lives We Actually Have by Kate Bowler and Jessica Richie — Book Review

According to the authors, blessings are not just affirmations or expressions of gratitude for what God has done. They believe that we should bless the world as it is, and as we are, seeing God at work in all things, even those things that are trying or painful.

This is not a book to read chronologically, or rush through. It’s meant to be sipped and savored, choosing the reading or readings that are appropriate to each day. There are many categories and topics. For example:

“For this ordinary day”

“For when you need a little hope”

“For when you’ve lost someone far too soon”

“For this lovely day”

Each blessing could be considered both a prayer and a poem, a way of speaking to God about how things are right here, right now. There are also quotes from the Bible or other Christians sprinkled throughout the selections.

At the end there are selected blessings to use as devotions during the seasons of Advent and Lent.

VERDICT: 5 STARS. I loved it!

For more books by Kate Bowler and Jessica Richie see these posts:

No Cure for Being Human by Kate Bowler–Book Review

Good Enough by Kate Bowler and Jessica Richie–Book Review

Martin Luther on the Grace of God

““This grace of God is a very great, strong, mighty and active thing. It does not lie asleep in the soul. Grace hears, leads, drives, draws, changes, works all in man, and lets itself be distinctly felt and experienced. It is hidden, but its works are evident.”

Martin Luther

For more Martin Luther quotes see these posts:

The Word Did It All –Martin Luther

The Greatest Trial — A Quote by Martin Luther

A Quote from Martin Luther

What is the Venite?

At the Lenten services I’ve been attending on Wednesday evening, the venite has been used. What is this? Well, it is a piece of the liturgy used by different churches, most frequently as part of a morning service. It’s based on Psalm 95, and the Latin word “venite” is the first word of that Psalm — “come.” Evidently there are numerous versions, so I had to search to find the one that is familiar to me. Here it is!

For more about the liturgy see these posts:

The Liturgy Teaches

Learning from the Liturgy

Liturgy as Prayer

Resources for Reading the Book of Revelation

This post was written by my husband, a Lutheran pastor, who is currently teaching a study on the Book of Revelation.

There’s no doubt this book is the one Biblical account found by most people to be almost indecipherable. Not only does it seem difficult to read and understand but therre are so many different interpretations of the unusual visions give to John that many folks tend to ignore it while others over emphasize it. Too often Lutheran pastors ignore it in order to avoid having people get bogged down in its complexity. Unfortunately, that leads to people accepting views florid of Revelation which were largely unknown prior to the 19th century.
But there are sources available and accessible to lay people that can bring light into what 21st century folks sometimes see as the dark corners of the Apocalypse. I want to recommend two resources which can make the difficulties of apocalyptic literature seem open and accessible.

The first book is called More Than Conquerors by William Hendriksen. Published in the 1930’s this short book has never been out of print for a good reason—it is a spot on analysis of the vision given to John while he was exiled to the island of Patmos. My only disagreement with Hendriksen’s work is that he, like many other scholars place the writing of Revelation around the year 95 AD while I and others believe 65 AD is a likelier date.
The second book is called Courage for Today Hope for Tomorrow by Esther Onstad. Published about 50 years ago her work contains study questions which would make it usable as a Bible study tool.

The titles of these two works show the authors agreement about the meaning of Revelation, it is written for the comfort of the Church undergoing opposition and persecution in the world. John’s vision is not a “future history” but a description of the forces which seek to destroy the Church and the triumph of Christ over their evil efforts. Persecution follows the proclamation of the pure Gospel, but if we look in the back of the Book we find that God wins!

For more about the book of Revelation see these posts:

What Happens in the End Times?

More about the book of Revelation

What is Apocalyptic Literature?

Lenten Hymn #2

The hymn, “Go to Dark Gethsemane” turns a spotlight on the last hours of Christ’s passion. We see Him in the Garden of Gethsemane, the judgement hall and the cross. Finally we witness His resurrection. Each verse ends with the phrase “learn from” which encourages us to imitate Him and apply His lessons to our own lives. Can you do this?

For more about Lent see these posts:

Questions for Lent

Henri Nouwen on Lent

A Lenten Quote

It’s Not too Late …. Yet

“And rend your heart and not your garments.
Now return to the Lord your God,
For He is gracious and compassionate,
Slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness
And relenting of evil.” Joel 2:13

There is a response in our weekly Lenten services that is based on this verse from the book of Joel. Lent is to be a time of examination, reflection, and discipline. It’s not unusual for any of us to drift away from these things, as the world is always with us, and always a distraction. Here Joel reminds us that what God requires is (once again) an open heart. True piety is not about an outward appearance of holy behavior — it’s about a change in the way we think, believe and act.

