Category Archives: Uncategorized

By Our Love

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Christy Nockels song, By Our Love, speaks to us reaching out to help one another.  This is really what Laity is all about.  We should be the hands and feet of Jesus.

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What does the Laity do? (Just a small list…)

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Do you go to church every Sunday?  Do you just go to Sunday School and Church and then go home and watch the game on TV and think that you’ve done your thing for God this week?  Have you ever thought about what goes on during the week before church?

Let me give you a clue…  Members of the church that you attend are busy doing large and small jobs so that when you come in on Sunday morning, everything is set up.  The Sunday School teachers are planning their lessons.  The choir and organist are practicing the music.  Someone is typing and printing the bulletin.  Someone else may be setting up the overhead.  During this week the council met to make decisions on how the church is run as a business, taking care of bills and other boring things (yes, those decisions must be made as well).

I used to be one of the people that just came to church on Sunday.  Then I decided that I wanted to get involved.  I was amazed at how much activity goes into one service.  How much needs to be done and how many decisions have to be made.  Just like everyone else I thought the pastor took care of it.  But this is absolutely not true.  The pastor is busy with doing his thing, the shepherding, meeting people for counseling, going to see the shut-ins, visiting the sick, writing his sermon.

Then there are the people who are busy during the service. Ushers, greeters, sound techs, nursery helpers, scripture readers, communion assistants.   The list goes on.  It’s enough to make you feel guilty for just sitting in the pew, huh?  Good.  Volunteer for something.  Your church will find something for you to do.

 

“Even unto death”

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Revelation 2:10

Holman Christian Standard Bible
“Don’t be afraid of what you are about to suffer. Look, the Devil is about to throw some of you into prison to test you, and you will have affliction for 10 days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.”

We go to church, read our bible, go to Sunday school, we pray, and go about our lives with our human knowledge and human sight; and seemingly unfortunate lack of ability to see into the future. Psychologists talk about children and teenagers not being able to “see around corners.” What they mean (I think) is that kids don’t know how to think ahead far enough to foresee the end result of their current actions. When we ask why they would jump off of  the couch onto their little brother, expecting them to know, we as the adults are actually doing so in folly. They really don’t know, and couldn’t predict harm. Their brains aren’t done growing, and they didn’t (previously) have the context to realize what could happen. But we adults have experience that allows us to see ahead, and logically predict results. That’s a benefit right?

Well that depends. Children who can’t see possible harm, also trust that it will work out. And really it usually does, even when flawed parents drop the ball. (And that I do.) They believe that things will be okay. Children believe it even unto to death. Christian parents know this well, however if for some reason we have to live through the ‘even unto death’ part . . . we find it almost impossible to see around the corner and believe it will be okay. Our adult minds, with our adult experiences have given us reason to think it might not be. And its much easier to accept ‘even unto death’ if it’s our own.

But when we’re faced with the death of a loved one, it’s so much harder. We can’t see them, nor can we logically predict our lives without them. The thing is we don’t have to be logical when it comes to trusting God. We don’t have to know everything, we don’t have to do anything. We can mess up everyday, be happy, be sad, maybe be on our game; just hold out hope in Christ. Let go and be faithful until death, and God will give us the crown of life.

A Reformation Reading List

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You know I can’t let a month go by without recommending some reading.  I found this Reading List for Lutherans.  What could be more appropriate for our month on the Reformation.  Let us know if you plan to read some of these.

