Author Archives: jculler1972

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 recently published by the Women's Missionary Federation of the AFLC(Association of Free Lutheran Churches).

Godly Relationships

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“Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone;  I will make him a helper fit for him.”  Genesis 2:18

From the beginning, God intended us to be in relationship with others.  He said it wasn’t “good” to be alone.  He also made man “in the image of God”( Genesis 1:27) and God Himself is a relationship — Father, Son and Spirit.  It’s a relationship founded on love according the apostle, John:

“…the Father loves the Son, and has given all things into his hand.”  John 3:35

and producing love, according to Paul:

“…the fruit of the Spirit is love….’ Galatians 5:22

In fact, Scripture tells us that God is not only loving, He is love.

It seems to me that if God is love, and He made us to mirror His image, and He created us to be in relationship with one another — then His desire is that all our relationships be loving!  I’m not always a logical thinker, but this is where logic leads me.  I guess that means acting in love, even when we don’t feel love.  How do we do that?  Well…..

“Love is patient and kind;  love is not jealous or boastful;  it is not arrogant or rude.  Love does not insist on its own way;  it is not irritable or resentful;  it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. ”  1 Corinthians 13:4-7

It’s not easy, but I think if we pay attention and keep these verses from Corinthians in mind, we can become more patient, kind, courteous and humble;  and those few changes in our behavior will allow God’s love to shine into all our relationships.

 

 

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That’s What You Get for Loving Me

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I seem to be on a kick of remembering old songs.  When I was in college, the one above was popular.  It’s about a scoundrel who tells all the girls, “if you love me, expect to be abandoned, broke and forgotten, because that’s just how I am!”  “Fair warning!”  (I’m not sure why I liked it, this guy is unbearably arrogant).  Anyway, it began bouncing around in my brain the other day, causing me to think about the many, better things we get for loving God.  I’m sure this isn’t a comprehensive list:

  • Someone who will never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5)
  • Someone who will always listen (John 9:31)
  • Our daily needs and pleasure in our work (Ecclesiastes 3:23)
  • Wisdom (James 1:5)
  • Christian fellowship (1 John 1:7)
  • Fellowship with Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27)
  • Spiritual gifts to serve the others (1 Corinthians 12:7)
  • The Holy Spirit, who encourages and comforts (Acts 5:32)
  • Forgiveness of sins (1 John 1:9)
  • Salvation (6:23)
  • Eternal life (John 3:16)

If we’re willing, even eager to take a risk on loving a flawed human being, who will no doubt disappoint us, why wouldn’t we take a chance on God’s love?  We stand to gain all the things above and more.  Love and trust God, and see what you get for loving Him.

Be A Love Letter

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I’ve heard people call the Bible God’s love letter to us, and it is.  However, did you realize that each one of us is a love letter to the world from God?  Listen to what Paul tells the church in Corinth:

“You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all.  And you show you are a letter from Christ delivered by us written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” 2 Corinthians 3:2-3

See the source image

If you haven’t noticed, all the Greek words for love that we’ve been pondering this month deal with relationships with people.  When we love our families, our neighbors, our friends, our fellow church members, or complete strangers we are simply instruments, used by God, to deliver His love to the world.  That’s quite a responsibility.  God’s love may be perceived and experienced through us.  Everyone you meet won’t read the Bible, but they will read about God through your life.

What kind of letter will you be?

 

Love the One You’re With

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Love The One You're WithDoes anyone out there remember this song?  I looked it up and it was released in 1970 by Stephen Stills and became a number one hit.  I used to make fun of it … I mean how pathetic can you get,  saying, if you can’t have the person you really care for, just give up and love the one you’re with — any old person, it really doesn’t matter.  However, thinking about it from a Christian perspective, isn’t this exactly the kind of preposterous love Jesus calls us to?

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy,’ But I say to you love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.  For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.  For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?  Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others?  Do not even the Gentiles do the same?  You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  Matthew 5:43-48

We’re to practice agape love, the kind of love God shows to us and the rest of the world.  So love your neighbors, love your enemies, love your coworkers, love your fellow church members,love those who are different and unlovable, the people who really annoy and irritate you and yes, love the one you’re with!

Let’s Go On An Adventure or Fanning the Flame #3

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“He set out, not knowing where he was going.”  Hebrews 11:8

Before my mom went into a nursing home, my siblings and I were doing our best to care for her in her own home.  Each day one or more of us would stop by to make or take her a meal, straighten the house, give her a shower and sometimes take her out for a ride.  One of my sisters said she would say to mom, “let’s go on an adventure” — mom would smile and her eyes would light up.  She loved to get out and just ride around. She didn’t worry because she trusted her daughter to bring her back safely.  Bev said they would explore the country roads nearby, just getting on one and following it to see where it went.  Sometimes they came back out in a familiar location, other times they’d just have to backtrack in order to get home.

Well, our congregation is about to go on an adventure.  The Fanning the Flame program was approved at our voters’ meeting by an approximately 2-1 majority.  Now the hard work and anxiety really start.  We’re setting out on a journey, and we don’t even have the map!  We know we want to end up as a healthier church body, but we’re not sure what that means or will look like. We don’t know exactly what it will require. We may end up with a totally unexpected result.  We must trust the process and trust God.

