Walking Together

My husband recently retired after 17 years as the pastor of St. Paul’s Free Lutheran Church in Leitersburg, Maryland. At his retirement dinner, his younger sister, one of our members, spoke about what his ministry had meant to her. She said that since Terry is 16 years older than she is, they really didn’t grow up together. It was only as a church member that she really got to know him. In fact, she said, after those years of being in church together, Terry is now the sibling she feels closest to.

That got me to thinking about this verse in Proverbs:

“One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin,
    but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Proverbs 18:24

When we are walking with Christ, we are also walking with a whole new group of people who become our brothers and sisters in the faith. We have a common goal; we come together weekly (and often more); we share, through prayer requests, our hopes and concerns; we grieve and celebrate together. We do indeed, often become closer to these “adopted” siblings than our biological family.

What a blessing to know that:

“… you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. Ephesians 2:19-22

You’re never walking alone!

For more about the household of God see:

Submit to One Another?

Being a Family Blessing

Living as a Family with One Another

Truthful Words

The Bible tells us in many places to avoid lying. It’s one of the Ten Commandments–

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” Exodus 20:16

It’s also mentioned in the book of Proverbs…

“Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who act faithfully are his delight.” Proverbs 12:22

and in the New Testament as well.

“Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. Ephesians 4:25

Here’s a quote from my devotional reading that explains how to avoid this particular sin:

“It seems to me, that the shortest way to check the darker forms of deceit is to set watch more scrupulous against those which have mingled, unregarded and unchastised with the current of our life. Do not let us lie at all. Do not think of one falsity as harmless, and another as slight, and another as unintended. Cast them all aside; they may be light and accidental; but they are an ugly soot from the smoke of the pit, for all that; and it is better that our hearts should be swept clean of them, without over care as to which is largest or blackest. Speaking truth is like writing fair, and comes only by practice; it is less a matter of will than of habit, and I doubt if any occasion can be trivial which permits the practice and formation of such a habit.

John Ruskin

Of course, keep in mind that speaking the truth is not to be used as an excuse for hurting others with comments that are overly blunt or even cruel. Paul also tells us to speak the truth “in love”(Ephesians 4:15) and Peter exhorts us to use “gentleness and respect.”(1 Peter:3:15).

Use words that are both truthful and loving. Make this your habit.


Words Count

I just finished a library book recently that was classified as “young adult” fiction. The main characters were teenagers, and the plot revolved around a murder and the efforts of these young people to find out who killed their friend. It was engaging and well written except for one glaring problem — some of the words were, in my mind, unacceptable. Why would such crude speech be used in a book aimed at young people? In fact, why is it okay to use such words at all? What message is being sent? The Bible tells us:

“Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.” Ephesians 4:7

I’m not a prude and I’m not unrealistic. I know sometimes certain words fly out in anger, in pain, and so on. That doesn’t make it right, but it happens. However, I object to the normalization of this kind of language. Our speech matters. The words we use affect others and should be chosen judiciously. When we speak, we’re setting an example. If the books we read, the movies and television shows we watch, and the people we respect use bad language, soon everyone will.

In the same way, when we avoid cursing and bad words, people notice. My husband and I have both seen the language of a workplace be transformed by one person refusing to join in to such talk. Soon others become ashamed, and even apologize for those words. So be a good example — watch your words! As Paul says in his letter to his spiritual son, Timothy:

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” 1 Timothy 4:12

Our Purpose

Having a purpose in life is important. It contributes to health and to society as a whole. Unfortunately, many are looking for that purpose is all the wrong places, and many feel they have no purpose at all. This quote written by Arthur Crawshay Alliston Hall (April 12, 1847 – February 26, 1930), a bishop of Vermont in the Episcopal Church, should be comforting and inspiring to each of us. God is at work in our lives, and there is a reason for our existence.

“God has a purpose for each one of us, a work for each to do, a place for each one to fill, an influence for each one to exert, a likeness to His dear Son for each to manifest, and then, a place for each one to fill in His holy Temple.

If you still have doubts about your purpose, read God’s Holy Word:

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10

For more on this topic see:

What the Bible Says About Purpose by David Ramos–Book Review

The Lord Has Need of It

Emergence by Temple Grandin and Margaret M. Scariano — Book Review

Faith In God by Kevin McFadden –Book Review

My husband who is a pastor actually wrote this book review for me. I admit I was unable to make it past the introduction and part of the first chapter. It was too technical and academic.