It also tells us, that it is not too late to repent and change. God will not reject us for our failures if we willingly repent and turn away from evil. Think of the loving Father in the parable of the prodigal son — God is waiting to welcome us back.

However, there is another parable in the book of Matthew. It speaks of the wise and foolish virgins and being ready for the Bridegroom. Those who were foolish slept during the time of waiting, and didn’t have oil for their lamps. Afterwards, they were not admitted to the feast. At some point it will be too late. As the parable warns,

““Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.” Matthew 25:13

We do not know when we will die, and we don’t know when Christ will come again. I pray that each of us will use our time wisely, particularly during this season of Lent. The best time to return to God is NOW.

For more posts about an open heart see:

A Heart Open to Joy

An Open Heart

Open Your Heart to True Piety

A heart strangely warmed

John Wesley

Wesley was a godly theologian, born in England, who lived a life of good works and holiness. However, for a long time he lived haunted by the ghost of his own good works. Wesley needed to know the grace of the Lord Jesus.
One day, returning from a missionary trip to the United States, totally frustrated with the failure, he said “I went to America to evangelize the indigenous, but who will convert me?”. On the ship, Wesley witnessed a great storm and felt distressed, afraid to die. It was when he saw a group of Moravians on the boat, singing content and assurance, that his crisis began. Great was the contrast between them. Wesley, on the one hand, fearful of death. The Moravians, on the other hand, quiet and steady.
Wesley spent some time trying to understand the grace of God in works, but it was only in 1738, listening to an old commentary by Luther mentioned in a sermon, that he could be freed from the demands of the law. Wesley felt his heart warm and in that moment he understood that he was saved by the grace of God, not by works. He said “I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.” This experience totally changed his life, and he became a great and fervent missionary.

May the Holy Spirit, our comforter, warm more hearts today and in the future, opening our eyes to the work of Christ on the cross. And may this Christ, our Mediator and Intercessor, have mercy on us in the face of our works, of which even the best are like filthy snares. May God the Father, our creator, see us holy through the lens of the Lamb’s blood. Amen.

The Lamb Cake Story

Every family has its own stories. My daughter sent me this picture today because it reminded her of one of ours. Years ago, when the children were small, I was working and couldn’t attend Vacation Bible School at our church, so I asked the director if there was some other way I could help. The theme for that year was “Jesus, Our Shepherd, so she asked me to make a lamb cake. She even had the cake pan to lend me. Now, as I’ve said previously, crafts and art are not my talent (A Tip for Pastors) but I agreed. How hard could it be?

As you’ve probably surmised, my cake turned out looking a lot like the one on the bottom of the image. In fact, my cake would not even stand up! (thankfully, the kind VBS teachers assumed I did that on purpose, so it would be easier to cut– lol) And I actually ended up making three cakes, trying to “perfect” my technique — or at least come up with a cake wouldn’t be a complete embarrassment. And in the process I became pretty grouchy with my husband and children

The moral of this story (which I often tell) is this — know your gifts. We’re not all the same. Of course, we can all sometimes do things that stretch us and help us grow beyond our comfort zones. For example, I like to write, and that has led me to speak in front of groups so I could share something I have written (not easy for a quiet introvert). But there are some things we probably shouldn’t do. The lamb cake was one for me.

For more about spiritual gifts see:

Let Your Spiritual Gifts S–T–R–E–T–C–H You

The Gift of Mercy

The Spiritual Gift of Wisdom

A Lenten Hymn

It seems to be a tradition among Lutherans to have an evening service once a week during Lent, usually on Wednesday. This service is generally shorter than the Sunday service and doesn’t include communion. Like any other season of the church year, the same hymns are used year after year. “Lord Jesus Think on Me” is one I associate with Lent. It is an ancient Christian hymn that was written by the Bishop of Ptolemais, Synesius of Cyrene around 375 AD. as an epilog to a series of nine odes that explained the most important doctrines of the church. As you will notice, it is a prayer to Christ asking for his help in the struggles of life. It has been translated into many languages and is still widely used. Listen and give thanks for the Lord who has saved you!

For more Lenten hymns see:

Glory Be to Jesus!

O Holy Jesus

I Surrender All? Or Just Some?

Why We Need the Law (According to Martin Luther)

“The proverb has it that Hunger the best cook. The Law makes afflicted consciences hungry for Christ. Christ tastes good to them. Hungry hearts appreciated Christ. Thirsty souls are what Christ wants. He invites them; Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Christ’s benefits are so precious that He will disperse them only to those who need them and really desire them.”

Martin Luther

For more Martin Luther quotes see these posts:

Martin Luther on Sin

Martin Luther on the Kingdom of God

Martin Luther on the First Sin