Category Archives: May 2018: Piety

What Does Piety Look Like #2

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Years ago I found this description of what piety looks like in a book called The Christian’s Secret to a Happy Life by Hannah Whitall Smith.  Hannah was raised as a Quaker and was later influenced by the Holiness movement (John Wesley, founder of the Methodists). I don’t know all there is to know about Hannah’s theological beliefs, so I can’t recommend all of her writings, but I find her comments below helpful in defining what it means to be authentically pious.

“When a consecrated believer follows the Lord faithfully several evidences appear sooner or later.  Meekness and quietness of spirit become, in time, the 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

  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 affronts

  7. Absence of worry, anxiety and fear

The Christian's Secret to a Happy Life - Hannah Whitall Smith by [Smith, Hannah Whitall]

Sometimes I read through these qualities as a way to examine my conscience, in other words to measure my own progress in piety. Knowing our weaknesses is the starting point for change.  I admit to having trouble with all of these, but find #3 and #7 particularly difficult.  You may fall short in different areas. I notice that although these attributes are manifested outwardly, they all spring from an inner desire to trust and obey God, and they’re not easy to fake.  It’s not about following the rules, it’s about following Jesus.

Do you find Hannah’s list thought provoking? How might you use it?  Let the Lutheran Ladies know what you think.

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Practicing Piety

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After a Via de Cristo weekend, participants are encouraged to form or join an accountability group.  In this group, we meet on a regular basis to discuss our plans for growing in God’s grace.  Since a balanced Christian life includes piety, study and action, group members take turns talking about how they are doing in each of these areas.  To mature as a Christian, we must practice spiritual disciplines.  Disciplines that increase our piety include:

  1. Congregational worship and communion
  2. Morning offering/evening thanks
  3. Devotions, meditation and prayer
  4. Examination of conscience
  5. Altar or chapel visits
  6. Family prayer
  7. Blessings before meals
  8. Spiritual direction

Maybe you’re not even sure what some of these mean.  I didn’t before my weekend.  (That may be the topic for another post).  Maybe you think it sounds a little mechanical, or even legalistic (Those are dangers, for sure.  It is possible to become a “routine Rita” simply doing Christian things without really thinking about what they mean).  However, like any other support group, banding together with others who want to go in the same direction helps us keep on track.  Knowing I have to “weigh in” next week encourages me to complete the task/s I’ve assigned myself.  It is also an opportunity to hear what works for others, and it’s helpful to learn all the creative ways my friends have learned to pray, to get recommendations for devotionals and just be held up in prayer.

At the end of the piety section there is a question to answer:  “What was the moment you felt closest to Christ?”  Maybe it was during a worship service;  maybe it was listening to a favorite hymn or song;  maybe it was an insight that seemed God-sent during prayer;  maybe it was a simple feeling of gratitude for time with family.  Sometimes I wonder if I would even notice these moments of grace if I didn’t have my reunion group meeting to make me think about them each month.

You don’t have to go on a Via de Cristo weekend to practice piety.  You do need others, though.  It’s too hard to go it alone.  Find a friend or friends.  Pray together;  study together;  talk about our Christian walk;  laugh and cry and vent when you need to;  do ministry together.  You won’t regret it, and you’ll look back years later to see where all that practice has led.  It will be higher ground.

God loves you and so do I!

Piety Part 2 – by Jim Edgel

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Here is the second installment in the series on Piety from Jim Edgel:

 

Authentic or true piety comes from a dynamic, personal relationship with God that is conscious, growing and shared.  Piety is living a life that responds to God’s amazing gift of grace in His son Jesus.  Conscious of the personal value of God’s grace and consciously choosing a life with Him.  This life in Christ must be continually growing.  We either grow or decline.  We cannot remain still.  As we live this life of grace, we must share it with others and be willing to accept people where they are, listen to them and share our most precious gift – our time.  As we become more self-giving, we grow in our potential as human beings and understand we are God’s channel of grace to others and ourselves…  Christ must remain at the center of all aspects of our life, every action, every decision we make. We can’t say I love Jesus but this is business, work or vacation; or I am having a difficult time right now, I must take care of myself.  God’s word tells us to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you” … What is Authentic or true piety? Authentic piety is directing our whole life to God.   When we leave God out of certain areas of our life, we leave a huge space for Satan to slip in.  Directing our whole life to God is not about a long list of things we are forbidden to do.  It is about consciously sharing a growing Christ-centered life, which comes from the response of a grateful heart.  When we give our life over to God and have a willingness to be changed by the Holy Spirit, we begin to discover the true purpose and plan God has created us for.  We start the most amazing adventure we could ever imagine… For our whole life to be directed to God;