A Reading List for Lutherans Quality, Lay-Friendly Books That Will Stretch and Shape the Lutheran Mind Easy reading: *                    More challenging: **                    Really challenging, but worth it: *** prepared by Gene Edward Veith
BASIC LUTHERANISM Gene Veith. Spirituality of the Cross: The Way of the First Evangelicals.* I wrote this one. It’s the book that I wish I had found before I became a Lutheran. It explains the Lutheran distinctives and the richness of Lutheran spirituality in what I hope is a lucid and engaging way. Scot A. Kinnaman, ed. Lutheranism 101.* A comprehensive, easy-to-read guide to Lutheranism, written in form of short articles, sound-bites, sidebars and illustrations. J. T. Mueller. Christian Dogmatics.** A systematic survey of Lutheran doctrine, as understood by The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, with Bible verses to back up every point. This is a summary of Francis Pieper’s fourvolume Christian Dogmatics. Steven D. Paulson. Lutheran Theology.*** Some may think Lutheranism is staid and respectable, but this book shows just how radical and mind-blowing Lutheranism — with its teachings about the Law and Gospel, the Word and Sacraments — really is.
THE CONFESSIONS The Book of Concord. As the definitive authority in all things Lutheran, this book is in a category by itself. The creeds and the catechisms*; the Lutheran Confessions of faith (Augsburg, Smalcald Articles, Formula of Concord, Treatise on the Primacy of the Pope)**; the extended defenses of those Confessions (the Apology of the Augsburg Confession and the Thorough Declaration of the Formula of Concord***.
LUTHERAN CLASSICS C. F. W. Walther. Law & Gospel. ** The founder of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod explains to 19th-century seminary students how to properly distinguish the Law and the Gospel and how to preach them so as to bring sinners to Christ. This book offers both stimulating theology as it lays out the distinctive Lutheran approach to Scripture and comforting devotional reading as it plumbs the depths of what Christ has done for us. Bo Giertz. The Hammer of God.* This is a novel by a Swedish bishop, depicting three generations of Lutheran pastors, who each have to deal with the religious fads of their day — pietism, rationalism, liberalism — ultimately finding in their ministries the strength of Lutheran orthodoxy. Martin Chemnitz. The Two Natures in Christ.*** Chemnitz is second only to Luther among the great Lutheran theologians. His brilliant work on Christology — dealing with the incarnation, whereby Christ who is truly God and truly man atones for our sins and the “communication of the attributes,” whereby Christ’s body and blood are truly present in Holy Communion — is a hallmark of Lutheran theology. Charles Porterfield Krauth. The Conservative Reformation.** Written in 1871 by an American Lutheran scholar, this book is a masterpiece of historical theology, showing the differences between the conservative Reformation of the Lutherans and the more radical Reformation of the Calvinists and Anabaptists. Moreover, it shows how those differences remain important today.
WORKS BY MARTIN LUTHER The Freedom of the Christian.** This early work by the Reformer proclaims the freedom we have in the Gospel. It also lays the groundwork for Luther’s doctrine of vocation. This treatise sets forth the classic paradox of the Christian life: “A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none. A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all.” And it teaches how we are to be “little Christs to each other.” Sermons.* Luther is among the most pastoral of theologians, and his many published sermons show him as a vivid expositor of God’s Word and, for all of the polemical fury that sometimes breaks out, as a compassionate minister to troubled souls. In his sermons, we often see Luther’s humor as well as his wisdom as he applies God’s Word to the ordinary people of his time.
Letters of Spiritual Counsel.* Here we see Luther’s pastoral heart, as he offers spiritual counsel to ordinary Christians of his day who struggle with some of the same issues that we do today. Commentaries.** Luther’s theology is drawn from the Bible, so his Bible commentaries are some of his profoundest works. Two good places to start are his Commentary on Galatians, which is a sustained critique of works righteousness, and his Commentary on Romans, whose explanation of justification by grace through faith led to the conversion of John Bunyan and John Wesley. His commentaries on the Psalms make rich devotional reading and his multi-volume Commentary on Genesis contains, among other things, a thorough treatment of vocation and the Christian’s life in the world. Bondage of the Will.*** This full-throated argument against the humanism of the Renaissance genius Erasmus is considered some of Luther’s greatest theological writing, but it is not for the faint of heart.
BIOGRAPHIES OF MARTIN LUTHER Roland Bainton. Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther.* This is an acknowledged masterpiece of the art of biography — compelling, easy-to-read and insightful into Luther’s tumultuous life and times. Martin Brecht. Martin Luther. 3 vols.** This exhaustive multi-volume treatment is the definitive scholarly biography of Luther. Heiko Oberman. Luther: Man Between God and the Devil.*** A deep psychological and spiritual treatment of Luther.
LUTHERAN THEOLOGY Hermann Sasse. We Confess Anthology.** This German theologian defied Adolf Hitler and his attempts to Nazify the Christian Church. He later emigrated to Australia, where he served as a seminary professor and as a major influence on confessional Lutheranism around the world. This book collects a number of Sasse’s works on Christ, the Sacraments and contemporary theological issues. See also the two volume collection of Sasse’s letters and essays, The Lonely Way. Francis Pieper, Church Dogmatics. 4 vols.** The definitive systematic theology for The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, sketching out each topic in detail with full Scriptural evidence. Confessional Lutheran Dogmatics.** An ongoing series of volumes — six so far with more to come — by different authors, updating Pieper’s work and addressing contemporary theological issues. Oswald Bayer. Martin Luther’s Theology: A Contemporary Interpretation.*** A distinguished contemporary theologian shows how Luther’s theology addresses modern and postmodern thought in a sophisticated way. Robert Kolb and Charles Arand. The Genius of Luther’s Theology: A Wittenberg Way of Theology for the Contemporary Church.* Two major LCMS scholars of the Lutheran Confessions show their relevance and that of Luther to contemporary issues in the Church.
VOCATION Gene Veith. God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life.* My book explores Luther’s doctrine of vocation on a popular level. Paul Althaus. Ethics of Martin Luther.** An important theological scholar explores Luther’s teachings about life in the world, including both Luther’s doctrine of vocation and his doctrine of the Two Kingdoms. Gustav Wingren. Luther on Vocation.*** The key book on vocation with paradigm-shifting insights on every page.
THEOLOGY OF THE CROSS Richard C. Eyer. Pastoral Care under the Cross: God in the Midst of Suffering.* A hospital chaplain tells about how he applies Luther’s theology of the cross — as opposed to the more common “theology of glory” — as he ministers to the sick, the suffering and the dying. Alister E. McGrath. Luther’s Theology of the Cross: Martin Luther’s Theological Breakthrough.** A prominent British theologian explores the centrality of the theology of the cross in Luther’s life and thought. Gerhard Forde. On Being a Theologian of the Cross: Reflections on Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation, 1518.*** A sometimes controversial theologian, an advocate of what he called “radical Lutheranism” explores some of Luther’s most radical ideas. In addition to Forde’s commentary, the book includes an edition of Luther’s Heidelberg Theses, in which the reformer outlined his teachings about how God comes to us in suffering and weakness, rather than in success

