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).

A Quote on the Christian Life by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“Your life as a Christian should make non believers question their disbelief in God.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I wonder how many of us meet this standard?

For other quotes by Dietrich Bonhoeffer visit these posts:

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Christian Freedom

Staying On Course–Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on the Church

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Piety

Advertisements

Living the Questions

At our church we’ve started a Bible study on the holiness of God, based on the book of the same title by R. C. Sproul (I’m sure I’ll be reviewing it later, but I’m not done yet).  Yesterday we discussed how we can’t really comprehend God’s holiness, or many other concepts, such as eternity, omnipresence and more.  There are some questions we simply have to live with in our humanness.  This isn’t an excuse for failing to study and learn and grow in our understanding.  That’s part of what faith is about. I’m reminded of this quote by Rainier Maria Rilke.:

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926) was a lyrical poet born in Prague, once the capital of Bohemia, now the Czech Republic.  He is considered one of the leading Christian existential poets.

The Holy Scriptures also tell us:

“Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.”  1 Corinthians 13:12

In this life, there will always be questions– but someday we will know and understand the truth.  I look forward to that day.

When Morning Gilds the Skies

I was reminded that this hymn is one of my favorites when we sang it during worship this past Sunday.  Written by a German author whose name has been lost in time it first appeared in a Roman Catholic hymnal, Catholisches Gesangbuch in 1828. It was translated from German into English by Edward Caswell (1814-1878), a Roman Catholic priest from England.  What a great song to wake up to!  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

 

Standing by the Door

The sermon this week was based on this reading from Luke 13:

He said to them,  “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.  Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’

It reminded me of this favorite poem, written by Sam Shoemaker.  He was the rector of Calvary Church in New York City, where he also served as Frank Buchman’s  head of Oxford Groups in America. In his position of religious influence he helped many come closer to a moral and religious life, most notably Bill Wilson, one of the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous. If you are interested in learning more about Same Shoemaker,  you might want to read the biography written by his wife, Helen and also entitled I Stand By the Door.  

I Stand at the Door

By Sam Shoemaker (from the Oxford Group)

I stand by the door.
I neither go to far in, nor stay to far out.
The door is the most important door in the world –
It is the door through which men walk when they find God.
There is no use my going way inside and staying there,
When so many are still outside and they, as much as I,
Crave to know where the door is.
And all that so many ever find
Is only the wall where the door ought to be.
They creep along the wall like blind men,
With outstretched, groping hands,
Feeling for a door, knowing there must be a door,
Yet they never find it.
So I stand by the door.

The most tremendous thing in the world
Is for men to find that door – the door to God.
The most important thing that any man can do
Is to take hold of one of those blind, groping hands
And put it on the latch – the latch that only clicks
And opens to the man’s own touch.

Men die outside the door, as starving beggars die
On cold nights in cruel cities in the dead of winter.
Die for want of what is within their grasp.
They live on the other side of it – live because they have not found it.

Nothing else matters compared to helping them find it,
And open it, and walk in, and find Him.
So I stand by the door.

Go in great saints; go all the way in –
Go way down into the cavernous cellars,
And way up into the spacious attics.
It is a vast, roomy house, this house where God is.
Go into the deepest of hidden casements,
Of withdrawal, of silence, of sainthood.
Some must inhabit those inner rooms
And know the depths and heights of God,
And call outside to the rest of us how wonderful it is.
Sometimes I take a deeper look in.
Sometimes venture in a little farther,
But my place seems closer to the opening.
So I stand by the door.

There is another reason why I stand there.
Some people get part way in and become afraid
Lest God and the zeal of His house devour them;
For God is so very great and asks all of us.
And these people feel a cosmic claustrophobia
And want to get out. ‘Let me out!’ they cry.
And the people way inside only terrify them more.
Somebody must be by the door to tell them that they are spoiled.
For the old life, they have seen too much:
One taste of God and nothing but God will do any more.
Somebody must be watching for the frightened
Who seek to sneak out just where they came in,
To tell them how much better it is inside.
The people too far in do not see how near these are
To leaving – preoccupied with the wonder of it all.
Somebody must watch for those who have entered the door
But would like to run away. So for them too,
I stand by the door.

I admire the people who go way in.
But I wish they would not forget how it was
Before they got in. Then they would be able to help
The people who have not yet even found the door.
Or the people who want to run away again from God.
You can go in too deeply and stay in too long
And forget the people outside the door.
As for me, I shall take my old accustomed place,
Near enough to God to hear Him and know He is there,
But not so far from men as not to hear them,
And remember they are there too.

Where? Outside the door –
Thousands of them. Millions of them.
But – more important for me –
One of them, two of them, ten of them.
Whose hands I am intended to put on the latch.
So I shall stand by the door and wait
For those who seek it.

‘I had rather be a door-keeper’
So I stand by the door.

