The End of All Things

I’ve been reading through the book of 1 Peter slowly, pausing to contemplate the verse or phrase that jumps out at me in each section. I’m up to Chapter 4, and what strikes home with me is this:

:”The end of all things is at hand...” 1 Peter 4:7

At the time this was written, many Christians thought that Jesus could return very soon, maybe even during their life time. Of course, this didn’t happen. Most Lutherans believe that we are in the end times now, a period which began when Christ ascended. We don’t know when the final end of things will come — it could be any minute, or it could be a thousand years from now. Our time is not God’s time.

For me personally, this phrase has a different meaning — I’m over 70 now and according to Psalm 90:

“The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away.” Psalm 90:10

Realistically, the end of all thing things for me is near. Modern medicine has pushed our life expectancy up a bit, but not that much. Both my husband and I lost younger brothers this year — our generation is now the one that is dying off.

Now, I could find this depressing, but I don’t. I look back on my life with satisfaction and gratitude for the things I’ve accomplished, and the friends and family I’ve known. I am looking forward to seeing people who have gone before me again; I certainly yearn for that time when aches and pains, anxiety and grief, all the “toil and trouble” of life are removed. Suffering hold fear for me, but not death. It will lead to a new and better way of life.

Peter has some advice for those of us nearing the end (and really that’s everyone because life could end any minute, not matter what our age). Here’s what you and I should be doing:

*Be self-controlled and sober-minded — life is serious business

*Love one another– so much quarreling and tension will be removed this way

*Show hospitality without grumbling — everyone needs some help and understanding now and then

*Serve each other, using our gifts for the good of mankind –leave the world a little better than you found it

It’s simple, really, but important. Your time is precious. Don’t waste it — the end is near.

For more about death see:

Martin Luther on God’s Victory Over Death

death is but a dream by Christopher Kerr, MD—Book review

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Death

Growing Up, Part 5

Learning about my spiritual gifts helped a lot, but I wasn’t grown up yet. 1 Peter 4:10 tells us:

Each one of you has received a special grace, so like good stewards responsible for all these different graces from God, put yourselves at the service of others.”

I began to seek out ways to use the talents God had given me. This sometimes meant taking a risk, but as a Christian friend once told me, “if you’re going to try something new, do it at church. If you fail, they’ll still love you!” One of the first things I did after taking the spiritual gifts class was start to write Vacation Bible School programs for our church. That was a big risk, because in addition to the skills I had, it required some of the ones I didn’t — crafts and organization. But you know what? I found other people to help me with those. That’s one of the wonderful things I’ve learned about being part of a church family, there are many people who will encourage you and help you when you step out and try to do the things God calls you to do.

Growing up as a Christian has been one of the greatest adventures of my life. Who would have guessed 40+ years ago that a shy introvert like me could do things like … lead a retreat? start a Bible study group for women? Stand up in front of a group and give a talk?

 “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26b

For more about following God’s calling see:

What’s Your Vocation?

Your Calling

Your Dream. God’s Plan. by Tiffany Smiling — Book Review

Growing Up, Part 4

Since those early days I’ve been in many different kinds of Bible study groups. There was the two year “Crossways” study Terry and I attended when our children were small. In that class, for the first time, I began to get the chronology of all those Sunday School stories straight. I made some good friends, too. I could still list for you every person who took that class with me.

Another study that had a big impact on my life was one that our pastor taught on spiritual gifts. I hadn’t really thought about my gifts before. Of course, I knew there were things I liked to do and things I didn’t. But when it came to doing things at church, I was pretty haphazard. I did things because somebody asked me to help, or because something needed to be done, or because I was interested. Sometimes this approach worked out– I was fine at many things like teaching the children, serving on the altar guild, and editing the newsletter–but I also made mistakes. There was the time I agreed to bake a lamb cake for Vacation Bible School. I baked three cakes and the final one still wouldn’t stand up the way it was supposed to! I can laugh now, but at the time it was a frustrating and unpleasant experience and one I certainly wouldn’t want to repeat.

In the gifts class, I learned there was a better way to go about serving. By evaluating my God-given talents I began to sort jobs around the church into three categories– things I was especially good at that included writing, studying and leadership; things I certainly could do like making coffee, cleaning, helping at the yard sale or visiting someone in the hospital; and things I really shouldn’t do– in my case that’s anything involving arts and craft or a high degree of organizational skill.

I’m not finished yet, so come back tomorrow for installment #5!

For more posts about spiritual gifts see:

Spiritual Gifts from the Holy Spirit

What are the Spiritual Gifts?

