Aging With Grace by Sharon W. Betters & Susan Hunt — Book Review

In our culture we all want to live to a ripe old age — but avoid the aging process.  In this book, the two authors provide hope right from the Bible — hope that as we age, God still has a plan for us.  We have valuable contributions to offer.

“The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon….they still bear fruit in old age;  they are ever full of sap and green.”  Psalm 92:12,14

The world tells us that old age is an enemy, but according to the Bible, it’s to be coveted:

“Wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days.”  Job 12:12

Using the examples of Elizabeth, Anna, Naomi and others, the authors paint a vivid picture of how older women can still be used for God’s glory.  They weave in their own stories and the stories of other contemporary older women who have “aged with grace.”  As we grow older spiritual activities and disciplines may change, but they don’t have to end.  We can be mentors, work with smaller groups or individuals, or become prayer warrior or caregivers.  Most of all, we become more aware of our need to depend upon God, rather than our own strength.  We can look back and gain perspective on how God has been at work in our lives.

There are questions for reflection and discussion at the end of each chapter.  It could easily be used as a resource for small groups, or for private journaling.

VERDICT:  4 STARS

If you would like to purchase this book follow the link below:

Aging with Grace: Flourishing in an Anti-Aging Culture | Crossway

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 posts about aging see:

Growing Older

Reimagine Retirement by C.J. Cagle– Book Review

A New Chapter

 

A Time to Die

I’m up to the third chapter of Ecclesiastes in my lectio divina study and the phrase that catches my attention is that we all have “a time to die.”  Ecclesiastes 3:2.  Death is all over the news these days — what celebrity has contracted the virus and died;  what the death toll is throughout the United States and the world;  what are the biggest “risk factors” that increase your odds of dying from this scary disease.  People are worried about what to do.  Should we wear masks all of the time?  Only inside?  Only in crowds?  Should we refrain from as much social contact as possible?  And now, a new question — is it safe to get the vaccine?

According to the Bible we all have a time to die, and God is the one who is in charge.  Here are some verses that support this conclusion:

“And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?”  Matthew 6:27

 

“Since his days are determined, and the number of his months is with you, and you have appointed his limits that he cannot pass….”  Job: 14:5

 

“My times are in your hand …”  Psalm 31:15

Now I am not saying we should take crazy risks, or pay no attention to doing things that are healthy and increase your ability to stay well.  Caring for our body is part of good stewardship — it is one of the things God has given to us.  I am saying it’s wrong to get obsessed or fearful about the many things that can end our lives.  This is simply another way of turning in upon ourselves and it has a name:  SIN.

There is also an outer limit to the normal human life span:

“The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty ….” Psalm 90:10

Guess what, I am already there, so any days I have left are indeed a gift from God!  At this stage of my life I can easily say along with Paul, “to live is Christ, to die is gain.”  Philippians 1:21.  I’ve accomplished the major tasks of life, and when I die, I’ll be free of all my aches, pains, and worries as I enjoy the presence of God.

There is one piece of advice that God gives about extending our life:

“The fear of the Lord prolongs life …”  Prov. 10:27

 

“And if you walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments… then I will lengthen your days.”  1 Kings 3:14

So, wear your masks;  avoid large gatherings, but don’t worry. Don’t give up attending church and studying the Bible;  don’t give up serving others. The best way to stay healthy is to fear God and follow His teachings.

For more on the book of Ecclesiastes see:

Hoping for Something New?

Ecclesiastes Chapter 2 — What Stands Out

Ecclesiastes 3:3

 

 

 

 

Incomplete Clarity

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” 1 Corinthians 13:12

One thing that is clear (no pun intended) from this verse is, on this side of heaven, we will never have complete clarity.  Even when we pray, study, consult with others, our decisions will still be clouded by the values of our society, our own prejudices and our limited understanding of other people and of God.

If you have any doubt about this, read the book of Job.  Job was a righteous man by every measure. He was not only prosperous, he was righteous.  He feared God and turned away from evil.  He loved his children.  Then bad things started to happen.  His children were killed, his property was lost.  He was afflicted with boils.  Still, he remained faithful to God.  He just wanted clarity.  He wanted to know why.  He wanted to understand.

