Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Praying For One Another

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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

We lay people need to pray for our Pastor and for each other.  I have found, like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, that in praying for someone my feelings about them transform.  Often God reveals something that shows me I have been misjudging or misunderstanding them.  Prayer is an important ministry of the laity;  we are never too old, too young, too ill, or too ignorant to pray.  It is such a simple gift we can give others, and one we often neglect.

 

 

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Just Open the Door by Jen Schmidt–Book Review

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“Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality”  Romans 12:13

Jen Schmidt doesn’t just practice hospitality, she pursues it!  She defines hospitality as “freely giving of ourselves, while granting others the freedom to be themselves.” and offers many creative solutions to our usual excuses for failing to welcome others.

The best advice she has is, “just do it!”  Hospitality is not about having the perfect home or the perfect menu;  it’s simply about welcoming others in and making them comfortable.  It’s not about you at all– it’s about others.  Her hospitality is radical;  it goes far beyond the usual dinner or potluck.  In her book, she discusses hospitality on the go (spread a blanket at the ball game and invite someone to sit with you), everyday moments (invite the people you just met at Chick-fil-A to visit you), adoption (make a stranger part of your family) and more.

Throughout the book, the author has interspersed “Dear Jen” letters she has received with questions about hospitality and her answers. There are also a number of short essays by some of her family members. Each chapter is  followed by an “Elevate the Ordinary” list of ideas about everything from entertaining on a budget to creating a family mission statement.

I especially enjoyed a chapter about a time in her life when everything seemed to be going wrong.  Her family was struggling financially and there were several deaths in the family.  Jen says:

“I was forced to choose.  Declare His promises or disappear into my doubt.  Avoid doing life in community and the vulnerability that comes along with it, or wrestle my spirit to find ways to bring Him glory in the midst of it.  I needed to stay committed to opening my life up to others–actively loving God and loving my neighbor–even when I didn’t feel like it.  Even when I couldn’t afford it.”

If you, like me, do not have the gift of hospitality, read this book.  You’ll be inspired and learn many suggestions for hosting and welcoming.  Some of them are sure to work for you. You may also enjoy visiting Jen’s blog, Balancing Beauty and Bedlam.

Verdict:  I give this book 5 stars.  For purchasing information go to the link below:

http://www.bhpublishinggroup.com/products/just-open-the-door

I’m in the Lord’s Army

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I just saw a funny cartoon on Pinterest  It showed the Simpsons reading a letter.  The caption says, “It’s from our church.  We’ve been called up for active service.”  This may make you chuckle, but as laity, it’s perfectly true.  When we become members of the body of Christ, we’re on duty for life.  We’re never too young or too old to do our part.  We never retire.

There’s a Sunday School Song I used to sing with my daughters that’s a good reminder.  It brings back happy memories, so I hope you’ll enjoy it, too.

 

Martin Luther on Tribulation

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Those speak foolishly who ascribe their anger or their impatience to such as offend them or to tribulation. Tribulation does not make people impatient, but proves that they are impatient. So everyone may learn from tribulation how his heart is constituted.

Martin Luther

I’m going off theme here, because I found this quote and I really like it.  These days we might be inclined to substitute “stress” for tribulation.  How do you behave under stress?  If you become angry or impatient, doesn’t that mean the person you’re really angry with is God?  Doesn’t it show a lack of obedience and submission to His will? Isn’t it sin?  Our sin, not somebody else’s?

My problem with stress is different.  I’m likely to worry, fret and sometimes become so overwhelmed I have trouble making a decision or moving forward at all.  This is sin also, just a different kind.  It’s boils down to lack of trust in God’s goodness.

Maybe you’re reaction is different from either of these.  You may have a different sinful stress behavior, or you may be mature enough to let go and let God in times of suffering.  For most of us, it’s something with which we have trouble, something we need to work on. We will experience trouble and tribulation.  The Bible tells us that is certain. We can grow through these times, or we can keep repeating the behaviors that get us nowhere.  Behavior that hurts others and hurts us.  Luther’s right.  Our reactions are our own and we need to take responsibility for them, and learn to do better.  They reveal where we are spiritually.  Next time you’re stressed, take a look in the mirror.  Do you like what you see?

 

Sheep Give Birth to Sheep

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My husband is fond of this saying:  “The Shepherd does not produce sheep.  Only sheep give birth to sheep.”  What he means is, it isn’t the Pastor’s job to evangelize.  Oh, he may do that as an individual, particularly if it is one of his spiritual gift.  However, his role is to equip and motivate us, the lay people, to spread the gospel in our own environments, outside the church walls.

I’ll tell you a story about how this happens.  Years ago, our daughter, Beth was friends with a little boy named Sean at her daycare.  When her birthday came around, she invited him to her sleepover party (we joked this was our first and last coed sleepover).  It was part of our family routine that if anyone spent Saturday night with us, we took them to our church on Sunday morning.  So Sean and some others went to Sunday School and worship before we dropped them off at their homes.  On the way back to his house, Sean kept saying, “I love that church.  I wish I went to that church.”  So we asked his mom if we could start picking him up and taking him along.  She agreed that would be fine.

As time passed, Sean’s mom and younger brother started showing up at church sometimes.  First at special events, then more often.  Finally his dad came, too.  In fact, eventually Sean’s dad became the President of the congregation.  When he gave his testimony years later, he did not credit the Pastor, the Cullers(our family), or even his son with his conversion.  He said he was simply loved into the church by the caring friendship of the people he met.  That’s what the laity can do!

