You’re Not a Bystander

A sermon I heard recently included a short anecdote. The church was having a Christmas play. One little girl went home and in excitement told her parents that she was given a part to play. She couldn’t remember the name of the person she was to portray, but she knew it started with the letter “B”. The family wracked their brains trying to figure out what role their daughter was to play. Finally, on the evening of the performance, as they perused the bulletin, they realized that she was simply a “bystander.”

The point of the sermon was this: none of us are bystanders in the Christmas story. Why? Because the story is still going on. The Bible is one long divine drama, and each one of us is important. We may not be a star, but we have a role to play. Our part could be to support or serve in a quiet capacity. Our gift might be encouragement or mercy. We may not touch millions of lives, but we will touch some. And each one is loved by God.

In the book of Ephesians, we read:

““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

Isn’t that an amazing thought? Before we were even born, God was arranging our character, our environment and our abilities. He had plans for us, and those plans did not include simply standing by. We are to get involved, to get our hands dirty, to serve others and play our part. We may never be recognized with awards or fame, but we’ll receive something even better. We’ll feel God’s pleasure and when the time is right, we’ll hear these words:

“‘Well done, good and faithful servant! … Come and share your master’s happiness!’ “Matthew 25:23

For more about using your gifts see these posts:

A Quote about a Favorite Topic — Spiritual Gifts

What are the Spiritual Gifts?

Serving God with Your Gifts

Living Wisely

In a novel I’ve been reading recently, this statement that struck me. The character, a chef, was speaking about food and he said,

“… food was about … creating something good and then giving it away.”

Yes, cooking can be like this. Part of my pleasure in planning and preparing a meal is in seeing my family, or others who have been invited to the table, enjoy it. We can apply this to many other things in life as well. When I write a post for my blog, I am hoping that someone will read and be edified and encouraged. I collect books for the Little Free Library at our church, hoping to give others a chance to enjoy reading as much as I do. I try to teach and influence my children and grandchildren in a way that leads them to go out and be a blessing to others.

In many places the Bible tells us that in giving, we are blessed. For example:

“Sell your possessions and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Luke 12:33-34

“Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” Luke 6:38

This doesn’t mean our gifts always have to be monetary, and it doesn’t mean that we’ll prosper financially by helping others. It does mean that when we use whatever we have to benefit those around us, we’ll feel God’s pleasure. We’ll be truly blessed, and our life will be filled with meaning and purpose. That’s what it means to live wisely. The book of Ephesians calls it the way of love.

 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Ephesians 5:16-17

For more about generosity see these posts:

Spend Yourself

Ideal part 4–Self-Giving

Giving My Time to God

A Favorite New Song

As I mentioned yesterday, the AFLC Conference included lots of singing. Many of the songs used were familiar hymns, but others were more contemporary. I was unfamiliar with this one, but I love it. It’s based on this verse:

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.” Ephesians 6:10

For more Christian music see these posts:

God is Bigger


Living For Jesus

Always Waiting

In this life, we are always waiting for something. Waiting for that one thing we feel will settle our life down and make it secure. Maybe we’re waiting to find a spouse, to buy a house, to achieve the next step up in our career; maybe we’re waiting to find a friend, to have a child, or to move to the city (or the country). Some of these are worthy goals, but once we attain them, we find that we’re still not satisfied. That’s because as Christians, we’ll always be strangers and sojourners in the world. As we read in 1 Chronicles:

“For we are strangers before you and sojourners, as all our fathers were. Our days on the earth are like a shadow, and there is no abiding.”1 Chronicles 29:15

As long as we live, we will feel this restlessness, because in Christ we have become part of a new kingdom. We have a new ruler, and a new home. The temporal things of the world, no matter how wonderful, cannot entirely satisfy us. Our only peace is in unity with Jesus and with other believers.

 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ…. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.” Ephesians 2:13;19-20

If you’re tired of waiting, if you’re looking for peace, if you are hungering for true community, there is only one place on earth to find it — the church of Jesus Christ. It’s a foretaste of the eternal, right here, right now.

For more about the church see these posts:

The Church Family

John Donne on the Church

The Church: The Bride of Christ

How Big is Our Union with Christ?

This past week our Bible study discussed the dimensions of our union with Christ. Sometimes, because we are human, we think about it in a linear way. It has been described as a golden chain that follows this sequence:

  1. Election
  2. Regeneration/Baptism
  3. Conversion
  4. Justification
  5. Adoption
  6. Perseverance
  7. Glorification

In reality, union with Christ is more like a marriage. When we love someone, we don’t just love one aspect or part of that person — say their cooking, or their intelligence. We love everything that makes up their personality — we love the totality of what they are. We also reap all the benefits of being in relationship with that person. So, too, our union with Christ is central to our Christian life. It undergirds all the spiritual blessings we receive (Union with Christ = Spiritual Blessings). It should affect how we live, because we are taking Christ with us everywhere we go. Our faith may falter at times, but our union with Christ does not depend on the strength of our faith, it depends upon God’s faithfulness to us– a faithfulness that sent His Son into our flesh to do what we could not.

So, remember, if you are a Christian, everything has been changed. You look at the world with different eyes. Your union with God is not only BIG — it is everything! You are a new creation!

“For this reason, I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I ask that out of the riches of His glory He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. Then you, being rooted and grounded in love, will have power, together with all the saints, to comprehend the length and width and height and depth of the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:14-19

Union with Christ = 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

In the first chapter of Ephesians, the Apostle Paul enumerates all the blessings received by those who are in union with Christ. Take a look at verses 3-14 and you will see that we are:

  1. Chosen as God’s adopted children
  2. Beloved through His grace
  3. Redeemed
  4. Able to understand His will
  5. Guaranteed an inheritance (salvation)
  6. Given hope
  7. Promised the Holy Spirit

None of these spiritual blessing would be ours without our oneness with Christ. Have you ever thought about this? In effect, as Christians, we live in two different worlds. We live in a physical place (mine is Hagerstown, Maryland); but we also live in Christ. All Christians belong to the same nation (God’s kingdom) and we have the same ruler (Christ). Just as we are united to Christ, we are united to one another.

For more about blessings see:

Spiritual Blessings

Mountaintop Blessings

Thankful for Spiritual Blessings

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