Look Three Ways

Back in November, while visiting family in Myrtle Beach, my husband and I attended a small Presbyterian church.  The week we were there, one of their Elders gave a short temple talk about communion.  He made the very valid point that we most often understand the Lord’s Supper as a time to reflect upon our relationship with God.  After all, Jesus told his disciples:

“Do this in remembrance of me.” 1 Corinthians 11:24

It’s appropriate to look up as we drink the bread and wine, giving thanks to the one who made us and saved us.


He went on to explain that before partaking, it is also essential to look within ourselves.  The apostle Paul told the Corinthian church:

 “Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.  For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgement upon himself.”  1 Corinthians 11:28-29

Lutherans also consider this a necessary part of the communion service.  At our church, the Pastor reads a pretty detailed explanation of “what we should believe and do.”  (see Examine Yourself). So, this Elder concluded we should “look both ways” during communion — up and in.

That’s right as far as it goes.  However, I believe we actually need to look three ways– up, in and around.  The Lord’s Supper is a community event, which binds us not only to God, but to one another.  In the same chapter of Corinthians already referenced, Paul reprimands the congregation because they are communing without regard for the needs of their fellow members.

“When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat.  For in eating, one goes ahead with his own meal.  One goes hungry, another gets drunk.”  1 Corinthians 11:20-21

Paul makes it clear that this meal involves the entire body, an experience which promotes unity with God and with each other.  We are not to simply satisfy ourselves.

“So then my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another … so that when you come together it will not be for judgement.” 1 Corinthians 11:33-34

When you come together at the table, examine yourself.  Look all three ways — up, down and around. It’s the sign of the cross.

For more about communion see:

Clarity about Communion

God’s Victory Through the Sacrament of Communion, part 1

God’s Victory Through the Sacrament of Communion, part 2

God’s Victory Through the Sacrament of Communion, part 3






Make it Personal

Last week when my husband I were driving to the church picnic, I saw this sign in the neighborhood we were passing through:

Drive as if your children lived here.

When I worked as a buyer for the hospital, our boss posted a sign in the warehouse that read:

Fill every order as if your mother was the patient.

The point, I think, is that we’re more attentive and more engaged when we have some personal interest or stake in the outcome of the task at hand.  If the health of our mother, or the welfare of our children is concerned, we’ll make sure we’re carefully doing that task to the best of our ability.

The apostle Paul, in his letter to the Corinthian church, has some similar advice. He was speaking to them about their freedom in Christ.  They did not need to follow all the old rules and rituals.  What they ate or drank was not sinful or forbidden.  However, as God’s children, they were to be considerate of their brothers and sisters in Christ.  Some of them had grown up with these taboos (such as eating food that had been sacrificed to idols) and it pained their consciences to see others doing this.  He tells them:

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God— even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.” 1 Corinthians 10:31-33

What if we made an effort to do every chore and every daily activity for the glory of God?  Wouldn’t we be much more conscious of how our actions affected others?  And aren’t those others beloved of God, just as we are?  Wouldn’t we be kinder, more patient and more helpful?  Wouldn’t we work harder to do the right thing?

Try it for a day and see what happens.  Live as if everything you do is to serving God’s purpose, because it is.  If you love God, it’s all personal.


Learning to Love

The Bible tells us over and over again that love is the key to living a Christian life.  The apostle John tells us:

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”  1 John 4:8

Peter says:

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins”  1 Peter 4:8

In his letter to the Corinthians Paul warns:

“If I have all prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.”  1 Corinthians 13:2

We are called, in strong words, to love others, not only those who are agreeable or those who love us, but even our enemies;  even those who persecute us. (Luke 6:27).  It is the mark of being a Christian (1 Peter 1:22).  So why aren’t we doing it?  Why aren’t we at least trying to do it?  Love should be the goal of the process of sanctification.  Here’s how Francis Paget, an English theologian puts it:

“This is the great business and meaning of our life on earth:  that we should more and more yield up our hearts to God’s great grace of love;  that we should let it enter ever more fully and freely into us, so that it may even fill our whole heart and life.  We must day by day be driving back, in His strength, that sin that doth so easily beset us, and the selfishness that sin has fastened in our hearts;  and then His love will day by day increase in us.  Prayer will win and keep it;  work will strengthen and exercise it;  the Bible will teach us how to know and prize it, how to praise God for it;  the Holy Eucharist will ever renew and quicken its power in our hearts.  And so (blessed be God!) love and joy and peace will grow in us, beyond all that we can ask or think;  and He will forgive us for love’s sake, all the failures, all the faults in whatever work He has given us to do;  and will bring us at last into the fulness of that life which even here He has suffered us to know;  into that one Eternal Home, where love is perfect, and unwearied and unending;  and where nothing ever can part us from one another or from Him.”