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

First Things First — Who (or what) Do You Worship?

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In Sunday School last week we were discussing idols and how we can feel (wrongly) righteous by telling ourselves that these days we’re too smart to worship statues or bushes or bulls.  We forget that we simply have a different set of things we worship, maybe our expensive cars,  our beautiful houses, our loved ones or our bank account.  This is worshiping things that are created instead of the Creator.

A book I just started reading puts it a different, and I think an even better way:

“The first of the Ten Commandments, ‘You shall have not other gods but me,’ designates that there is a power and purpose that gives life.  The worship of other gods separates us from what alone gives life.  For the Israelites other gods were most often nature gods, local or otherwise, that were believed to have power to insure fertility, prosperity and security.  For us, these gods are less likely to be personalized but named impersonally as sex, money and power.

The Christian Moral Life:  Practices of Piety by Timothy F. Sedgwick

What popped out for me is that we’re not even worshipping different idols, we’re worshipping the same old ones, under different names!  Just like our ancient forbears, we want to feel safe and loved and respected, but we are looking in all the wrong places.  Our only hope for those things is in God.  He always loves, always provides.  He gives true meaning to our lives.  Our relationship with Him must come first if we hope to lead a pious life.  Of course that leads to my YBH question (yes, but how).  How do we learn to  put God first when so many other people and things capture our thoughts, dreams and imaginations?  That’s a topic for another post.

