Tag Archives: book of Hebrews

Reunion Group Relationships

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If you attend a Lutheran Via de Cristo weekend, you will be encouraged to continue growing in Christ by participating in what’s called a reunion group.  This is a small group that meets on a regular basis (monthly, weekly, whatever you choose) to talk about how things are going in the spiritual life of the members.

I have been in a reunion group on and off for over twenty years.  The groups change, of course, as people move or their life changes.  The group I am in now meets at our church once a month, and each month we discuss an aspect of our Christian walk:  piety (this covers things like prayer, worship and moments of closeness to Christ), study or action.  Each of us has an opportunity to tell how we’ve been doing in that area and what our plans are for the coming month.  We encourage one another and hold each other accountable.  We pray together and we pray for each other.

Over time being in such a group together fosters strong bonds.  It was my first group that taught me being quiet and shy didn’t mean I couldn’t be a leader and influence others for Christ.  The group I am in now started this blog!!  My reunion group sisters are the kind of friends who will support me, encourage me and jump in to help if I take on a commitment!  They hear my confessions and keep my confidences.  Through the years in reunion groups I have helped to plan congregational activities, organized small group Bible studies, participated in “crafty” projects (that one is a real stretch for me), and had fun in the process.  Rightly lived, a reunion group becomes a Christian community affecting the world.

If you’re not in a group like this, don’t put it off, it’s too important.  You don’t have to go on a Via de Cristo weekend;  you don’t have to call it a reunion group;  you don’t have to do things exactly as we do.  The point is to find a group of others who want to direct their lives to Christ and grow in faith.  Meet regularly, pray together, encourage one another, work together for Christ and hold each other accountable.  In years to come you’ll look back and be amazed at what God has done through you and how you have grown in faith together.

I hope our readers and my sister bloggers will join in by discussing this further.  Have you been in a reunion group (or a similar accountability group)?  How did it impact your spiritual growth?  I want to hear your stories.

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.  Let us knot give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another — and all the more as you see the day approaching.”  Hebrews 10: 24-25

 

 

 

Achieving Unity

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” And all who believed came together and had all things in common;  and they sold their possessions and goods and distributed them to all, as any had need. And day by day attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they partook of food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people.  And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”

I’ve already mentioned that unity doesn’t happen in a day;  it’s a process.  The early Christians worshipped, ate and praised God together.  They shared one another’s lives.  They cared about each other. They were willing to make sacrifices for the congregation.  This made their fellowship so attractive to others that they wanted to be a part of it.

You may join a congregation by coming to church on Sunday and/or standing up front and professing your desire to be a member.  However, true unity comes from day-to-day working and serving together, having fun together, sharing stories and lives.  It comes from seeing children grow up and older people die.  It comes from being willing to contribute your time, talent and yes, even money to support and nurture the group.  It means sticking in there to resolve problems and disagreements, instead of walking away.

Of course, these days it’s rare to belong to the same church for your whole life.  There are times when we must change because we move.  There may be times when we are called to leave our congregation to serve elsewhere.  Maybe there are even times when our doctrinal positions become so far apart that leaving is the only option.  When this happens, though, I believe we should join into our new church home with vigor and commitment.  We can’t achieve unity without doing our part.

“…and let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”  Hebrews 10:24-25

I would like to hear from our readers and other authors.  Do you feel unity with your congregation?  What had led to that unity for you?

 

Through the Generations

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“One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.”  Psalm 145:4

There’s another type of unity in the church we haven’t discussed yet, and that is the unity between the Church Triumphant (the saints in Heaven) and the Church Militant (those of us still fighting the battle here on Earth).  In case you are wondering, when Lutherans say “saint” it does not refer to certain particularly holy people:  we believe all Christians are both saint and sinner.

It is our responsibility to pass the faith on to the next generation.  In the founding documents of our church (St. Paul’s Free Lutheran of Leitersburg, Md) our forbears expressed the desire that their children would remain true to the evangelical faith and confessions of the church and would pass it on to succeeding generations in the community.  That’s been going on for 190 years now.  Those of us at St. Paul’s may not be physical descendants of those charter members, but we are certainly their spiritual descendants.  When I worship in our old sanctuary, my voice and my prayers are joined with theirs.  I can feel that unity.  Some Orthodox churches feature paintings of saints on the columns and ceiling of the church:  a reminder that those who went before are still with us.

In our Lutheran communion service we say “with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven we laud and magnify your name” …another important reminder that our fellowship includes those who have gone before us.  We may not think about it often, but we should.  It’s a source of peaceful strength.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”  Hebrews 12:1-2

Who are your witnesses?  Who are you witnessing to?  Please send us your stories.

