Category Archives: Christian books

Trying to Read God’s Mind

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This morning, as part of my devotional time, I was reading from a book, When God Says “Wait”, by Elizabeth Laing Thompson (sidebar:  I got this as a free Kindle book from Book Bub).  This morning’s chapter discussed some of the unpleasant thoughts we have when we’re waiting;  often we come to the conclusion that God is angry and is punishing us.  Then the author makes a very good point:  WE CAN’T READ GOD’S MIND!  The Bible makes this very clear in the book of Isaiah:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways, my ways, declares the Lord.  As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”  Isaiah 55:8-9

If you read closely, you’ll see that we’re not only incapable of reading God’s mind, when we try we’re almost certain to get it wrong — He just doesn’t think the way we do.  So, what do we do when we want to know God’s will?  When we want to know why some dreadful thing is happening to us?  When we have questions about the purpose of our life?

I think we have to go back to a previous blog post I did, “Agree in the Lord, Example #1.”  In that post, I talked about the fact that we can’t read the mind of other people — if we’re upset about something they said or did, the best course is to go and talk to them directly.  The same holds true with God — when I don’t understand or don’t like something that’s going on in my life, I need to go and talk to Him about it.  The most important way to do this is prayer:  pray, pray, pray and then pray some more.  It also means studying His word, because often that is how God speaks to me.  It means attending worship — another opportunity to listen to His word through the readings, sermon and hymns.

Does this mean I’ll always get a quick and clear answer?  Well, no.  It does mean I’ll have a relationship with God.  I’ll come to a better knowledge and understanding of His character.  I’ll mature in wisdom and discernment.  I’ll trust Him, even when I don’t know all the answers.

Have questions?  Go to the primary source;  go to God.

An Image of the Trinity

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Image result for rublev's trinity imagesThis icon of the Holy Trinity was painted by the monk Andrei Rublev.  It depicts the three visitors to Abraham, each angel symbolizing one of the persons of the trinity.  When you look closely, you will notice that each figure wears different garments, but has the same face.  Many comment on the feeling of invitation and inclusion experienced as you spend time gazing at this beautiful image.  I have a number of icons, and this is definitely my favorite.  It gives me a sense of peace and light.

Here’s a quote about this icon from Henri Nouwen’s book, Behold the Beauty of the Lord.

“During a hard period of my life in which verbal prayer had become nearly impossible and during which mental and emotional fatigue had made me the easy victim of feelings of despair and fear, a loving and quiet presence to this icon became the beginning of my healing.  As I sat for long hours in front of Rublev’s Trinity, I noticed how gradually my gaze became a prayer.  This silent prayer made my inner restlessness melt away and lifted me up into the circle of love, a circle that could nt be broken by the powers of the world.  Even as I moved away from the icon and became involved in the many tasks of everyday life, I felt as if I did not have to leave the holy place I had found and could dwell there whatever I did or wherever I went.”

Is there a Christian painting or work of art that has affected you deeply?  If so, please comment and tell us about it.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Witnessing

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“God has willed that we should seek and find His living Word in the witness of a brother, in the mouth of man.  Therefore, the Christian needs another Christian who speaks God’s Word to him.  He needs him again and again when he becomes uncertain and discouraged, for by himself he cannot help himself without belying the truth.”

From ” Life Together”

A Quote by Dorothy Day

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I’ve been reading a book by Dorothy Day, The Reckless Way of Love, and I really liked this quote.  It’s a little off topic, but then is love ever off topic when it comes to Christianity?  In case you don’t know Dorothy Day was the founder of the Catholic Worker Movement and started the first of many houses of hospitality for the poor and homeless.

“If we could only learn that the important thing is love, and that we will be judged on love–t0 keep on loving, and showing that love, over and over, whether we feel it or not, seventy times seven, to mothers-in-law, to husbands, to children–and be oblivious to insult, or hurt, or injury–not to see them, not to hear them.  It is a hard, hard doctrine.”