Respectable Sins by Jerry Bridges–Book Review

As Christians, we spend a lot of time bewailing the sins of our society.  Maybe we like to point out certain sexual sins, abortion, pornography or materialism.  Unfortunately, this draws our attention away from confronting the more subtle sins we allow into our own life.  We may downplay them as “not that bad” or not even notice them.  We may excuse them or try to justify them as “caused” by the sinful behavior of others.

In his book, Respectable Sins, Jerry Bridges encourages us to confront our many everyday sins, repent and strive to eliminate them from our lives.  True sanctification results only from recognizing and repenting for all or our sins, turning to the Gospel message, and relying on the Holy Spirit to help us change.

Some of the sins discussed are:

 

  • Ungodliness
  • Anxiety and frustration
  • Discontentment
  • Unthankfulness
  • Pride
  • Selfishness
  • Lack of Self-Control
  • Impatience and Irritability
  • Anger
  • Judgmentalism
  • Envy and Jealousy
  • Sins of the Tongue
  • Worldliness

If you’re anything like me, you’ll find more than one category to identify with!  It will open your eyes and make you more sensitive to the sins we all tolerate and ignore.  There is an accompanying study guide which can be purchased, as well as a 9 session curriculum for small groups.

VERDICT:  I give this book 5 stars and would love to use it with my small group sometime in the future.

Take Up Your Cross #2

“Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load.”  Galatians 6:1-5

Maybe you read my last post, and it made you feel guilty.  Well, we should all feel guilty because we often are.  However, just as there is a place for denying ourselves to help another person, there are times we need to ask for help as well.

If we try to reach an impossible standard of self-sacrifice, we’re in danger of deceiving ourselves into thinking we’re the perfect martyr.  We may become prideful and secretly resentful. This is sin. We need to continually “test our action” to be sure that we have the best interests of the other at heart, and that we’re not burning out by trying to do it all.  We should not compare ourselves to others, but search our motives, time and abilities so that we become the best disciple that we can be.

Sometimes this requires compromise or thinking outside of the box.  Consider some of the examples I gave yesterday:

  • Can your committee consider everyone’s ideas, then make a decision as a team?  This allows other ideas to be considered but doesn’t require allowing one person to “rule the roost.”
  • If your spouse’s new job takes them away from weekday responsibilities, can they help you with chores that can be done on weekends, or that need to be done less frequently?
  • If you children move far away, you might consider moving yourself when you retire.
  • Can that church task be undertaken at a different time that allows you to continue your usual schedule? Is there someone else you can suggest who might be a better fit for the position?  Could you offer to help some of the time, but not every week?
  • Sorry, there’s no excuse for being courteous to those who serve you.  That just requires a bit of patience and self-control (fruit of the spirit we should all be developing)

Sometimes saying no or asking for help allows another Christian to say yes and grow in maturity and faith.  Sometimes saying no is just plain selfish.  You can’t do it all;  but you must do what you can.  Pray for discernment.  Take up your cross.  The one God has planned for you.

If you missed the first post, or want to read more on the topic, see these posts:

Take Up Your Cross

Serving God with Your Gifts

Martin Luther on Serving Others

Putting Others First

Take Up Your Cross

“If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.”  Luke 9:23

What does it mean to take up one’s cross daily (hint:  your cross is not your mother-in-law or your annoying boss).  Here’s what John Henry Newman said about it:

“To take up the cross of Christ is no great action done once for all;  it consists in the continual practice of small duties which are distasteful to us.”

Basically, it means to sacrifice your own wants and desires for the good of others.  Most of us will never have to die for others, as Jesus did, but there are plenty of times when we will have to put our selfishness to death for the sake of somebody else.  Some small examples:

  • You’re working on a committee and have definite ideas about how to accomplish the goal.  A fellow member has other ideas — will you listen to the merits of alternate approaches?  Will you allow others to feel excited and fulfilled because they contributed?  Or will you insist on having your own way?
  • Your spouse is offered a new job, doing what they have always dreamed of doing. However, it means a long commute and more hours away from home.  You will have to pick up the slack.  Are you supportive, or angry that you must assume more household duties?
  • Your adult child decides to move to another state.  The opportunities there are greater.  You would selfishly prefer that she continue living near you, as you may need her help as you and your husband age.  Do you encourage her to go, or try to “guilt” her into staying put?
  • Your pastor asks you to undertake a job for which you are uniquely suited.  Unfortunately, it interferes with time you have set aside to get your weekly mani-pedi.  How do you respond?
  • The line at the grocery store is long, and the cashier is slow.  Do you allow your annoyance to show?  Or do you make time to say, “thank you, have a nice day” to the harried clerk?

Well, you get the idea.  The world tells us to look out for number one, but the call of Christ is to put others first.  This is a hard teaching, and we’ll never live up to the example He set for us.  However, as disciples, we need to make the good of others part of every decision we make.  So, how will you take up your cross today?