Pray, read the Bible, receive the sacraments.  Learn to love.

For more posts on love see:

Little Children, Love One Another

Charity = Love

All the Loves


An Audience of One

Somewhere recently (sorry, I couldn’t find the citation, even on google) I read that when a pastor preaches, he should imagine he has an audience of one.  In other words, he should not aim to please his congregation, the visitors to his website or the world at large — his only purpose should be to please God.  I’m sure many of them have this in mind, because I have heard more than one minister start his sermon with this verse:

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”  Psalm 19:14

It occurs to me that this advice is sound for all of us, not only pastors.  We should all be living our lives this way– and not just the words that come our of our mouth, but our behavior.  Too often we’re people pleasers.  We don’t want to offend.  We don’t want to make others angry or stir up controversy.  We don’t want to sound judgemental.  We try to be “politically correct.”  We worry about whether our friends on Facebook or our twitter followers will desert us.  We want to fit in.  We want others to like us.  We want to be admired in the workplace.  We allow these feelings to influence us, and that may mean we keep quiet when we should speak up.  We tone down the Gospel.  We do or say things we know to be wrong to avoid looking prudish. We want our worldly audience to think well of us.

I’m not advocating beating others over the head with the Bible or behaving in ways that imply we’re better than they are (we’re not–we just know we’re bad!)  We can speak the truth in love, gently and respectfully, but once we know the truth we must be willing to speak it and live it.  Play to your audience.  He’s the only One who counts.

“So whether you eat or drink, whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31


Why the Shepherds? Part 1

This article was originally published in the Lutheran Ambassador in December 2008.  It seemed appropriate for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

As a naturally curious person I can spend hours just thinking and wondering about things.  Recently I was reading the Christmas story in the book of Luke, and one aspect about it had me puzzled.  Why did God send his angels to the fields outside of Bethlehem to announce the news of Christ’s birth?  Why did He choose a few shepherds to be the first hearers?  Wouldn’t it have made more sense for the angels to appear in the Temple in Jerusalem?  Shouldn’t the priests who prayed daily for the coming of the Messiah be first to learn that He had arrived?

Or why didn’t God tell the angels to go to the Magi in the east?  There men were wise and learned, they had figured out on their own that a great king was about to be born.  Didn’t they deserve this heavenly confirmation of their theory?  Even the courts of King Herod would be a plausible choice.  Herod was not a good man, but he was powerful.  The sudden appearance of  “a great company of the heavenly host”  might well have persuaded him to fall in with God’s plan and spread the news of this miraculous birth far and wide.

I thought and thought.  I read some commentaries and the notes in my big study Bible.  Finally I prayed (which I should have done first and saved myself some time).  Immediately this verse from 1 Corinthians popped into my mind:

“God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise;  God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.  He chose the lowly things of the world and the despised things –the things that are not–to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before Him.”

The Christmas story is not about what we can do for God.  It’s about God’s gift of grace to us.  God purposefully chose to come to the “nobodies”  living in the “no-places”  so that there could be no doubt–the power, the action and the results are all His.

For more about being “nobody” go to these posts:

I’m A Nobody

I’m Nobody, too

To be continued ……

I’m Nobody, too

I’m Nobody! Who are you?

Are you – Nobody – too?

Then there’s a pair of us!

Don’t tell! they’d advertise – you know!

How dreary – to be – Somebody!

How public – like a Frog –

To tell one’s name – the livelong June –

To an admiring Bog!

Sorry, I’m an English major and I can’t help myself.  When I read Beth Ann’s post I’m A Nobody, I immediately thought of this poem by Emily Dickenson.  She was very reclusive and introverted and actually seemed happy to be a nobody, at least in the eyes of the world.

If you feel like a nobody, don’t worry.  God seems to have a knack for picking nobodies to do His work in the world.  He picked prophets who didn’t speak well (Moses) and were too young (Jeremiah).  He picked David, the youngest son of Jesse, just a shepherd boy,  to be a great king.  He picked Rahab (a prostitute) and Ruth (a foreigner) to be part of His son’s human family tree.  He picked Mary, an unmarried teenager, to be the mother of the Messiah!  Jesus picked a bunch of fishermen(James, Andrew & Peter), a tax collector (Matthew), and a rebel(Simon the Zealot), to be some of His first disciples!  Then he chose Paul, who called himself “the greatest of sinners” to carry his message to the gentiles.  Paul in his first letter to the church in Corinth says:

Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things-and the things that are not-to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.” 1 Corinthians 1:26-29

Do you get that?  God chooses the nobodies of the world on purpose, because our weakness shows off His strength!  And once He’s chosen us, we’re no longer nobodies — we’re His ambassadors, His body on earth, His beloved children–and that’s somebody pretty special.