Stability

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Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever (Heb. 13:8).

To be honest, I needed to hear that lately. Because, as often happens in life things are changing. I’ve noticed to if we are lucky enough to have a ‘routine’ we really ought to savor the peace and stability that it gives us.

More than that though we need to appreciate, and learn to truly value the relationships (albeit short as some may be) that have been set before us through whatever path we’re on at the time. And I do believe that God put certain people in our paths good and bad to teach and test us.

Change certainly does test us, it tests our responses and our attitudes. This last month for me has been a bit of a whirlwind of change. My son is hitting a big milestone in age and showing signs of maturity, my school is going through some major changes (Cutting the program I’m enrolled in), and physically it’s more and more obvious that I’m not ever gonna be that star athlete.

Now, while all of that can be depressing for anybody, everybody reacts to things like that in different ways. Some may panic, (I’ve resolved to only panic inwardly) and some might give up, or get angry and start blaming others. Maybe they’d be right in assigning blame, and maybe they’d have a darn good excuse for getting angry; but what practical use does that have? None, there can be no satisfaction in pouting and it isn’t at all constructive.

We all need to eventually look up and take note. There will always be a challenge. There will always be something that rocks us awake from our cozy routine. How will we deal with it? Gracefully, or with all the tact of a two year old? Welcome to adulthood, and thank God for Jesus Christ our Savior.

Molded by The Father

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As parents, we all try to mold our children in different ways.  We provide them with learning experiences such as music or swimming lessons. We teach them to socialize by making play dates with others, or taking them to nursery school.  We may send them to camp or take them to different places on vacation. We expose them to libraries and restaurants and museums and concerts.  We set rules for living well and let them suffer the consequences when they break those rules.  Our ultimate goal is to help them live a productive and contented life.

Well, God is our Father, and He is interested in molding us as well.  Listen to these verses from Jeremiah 18:1-5:

“The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord:  ‘Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.’  So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at the wheel.  And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do.

Then the word of the Lord came to me:  ‘O house of Israel, can I not do with you as the potter has done?'”

Everything that happens in our lives is sent by our Father to change us into the vessel he wants us to be.  Some of the things that change us are really good;  others are challenging; and yet others seem to break us open completely.  The Bible tells us that:

“For the moment, all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”  Hebrews 12:11

God, our Father, wants the best for us.  The good things we receive from His hand are cause for gratitude;  the painful things are too, for they are all part of the individual learning experience God has tailored for every one of us.

What will you learn from what God sends you today?

 

Life Changes

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“It is well for us that, amidst all the variableness of life, there is One whom change cannot affect;  One whose heart can never alter, and on whose brow mutability can make no furrows.”

Charles Spurgeon

Have you ever heard of entropy?  It comes from a principle of thermodynamics and refers to the idea that everything in the universe moves from order to disorder.  This makes perfect sense to me:  it’s what happened when sin entered the world.  Left on our own, mankind gradually disintegrates into more and more sinful behavior.  As we age, our bodies are subject to the results of sin as well–sickness and death eventually overtake what God has “fearfully and wonderfully made.”  The people closest to us, the ones we love and depend upon, will all die.  We will die as well.

Thankfully in life there is one person who doesn’t change;  one person that we can count on forever.  In Hebrews 13:8 we are told:

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

Deuteronomy 31:6 assures us:

“…for it is the Lord your God who goes with you;  He will not fail you or forsake you.”

In a world of change, I need to remind myself every day to choose the unchangeable and focus my mind on the unseen.  I want to be able to say along with Martin Luther:

“Let goods and kindred go, This mortal life also;

The body they may kill:  God’s truth abideth still,

His kingdom is forever.”

from the hymn ‘A Mighty Fortress.’

 

Obey Your Leaders

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“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account.  Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” Hebrews 13:17

Many of you know that Hebrews is my favorite book of the Bible, and so I couldn’t let the month go by without seeing what the author had to say about obedience.  These verses come from the last chapter which is titled (at least in the NIV) “concluding exhortations.”  It contains a list of instructions to the church.  I encourage you to read this entire chapter, as it gives a wealth of good advice, boiled down to succinct statements about how Christians should behave as part of the body of Christ.

Anyway, back to our leaders.  As the wife of a Pastor, I can tell you it is not an easy job.  In fact, it’s not a job at all –it’s a calling.  Most of the pastors I know would not say they chose to be a pastor because it matched their talents, gave them a steady salary or earned them respect and recognition.  They are pastors because it’s what God wants them to do and they can’t refuse to do it without great pain.

