About jculler1972

My husband is the retired pastor of St. Paul's Free Lutheran Church in Leitersburg, Maryland. I have two grown daughters, three grandchildren 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).

More About Sin

In a previous post I shared a quote about sin from my devotional. Here’s another. The author is W. C. Gannett (1840-1923), a Unitarian minister:

“Yes, this sin which has sent me weary-hearted to bed and desperate in heart to morning work, that has made my plans miscarry until I am a coward, that cuts me off from prayer, that robs the sky of blueness and the earth of spring-time, and the air of freshness, and human faces of friendliness,–this blasting sin which perhaps has made my bed in hell for so long, –-this can be conquered. I do not say annihilated, but better than that, conquered, captured and transformed into a friend: so that I at last shall say, ‘My temptation has become my strength! for to the very fight with it I owe my force.'”

It reminds me of some of the things Paul tells us in his letters:

“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13

“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

Sin can separate us from Christ, but it doesn’t have to! When we rely upon God to resist temptation, we become stronger, and closer to Him– and when we fail, we remember that we are clothed in His righteousness.

“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” 1 Peter 2:24

Resisting Temptation

In Sunday School this past week, we sang the hymn, Yield Not to Temptation. Horatio R. Palmer (1834-1907), an American musician, wrote it shortly after the Civil War. One day while working on a music theory exercise, the idea for this hymn suddenly came to him in a burst of inspiration. He quickly wrote it down, and very few edits were needed.

Or course, this hymn reminded me of the monthly theme. Sometimes we sin unwittingly, but often we are tempted (sometimes over and over) until we finally give in. We fail to turn to our real source of strength –God– for help in resisting sinful desires. This hymn is a bracing reminder that we are not alone in our struggle with Satan.

“No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13

For more about temptation see these posts:

Pure In Heart by J. Garrett Kell–Book Review

Grade Yourself

Brothers and Sisters in Christ, I implore you– Part 2

Don’t Get Ahead of Yourself

I’ve been doing a lectio divina study of the works of John and this week I read his second letter. This is what jumped out for me:

Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God…” 2 John 9a

John is cautioning his readers (and us) about false teaching. I don’t know about you, but I’m easily attracted to something new — the latest style, a novel recipe, a unique way of looking at the world. There’s nothing wrong with curiosity, or with shaking up our usual routines now and then. However, when it comes to the faith, we must make sure we stick to the foundational truths.

In order to do this, we must first know the truth. That means studying the Bible, and also knowing something about theology. Yes, this can be difficult — I sometimes accuse my Pastor husband of giving me a headache when he tries to explain doctrinal concepts to me–but as someone once said, “if you don’t know where you stand, you’ll fall for anything.” We’ve recently been studying the trinity, and some of the ideas that sound right to my human understanding — for example, that the three members of the trinity each have a different function– is actually a heresy known as modalism. God is one, the trinity is a unity, and each member is involved in everything God does.

We can “run ahead” for other reasons as well. Sometimes a new idea is just what our itching ears want to hear — things like God wants to bless us by making us healthy and wealthy (the prosperity gospel–another heresy). Or we crave the new because it gives us a spiritual “high” at least for a while. We forget that our faith is tested and matured through trials. Maybe we bounce around from church to church seeking the most charismatic leader or preacher — when what we need to grow is to root ourselves in a Christian community and bloom where we are planted.

We need to remember that running ahead can lead to false teaching and false teaching leads to our word for the month: SIN. So don’t get ahead of yourself. Study the Word until you know the Word. Understand the theology behind what you believe. Test the spiritys. Be committed to your congregation and serve the community. Don’t get ahead of yourself.

For more lectio divina study see:

Deceiving Ourselves

Honor Everyone

James Chapter 2 — What Stands Out

The Attributes of God part 2

I posted earlier about the class I’ve been taking on the attributes of God (The Attributes of God). In that post, I listed the characteristics of God that are incommunicable — unlike anything human. Now I’ll turn to the communicable attributes of God — those things that can be seen (although imperfectly) in us.

