Category Archives: Books on Monthly Theme

The Marriage Feast of the Lamb

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 “Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready;  it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure–for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.  And the angel said to me ‘Write this:  Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.'”  Revelation 19:7-9

I just finished a book that I picked up, never imagining it would have anything to do with our monthly theme.  It’s called real SEX (subtitle: the naked truth about chastity) by Lauren Winner.  I ordered it from the public library because I have read other books by this same author.  She was a Jewish girl who converted to Christianity, and her first book, Girl Meets God, is about that spiritual journey.  She is very honest in describing her own sins and struggles, and she tackles difficult theological questions in a way that, for me at least, clarifies and illuminates.

Lauren says she began real SEX determined to talk about the issue of premarital sex;  how it is a difficult teaching for all young, single people, and particularly for someone like her who was already sexual active at the time of conversion.  She didn’t intend to write about marriage.  However, as she got into her subject, she came to the conclusion that she couldn’t talk about premarital sex without talking about marriage.  That’s because the real reason to avoid sex outside of marriage has to do with what God intended marriage to be.

God meant marriage to have three qualities.  It is unitive — that’s the whole “one-flesh” idea.  Marriage is a school for learning how to become “one” in relationship with another person.  It is procreative — and therefore, the building block of the family and of society.  Finally, it is sacramental because it is a meant to represent the union between Christ and the church.  Check out this reading from Ephesians 5:

“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.  This is a profound mystery–but I am talking about Christ and the church.”

Marriage teaches us, the church, what the kingdom of God will be like in eternity– an intimate union with Christ.  With this idea, I’m finally going to come to the point of this post.  One of the authors’ conclusions deals with a question we’ve all had to deal with about heaven.  The fact that there will be “no marrying or giving in marriage.”  This has always bothered me.  After a long, life of being married to one man, in heaven he’ll be just another guy?  How can that be? It doesn’t seem right.  Well, as Winner explains, in heaven the only marriage will be between God and His church.  As part of the body of Christ, we’ll be joined to each other and to Him in a union that is so complete, we won’t need anything else.  Earthly marriage simply points to this greater unity we as believers can look forward to. It’s a way for us to practice intimacy and unity right now.  Awesome, isn’t it?

I’m looking forward to that Marriage Feast more even more now than I did before.  What about you?  Have you really thought about marriage in this way?  Does it help your understanding of Biblical teaching about marriage?  I’d like to hear others comment.

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Who Are We Really?

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I’ve found myself thinking about this blog post and feeling that I would like to avoid writing it.  ( I’m preparing a Sunday School lesson on Jonah, the prophet who tried to run away from God, and boy, can I identify).  However, the Holy Spirit keeps nudging me to put it out there, so here goes.

The Hunger Games

Have you read the book, or watched the movie,  The Hunger Games?  I bet almost everyone has.  It’s the story of a young girl, Katniss Everdeen, who through her abilities and virtue, triumphs over an evil government, and becomes a symbol of freedom that motivates others. It’s a story we all want to identify with, especially here in America.  That’s how we see ourselves, right? The land of the brave and the free?  Individualists who broke away from the control of England to establish a country where liberty is  guaranteed and everyone has an opportunity to work hard and succeed.  Hunger Games fits well with the story we tell ourselves about who we are and how we came to exist as a nation.  I suppose that’s okay as far as it goes.

Unfortunately what struck me, particularly when I saw the movie, was the thought that we’re not Katniss, we’re the people in the capital;  the people who are living an extravagant, gluttonous lifestyle, while outside our borders people starve.  Look up the statistics.  Did you know that 16% of the worlds’ population (this is pretty much the U.S., Europe and Japan) consume 80% of the natural resources?  Americans comprise 4% of the world population, but operate 1/3 of its’ cars and use 1/4 of its’ energy.

