A Tip for Pastors

Recently my pastor husband retired, and we began attending a new church. He set up a lunch date with the pastor to see how he and I might be helpful. Terry (my husband) mentioned that I was interested in spiritual gifts and had the training and materials to assess others. The pastor with whom he was meeting said they had done a gifts program already and didn’t need that kind of assistance, but maybe I would like to join the mission stitchers.

When I tell this story to anyone who knows me well, they laugh. Why? Well, because I am terrible at anything that involves crafts or artistic talent. I’m sure the mission stitchers is a wonderful ministry, but it isn’t for me. Later by perusing the newsletter, I was able to introduce myself to the person who was reorganizing their church library, and I’ve been helping her (because I do love books!).

So, what’s my point? Pastors PLEASE–when someone offers to help, find a way for them to do that. Begin by asking some questions. What do you enjoy doing? What have you done in the past? Have you done a spiritual gifts assessment, and if so, what are some of your gifts? If you don’t get an immediate sense of where this person fits it, tell them you will think about it and get back to them. Then follow up! Trying to quickly pop a round peg in a square hole could result in failure for both the person and the congregation.

Fortunately for me, I once had a pastor who was very good at spotting interests and talents, and encouraging his parishioners to serve in ways that suited them well. Sometimes his suggestions were challenging — but they never made me laugh. I’m also self-motivated and self-aware enough to look for my own opportunities, but not everyone is. It’s actually the duty of all who are mature Christians (not just the pastor) to seek out and encourage the gifts of others. The church is a body, and we need all of the parts doing the job God equipped them to do.

“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them.” 1 Corinthians. 12:4

For more posts about spiritual gifts see:

Spiritual Gifts from the Holy Spirit

What are the Spiritual Gifts?

The Purpose of Spiritual Gifts

Chrysostom’s words on wisdom according to Corinthians

“Let no man deceive himself; if any man thinks that he is wise in this world, let him become a fool.” 1 Corinthians 3:18-19

St. John Chrysostom

“As he bids one become, as it were, dead unto the world — and this deadness harms not at all, but rather profits, being made a cause of life:— so also he bids him become foolish unto this world, introducing to us hereby the true wisdom. Now he becomes a fool unto the world, who slights the wisdom from without, and is persuaded that it contributes nothing towards his comprehension of the faith. As then that poverty which is according to God is the cause of wealth, and lowliness, of exaltation, and to despise glory is the cause of glory; so also the becoming a fool makes a man wiser than all. For all, with us, goes by contraries.
Further: why said he not, Let him put off wisdom, but, Let him become a fool? That he might most exceedingly disparage the heathen instruction. For it was not the same thing to say, Lay aside your wisdom, and, become a fool. And besides, he is also training people not to be ashamed at the want of refinement among us; for he quite laughs to scorn all heathen things. And for the same sort of reason he shrinks not from the names, trusting as he does to the power of the things [which he speaks of].
Wherefore, as the Cross, though counted ignominious, became the author of innumerable blessings, and the foundation and root of glory unspeakable; so also that which was accounted to be foolishness became unto us the cause of wisdom. For as he who has learned anything ill, unless he put away the whole, and make his soul level and clear, and so offer it to him who is to write on it, will know no wholesome truth for certain; so also in regard of the wisdom from without. Unless thou turn out the whole and sweep your mind clear, and like one that is ignorant yield up yourself unto the faith, you will know accurately nothing excellent. For so those also who see imperfectly if they will not shut their eyes and commit themselves unto others, but will be trusting their own matters to their own faulty eyesight, they will commit many more mistakes than those who see not.

But how, you will say, are men to put off this wisdom? By not acting on its precepts.”

Chrysostom’s Homily 10 on First Corinthians

Love is (illustrated by Paola Escobar) –Book Review

This lovely book consists entirely of the words of Corinthians 13:4-7 — often described as “the love verses”. The illustrations are brightly colored scenes from nature that will enchant both children and parents.

The text is taken from the NLrV translation (an adaptation of the NIV for early readers) and is easy enough for youngsters aged 4-8 to read and understand. How can you go wrong with words taken directly from scripture? This one is easy to recommend!

