Joan’s Pet Peeve

Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.  Ephesians 5:4

Well, a while back Beth Ann wrote about one of her pet peeves, so I thought today I’d tell you about one of mine.  My husband and I went to a local dinner theater production last night.  It was a musical.  The amateur performers were quite good, and I enjoyed the singing.  Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about the dialogue.  Obscenities and coarse joking were definitely part of the fare.  In my mind, this language detracted from the entire performance.

Possibly, in the minds of many, this makes me a prude, or at best an up-tight English major, obessessed with “proper” language, but I don’t think that’s the case.   I understand that we are human and we sin.  Inappropriate words have certainly crossed my mind, and even come out of my mouth on occasion — generally when I’m particularly frustrated or in pain.  I ask for forgiveness and move on.  It happens.  What I am wondering is, when did it become normal, and even amusing to curse, swear and use bad language in front of anyone and everyone?  Why aren’t we complaining when this happens?  When did it become something we simply have to tolerate?  The Bible obviously teaches this is a wrongful use of the tongue.

Here’s another example.  I was sitting in our car, in a parking lot with my granddaughter, who was a young teenager at the time.  A young man walked by, cell phone to his ear.  It seemed as if every other word was an obscenity.  He wasn’t angry, he wasn’t agitated — this was evidently just the way he communicated with others.  I wanted to say that I didn’t appreciate hearing that language, especially in front of a young person, but I didn’t.  I suppose I was afraid of creating a “scene.”

So, I’m asking you readers, what should we do?  Should we speak up (hopefully with gentleness and respect) or should we keep silent?  Should boycott movies, shows and other performances that offend our ears?  Or should we quietly tolerate them because this is just the way things are?

Does this qualify as a rant?  Maybe so– but I’d really like to see some other opinions!

 

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Submit to One Another?

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Ephesians 5:21

Submit to one another?  Really?  In this country most of us do not want to be thought of as submissive.  Isn’t that another word for weak?  Dependent?  Pitiful?  Isn’t a submissive person just a doormat who allows themselves to be used?  Shouldn’t we avoid being labeled this way at all costs?  Stand up for our own rights?

Well, take another look.  It’s right there in the Bible under the title “Instructions for Christian households.”  Although this section is speaking specifically to husbands and wives, since the church is called “the household of God” it has a rightful place in the church family as well.

I admit that the thought of submitting used to bother me.  Over time, I’ve come to think differently.  Submission to one another doesn’t mean taking all sorts of abuse;  it doesn’t mean allowing another person to win every argument or make every decision.  What it does mean is this:  STOP BEING SELFISH.  Put the other person first and do what’s best for them.  Here’s a related verse from Philippians 2: 3-4

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,  not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”

This is certainly a heard teaching.  Our natural inclination is to be egotistical, to think first of our own well being.  However, notice why we Christians are to practice submission to one another:  out of reverence to Christ.  We’re not to submit because other people deserve our submission, or because we’re weaker or less valuable — we’re  to submit out of gratitude for what Christ did for us.  He put us, and our interests above His own.  He didn’t need to be tortured and die on a cross.  He’s God!  He submitted to that punishment, our punishment, so that we would be made righteous in the eyes of God.

The reality is, we can’t be strong, independent and perfect on our own.  We need a savior.  We need each other.  Let’s admit that and put one another first.  Christ did it for us.  We should do it for one another.

 

What are the Spiritual Gifts?

This probably should have been one of my first posts, so I apologize, while reminding my friends and all readers that I have never been a linear thinker.  If you would like to know exactly what the spiritual gifts are, and where they are listed in the Bible, this will help you out.  You can look up the passages and do more research on your own if you’re so inclined.

It might be worthwhile to note (and I did mention this is a previous post) that most Lutherans believe that certain gifts have “ceased.”  Since we have the complete Holy Scriptures, we no longer need prophecy, miracles, healing, tongues and interpretation of tongues.  These gifts were given in order to speak forth or authenticate God’s Word and his messengers.

Romans 12

  1. Encouragement

  2. Giving

  3. Leadership

  4. Mercy

  5. Prophecy

  6. Service

  7. Teaching

1 Corinthians 12

  1. Administration

  2. Discernment

  3. Healing

  4. Interpretation of Tongues

  5. Tongues

  6. Prophecy

  7. Wisdom

  8. Apostle

  9. Faith

  10. Helps

  11. Knowledge

  12. Miracles

  13. Teaching

Ephesians 4

  1. Apostle

  2. Pastor

  3. Teaching

  4. Evangelism

  5. Prophecy

1 Peter 4

  1. Serving

  2. Teaching

 

Feeling God’s Pleasure

I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.

Eric Liddell

If you’re old enough, you may remember this statement from the movie, Chariots of Fire.  It is the true life story of Eric Liddell, and Olympic runner who went on to become a missionary and teacher in China.

When I think about spiritual gifts, my mind always goes to this quote, because I believe that God made us in a certain way, with an aptitude and ability to do certain things well, and when we discover that “sweet spot” for serving, we do indeed feel His pleasure.  There is no better feeling in the world because in that moment we become our true and authentic self, the person God meant us to be.  It’s a taste of heaven on earth.