P.S. I read from two different devotionals today and the theme in each was going out in trust.  This is probably not a coincidence.  The first scripture is at the beginning of this article.  The second is below:

Peter called to him, ‘Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.’ ‘Yes, come,’ Jesus said.  So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus.  Matthew 14:28-29

Pray with us friends and readers as we step out onto the water!

Sibling Love (And Rivalry)

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The stories about Mary and Martha are among my favorites.  These sisters are portrayed in such a human and realistic way.  Martha is obviously an extrovert who is quick to say exactly what’s on her mind.  Mary listens and ponders (typical introvert).  They also have different talents — Martha quickly takes on the tasks of organizing and serving, while Mary sits with the guests and wants to learn from Jesus.  Of course, the crux of the story, the part we always remember is Martha’s cry:

“Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone?  Tell her then to help me.”  Luke 10:40

I hear this sort of complaint often in the church, where we are also brothers and sisters.  When we take on a task, we want and expect others to help us.  Of course, that isn’t unreasonable, and we should be willing to do our share of the Lord’s work.  However, often we don’t stop to think about the fact that others may simply be using their gifts in a different way.  The member who doesn’t show up at the Yard Sale may be someone who enjoys taking a meals to shut-ins;  the person who refuses to teach Sunday School may be a whiz at fixing things around the building.  Some may even be involved in Christian activity we don’t know about — caring for a sick relative, or working hard in a community organization or spending hours in prayer.  Of course, you probably also remember how Jesus answered Martha:

“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things;  one thing is needful;  Mary has chosen the good portion which shall not be taken away from her.”  Luke 10:41

The Bible tells us to use our gifts to build up the church, and to be cheerful givers.  It doesn’t tell us to worry about what others are doing.  Sibling rivalry doesn’t help anyone.  If we focus on our own gifts and calling, we won’t feel aggrieved or envious of others;  we’ll be joyful and fulfilled.  We’ll have chosen the needful thing.

Martin Luther on Married Love

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“The first love is drunken.  When the intoxication wears off, then comes real marriage love.”

Martin Luther

Which kinds of love is Luther talking about?  Eros and then agape? storge?  philia??  Or is married love really a combination of all of these?  We feel different sorts of love for each other at different times?

All the Loves

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“He who does not love does not know God;  for God is love.”  1 John 4:8

The other night I asked my husband, a pastor, which of the Greek words for love best describes God’s love for us?  Of course, we first thought of agape love.  God loves everyone, regardless of our looks, ethnic background, temperament, intelligence, or worthiness.

“But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Romans 5:8

However, we realized that God’s love is also eros.  In a number of places in the Bible, Israel, and later the church (the new Israel), are referred to as God’s wife or bride.

“Return faithless people”, declares the Lord, for I am your husband.” I will choose you–one from a town and two from a clan–and bring you to Zion.” Jeremiah 3:14

The fact that God is our father, and Jesus our brother,  exemplifies storge, or family love.  Jesus teaches us:

“And call no man your father on earth, for you have a Father who is in heaven.”  Matthew 23:9

“Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy, are of the same family.  So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers.”  Hebrews 2:11

Of course, philia is part of God’s love nature as well, because through the incarnation, Jesus became our friend.

“I no longer call you servants. because a servant does not know his master’s business.  Instead, I have called you friends, for everything I learned from my Father, I have made known to you.”  John 15:15

So, God no only is love, His is all the loves, and we find every love and everything there is to know about love in Him.  What a wonderful gift!  Remember, He loves you and so do I!

 

 

More on Brotherly Love

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“How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!

It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down the beard, running down Aaron’s beard, down upon the collar of his robes.

It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion, For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.  Psalm 133

If you’re part of a family, you know the truth of the Psalm above, and you know what the reverse feels like.  Family is wonderful when everyone is getting along and helping each other– it’s a blessing.  When the family quarrels bitterly, life becomes miserable.  Family members have the power to lift us up or tear us down.

In many places the Bible refers to the church in terms of family.  It is the “household” of God.  We are to treat older people as parents, honoring and respecting them.  We are to treat those of our own generation as brothers and sisters.  When a child is baptized into our congregation, we all take on the responsibility of raising them in the faith.

Unfortunately we don’t always take these “family” responsibilities seriously.  When we don’t agree with someone, or they are rude to us, we just leave, thinking we’ll find a more congenial group;  or we stay and gossip, forming cliques that divide and weaken the body of Christ.  When a brother or sister in Christ stops attending worship or Bible study, instead of calling them up to encourage them and see what’s wrong, we just shrug and say, “oh well” or maybe we think, “the Pastor should check in on them.” We don’t want to risk confrontation or unpleasantness.  When an older member can no longer drive, we consider our own convenience instead of offering them a ride to church.  When a job needs doing, we tell ourselves, we just don’t have the time or the money or the talent to help.

The list can go on and on, and we’re all guilty of neglecting God’s family at times.  It’s true no individual can do everything– but we can all do something, and we should prayerfully consider what it is God wants us to do right now — at this time, in this place, with the family He has given us.

“Let brotherly love continue.”  Hebrews 13:1