This book deals with a serious theological issue hinging on the question of whether or not the translation of several texts in St. Paul’s letters should be read as “faith in Christ” or “faith of Christ”. Traditionally translators have followed the long-time Church practice of reading this as meaning salvation is dependent upon faith in Christ Jesus as the Son of God whose atoning sacrifice on the cross was sufficient for the forgiveness of sins of anyone who has faith through the Holy Spirit’s work and the Word found in the Bible. But for the last several decades some scholars have challenged that position by arguing that the true meaning of the text as “faith of Christ” indicates that it is Christ faithfulness and not an individuals’ faith that is the cause of salvation. Should that be true not only would Reformation theology be proven false, but universalism would be the logical conclusion of that line of reasoning. If Christ’s faithfulness is the sole criterion of salvation, then all people would, logically, be saved, including those who deny His divinity. Dr. McFadden’s book is a defense of the traditional reading and understanding of Paul’s Greek text and of the need for each person to have faith in Christ and His work of redemption.\

Faith in the Son of God: The Place of Christ-Oriented Faith within Pauline Theology

McFadden’s work is a competent defense of the traditional reading of the text, but it is also a book which will have little interest for most laypeople who are not familiar with the ancient languages. Neither do I believe it would be of interest to many pastors unless they already have some grounding in the arguments or unless there is some discussion of the points of contention in their religious communities. I’m also uncertain why McFadden doesn’t make use of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians where, especially in 2:8-10, the question of how one comes to a saving faith is clearly enunciated.

VERDICT: 3 STARS for the reasons cited above.

The Lutheran Ladies received a free e-copy of this book in return for a fair and honest review. Disclaimer pursuant to FTC 16 CPR 255.

For more book reviews see:

The Dark Night of the Soul by Gerald G. May –Book Review

Learning to Pray by James Martin, SJ–Book Review

The 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork by John C. Maxwell–Book Review

The Lord Has Need of It

I’m continuing a prayerful reading of the gospel of Mark. In chapter 11, Jesus tells two of the disciples to go into a village and take a colt which they will see tied up there. If anyone questions them about making off with the animal, they are simply to reply:

“The Lord has need of it.” Mark 11:3

As children, we imagined this as a mini-miracle — why would someone just allow a stranger to take one of their possessions? In actuality, it was most likely planned — Jesus knew these folks, and if He hadn’t alerted them in advance, they were at least willing to trust Him. This passage stood out to me as I wondered, “what do I ‘own’ that the Lord has need of?” Here are some ideas:

  • Maybe He needs financial support to keep His body, the church, alive and well. This should not be a tip, but a tithe.
  • He might need my time to prepare or serve a meal at the local mission for the homeless
  • He could need my ability to write so that this blog or the church newsletter is available to encourage others

The list could keep going, and of course, in one sense, Jesus doesn’t “need” me at all. His purposes will be accomplished with or without my help. However, He has chosen me and has graciously allowed me to be part of His plan. He has worked out ahead of time things that I can do. When I hear, “the Lord has need of it” I should be willing to simply comply, not question or complain. In Ephesians 2:10 Paul tells us:

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

What does He need from you? Are you listening?

For more posts of the book of Mark see:

Be At Peace With One Another

And He Said This Plainly

Rest a While

Predestination?

This is the third in the series about my husband’s series on having a Christian worldview.

For the first two sections see:

Some Scary Statistics

What is my Worldview?

“Praise be to the God and Father of our LORD Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will- to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.’  Ephesians 1:3-6

The doctrine of predestination or election is spelled out very clearly in these verses.  Indeed, this doctrine is central to Lutheran understanding of how sinners are made right with God, how we, who are by nature sinful and unclean, can be brought into the presence of a holy God in whom there is no imperfection.  In chapter 2 of Ephesians, Paul writes this to us:

“For by grace you have been saved through faith.  And this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God …”

And yet, throughout the history of the Church, there have been those who taught that our salvation depends, not upon God’s sovereign choice, but at least in part, on our own efforts to be saved.  The idea an be seen in the Roman Catholic teaching that we are to do our best, and God will supply the rest.  For example, if a full glass of water represents a place of salvation and I can only, by my efforts fill it half full — God will supply the other half.