But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it[ says:

“When he ascended on high,
he took many captives

and gave gifts to his people.”  Ephesians 4:7-8

God Himself gave us a purpose and He gave us the spiritual gifts needed to accomplish it.  Our job is to align our life with God’s desire for us.  Only there will we find true freedom and joy.  Will we be able to do this perfectly?  No way!  However, through prayer, through a realistic assessment of our gits and talents and through His grace, we can come closer day by day.

As spiritual gifts coordinator for St. Paul’s, I’m hoping to help others, one step at a time, to discover their gifts and then put them to use.  This excites me because one of my prominent gifts is encouragement.  God made me to encourage others in their walk of faith.  Here’s the definition of the gift of encouragement:

ENCOURAGEMENT:  The gift of encouragement is the special ability that God gives to certain members of the Body of Christ to minister words of comfort, consolation, encouragement and counsel to other members of the Body in such a way that they feel helped and healed. Contributes: Affirmation.

There are so many ways to use the gift of encouragement.  I hope my writing and this blog encourages others;  when I teach Adult Sunday School, I hope to encourage our class to not only learn about God’s Word, but apply it to their lives;  when I send a card or note, my desire is for it to encourage the receiver.

Maybe encouragement is your gift as well.  If so, how have you used it?  I’d like to hear more.

 

 

 

The World, The Flesh and … oh yes, THE DEVIL

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

1 Peter 5:8

In our environment, we are constantly barraged with sinful desires promoted by our culture, and our own unholy thoughts and deeds.  However, these aren’t the only enemies — the verse above from 1 Peter tells us that we are under spiritual attack from another source–the devil.  It’s unfashionable to believe in Satan these days;  admit it in a group and you may find yourself the but of jokes and snide remarks.  Unfortunately ignoring an unpleasant reality doesn’t make it go away. In fact, the devil is quite happy to have you disbelieve in his existence — it makes you an easier target because your guard is down!

Right now I’m convinced that our Fanning the Flame team is under demonic attack.  The roof of my life has (almost literally fallen in)!  Others are under stress due to relationships, financial problems, work issues, and grief.  Of course, these sorts of things happen every day, but why are so many happening to members of the same small group all at once?  Probably not a coincidence.

It’s simple.  The devil wants to distract us from the good work we are trying to do for St. Paul’s.  As my husband is fond of saying, he doesn’t need to bother with unbelievers — he already has them in his clutches.  The kind of pressure many of us are undergoing makes us irritable and quick to anger.  It disrupts our unity. It makes us anxious.  It causes us to feel disappointed, doubting and even depressed.  It encourages us to dwell on the negative.

There is, of course a Scriptural defense which is detailed in Ephesians 6:10-18:

Finally, be strong in the LORD and in his mighty power. 11Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the LORD’s people.

The team is preparing for an event called “Armourbearer Sunday.”  I’m not sure what it’s about, but I have a suspicion it may help us deal with the powers of darkness around us.  Stay tuned for more in September …..

 

 

Christ is Counting on You

“”As a prisoner for the LORD, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5one LORD, one faith, one baptism; 6one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” Ephesians 4:1-6

Let’s face it, one of the most difficult things about our environment is dealing with the people in it.  They constantly disappoint us.  They shock us with their lack of love and understanding.  They complain and whine and gossip. They point fingers at others when the blame lies closer to home– and when I say these things I’m talking about Christians!

When I’m frustrated with others, I need to remember the verses above from Ephesians.  I can’t change anyone except myself.  I need to humbly admit that I am not perfect, either, and my behavior is not always the good example I wish it would be.  I need to be patient and give everyone the benefit of the doubt.  Any correction I give should be gentle and loving.  The church is the body of Christ and I am part of it.  Nobody wants to hurt their own body.  When we’re angry at one another, the body is disrupted and can’t function at it’s best.

The early Christians “turned the world upside down.”  We’re called to do the same in our day and culture.  Unity is key.  To preserve our unity we must be positive and do our part. We must love one another with the love of Christ.  He is counting on us.  He has no other plan.

Fanning the Flame #13 — Like a Kid in a Candy Store

And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting,  but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.  Ephesians 4:11-16

My assignment as part of the Fanning the Flame team is to be the spiritual gifts coordinator for our church.  This means giving as many members as possible a spiritual gifts assessment, and then having a conversation with them about their gifts and how they could be used to build up our congregation and community. This will start with the team, and this month two ladies have completed the assessment.  As I reviewed their gifts and their passions, one lady told me she loved gardening.  ‘When I go into a landscaping store in the spring, I’m like a kid in a candy store”, she said, “I get so excited, and I want to choose everything.”

Well, I’m like that kid when it comes to spiritual gifts.  I get the biggest kick out of seeing how God created us: the amazing talents, interests and passions He gave.  We’re like different flowers in the same garden, learning to bloom and grow together in beautiful patterns. I’m looking forward to helping people discover and put their gifts to work.  Great things happen when God mixes with us, and we mix with others.  Pray that at St. Paul’s we learn to appreciate all the gifts — our own and those around us. We can spread the sweet aroma of Christ to the environment around us.