Let Your Spiritual Gifts S–T–R–E–T–C–H You

Growing Up, Part 3

When Terry and I joined the congregation, I didn’t have any experience at being an active, adult member. As a child, a family friend took me to church, Sunday School and Vacation Bible School. As a teenager and young adult, I attended services sporadically. Then after Terry and I got married, we decided to join a church, but basically, we just sat in the pew on Sunday morning. I thought that’s what belonging to a church was all about, but I was wrong. When we joined Peace In Christ, there were maybe 50 or 60 members, and God must have known just what I needed, because it’s hard to hide in a group that size. In fact, I was elected Recording Secretary at the first congregational meeting I attended. What a shock! I didn’t realize that in a small church agreeing to serve meant you got the job. Soon the pastor found out I liked to write and he suggested I get involved in helping with the newsletter and writing articles about the church for the local newspaper. I really enjoyed that, but I still wasn’t studying the Bible. After all, I knew all those stories from Sunday School class, and had even taken some courses about the Bible as literature in college. I didn’t think I needed any more.

Life has a way of moving along and changing, though, and pretty soon our first child was born. Before I knew it, she was two years old, and the nice people at church were asking if she could stay for Sunday School. Of course, that meant that Terry and I joined the adult class–what else was there to do for that hour? There I got another surprise–I discovered that the Bible is more than history or literature, it’s a guide for living life. In 1 Timothy 3:16-17 we read:

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

I got to know other Christians — the ones in the Bible, and the ones in class–most of whom were more mature in the faith than I was at the time. I saw how, despite their flaws and mistakes they had a living faith–vibrant and growing. Here were people who prayed before making a decision–I had never done that. They loved and served some of the most unlovable people. They had a purpose in life. I admired them and I began to want to be more like them.

Stay tuned for more tomorrow …..

For more posts about Bible study see:

The Greatest Bible Study

Study Resources for Ladies

A Prayer Before Study

Growing Up, Part 2

Now my church family has a lot in common with the Culler family. We’re not all alike–we’re different in age, gender and personality type. We have different talents and levels of education. We each have had different life experiences. The one big thing we have in common is this — God called us together to accomplish His purpose in this place, and we need one another. The 12th Chapter of 1 Corinthians puts it this way:

“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different ways of working, but the same God works all of them in all men … (and) to each one a manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good…. God has arranged the parts of the body just as He wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? … Now you are the body of Christ and each one of you has a part in it.”

However, we’re not born into a human family knowing what we want to do or can do as adults, and we’re not “born again” into the Christian family knowing that either. How do we find out?

To illustrate, I’ll tell you a little about how I grew up spiritually at Peace In Christ Lutheran Church ….. stay tuned for that story tomorrow ……

For more posts on the church family see:

Thankful for my Church Family

The Church Family

Living as a Family with One Another

Growing Up Part 1

Years ago, the vision of my church, Peace In Christ Lutheran in Walkersville was:

God’s People, Gathered Together, Growing up and Going Out through God’s Grace

At one point, to familiarize members with our vision, we held a Vision Workshop. Members gave talks on each segment of the vision — what it meant and how they had seen it applied. I recently came across the talk I wrote about “Growing Up” and thought I would share it this month.

You’ve probably noticed that in any family, there are different jobs or tasks that need to be done. It’s also true that not everyone in the family is equally able to do every job. For example, in my family, my husband, Terry rarely cooks — and to be frank, the rest of us prefer it that way! However, Terry is an excellent financial manager. He balances the checkbook, does the taxes and keeps the family records in order, and I depend upon him to do those things. Our daughter, Beth, is the only family member with artistic ability and so she is consulted on picture arrangement, color selection and poster projects. Kate, the most extroverted among us, keeps the dinner conversation lively. Of course, there are quite a few tasks that any one of us can handle like vacuuming or cleaning the bathroom. And believe me, life is better in the Culler household when everyone pitches in.

The family, however, has goals beyond housekeeping. One of the deepest human drives is the search for direction and meaning in life. A family is the best place to find encouragement and help in discovering who we are and what we do best. In our family, we’ve always tried to encourage the girls in their interests. At different times this has meant paying for music lessons and instruments; art classes; becoming soccer parents; going to Girl Scout meetings, band competitions and recitals. We even packed Kate up and sent her to Germany for a year as an exchange student. You get the idea! And it’s not only children, we adults grow and change also. When Terry and I were first married, he decided to go back to school, so I supported him through college and graduate school. He has been patient with my enthusiasms also. There were the years I decided to write the Vacation Bible School programs for Peace In Christ. I remember Terry telling someone how for months before VBS started, our house would be littered with books, maps and craft ideas (not easy for a neat freak to tolerate) and my mind was racing with ideas for that year’s theme to the virtual exclusion of everything else in our lives. He knew how important it was to me, so he helped me in any way he could.