“Love is patient. Love is kind. Love does not want what belongs to others. It does not brag. It is not proud. It does not dishonor other people. It does not look out for its own interests. It does not easily become angry. It does not keep track of other people’s wrongs. Love is not happy with evil. But it is full of joy when the truth is spoken. It always protects. It always trusts. It always hopes. It never gives up. Love never fails.”

VERDICT: 5 STARS: A delight to the eyes and perfectly biblical!

For more books for children see:

God is Hope by Amy Parker–Book Review

Song of Creation by Paul Goble — Book Review

Manger by Lee Bennett Hopkins — Book Review

1 Corinthians Chapter 15–What Stands Out

“Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you,…”1 Corinthians 15:1.

As I read chapter 15 of 1 Corinthians, I reflected on why Paul would need to remind Christians of the gospel –a message he had already delivered to them. The answer is in a quote often attributed to Martin Luther:

We need to hear the Gospel every day, because we forget it every day.” 

Yes, how quickly we forget the good news. It’s drowned out by the world in so many ways. In the last talk on Via de Cristo weekends, we learn that there are two ways we can forget the gospel.

1. We start to believe that we are something.

This most often happens when things are going well for us. We are prospering, so we must be “good” people, right? We are in control, making the right decisions, we can take care of ourselves. In this case, we are forgetting that we are tainted with original sin, and eventually that sin will get the better of us. (Guess what, the sin of pride already has!)

2. We believe that we are nothing.

In this case, because of something or some things that we have done, we are not worthy of God’s love. The Holy One could never save the likes of us! Our sin is simply unforgivable. In this case, we are failing to trust God or believe in His Word.

Paul was “apt to teach” — one of the qualities needed by every Pastor. And he had just one thing to preach, over and over:

 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” 1 Corinthians 2:2

You and I still need to hear this every day.

1 Corinthians Chapter 13–What Stands Out

You probably recognize this as “the love chapter” of the Bible, often used at weddings. As the section of Scripture I read during my recent morning devotional time, here’s what popped out for me:

“Love never ends.” 1 Corinthians 13:8

That’s an amazing claim, isn’t it? After all, we’re mortal and at some point, each of us will die–so how can love, a human emotion, continue after death? Here’s what I think. Just as original sin passes down through the generations, so does love. I remember hearing James Dobson speak about how he felt when his father died. He said he didn’t remember the things his father accomplished, what he remembered were the times they spent together, the love he felt.

When we receive love from another person, whether it is a parent, a teacher, a pastor, a friend or a spouse, it affects us for the rest of our lives. It gives us a sense of confidence and self-worth. Research has proven that children who are deprived of love do not thrive. That’s how important it is to be touched and cared for in a loving way.

Love never ends because it is continually passed on. It doesn’t just affect the one you love –it affects the way they relate to their own family, and everyone they are in relationship with. Love inspires us to be kind, to be patient and courteous, to think the best of others. As the Bible says:

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

For more about love see these posts:

Charity = Love

God is Love

Perfect Love

Always Amending

Ecclesia semper reformanda est (Latin for “the church must always be reformed”) is a phrase that has been much used by theologians over the years. I picked up a related idea from the examination of conscience I’ve been using recently — the exact words are:

“...make a firm resolution to be always amending your life and making progress in all that is good.” Thomas a Kempis, Of the Imitation of Christ

To me this simply means growing more mature in our faith; becoming more Christ-like in our attitudes and behavior. I’m puzzled by the number of Christians who seem to resist this. They have certain routines which include attending worship services and maybe even participating in certain ministries. However, they have no desire to learn more, to try something new, to progress. As my husband (a pastor), puts it, they are comfortable with a Sunday School faith. The apostle, Paul, recognizes this problem in his first letter to the Corinthians:

“Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it.” 1 Corinthians 3:1-2

Life with God is such an amazing adventure. I’ve done things I never imagine would be possible; I’ve met interesting and inspiring people; my life has been changed and blessed. I wish these things for everyone I know and love. Tomorrow I’ll address the question I call YBH (Yes, but how?). How do we go about amending our lives (the process of sanctification)?

For more about sanctification see:

Trust God’s Process

Which One are You?

Is Union with Christ a Process?