You’re one of the sheep.  There’s someone in your family, your neighborhood, or your workplace who needs a friend to introduce them to Christ.  That’s all it takes.  Don’t be afraid.  He’ll do the rest.

Great Things Happen When God Mixes with Us

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My post about the laity as a motley crew made me think about this song.  It’s one we often use on Lutheran Via De Cristo weekends and it reminds me that we don’t do anything in our own strength–it’s the power of God working with us, both lay people and pastors.  It’s composed by Carey Landry, who wrote other favorites such as Only A Shadow and Abba Father.  Once you get it in your head, you’ll be singing it all day!

A Motley Crew

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If you look up the definition of this phrase, you’ll find that it refers to a loosely organized assembly of people who vary in appearance, background, and character but have a common goal.  Examples might be a band of pirates, or a western posse.   Historically, “motley” was the varicolored fabric worn by jesters — you remind what that looks like, right?  Kind of crazy and mismatched?

Well, you might say the disciples Jesus chose were a motley crew.  There was a zealot, a tax collector and some fishermen.  One of them denied Him, one betrayed Him, a couple asked for preferential treatment. They didn’t always get along.  They all seemed pretty clueless and dense about where Jesus was headed, even after He came right out and told them that He was going to Jerusalem to be killed.(Matthew 16:21)  Somehow, in the end, it all comes together in a way that is nothing short of miraculous.  This disparate group of men becomes a force that “turns the world upside down.”(Acts 17:6) How?  The answer is simple:  they received the Holy Spirit.

The same is true of any Christian congregation today.  We’re doctors and lawyers, janitors and cooks.  We’re black and white, Korean and Indian.  We don’t look like a , family, but we are. We get sidetracked, we quarrel, we mess up and we get frustrated with one another.  Somehow, though, with the help of the Spirit, and lots of prayer, we persevere and we accomplish things. We feed the hungry and clothe the naked;  we visit prisoners;  we teach and evangelize;  we maintain church buildings and support missionaries. We couldn’t do any of this on our own.  I think God planned to do great things through motley crews like us, just so we’d know we had to rely on Him and give Him all the glory.

“For consider your calling, brothers;   not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.  But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise;  God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;  God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.”  1 Corinthians 1:26-30

A Quote by Eugene Peterson

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For those who have not heard of him, Eugene Peterson is a Presbyterian pastor and author of more than thirty books. I have read quite of few of them, and would recommend him as a Christian author.  He is best know for his contemporary rendering of the Bible, The Message.  This quote comes from his book, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, and I think it addresses well the reality of living together as a Christian community.

“But, of course, the fact that we are a family of faith does not mean we are one big happy family. The people we encounter as brothers and sisters in faith are not always nice people.  They do not stop being sinners the moment they begin believing in Christ.  They don’t suddenly metamorphose into brilliant conversationalists, exciting companions and glowing inspirations.  Some of them are cranky, some of them are dull and others (if the truth must be spoken), a drag.  But at the same time our Lord tells us that they are brothers and sisters in faith.  If God is my Father, then this is my family.

So the question is not, ‘Am I going to be part of a community of faith?’ but ‘How am I going to live in this community of faith?’  God’s children do different things.  Some run away and pretend the family doesn’t exist.  Some move out and get an apartment of their own from which they return to make occasional visits, nearly always showing up for the parties and bringing a gift to show that they really do hold the others in fond regard.  And some would never dream of leaving but cause others to dream it for them, for they are always criticizing what is served at meals, quarreling with the way the housekeeping is done and complaining that the others in the family are either ignoring or taking advantage of them.  And some, determined to find out what God has in mind by placing them in this community called a church, learn how to function harmoniously and joyously, and develop the maturity that is able to share and exchange God’s grace with those who might otherwise be viewed as nuisances.”

 

New Month/New Theme

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Another new month is upon us and it is time to change it up.  This month we will be highlighting Laity in the church.  What is Laity you ask?  Well, I am going to tell you.  Ready.  It is ANYONE and everyone in the church except the Pastor.  That is right.  IT IS YOU and I of course.

 

This month we are going to talk about the importance of Laity in the church.  Laity is to work with Pastors in the spreading of the Gospel.  It is not only the Pastors job, it is ours.

 

So buckle in and get ready for a lot of fun, informative and important ideas.

 

Thanks to all who follow, comment, and support us.

 

God Loves You And So Do We.

Fanning the Flame #7 –Planning for the Future

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“Plans fail for lack of counsel,
but with many advisers they succeed.” Proverbs 15:22

The Fanning the Flame team of St. Paul’s has completed a two day retreat with our coach.  Ten members gathered for this time to plan together.  I’m starting to see that what we are learning is a process–a way to think through our dreams, our options, our opportunities;  a way to look realistically at our strengths and weaknesses.  No one person was in charge (no, not even the pastor!) and Joe, our coach, stressed that he is our servant–here to guide us through the exercises, not to make decisions for us.

We came away with our core values:

  • The Bible is the final authority and norm for all that we teach and do
  • A congregational church polity
  • Adherence to the Lutheran confessions

We also established priorities for our Pastor (and he did have veto power on these):

  • Worship
  • Leadership Development & Deployment
  • Shepherding
  • Discipleship
  • Prayer

We began considering strategies for the areas we want to improve, and this will continue and become more detailed over the upcoming month.  We’ve been divided into two team of five, each team to refine and clarify our goals and strategies.

Is anything we’ve come up with new, or even something we didn’t already realize.  Probably not.  The difference is that we’re taking the time to talk, to plan and to hold one another accountable for the goals we set.

I’ll be telling you more about the process as we continue so keep praying readers!