  1. Omniscience/omnipotence– God is everywhere and knows everything. Our knowledge is learned, but God’s is complete and innate. He is completely wise, completely trustworthy
  2. Goodness, love and mercy. These qualities of God are shown most fully at the cross. God saves us in order to change us, to make us more like Jesus.
  3. Holiness, righteousness and justice. We all have a sense of right and wrong, but if there is no God, there is no right or wrong. God’s ethical purity is in contrast to our sinfulness.
  4. Jealousy, wrath. These qualities take place in relationship to an offense against the majesty of God. The purpose is to protect us from sin and evil, to perfect our covenant relationship with Him.

You may wonder why it is important to study the attributes of God ( I did). Our teacher (my husband), explained that without a clear understanding of Who God is, we will can easily fall into heresies of different sorts.

The last section of this class dealt with the trinity — I’ll cover that in another post.

For more about the attributes of God see:

The Blind Men and the Elephant

The Holiness of God–R.C. Sproul–Book Review

The Mind of the Maker by Dorothy Sayers — Book Review

Half Truths by Adam Hamilton–Book Review

In this book, Methodist Pastor Adam Hamilton explains why a number of the statements Christians regard as “the gospel truth” are really only half true at best. They are:

*Everything happens for a reason

*God helps those who help themselves

*God won’t give you more than you can handle

*God said it, I believe it, that settles it

*Love the sinner, hate the sin

I agree with many of Pastor Hamilton’s conclusions. For example, these platitudes are often used in ways that are not helpful or comforting. They attempt to reduce difficult theological issues to a slogan. They are not actually in the Bible and should not be given the same weight as Scripture. However, I have serious disagreements with the theology he uses to support his opinions (as would most conservative Lutherans — and conservatives in some other denominations as well).

Half Truths: God Helps Those Who Help Themselves and Other Things the Bible Doesn't Say

One issue concerns the doctrine of predestination Lutherans stand with the Calvinists here, at least in the matter of salvation. We believe that God choses us, we do not choose Him.

Another problematic area is the inerrancy of Scripture. Pastor Hamilton rejects this concept, preferring to take the Bible “seriously.”

In both of these cases, the author offers an overly simplified version of the opposing view and sometimes selects examples from Scripture that would not be used by those who adhere to those views. In fairness, his presentation is intended to educate the laity, and is not an academic treatise. However, in my opinion, he gives an incomplete explanation of the doctrines he doesn’t accept. He is correct is saying we all interpret the Scripture, but conservatives and liberals disagree on the “how” that interpretation works.

VERDICT: 2 STARS. I would not recommend this book for Lutherans to use for a group study, but it may be helpful in understanding the belief system of more liberal Christians,

For more information on predestination see:

Predestination — A Difficult Word!

Predestination?

Can We Pick & Choose?

*

Free From Sins

My husband, who is a pastor, has a favorite kind of “call and response” he has taught the members of our congregation. It goes like this:

Question: What do sinners do?

Response: They sin.

We are sinners and no matter how hard we try, we will continue to sin. It’s our nature. However, we can be freed from the burden of our sins when we given them to Jesus. He can do what we cannot. I am reminded of this hymn by Horatius Bonar (1808-1889). Listen and give your sins to the only One who can carry them for you.

For more hymns about the way Jesus frees us from sin see:

Just As I Am

An Uncertain Life

,Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing

The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt–Book Review

I’ll start out by saying, this is not a Christian book. The author is a self-professed atheist. It’s also not an easy read. It discusses some complicated, academic and scientific theories. However, I found it interesting because (in my mind, at least) it unwittingly supported some biblical doctrines. Like Carl Trueman’s book (The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self by Carl Trueman–Book Review) The Righteous Mind will take you on a journey through human history. He is a psychologist and his topic of inquiry is moral psychology. He draws on neuroscience, genetics, social psychology and evolutionary modeling to explain how it is that humans have found ways to form groups that are able to suppress selfishness and enable cooperation. Although I agree with many of his conclusions, I reject the reasoning (most frequently the theory of evolution) he uses to get there. For example:

  1. People are naturally selfish and will tend to act in their own interests …. sounds a lot like original sin to me!
  2. Although we think we are making decisions rationally through a logical mental process, studies have shown that we actually react intuitively, and then use logic to justify the position we have already espoused. This reminds me of the Lutheran and Reformed doctrine of predestination (we don’t chose God, He chooses us).
  3. When we do change our mind, it is not usually reason that convinces us, but relationships with those who believe differently. Could this be why God’s plan for salvation is individual believers going out into the world to “make disciples”? And then be encouraged by the Christian community (do not neglect meeting together)?
  4. Christians are not only more generous and loving to other Christians, they are better citizens and neighbors to non-Christians as well. Probably because the Christian community encourages us to serve others.