You may tell yourself that at least we’re not drafting people to compete in a murderous game for our entertainment.  Think again.  We haven’t quite gotten to that level, but we’re more than willing to view many “reality” shows that encourage conflict, lust and greed for our enjoyment.

Here’s the naked truth.  We live in the capital and we are those evil people.  We have no hope of isolating ourselves from sin, our own and that of society.  We don’t need a Katniss;  we need a savior.  Come Lord Jesus.

 

 

Eat This Book

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“I went to the angel and told him to give me the little scroll;  and he said to me, ‘Take it and eat;  it will be bitter to your stomach, but sweet as honey in your mouth.’  And I took the little scroll from the hand of the angel and ate it;  it was sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it my stomach was made bitter.”  Rev. 10:  9-10

If you’ve never read anything by Eugene Peterson, you should.  Peterson is professor emeritus of spiritual theology at Reagent College, Vancouver, British Columbia.  He is author of the popular modern paraphrase of the Bible, The Message.  

Eat This Book, has been sitting on our bookshelf for some time and I decided that as it went along with our November theme, now was the time to delve into it.  As usual, I’m not disappointed with Peterson’s work.  It deals with the topic of “spiritual reading.”  According to Peterson we need to read the Bible not just for information;  not just for inspiration and comfort; not just as a guide for ethical living.  We need to “eat” the Bible –digest it, and take it into our lives so that it nourishes us and affects us on a very basic level.  Most of the time, we use the Bible to help us in our life;  we need to take the Bible in so that it uses us — instead of making the Bible part of our lives, we need to become part of its’ life and narrative.

In the quote above from Revelations, an angel gives John a scroll to eat;  first it is sweet, but it becomes bitter.  According to Peterson, when we become Christians, our first taste of Scripture is wondrously tasty — however, as we continue in the Word, we find that there are many things that are hard to digest, understand and accept.

“We are fond of saying that the Bible has all the answers.  And that is certainly correct.  ….But the Bible also has all the questions, many of them that we would just as soon were never asked of us, and some of which we will spend the rest of our lives doing our best to dodge. …you can’t domesticate this book to what you are comfortable with.”  from Eat This Book

I hope some other authors and readers will take a look at Peterson’s book this month.  You’ll be challenged to a whole new level of reading the Scriptures.

 

A Quote from Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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So long as we eat our bread together, we shall have sufficient even for the least. Not until one person desires to keep his own bread for himself does hunger ensue.

from Life Together 

 

Good Stewards Travel Light

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Lessons I Learned in the Light: All You Need to Thrive in a Dark WorldA friend at church loaned me a book I’ve been using recently for my morning devotional time.  It’s called “Lessons I Learned in the Light” by Jennifer Rothschild.  This morning’s chapter was titled “Carry No Baggage” and it got me thinking about how as good stewards, we need to travel light.  We can’t take care of God’s stuff if we’re too worried about our own stuff.  Maybe you’re thinking about now, didn’t the Lutheran Ladies say it’s all God’s stuff?  Well, here’s the thing …all the good things are God’s, but there are still plenty of bad things that belong to us alone.  They start with that little word SIN.  Do you notice what’s in the middle of the word sin?  The letter “I.”  Sin happens when we’re turned into ourselves, when life becomes all about me, me, me.

What baggage are you carrying around?  It might be selfishness (that’s a big one for me), failure to forgive, anger, destructive habits you don’t want to give up, pride, lack of trust  and more.  All these things weigh us down and keep us from focusing on God, the good gifts He gives, and the people He wants us to serve.

Thankfully there’s a simple way to get rid of that excess cargo.  Confess.  Let God take care of your stuff, and then you’ll be free to take care of His.  We get to do this every Sunday in our worship service, not as a work of our own, but as a reminder that God has already forgiven all our sins for the sake of His son, Jesus.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9

Confess so you can focus on the good things of God.  Travel light.