 

Introverted Evangelism

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I found the quote below on evangelizing and I really liked it.  Guess what, I’m an introvert, I like to think about things. It occurred to me that Jesus himself often asked these sorts of questions–for example, “who do you say I am?”  Does it appeal to any other introverts among us?

Adam S. McHugh

“The verbal tool of exploring mystery together is not confrontation or preaching but dialogue. We subject ourselves to the same questions we pose to others, and as we traverse them together, we may arrive at surprising conclusions we could never have reached when simply trying to defeat one another’s logic. Our questions are open ended, granting the other person the freedom to respond or not to respond. The questions stick with us, even haunt us, long after we ask them, and we await insight together. The process is more important than an immediate decision.”
Adam S. McHugh, Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture

Yes, But How?

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Well, we all seem to agree that witnessing is something every Christian should do.  Now we come to the important question Nancy raised, which I call YBH–Yes, but how?  I’m going to start with a quote I like from Dorothy Day.  In case you don’t know who she was, Dorothy, after living a completely unchristian life for many years, converted to Catholicism and founded a number of hospitality houses (rescue missions) where she tried to live and work in a very simple way, not owning much more than her “guests.”

“Works of mercy are feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, visiting the sick, ransoming the prisoner, and burying the dead.  The spiritual works of mercy are instructing the ignorant, counseling the doubtful, rebuking the sinner, bearing wrongs patiently, forgiving all injuries and praying for the living and the dead.  Works of mercy are the most direct form of(I would add here apostolic)  action there is.

from Loaves and Fishes by Dorothy Day

When we imitate Christ by doing His work on earth, things like the ones Dorothy lists, we are most truly his witnesses. Of course, it is also important that the folks we are witnessing to know who (or maybe I should say whose) we are.  That comes from building an ongoing relationship with them.  (probably a topic for another post).

Going back to Nancy’s comment citing St. Francis of Assisi, I recently read a story about him in the Max Lucado Study Bible.  It is said he once asked a young monk to go with him to a nearby village to preach.  They arrived and St. Francis began to visit people:  the butcher, the cobbler, the teacher, a new widow.  This went on all morning until Francis told his follower, “It’s time to return to the abbey.”  “But we came to preach” protested the young man, “and we haven’t preached a sermon.”  “Haven’t we?” responded Francis.  “People have watched us, listened to us, responded to us.  Every word we have spoken, every deed we have done has been a sermon.  We have preached all morning.”

So what do you think readers and Lutheran Ladies?  Do we witness through our actions?  How do you witness?  I want to hear your stories.

 

How to Recognize a Christian

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When a consecrated believer follows the Lord faithfully several evidences appear sooner or later.  Meekness and quietness of spirit become, in time, characteristics of daily life.  Other outward signs are:

  1. Grateful acceptance of the will of God as it comes in the hourly events of each day
  2. Pliability in the hands of God to do or bear whatever he assigns us
  3. A sweet disposition, even under provocation
  4. Calmness in the midst of turmoil and confusion
  5. Willingness to let others have their way
  6. Refusal to notice slights and wrongs
  7. Absence of worry, anxiety and fear

Taken from The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life by Hannah Whitall Smith

Study Resources for Ladies

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Since we have no set topic this month, I thought I would post about the Bible Study resources available for women through the WMF (Women’s Missionary Federation).  Every year this group publishes a Bible Study written by a woman of the Association of Free Lutheran Churches.  Each study has 11 lessons, intended to be used at monthly women’s meetings within the congregation.  Of course, the studies could be used by other small groups or individuals as well.  Writers are not paid for their work, and proceeds go toward the printing of the studies and the WMF projects — missionaries and education.

Click on “WMF” on the header of our blog to go to the website, then choose resources to see what studies are available.  I was privileged to write this year’s study on the book of Acts.

acts-picture

 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on the Fruit of the Spirit

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“Fruit is always the miraculous, the created; it is never the result of willing, but always a growth. The fruit of the Spirit is a gift of God, and only He can produce it. They who bear it know as little about it as the tree knows of its fruit. They know only the power of Him on whom their life depends”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

Martin Luther on the Fruit of the Spirit

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I thought it would be a good idea to start out the month with Martin Luther’s definition of each fruit of the spirit.