The three elements of every act – ones knowing, wanting and doing have to be directed to God.  We should know God and know what He teaches.  When our knowledge centers on God, God directs our knowing.  Wanting is the emotions that drive our actions.  Wanting becomes loving when our love for God drives our actions.  We strive to act according to God’s will.  Piety is directing our whole life to God by knowing who God is and what He taught.  Loving God with our whole heart and striving to carry out His will is the full response to the gift of grace.

Piety is an Ideal.  Living in a relationship with God is the Christian Ideal.  This is a lifelong process that brings us to a personal relationship with God.  And is nurtured in the same way as other intimate relationships we pursue in life.

With God at the center of our life, the Holy Spirit will help us maintain the goal of emulating the character of Jesus and His approach to dealing with people and problems.  All of us, no matter how capable we become in our Christian walk, will make mistakes.  I personally make many mistakes and at times need correction.  None of us ever get it all right … Except for Jesus, of course.  One of the greatest marks of maturity as human beings and to reveal the level of our spiritual maturity is the ability to receive correction.  Other things that reveal our level of spiritual maturity are:

Characteristics of authentic piety.  Courage,  Naturalness, and  Vibrant and joyful life.  Courage is not foolishness; it is the mark of one who will do what is right because it is the right thing to do.  It takes courage to step out of our “comfort zone” and accept new challenges that God may bring into our life.  It also takes courage to forgive someone who has hurt us.  Remember, we can do all things through Him who strengthens us … It is vital that everything we do as Christians be natural.  Our actions should be a natural response to a grateful heart.  People living a life of authentic piety should stand out only because of the love they have for God and others.  Jesus said “By this all people will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”  An ordinary life lived to the fullest is not dull, it is exciting and rich.  As our faith deepens, we sense a new meaning to each part of life.  We grasp new potential and realize new talents that God has created in us.  As we direct our whole life to God our personal relationship with Him impacts every area of our lives.   The practices of piety are those things we do that nourish our relationship with God.  Practices of piety are not piety in themselves; they are our concrete, visible responses to God’s love for us.  Practices of piety such as worship, prayer and Christian service to others flow out of our relationship with God and nourish it.  Life must be approached from the perspective that all we do is part of our response to God’s call.  Some may only know who God is by being around Christians.  The outcome of authentic piety is the peace of God.  As we are directing our whole life to God, we are conscious of being in a relationship with the Triune God.  We are:  Children of the Father, brothers of Christ and temples of the Holy Spirit.

 

To be continued…

Piety Part 1- by Jim Edgel

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The following are excerpts from a talk on Piety given by Jim Edgel – They have been reprinted with his permission:

Piety is a word we rarely use and may think of it in a negative way such as the “pious” ways of the Pharisees.  But authentic Christian piety is a very good thing.  In fact, if we explain the life Jesus led, it was a life of true piety.  Brothers, as we become filled with the Holy Spirit, God calls each one of us to a new life, and this involves a radical change from within.  This change alters our relationship with:  Our self, with God, with other people, and with the world, we live in together.  We see ourselves differently, knowing that no matter how broken we may be, we are forgiven and very valuable to God.  We have a new direction for our lives as children of God, full of marvelous capabilities.  We begin to see other people through God’s eyes, loving them as brothers and sisters who were created with the same potential that God has given to us.  And as we continue to transform; we see our world, as messed up as it may be, as God’s gift to us, given for our enjoyment and care.  When we speak of piety, we are speaking of a full response in all areas of our life to God’s amazing love and grace. We must seek a personal relationship with God, not just knowing about God … But knowing who God is.  Being Christian, not just doing Christian things.  How can we discover our God-given potential and be the complete person that God calls us to be as we live a life of grace?  This consists of balancing three key dimensions of our lives.  All three are equally important and it takes all three, working together, giving equal stability and balance in order to support us as we live in a close relationship with God.  To better understand the importance of Piety in our daily walks as Christians; which includes taking the Good News of Jesus Christ and Him crucified for you and me to the world, we must understand the difference between authentic piety and false piety. Authentic piety is an intimate, revitalizing deepening relationship with God. Jesus explains this to us.  You may remember reading in the Gospel of Matthew when the Pharisees gathered to question Jesus and one of the group asked Him which was the greatest commandment in the law.  And Jesus using His words with great precision, as always, not only answers their question, He explains authentic piety and sums up all the commandments in three sentences.  22nd chapter of Matthew verses 37, 38, 39 – And Jesus said to him “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it:  You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”False piety is a superficial, inaccurate or deceptive practice that appears to be Christian.  False piety is destructive.  It distracts and diverts people from seeking and knowing God.  It prevents them from finding and living the fulfilled life God has planned for them.  Friends … any of us can respond to God’s call in either of two ways.  We can follow a path of faith and commitment as Paul described in his letter to the Colossians “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” Or we can devote ourselves to religious, regulations and practices that mark us as “A good Christian” who does “Christian” things.  Those who take this path do not understand the role of God’s grace in the lives of those who are in a relationship with Him.

More to follow

 

A Call to Christian Character-Toward a Recovery of Biblical Piety–Book Review

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This book, published in 1970 and edited by Bruce Shelley, is a series of essays by professors at Conservative Baptist Seminary.  Piety is hard to pin down, and I found it helpful and interesting to note the different definitions given by some of the authors:

“(Genuine piety is) the living fulfillment of that summons of God reported in Leviticus 11:44-45, ‘Ye shall be holy for I am holy.'” Earl S. Kalland

 

“…piety is the performance of duty with delight…action in harmony with inner convictions forged by the spirit and the teaching of the divine Word.”  Joseph Edwards

 

“The essence of piety is to be like God, to do as He says and to love doing it.”  Robert Alden

 

“….piety is love in action.” Donald Burdick

 

“Biblical piety is devotion, not to an institution or cause but to a person, Jesus Christ. .. love for Christ (is) its motive and love for men and society is (its) proof” Ralph Keiper

 

“(piety is) … Anything and everything a believer feels and says and does as a result of the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit within his life.”  Bruce Shelley

Some practices/marks of piety mentioned included:  prayer, study of God’s word, obedience to the leadership of the Holy Spirit, trusting God in every issue, steadfastness, eagerness to be taught Biblical truth.

Verdict:  Well done and easy to understand. A good read for Christians who want to gain a better understanding of piety and how to live an authentically pious life.

 

A Mother’s Piety

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“I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.”                      2 Timothy:1:5

Not every child is as lucky as Timothy.  We don’t all have pious mothers, and many who don’t still grow up to find Christ.  We can’t inherit our faith.  However, it is true that parents influence us, and I thought Mother’s Day is a good time to remember and celebrate that.

Did you know that when people are asked who had the greatest influence on their faith life the most common answer given is “my mother”?  (I’m sure grandmothers are in the mix as well.)  Children don’t “catch” their mothers’ faith through book learning or Bible reading, even if that goes on.  They catch it from seeing a person who lives her life for Christ;  a woman who practices what the Bible teaches.  I remember reading years ago that children learn in three ways:  by example, by example, and by example.

So to all of us who are mothers and grandmothers, let’s pray every day to be good examples of piety to our children and grandchildren — not the fake, whitewashed piety of the Pharisees, but the real deal;  the kind they will respect and want to imitate.  And if you’re not a parent, don’t worry!  You’re still called to be a role model to younger Christians.  You may be the Sunday School teacher, the Youth leader, the mentor who will always be remembered and cherished for pointing the way to Jesus.

Maybe some of our other authors and readers have stories they would like to share.  Who were the women who modeled true piety in your life?  Was it a mother, grandmother, Sunday School teacher or friend?  I’d like to hear about them.

 

What Does Piety Look Like?