While the 16th century Reformers rejected that idea, another form came into being not long afterwards.  We find this error today called “decision theology.”  It says that we must “make a decision for Christ.”  He is offering us salvation, but we have to say yes to the offer.  I’ve heard it described as a man drowning in a swimming pool and God throws a life preserver to him, but the man must grab it in order to be saved.  It’s a nice analogy, but it’s wrong.  We are already dead in the bottom on the water and only by being lifted out of the pool and resusitated  can we be saved.  It’s too late for us to grab onto anything.

Stay tuned for more ….

Hoping for Something New?

I finished my lectio divina study of Philippians and started Ecclesiastes.  Quite a contrast, since Philippians has been called a book about joy and Ecclesiastes — well, it’s more doom and gloom.  However, an author I read recently said Ecclesiastes isn’t depressing, it’s simply realistic.  Maybe you would like to study along with me and see what you think.

Here’s what stood out for me in chapter 1:

“Is there a thing of which it is said,  ‘See, this is new’?

It has been already in the ages before us.”  Ecclesiastes 1:10

I read a lot of historical fiction, and this has occurred to me recently.  We live as if our time is unique, and we like to think that people and life in general are getting better and better, but that’s not true.  It’s not realistic.

Take slavery.  We fought a Civil War to rid ourselves of this evil.  However, slavery existed in Bible times, and it’s still going on today.  In fact, most of us profit from it, through the goods we use and the clothing we wear.  Or genocide — this makes us think of the Holocaust, but it’s far from an isolated occurrence.  Stalin killed millions of his own people;  native Americans were slaughtered by Europeans;  Armenians were massacred during WWI.  Even the pandemic, which seems new to us, has happened before.  What about the plague?  Or the Spanish Flu epidemic in the 1900’s?

The fact of the matter is, we and the world around us are infected by sin.  It’s not going away.  It won’t get better.  That’s why we needed a savior.  That is the one new thing that has happened in the whole history of the human race.  God became a man.  He did that to save us from the same old things we keep repeating over and over.  He is our only hope

As Paul said in the book of Ephesians:

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. ”  Ephesians 1:18-19

For more on the book of Ecclesiastes see these posts:

God Moments in Ecclesiastes

Ecclesiastes 3:3

Another Blast from the Past

 

New Month/New Theme

This month our theme will be hope.  The Christmas season is a time when we remember the birth of Jesus, who brings light to our dark world and hope for eternity.

What are you hoping for this year?  An end to the virus?  A restored relationship?  A new job?  Healing?  A child? A friend?  Marriage? Renewed faith? Economic prosperity for our country?  Are you hoping to start something new?  Finish with something old? We all have hopes and dreams.  Hope is what keeps us moving forward and makes life worthwhile.

Sometimes our hopes are dashed.  Sometimes our hopes change.  Sometimes we receive something different and better than we hoped for.

Wherever you find yourself right now in regard to hope, here is my prayer for you today::

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people,  and his incomparably great power for us who believe”  Ephesians 1:18-19

Spiritual Blessings

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” Ephesians 1:3

This post is actually a continuation of last month’s discussions on the Holy Spirit.  During one of the studies at our church, we talked about the blessings that come from the Spirit.  If you read further in the first chapter of Ephesians, you will find that those blessings include:

  • We were chosen by God for salvation
  • We have been adopted as children of God
  • We have forgiveness for our sins
  • We have been given insight into God’s Word
  • We have been received spiritual gifts
  • We have the power to do God’s Will
  • We will live forever with Christ

These gifts from “the heavenly realm” are not temporal, but eternal.  Because of our unity with Christ through the Holy Spirit, we enjoy them now.  In addition, the Spirit is at work in the church providing us with the spiritual blessings offered in the means of grace –Word (proclamation) and Sacrament (baptism and communion).

All people benefit from common graces which also comes from the Spirit of God–things like music, art, beauty, nature, marriage, community, creativity and more.  We have each been richly blessed — how should we respond?

For more about blessings see these posts:

Blessings

Martin Luther on Heavenly Blessings

Thankful for Spiritual Blessings