 

All the passages below are taken from the:

Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians (1535)

by Martin Luther

Translated by Theodore Graebner

(Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1949)

Ch. 5, pp. 216-236

 

http://www.ctsfw.edu/etext/luther/

 

     VERSES 22, 23. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.

The Apostle does not speak of the works of the Spirit as he spoke of the works of the flesh, but he attaches to these Christian virtues a better name. He calls them the fruits of the Spirit.

LOVE

It would have been enough to mention only the single fruit of love, for love embraces all the fruits of the Spirit. In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul attributes to love all the fruits of the Spirit: “Charity suffereth long, and is kind,” etc. Here he lets love stand by itself among other fruits of the Spirit to remind the Christians to love one another, “in honor preferring one another,” to esteem others more than themselves because they have Christ and the Holy Ghost within them.

JOY

Joy means sweet thoughts of Christ, melodious hymns and psalms, praises and thanksgiving, with which Christians instruct, inspire, and refresh themselves. God does not like doubt and dejection. He hates dreary doctrine, gloomy and melancholy thought. God likes cheerful hearts. He did not send His Son to fill us with sadness, but to gladden our hearts. For this reason the prophets, apostles, and Christ Himself urge, yes, command us to rejoice and be glad. “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem; behold, thy king cometh unto thee.” (Zech. 9:9.) In the Psalms we are repeatedly told to be “joyful in the Lord.” Paul says: “Rejoice in the Lord always.” Christ says: “Rejoice, for your names are written in heaven.”

PEACE

Peace towards God and men. Christians are to be peaceful and quiet. Not argumentative, not hateful, but thoughtful and patient. There can be no peace without longsuffering, and therefore Paul lists this virtue next.

LONGSUFFERING [Patient]

Longsuffering is that quality which enables a person to bear adversity, injury, reproach, and makes them patient to wait for the improvement of those who have done him wrong. When the devil finds that he cannot overcome certain persons by force he tries to overcome them in the long run. He knows that we are weak and cannot stand anything long. Therefore he repeats his temptation time and again until he succeeds. To withstand his continued assaults we must be longsuffering and patiently wait for the devil to get tired of his game.

GENTLENESS

Gentleness in conduct and life. True followers of the Gospel must not be sharp and bitter, but gentle, mild, courteous, and soft-spoken, which should encourage others to seek their company. Gentleness can overlook other people’s faults and cover them up. Gentleness is always glad to give in to others. Gentleness can get along with forward and difficult persons, according to the old pagan saying: “You must know the manners of your friends, but you must not hate them.” Such a gentle person was our Savior Jesus Christ, as the Gospel portrays Him. Of Peter it is recorded that he wept whenever he remembered the sweet gentleness of Christ in His daily contact with people. Gentleness is an excellent virtue and very useful in every walk of life.

GOODNESS

 A person is good when he is willing to help others in their need.

FAITH

In listing faith among the fruits of the Spirit, Paul obviously does not mean faith in Christ, but faith in men. Such faith is not suspicious of people but believes the best. Naturally the possessor of such faith will be deceived, but he lets it pass. He is ready to believe all men, but he will not trust all men. Where this virtue is lacking men are suspicious, forward, and wayward and will believe nothing nor yield to anybody. No matter how well a person says or does anything, they will find fault with it, and if you do not humor them you can never please them. It is quite impossible to get along with them. Such faith in people therefore, is quite necessary. What kind of life would this be if one person could not believe another person?

MEEKNESS

A person is meek when he is not quick to get angry. Many things occur in daily life to provoke a person’s anger, but the Christian gets over his anger by meekness.

TEMPERANCE [Self-control]

Christians are to lead sober and chaste lives. They should not be adulterers, fornicators, or sensualists. They should not be quarrelers or drunkards. In the first and second chapters of the Epistle to Titus, the Apostle admonishes bishops, young women, and married folks to be chaste and pure.