About jculler1972

My husband is the pastor of St. Paul's Free Lutheran Church in Leitersburg, Maryland. I have two grown daughters and a granddaughter and am retired after a career in Purchasing. I have published articles in The Lutheran Ambassador, Lutheran Witness, and Lutheran Digest. My Bible study on the Book of Acts was published in 2016 by the Women's Missionary Federation of the AFLC(Association of Free Lutheran Churches).

Words Count

I just finished a library book recently that was classified as “young adult” fiction. The main characters were teenagers, and the plot revolved around a murder and the efforts of these young people to find out who killed their friend. It was engaging and well written except for one glaring problem — some of the words were, in my mind, unacceptable. Why would such crude speech be used in a book aimed at young people? In fact, why is it okay to use such words at all? What message is being sent? The Bible tells us:

“Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.” Ephesians 4:7

I’m not a prude and I’m not unrealistic. I know sometimes certain words fly out in anger, in pain, and so on. That doesn’t make it right, but it happens. However, I object to the normalization of this kind of language. Our speech matters. The words we use affect others and should be chosen judiciously. When we speak, we’re setting an example. If the books we read, the movies and television shows we watch, and the people we respect use bad language, soon everyone will.

In the same way, when we avoid cursing and bad words, people notice. My husband and I have both seen the language of a workplace be transformed by one person refusing to join in to such talk. Soon others become ashamed, and even apologize for those words. So be a good example — watch your words! As Paul says in his letter to his spiritual son, Timothy:

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” 1 Timothy 4:12

Seven-Mile Miracle by Steven Furtick–Book Review

In this book, author Steven Furtick examines the seven last statements (or “words’) of Jesus from the cross in light of the spiritual journey of every believer. He boils each one down to its’ essential meaning:

*Forgiveness –“Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34

*Salvation–“Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:43

*Relationship–“Woman, here is your son … Here is your mother.” John 19:26-27

*Abandonment–“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46

*Distress–“I am thirsty.” John 19:28

*Triumph–“It is finished.” John 19:30

*Reunion–“Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” Luke 23:46

Seven-Mile Miracle: Journey into the Presence of God Through the Last Words of Jesus by [Steven Furtick]

Each section includes questions for journaling or group discussion. At the end there is a forty-day reading guide with Scripture selections on the death and resurrection of Jesus.

This was an easy read would be a good pick to use as a spiritual exercise during the season of Lent. Since the author is not Lutheran, there were some theological statements I disagreed with, mainly around the issue of “making a decision” to choose Christ. As Lutherans, we believe Christ chooses us.

VERDICT: 3 Stars due to the theological issues.

For more about the death and resurrection of Christ see:

Martin Luther on the Resurrection

Martin Luther on God’s Victory Over Death

The Resurrection is Now

Watch Your Words

Handley C. G. Moule (23 December 1841 – 8 May 1920) was an evangelical Anglican theologian, writer, poet, and Bishop of Durham from 1901 to 1920. This quote was part of my daily devotional reading:

“Take the last transient swell of petty impatience, or of unkind criticism; things which to the unawakened conscience look so small, to the awakened conscience so large. There is not one that need have taken place. Had I been walking that moment with God, abiding that moment in Christ, drawing that moment on the sanctifying Spirit’s power, I should not have lost temper, I should not have thought unkindly–not only should I not have looked impatient, or indulged in needless severity of words. The occasion for the very feeling would have been as if it were not, because neutralized in Jesus Christ. And if that might have been true for the last five minutes, why should it not be true for the next five, for the present minute? ‘I can do all things,’ I have resources for all circumstances, ‘in Him that strengtheneth me.'”

This writer is spot-on. We tend to think that sins of the tongue are not very important, but words can hurt and have long-lasting effects. I bet every one of us can remember cruel words that were spoken to us years ago. So think before you speak, so that your words will help, not harm.

“…. rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing, I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:36-37

For more about the tongue see these posts:

Hold Your Tongue!

Live at Peace/Tame Your Tongue

Do Not Be Rash With Your Mouth

Predestination continued ….

Predestination, is the Christian doctrine that God has eternally chosen those whom he intends to save. Predestination has been especially associated with John Calvin and the Reformed tradition.