 

Stewardship Of Our Singing

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Image result for images of congregational singingI’ve just started reading the book Michele reviewed a few days ago, “Sing! How Worship Transforms Your Life, Family and Church.”  I would also recommend it as an easy, but thoughtful read about how and why we sing in our worship service. It reminds me that singing is also a gift from God and one that should be used well.  Here’s a quote from the book that helps explain how to do this:

” …don’t just sing, but think What are you singing?  How does it point you to Jesus as He reveals Himself in His Word?  What truths are being laid on your heart, and how is your singing being used to lay it on the hearts of those around you?  Which lines flood you with joy because they move you to consider Christ afresh, and how will you sing them to others and back to yourself this week?”

The songs we sing in worship on Sunday will most likely stick with us, and continue to uplift and encourage us, maybe even more than the words of the sermon. Congregational singing is not just something to “fill in” during the service, and it’s not just entertainment.  Our singing is a witness to others both during and after the service.  We don’t know who may be in church who is yet unsaved, who we will affect as we sing or hum a song of praise in our daily lives.  Singing with our children teaches them gospel truths and Bible stories.  So sing!  Sing as if lives depended on it!

“Your song may be used to save a soul.  Sing it prayerfully.”  This sign is on the wall of a studio in the Moody Radio Headquarters.

 

 

Prayerful Relationships

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“A Christian fellowship lives and exists by the intercession of its members for one another, or it collapses. I can no longer condemn or hate a brother for whom I pray, no matter how much trouble he causes me. His face, that hitherto may have been strange and intolerable to me, is transformed in intercession into the countenance of a brother for whom Christ died, the face of a forgiven sinner.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian Community

Discovering Your Gifts

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You can probably tell from some of the posts you’ve read this month that a key to spending your time creatively and usefully is identifying your personal spiritual gifts.  The Bible tells us that we each have one or more gifts which are needed to build up God’s kingdom.  Since I love to read and study, I thought I’d mention a few books that deal well with this topic.

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In this book, 27 spiritual gifts are defined and discussed.  It also talks about gift mixes (because everyone usually has a number of gifts) and what gifts are not (natural talents –important also, but not the same thing).  It’s very Biblical and is a good place to start in understanding the topic.

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This book guides you through making a spiritual profile and plan for your individual gifts.

Both are available through Amazon and other booksellers, and probably at your local library as well.  I hope some of our readers will try one of them, and let us know on the blog how they help you.  If you’ve already read/used one of them, please let us know that, too!

What’s Your Vocation?

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Vocation is one of those words Lutherans like to use.  Luther taught that each of us has a vocation, or calling, it’s not something reserved for priests, monks and nuns. It can be lived out in the midst of ordinary life. True vocation is that passion I spoke about in my last post.  In Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose Filled Life when he asked the question, “What on earth am I here for?”  Each of us has to answer that question, hopefully in a prayerful way, in order to discover our vocation.

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Life Can be Different

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While on vacation, I read this book which I had picked up at the local thrift store.  It follows a family through several generations of women suffering from mental illness.  Saffee, the final heroine, suffers from growing up in a household with a mother who behaves in bizarre ways and a father who denies that anything is wrong.  Isolation and  anxiety are the result. Saffee becomes afraid to have friends over, cautious of confiding in others and uneasy about her own future.  However, as a young teenager, Saffee hears God’s voice (not audibly, but internally) telling her “Watch….Listen…Learn.  Your life will be different.”

She holds onto those comforting words as she grows up, meets and marries a young man and moves into her first home.  Through her husband, friends and a growing relationship with God and the church, Saffee learns to honor the good things about her mother and appreciate her father’s steadfast loyalty.  She gradually becomes comfortable in revealing her true self to others.  Her life is different from her mother’s ….because of God.

Having grown up with similar family issues, I could identify and appreciate this fictional story.  All of us have “baggage” but we don’t have to keep holding onto it.  We can choose to trust God and let him change us.

“Cast your burden on the Lord and He will sustain you.”  Psalm 55:22