To be continued …..

For more about family see these posts:

The Blessing of Family

Being a Family Blessing

A Family Prayer

Honor Everyone

I’ve been doing a lectio divina reading of 1 Peter, and here’s what stood out to me in Chapter 2:

Honor everyone.” 1 Peter 2:17a

Did you get that? Honor everyone. Not just the people you like and with whom you agree; not just your family; not just your fellow church members (and it’s hard enough to do that sometimes) but everyone. That would include criminals, politicians whose values you abhor, people who are rude or mean or critical, that incompetent clerk — once again, everyone. No exclusions.

What does it mean to honor someone? Well, my Bible dictionary defines it this way:

“to esteem or regard highly; to respect”

In other words, I’m being told to show respect and appreciation to people who (at least in my opinion) don’t deserve it. I need to be polite, to refrain from speaking badly about others or even thinking bad things about them. I need to be helpful and understanding, even when I’m not getting what I want. I feel like telling Jesus, “this is a hard teaching.” If that’s the standard I should apply to my behavior, I’m sure I fall short every day– and yet, it clearly is. There’s no wiggle room.

This statement is part of a section on how we should all live as servants of God. And there is a good reason for us to behave this way:

For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.” 1 Peter 2:15

When we treat others, even undeserving others, with respect, we’re showing the world that our faith makes us different. We’re actually honoring God. God loves “the world” (John 3:16) and He does not show partiality (Romans 2:11). As His children, and His representatives, we are also to love and honor all that He created.

It’s a good, short reminder that I need to give myself each morning. Honor everyone.

New Month/No Theme

It’s September, and once more it’s time for a “no theme” month.

As always, I’ll be doing some book reviews and hopefully some film reviews. I’ve started a study of 1 Peter, so you’ll be hearing more about that. Mostly, though, I’ll be listening to the Spirit and going wherever it leads.

I hope this will be a month of new beginnings. Many students and teachers will be going back to school — for real, this time. Others are returning to work in their offices, or starting new positions. For me and my husband, it’s a new start, too, as he has recently retired.

What will the rest of 2021 hold? That’s still to be discovered, and God is full of surprised. Let’s sit back in trust and see what happens next!

God loves you and so do I!

New Month/New Theme

It’s August already, where has the summer gone? With the new month, it’s time for a new theme, and the one that God has presented to me is — Journeying with Jesus.

The Bible is full of journeys. Abraham sets out into the unknown at God’s command; Jacob’s family moves to Egypt to escape a famine, and later into the promised land to escape slavery; Jesus travels the countryside proclaiming the Kingdom of God and finally to Jerusalem to meet His fate; some of His disciples meet Him on their trip to Emmaus after His resurrection. Paul, the famous missionary never stops moving as he plants churches throughout the Roman world!

The entire life of faith is a journey — sometimes we find ourselves in the desert, and other times we celebrate on the mountaintop. Mostly, though, we just plod along, putting one foot in front of the other. As long as we’re alive, we’re never standing still. Wherever our journey takes us, Jesus is there. I hope this month will be a time for all of us to take stock of our lives; to remember the places and people we’ve visited, and to reflect upon how each place and each person has been an opportunity to grown closer to the Savior.

So journey with me this month and always remember, God loves you and so do !! Keep walking!

Thy Will Be Done

‘”Thy will be done.’ For instance, when you wish, and by every means endeavor, to be well, and yet remaln ill–then say, ‘Thy will be done.’ When you undertake something, and your undertaking does not succeed, say, ‘Thy will be done.’ When you do good to others, and they repay you with evil, say, ‘Thy will be done.’ Or when you would like to sleep, and are overtaken by sleeplessness, say, ‘Thy will be done.’ In general, do not become irritated when anything is not done in accordance with your will, but learn to submit in everything to the Will of the Heavenly Father.”

FATHER JOHN

This was part of my daily devotional reading for today, and it makes me see how attached I am to my own will, and the way I want things to be or to turn out. It’s hard to accept sickness or failure or discomfort. Often I feel like Job, questioning God about why these things are happening to me. As the quote says, I need to learn trust and acceptance. Maybe you do, too.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6