This is a continuation from my post yesterday. It’s taken from a sermon given by our Pastor, my husband, explaining this difficult word.

This (coming to saving faith) will happen because of a call to faith, a call from the words of Scripture, the words of the Gospel, the Good News that Christ bore their punishment and they could then experience eternal joy. And the Holy Spirit, God Himself, opens the hearts of those who are predestined to believe the Gospel, to know that Christ did indeed die for them and that He was raised for them. What a wonderful thing it is to have God bring us to such understanding! If you have faith in Christ, you didn’t do it on your own, you didn’t work it out by yourself– no indeed, you received it from God and in receiving it you were justified, made right with God, no longer estranged, but now embraced as an adopted child and heir.

Even more than that, you have been glorified. In a tiny little way, we experience the glory that will be ours in heaven when we come into contact with God, when we experience His grace, when we feel His presence, whe we trust in Christ alone. What a glory that is, but that will pale in comparison to what God has waiting for us in eternity. Many have gone before us, but there is still room for us and for all those whom He is calling today around the world, and for those whom He has predestined before Christ’s return. What a wonderful and awesome thing to be chosen by the living God for eternal life.

For more on salvation see:

Predestination?

The True Cost of Salvation

Saved by Grace

Predestination — A Difficult Word!

This is an excerpt from a recent sermon my husband gave. I thought it would be helpful in explaining this word that is hard for most of us to grasp.

Now we come to an important and central doctrine of the Church which continues to confound and befuddle people because they think about it incorrectly. We must deal with the question of predestination–God’s election of those who will be saved based not on any deserving traits they have but on His good pleasure.

Before there was time, before there was creation, when there was only the Triume God, He knew that mankind would fall into sin and that sin would set up a barrier between the human and the Divine. He also knew that once this barrier was n place, no one would be saved unless He took the initiative for salvation. Now God could have determined to save everyone, but He did not. We don’t know why, nor should we attempt to find out because the reason is not open to human thought.

But God had created us to love us and for us to love Him and so, while not deigning to save everyone, He chose to save some. Because He is omniscient, in other words, because He knew everything, He knew in advance who would be saved and so He set in motion the entire process which leads to some being predestined to salvation. He chose to predestine some to believe in His saving grace through the work of the Christ in us. And those who are predestined will, without a doubt, come to saving faith in Christ.

To be continued tomorrow……

Interesting Word #2

When you hear the word, hosanna, you probably think of Palm Sunday. According to the disciple John, when Jesus came into Jerusalem for the Passover festival a crowd of people:

….took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna! ” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”“Blessed is the king of Israel!” John 12:13

But have you thought about exactly what hosanna means? Is it just an exclamation of approval or excitement? Here’s what my husband, our Pastor, explained it in a recent sermon:

“The word ‘hosanna’ is intriguing. I was taught that it meant ‘Save’ as an imperative verb. In other words, the sense would have been something like ‘save now!’ or maybe ‘save please!’ But in my word study ths week, I also looked up what it meant in Aramaic, the common language of that time and place (and also in Greek). While all these languages treat it as dealing with salvation rather than something like ‘hurray’ or ‘yah’, Aramaic usage was as a noun — Savior. Since most of the people of the day would have been speaking Aramaic rather than Hebrew, I think we can say they were calling out to Jesus –‘Savior, Savior.'”

For more posts about Palm Sunday see:

Praise God With One Another

In the Direction of the Cross #2

Lenten Discipline

Surviving Religion 101 by Michael J. Kruger–Book Review

This book is subtitled: Letters to a Christian Student on Keeping the Faith in College, and it is presented as a series of letters on different topics to the author’s daughter. It fits into a category of theological work known as apologetics: the discipline of defending religious doctrine(consider this your word for the day). At college, young people who are raised in the faith may hear views that not only diverge sharply from what they’ve been taught but may even ridicule and demean it. In such an environment, it’s important to understand not only what we believe, but why we find it trustworthy.

These are some of the topics the author discusses:

*How can I say that Christianity is the only right religion?