Henri Nouwen on the Blessing of Poverty

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“How can we embrace poverty as a way to God when everyone around us wants to become rich? Poverty has many forms. We have to ask ourselves: ‘What is my poverty?’ Is it lack of money, lack of emotional stability, lack of a loving partner, lack of security, lack of safety, lack of self-confidence? Each human being has a place of poverty. That’s the place where God wants to dwell! ‘How blessed are the poor,’ Jesus says (Matthew 5:3). This means that our blessing is hidden in our poverty.

We are so inclined to cover up our poverty and ignore it that we often miss the opportunity to discover God, who dwells in it. Let’s dare to see our poverty as the land where our treasure is hidden.”
Henri J.M. Nouwen, Bread for the Journey: A Daybook of Wisdom and Faith

Blessings

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We all think of Blessings as being the good in our life.  Nice house, newer car, nice clothes, good job and on and on.  We really need to look back at the “bad” things that have happened in our life and see whether those experiences were blessings.

I’ve written about some of my experiences here.  Sixteen years of caregiving for my husband taught me patience.  I learned to wait on the Lord.  I also learned to trust the Lord, that he had everything under control.  My faith grew.  Yes, I had times when I would say, “When, Lord, when?”.  Just wondering when my life would change.  Sometimes I felt stuck.  I couldn’t just walk away from my husband, but there were many things that I wanted to do and couldn’t because I had to take care of him.  I learned to not let the bitterness overcome me, to give it to the Lord.

So, you would hardly think that having a husband diagnosed with a brain tumor and then having to take care of him, watching him slowly (very slowly) deteriorate and then eventually die would be a blessing.  Romans 8:28 says it all:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

I’ve put this song up on the blog before.  Laura Story’s husband also had a brain tumor.  He is still doing well from what I have been able to hear.  She wrote this song after he was diagnosed.

 

Christ

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One day

as he braved a twisted, tortuous road

beneath an angry, grey-streaked sky

burdened by wood and love

he held me in his heart

so carefully I did not fall

and shatter on the stones

when he stumbled

 

He laid him down in dirt

until ribbons of pain tied him

to the angry, blood-stained sky

still holding me in his heart

so carefully I did not suffocate

as his lungs clawed the heavens

to keep from bursting

 

When it was finished

he held me in his heart

so carefully

I did not spill out

when his blood rained down

beneath an angry, night-black sky

to purify the broken earth

 

When he died

he held me in his heart

so carefully

I lived

 

I live

as I have always lived

as I shall always live

so carefully held

in his heart

 

[NOTE: I wrote this on Resurrection Day (April 4), 2010.]

The path is Narrow

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Matthew 7:13 & 14, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

Jesus of course was speaking of the afterlife. Why is it that it’s so hard for people to get to heaven?  And why is it so easy for us to find ourselves in hell? Apparently if human kind were a pie graph, a narrow 10-20% sliver would be in heaven and the other broad part of the pie would easily be in hell. The thing is, we LIKE doing bad things. We like to drink in excess, eat in excess, and smoke our paychecks away. There’s plenty of evidence that Americans fornicate without restraint as well. Look at divorce rates (even among Christians), look at how many have sexual relations before marriage, and how many registered sex offenders there are. And when it comes to gossip, complaint, little white lies, slander, or plain ol’ discouragement . . . look no further than the social giants of the internet. Pleasure however, is not happiness. And if we continue to revel in what pleases us, what we are really doing is refusing Christ. We would do well to remember that.

The truth is that it takes discipline to do right. It takes restraint and focus to keep ourselves safe from, well ourselves. But there is hope and His name is Jesus Christ. Even if we fail at trying, that’s something. It means that we are no longer just stopped, but we’ve turned around, and made an effort to move toward Jesus. We don’t need to be perfect by any means, because Jesus did that for us. Still, there’s a difference between messing up and regretting it, and knowingly messing up and justifying it.