He loves you and so do I!

The Society of Extraordinary Raccoon Society on Boasting by Randall Goodgame–Book Review

I have reviewed several of the Slugs and Bugs stories by Randall Goodgame, and liked this one the best.  The tempo of the rhyming was bouncy and did not seem forced.  It’s a sturdy, colorful book (about the same size and format as the popular Dr. Seuss books) that youngsters will enjoy.

The Society of Extraordinary Raccoon Society on Boasting

The story reminds young raccoons (and children) that we should not boast about our good deeds, or compare our gifts to the gifts of others.  Each one should give cheerfully, as he is able.  The lesson is a good one, and the illustration youngsters will be able to easily grasp the example used to illustrate it.

The ending Bible quote is:

“Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1:31

VERDICT:  I give it 4 stars.  It is nothing out of the ordinary, but I liked it.

If you would like to purchase this book, follow the link below:

The Society of Extraordinary Raccoon Society on Boasting

If you would like to read other reviews in this series, see the following posts:

The Society of Extraordinary Raccoon Society by Randall Goodgame–Book Review

Are We Still Friends? by Randall Goodgame–Book Review

Which Shape Should I Be? by Paula Kennedy–Book Review

The Lutheran Ladies received a free copy of this book in return for an honest and fair review – Disclaimer pursuant to FTC 16 CFR Part 255

The Blind Men and the Elephant

When I was little, my mother used to read me a poem about a group of blind men.  When they encountered an elephant, each one thought the elephant was “like” something different.  The one who felt the trunk thought the elephant was similar to a snake;  the one who touched the elephant’s side, said, “this animal is like a wall’;  the one who grabbed the tail thought the elephant resembled a rope — and so on.

We’re reading a book in our Tuesday morning Bible study called The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul.  It’s making me realize that our understanding of God is a lot like those blind men with the elephant.  How do we describe or understand the word holy?  Of course, you may know the definition is ” separate, or set apart.”  That means God is not “like” us;  he is on a different level altogether.  He is perfect beyond our understanding of perfection.

One of the study questions from the book was “how do you experience the holiness of God.”  That’s hard for me to pin down.  I’ve experienced God’s love, God’s power, God’s mercy, and so on.  I know God is all-knowing, all-seeing and immutable.  However, God’s holiness encompasses all of God’s attributes.  Holiness is what makes God God;  and that, like the elephant, is bigger than we in our humanness can grasp.

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” 1 Corinthians 13:12

Living the Questions

At our church we’ve started a Bible study on the holiness of God, based on the book of the same title by R. C. Sproul (I’m sure I’ll be reviewing it later, but I’m not done yet).  Yesterday we discussed how we can’t really comprehend God’s holiness, or many other concepts, such as eternity, omnipresence and more.  There are some questions we simply have to live with in our humanness.  This isn’t an excuse for failing to study and learn and grow in our understanding.  That’s part of what faith is about. I’m reminded of this quote by Rainier Maria Rilke.:

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926) was a lyrical poet born in Prague, once the capital of Bohemia, now the Czech Republic.  He is considered one of the leading Christian existential poets.

The Holy Scriptures also tell us:

“Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.”  1 Corinthians 13:12

In this life, there will always be questions– but someday we will know and understand the truth.  I look forward to that day.

Are You Truly Loving?

This quote was part of my devotional reading this morning, and it made me realize how difficult it is to be truly loving.  We cannot do it unless God’s Spirit is within us.  It reminds me of the love verses of 1 Corinthians, Chapter 13.

“The Spirit of Love must work the works, and speak the tones of Love.  It cannot exist and give no sign, or a false sign.  It cannot be a spirit of Love, and mantle into irritable and selfish impatience.  It cannot be a Spirit of Love, and at the same time make self the prominent object.  It cannot rejoice to lend itself to the happiness of others, and at the same time be seeing its own.  It cannot be generous, and envious.  It cannot be sympathizing, and unseemly;  self-forgetful, and vain-glorious.  It cannot delight in the rectitude and purity of other hearts, as the spiritual elements of their peace, and unnecessarily suspect them.

J. H. Thom