*My Christian morality is seen as intolerant — shouldn’t I be more accepting?

*Why would a living God send anyone to Hell?

*If God is omnipotent why does He allow suffering?

*How can I believe in miracles if I’ve never seen them?

*Can the Bible really be trusted?

Surviving Religion 101

Each question is approached in a clear, conversational manner that makes this book easy to read and understand. Although intended for students, every Christian could benefit from knowing how to respond the criticism we hear every day. Kruger’s defense of the faith is logical and informed. I highly recommend it!

VERDICT: 5 STARS.

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 go to:

Surviving Religion 101: Letters to a Christian Student on Keeping the Faith in College | Crossway

For more about apologetics see:

Why I Still Believe by Mary Jo Sharp –Book Review

Film Review — The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel

God’s Not Dead & God’s Not Dead 2 –Movie Review

Beyond the Storm by Carolyn Zane–Book Review

I ordered this book through Bookbub (www.bookbub.com) simply because it was free, and I wasn’t at all sure I would like it. On the surface it’s a formula romance with a predictable plot. *** SPOILER ALERT*** Young man and young woman get off to a rocky start but end up finding true love in one another. The frightening experience of surviving a tornado together quickly deepens their feelings and through the tragic loss of a friend, they learn valuable life lessons and grow in their Christian faith.

Beyond the Storm (Quilts of Love Series Book 1)

Beyond the Storm is part of the Quilts of Love Series, and in my mind, the quilting theme helped to raise it a bit above the usual Christian romance novel. The main character, Abigail, has an aunt who owns a quilting shop. After the tornado, and the tragic death of Danny, a dear, Christian friend, Aunt Selma encourages the survivors to create a quilt in his memory. The center piece contains a piece of his Bible cover, and each person whose life he touched made a square to represent what he meant to them. The quilt was bordered with scraps found during cleanup of the wreckage. I thought this was a lovely idea, although I’m not a gifted crafter and could never do it myself. Here’s a quote that explains the metaphor:

I love to see the ways the Lord finds to use us. Each of us, like Danny ….is the center of our own quilt. Our lives are made up of bits and pieces, some good, some bad. And isn’t it amazing how God, in His infinite wisdom can use our mistakes and what we might consider chaos, to His glory.”

There are also discussion questions at the end, so this wouldn’t be a bad book club pick.

VERDICT: 3 STARS. Not deep, but better than the average Christian romance..

For more Christian novels see:

white picket fences by Susan Meissner–Book Review

The Purple Nightgown by A. D. Lawrence–Book Review

pearl in the sand by Tessa Afshar–Book Review

John Stott on God’s Word

“We must allow the Word of God to confront us, to disturb our security, to undermine our complacency and to overthrow our patterns of thought and behavior.”
― John Stott

How has the Word of God changed you?

For more on John Stott see:

John Stott on the Christian Community

John Stott on the Holy Spirit

Stott on the Christian Life by Tim Chester –Book Review

Interesting Word #1

I thought this month, since the topic is “words”, I would explain and talk about some words that I find interesting. Maranatha is the first. It’s an Aramaic phrase, which I was always told means “Come, Lord Jesus.” According to my big Bible dictionary, the definition is:

“our Lord, come.”

Close enough, I guess. When my children were young, there was a church near their daycare called Maranatha, which I assumed to be Pentecostal. I’m not sure why because I googled it this morning, and there are congregations from a variety of denominations using that name. (Yes there is even a Maranatha Free Lutheran Church). However, at that time, it sounded very different and exotic to me.

The phrase Maranatha is found in only one place in the New Testament:

“If anyone does not love the Lord, he is to be accursed. Maranatha.” 1 Corinthians 16:22

This was part of the final greetings of Paul to the church in Corinth. Although it is associated here with a curse, this wasn’t always the case.  It seems to have been used by early Christians to add special emphasis to a statement, and was possibly a sort of watchword; maybe even part of an early liturgy.

These days we seem to have lost that sense of urgency. We focus on the here and now and have forgotten that Jesus might come back any day. Maybe that’s a mistake. There are definitely times when I want to cry out “Lord, please come and come soon!” What about you?

MARANATHA!