My husband is fond of saying that the pastor is not the CEO of the church.  He is not our “boss.”  God did not give him to us as a manager, or administrator, but as a teacher, mentor and leader.  Submitting to our pastor and other church leaders, like submitting to our spouse, should not be what we have to do, it should be what we want to do.

Submitting to someone you are in a loving relationship with does not mean you can never express your opinions or disagree.  It does not mean you cannot ask questions.  It does not mean you can’t try to change their way of looking at things.  I does mean you recognize that person has your best interests at heart, and you should listen respectfully and thoughtfully to what they tell you.  If that person is an authority, you should obey them.

My husband (and other pastors) are not happy to have members blindly accept whatever he says.  He is also not happy when members simply walk away and abandon the congregation because they don’t like something he said or did.  He is happy when a member listens, and if he or she disagrees, studies the subject and asks questions.  He is happy when someone who is upset with him comes to him and talks the issue over.  These kinds of responses lead to spiritual growth and maturity, and trust me, this is what your pastor wants to see in you and in others!

So make your pastor joyful in his task.  Learn from him.  Love him.  Pray for him.  Obey him, because God has given to you.

Pursue Peace

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Everybody longs for peace.  We tend to think of peace as something internal and passive:  a gift that God imparts to us simply because we are His people. Then we wonder why we don’t have it in our lives. However, the Bible tells us over and over again that peace is something we must actively seek. It doesn’t come naturally, even to Christians. Consider the following verses:

“Turn away from evil and do good;  seek peace and pursue it.”  Psalm 34:14

“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.  Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men.  So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.”  Romans 14:17-19

“So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.  Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies;  you know they breed quarrels.”  2 Timothy 2:22-23

“Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.  See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God;  that no ‘root of bitterness’ springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled …”Hebrews 12:14-15

Read the rest of this entry

What Are You Thankful For?

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One of my daughters lives in another state, so we try to write letters to each other now and then.  To encourage our writing, we sometimes pick a “theme” to think and write about.  Last year around Thanksgiving, we chose to discuss “what are you thankful for?”  Guess what?  Neither of us put anything having to do with success, money or things on our “thankful” list. Neither list included a promotion or bonus, stylish clothing, a cruise or a face lift. Instead our lists mentioned God (our faith, our church), other people (family, friends), a job to provide for our daily needs, and good health so that we could do the things we enjoyed and be able to serve others.

Does this mean my daughter and I are especially good people?  I don’t think so.  I believe that most of us, if asked to stop and think seriously about the important things in life, would come up with a very similar list.

The real puzzler is this– why we don’t live according to what we know in our hearts is most important? We get caught up in the day to day so easily that it often seems like the small things –shopping, earning more money, redecorating our home or buying a better car – are the big things.  We take for granted the daily blessings we receive through God’s grace.

Spending more time in God’s word would remind us of our true priorities.  In the book of Ecclesiastes, “the preacher” tells us that most of the things we strive for are “vanity” or in another translation “meaningless.”  He advises us to find pleasure in ordinary, daily life :  “eat your bread with joy” (Ecclesiastes 9:7); “enjoy life with the wife whom you love (Ecclesiastes 9:9) and “find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun.”  Then he adds, “this is the gift of God.” (Ecclesiastes 5:20)

This year I want to remind myself that thanksgiving is not simply a day, it is a right attitude toward God every day. If I am constantly “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2) I will be thankful all the time.  “This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.”(Psalm 118:24)

Thankful for Leaders –Hebrews Chapter 13

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What stands out for me in Chapter 13 is the instruction to appreciate our leaders.  Maybe it’s because I’m a Pastor’s wife, and see up close and personal what a difficult job it can be.

Here’s the first thing the author has to say about leaders:

“Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God;  imitate their faith.” Hebrews 13:7

Of course, leaders are not just our pastors.  Most of us can point to others in our lives who have told us about Christ and served as an example to us.  Who has guided and influenced you in your Christian walk?  Your parents?  Your spouse?  A friend? Take time to remember and be thankful for those folks.  They are part of your personal “cloud of witnesses.”

“Obey your leaders and submit to them;  for they are keeping watch over your souls, as men who will have to give account.  Let them do this joyfully, and not sadly, for that would be of no advantage to you.”  Hebrews 13:17

Nothing saddens a pastor or Christian leader more than seeing someone turn their back on God, walk away from the church and her teachings.  This hurts more than you can imagine.  They have a sense of failure before God.  Make your leaders glad by being faithful.  That is the best ‘thank you’ you can give them.

Finally ….

“Pray for us …” Hebrews 13:18

As you remember and give thanks for the leaders of your church and denomination, please pray for them. They are not perfect and their lives are not free from worry and care.  They have many of the same problems you do. They are doing their best to serve God and you.

Your leaders love you and so do I!