Anyway, you get the idea. Haidt closes with a call for better understanding between conservative and liberal political views. He believes there is a need for a balance between protecting traditions (conservative) and being open to change (liberal). Both views can be seen as positive. As he puts it,

“We’re all stuck here for a while, so let’s try to work it out.”

As Christians we believe we can do even better than this. We can honor, respect and love one another as brothers and sisters.

For more book reviews of nonfiction see:

You Are What You Love by James K. A. Smith–Book Review

The Opposite of Certainty by Janine Urbaniak Reid– Book Review

this beautiful truth by Sarah Clarkson–Book Review

A Prayer Confessing our Sins

This prayer was used for confession of sins at the Lutheran church I recently attended. It certainly touches on some of my besetting sins, so maybe you will see yourself in it as well.

Almighty God, merciful Father,

We have sinned against You in thought, word, and deed. We have done things we should not have done, and we have failed to do the things we should have done. We have been impatient. We have grumbled. We have been critical of others and we have been difficult. We have used coarse language and have taken Your name in vain. We have sought and received Your forgiveness and, then, we have refused to forgive our neighbor. Father, forgive us, renew us, and lead us so that we may be merciful, even as You are merciful. Amen

For more prayers see:

Martin Luther’s Prayer about the Word

A Prayer of Surrender

A Penitent Prayer

Wash Away Your Sins

The church I attended recently used the hymn, Today Your Mercy Calls Us” as their processional at the beginning of the service. It goes along beautifully with the theme this month. How wonderful it is to know that our sins have already been washed away. Listen and give thanks.

For more hymns see these posts:

Let Us Ever Walk With Jesus

Children of the Heavenly Father

Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing

Hope From the Broken by Tricia Kline — Book Review

A friend from church loaned me this book and asked me to read it. Wanda Fulp is her cousin.

Daryl and Wand Fulp are ordinary people with an extraordinary call from God — a call to serve special needs children in Guatemala. In this book they describe the way God led them to this special mission step by step.

The Fulps attended a Christian college and married. At first Daryl served as a youth pastor and church planter. Both wanted children, and they started with two of their own. Touched by a television commercial, they felt a desire to help more children by becoming foster parents. They fostered 23 children over the next 13 years, and adopted two of them. By this time they were a family of seven — five biological children and the two they had adopted. At this point, they were drawn to international adoption, particularly adopting those close to being considered “unadoptable” because of their disabilities. They adopted some of these children themselves and began working for The Shepherd’s Crook, a ministry that advocates on behalf of hard-to-place international orphans. While in the process of adopting another child from Guatemala, the Fulps traveled there and became filled with a desire to return and help others.

In 2008 Daryl and Wand started Hope for Home Ministries (https://hopeforhome.org/). They sold their home and most of their belongings in order to move to Guatemala. They now operate several group homes where special needs children receive much needed care. Over time the ministry has grown to help older people (because we are all children in the eyes of God) and meet other needs. The book details many times when God answered their prayers by providing what was needed to continue and expand the ministry. However, they do not sugarcoat the costs of following Christ. At one point Daryl says:

:“We have to understand that some of the greatest growth periods of our lives have been through struggle, through grief, through pain.

He emphasizes the need for all Christians to remember their mission and calling:

“Christ did not create us to be comfortable … He created us with an urgency that the world is dying, that there is a message to be told, and we have a limited time to do it.

WARNING: Don’t read this book unless you’re prepared to have your comfort disturbed! It may be the beginning of your own God-given call! Their website (listed above) gives opportunities to donate to their ministry or sponsor a particular child

For more about special needs parenting see:

Nothing is Wasted by Lore Cottone–Book Review

eat, sleep, save the World by Jamie Sumner–Book Review

Autism and your church by Barbara J. Newman — Book Review