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In his book, Varieties of Christian Experience, Lutheran psychologist Sv Norborg describes a saint (in other words, a pious person) as “an average man or woman in whose presence we realize that God is a reality.”  He goes on to say:

“Such a personality has, as have all humans, its limitations.  Still one finds here a natural supernaturalism and a grateful sense of life’s values.  A clearness of thought, with visionary hope against hope.  A consideration of factual realities in the world and in our fellow men, in a spirit of sound judgement and friendliness.  A sober control of emotions, placing deeds of love above romantic or pious words.  A stability of will that springs from a surrendered life under God’s benediction.  A free and balanced expression of thoughts and feelings, not absolute in its statements, still clear in its convictions.  An openminded interest in life and lives, depending upon a self-forgetting, unseen love, taken as a matter of fact, not demonstrated to be seen by men, but hidden in God.  A humility that is neither sick nor sour, a joy that is neither ecstatic nor fading, a confidence in God that is not shaken by the tempests of sorrow or affliction.  An unknown among millions, known to God, which makes this anonymous life different.”

Do you know someone like this?

The Will of God by Leslie D. Weatherhead –Book Review

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Following God’s will is obviously part of leading a pious life. However, many Christians feel this is easier said than done.  Is everything that happens, good and bad, part of God’s will?  If bad things are not God’s will, why do they happen?  How can we discern God’s will for us, personally.  In this short book, Leslie Weatherhead gives his insights into these questions.

He begins by discussing God’s will from three different perspectives:

  • God’s intentional will
  • God’s circumstantial will
  • God’s ultimate will

God’s intentional will is always good; for example, tragedy, illness and death are never God’s will for us. Adam and Eve were created to live eternally with God.  However, sin came into the world and now affects all that we do and are.The Will of God by [Weatherhead, Leslie D.]  Because God allows us to suffer the consequences of sin, bad things happen.  The world, the flesh and the devil can temporarily thwart God’s will.  Even then, through His circumstantial will, God is able to bring good out of bad things.  A person who experiences suffering may go on to grow in their faith, to reach out to others in similar circumstances,  to found a program, write a book, or undertake other activities which turn that suffering into blessing.  God’s ultimate will will always prevail.  God is omnipotent, and His ultimate plans for our lives cannot fail.  The Book of Revelation tells us that in the end all evil will be defeated and there will be no more “death or mourning.” (2:14)

Weatherhead’s advice for knowing God’s will?  Know God.  The more we worship, pray and study, the more we walk with Him daily, the more we practice our piety, the better equipped we will be to understand and do His will.  Other suggestions include:

  1. Listen to our conscience
  2. Use common sense
  3. Seek good advice from friends
  4. Read great literature and history
  5. Heed the voice of the church
  6. Pray for “inner light”

This book was originally published in 1944 so some of the examples and anecdotes are a bit dated;  however, I think most Christians would find it logical,  easy to read and full of helpful thoughts and suggestions.  I give it five stars!

 

The Legacy You Leave Behind

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The Legacy You Leave Behind

“What matters in the end is the legacy that you leave behind. It is neither your wealth nor your various accomplishments that are the deciding factors but the seeds of love that you sowed. People will remember you for your acts of kindness, compassion, benevolence, piety, sympathy and the thoughtfulness that you had in your heart for others.”
― Latika Teotia

I recently had my first grandchild. It makes a person think even more about the legacy you want to leave for your family. The most important of these is a deep devotion to God… piety. I want my children and grandchildren to think back when I am on the other side of eternity and remember my love for God and my love for them. I want them to remember me singing songs of praise, reading Bible stories with them and applying what we read to how we are to live our lives. I want them to know that being kind, compassionate, caring, and thoughtful aren’t just things we SHOULD do…they are things we do because God shows those same things to us. All we have to do is love God and love our neighbors no matter how hard it may be. For all God has done to redeem us, it’s the best thing we can do to show our gratitude.

 

God loves you and so do I,

Leslie

 

photo courtesy of howtoadult.com

Quote courtesy of latikateotia.com

Seek Ye First

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On a Via de Cristo weekend, one of the talks is entitled “Piety.”  We learn that piety is part of a balanced Christian life, which also includes study and apostolic action.  True piety means directing your entire life toward God;  doing His will, understanding His purposes.  The song, “Seek Ye First” is a good reminder to do this every day.