1 Corinthians Chapter 11–What Stands Out

As I’ve continued my devotional reading of 1 Corinthians, this is the phrase that stood out for me in Chapter 11:

“...all things are from God” 1 Corinthians 11:12b

As Martin Luther liked to put it, “this is most certainly true,” but how often do we stop to think about it? Everything we have is a gracious gift from God — our spouse, our families, our friends, our home. In addition, we owe everything we are to God. Psalm 139 tells us:

“For you (God) created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” Psalm 139:13

God gave us the abilities, the talents, and the personality that make us the person we are. Gratitude should be our overwhelming response. Even when difficult things happen, God allows them and uses them for our good and the good of others.

“And we know that for those who love God, all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

Whatever is going on in our lives, we can be assured that God has a good purpose. He loves us, He blesses us, He uses us to bless others. It’s hard to give thanks for suffering, but this is comforting and consoling.

“For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.” 1 Timothy 4:4

For the things that are ours, we should give thanks. When troubles come, we should pray and wait to see God’s plan at work. Nothing is random. We’re in His hands. We can trust Him.

For more about God’s plan see:

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

Everything According To God’s Plan & Timing

Taking Care of God’s Stuff

Jesus, the Rock

In a recent quote, I wrote about a phrase that popped out at me during my daily Bible reading:

“…that rock was Jesus.” 1 Corinthians 10:9

It brought a Christian song to my mind, one that we sometimes use on Via de Cristo retreat weekends. It’s a bit silly –it includes hand motions–but it’s good fun. Maybe you’ll enjoy it, too!.

For more Lutheran Via de Cristo songs see:

Pass It On

Wind, Wind Blow on Me

Lord I Lift Your Name on High

1 Corinthians Chapter 10–What Stands Out

In my morning devotions, I’ve continued my lectio divina reading in the book of 1 Corinthians. Here’s what stood out for me in Chapter 10:

“…that rock was Christ.” 1 Corinthians 10:9

In the preceding verses, Paul is speaking about the time of the exodus, when their forefathers were rescued by God from slavery in Egypt. God provided for them miraculously, by giving them manna to eat. When thirst became an issue, Moses struck a rock and fresh water gushed forth.

All of this was a foreshadowing of Jesus, the Messiah, and the way He provides spiritual food for His people in Holy Communion. The Israelites didn’t know His name, but He was still the rock, the foundation of their faith. And yes, He is our rock today. They were looking forward, we are looking back, but the same person unites us. He continues to feed us and to free us from slavery to sin and death. What a blessing!

Rest on the rock that is secure and is sufficient for all of your needs — Jesus Christ! He is the same yesterday, today and forever.

For more lectio divina studies see:

1 Thessalonians 4–What Stands Out

What Stands Out–Nehemiah

James Chapter 5–What Stands Out

Passive Diminishment

I’m currently reading a book of Flannery O’Connor’s letters, and in it I came across a phrase I hadn’t heard before — passive diminishment. The idea came from a work by Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955), a Jesuit priest. He maintained that in life, we are either acting or being acted upon, and both of these things could work to increase our maturity, growth, love and goodness. They could also cause a decline in those things. The way that we respond makes the difference.

O’Connor was diagnosed at a fairly young age with Lupus. This meant that she would be limited in her physical endurance, and what she would be able to accomplish during her lifetime. She wrote that “vocation implies limitation’– she understood that both her gift for writing and her illness would make demands upon her, and she was able to accept this.

This led me to realize that we all have limitations. They may be physical, like Flannery’s. They may be mental — depression or anxiety perhaps. We may be limited by the life we have chosen –deciding to raise children, for example; or we may be limited by a disease or disability that just happened to us. These things are part of human life, and we all experience them.

We can become bitter and angry about our limitations, or we can work within them. The apostle Paul spoke about his “thorn in the flesh.” We don’t know exactly what that was, and it probably kept him from doing all of the things he wanted to do. However, it didn’t keep God from using him. In fact, he said:

” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 1 Corinthians 12:9b-10

Paul allowed his weakness to be a vehicle for displaying God’s strength. He learned to rely upon the one who made Him, rather than his own power. So did Flannery O’Connor, and so should you and I.

For more about acceptance see:

Thy Will Be Done

Just As I Am

Life’s Companion by Christina Baldwin–Book Review