His friends, if you recall, believed they had clarity.  It looked like God was punishing Job– therefore, he had sinned.  Somewhere along the line he had done something wrong, and these problems were his just deserts.  Job maintains his innocence and begs, “Let the Almighty answer me!”(Job 31:35)

Here are some parts of God’s response:

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?  Tell me, if you have understanding?”  Job 38:4

 

“Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty?  He who argues with God, let him answer it.” Job 40:2

In essence, God is saying, I am God and you are not. Job accedes saying,

“Behold I am of small account;  what shall I answer you?  I lay my hand on my mouth.”  Job 40:3

In Isaiah God tells us:

“… my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.”  Isaiah 55:8

We must be open to the reality that we won’t always make the right decision.  We won’t always understand. Our human viewpoints are circumscribed.  We can only trust that God, who works all things out to our good, will lead us back when we stray and use even our mistakes for His glory.

 

Where is Wisdom by Scott James — Book Review

This attractive picture book is beautifully and colorfully illustrated by Hein Zaayman.  The text is inspired by Job 28 which begins:

“Surely there is a mine for silver, and a place for gold that they refine.  Iron is taken out of the earth and copper is smelted from the ore.”

Subtitled, A Treasure Hunt Through God’s Wondrous World, author Scott James uses the analogy of mining to describe how we must “dig” to find wisdom, which is a valuable treasure.  The information given is biblically correct, and there is a final page with a theme verse and thought questions for parents or teachers to use in discussing the material further.

Those good things being said, I do have a concern about this book.  It seems designed to appeal to younger  children (I would say age 10 or below), but the concept of wisdom is abstract and will be difficult for this age group to grasp.  The use of the literal image of mining, in my opinion, would likely be confusing rather than illuminating for young children. On the other hand, a twelve year old would understand the concepts, but find it too babyish in format.  I’m not an educator, but as a parent, grandparent and former Sunday School teacher, I believe I am correct in this evaluation.

For other Christian books for children see:

GraceFull by Dorena Williamson — Book Review

Great and Small Prayers for Babies — Book Review

The Promises of God Storybook Bible by Jennifer Lyell–Book Review

VERDICT:  2 STARS.  Appealing to look at, but not suited to the targeted age group.

If you are interested in purchasing this book, follow the link below:

https://www.lifeway.com/en/product/where-is-wisdom-P005816992

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

 

 

Sunday’s Coming

Good Friday is over.  The disciples are hiding, fearful.  Will they be arrested next?  And even if they aren’t what’s left for them?  Some of them have been following Jesus for years, and now he’s dead.  Their hopes are dashed.  No doubt they’re depressed, frustrated, maybe even angry.

In hindsight, we know that Sunday’s coming.  Sunday when Jesus will rise again.  Sunday when Jesus will conquer death itself.  Sunday when their experiences will begin to transform them into brave men who are willing to die for their Lord and His church.

Right now, all of us are in a sort of “Good Friday” place. We feel imprisoned in our homes.  We don’t know what’s coming next.  We’re afraid of getting sick, or making others sick.  We’re worried about our finances.  Like the disciples, we may be feeling all kinds of negative emotions.

Take heart, friends, because Sunday’s coming.  God’s promise is:

“… we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  Romans 8:28

We don’t know what that good is, but as Christians we do know we can trust Him. As Job said,

“Though He slay me, I will hope in Him.” Job 13:15

St. Paul’s trust in God was so complete that he could say:

“I have learned to be content regardless of my circumstances. I know how to live humbly, and I know how to abound. I am accustomed to any and every situation—to being filled and being hungry, to having plenty and having need. I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”  Philippians 4:11-13

At some point this situation will end.  We’ll get through it one way or another, but only with God will we find true peace, acceptance and hope.  Keep trusting in Him.  Sunday’s coming.

 

 

 

 

Faith Under Pressure

Though he slay me, I will hope in him.”  Job 13:15

When I think about our theme of faith and fortitude, Job is the first person who comes to mind.  This man had it all – wealth, family, respect, health – and he lost it all.  Raiders ran off with his oxen, donkeys and camels, fire destroyed his sheep and his children were killed in a freak wind storm.  Job himself developed boils over his entire body. That’s how quickly life can change.  His friends stopped by to “comfort” him by asking what on earth he had done wrong to deserve all the punishments God seemed to be raining down on him. Even his wife advised him to give up, curse God and die.

There’s no question that Job felt despair and anger.  He questioned God, he railed against his misfortunes and he grieved for his children.  Still, through it all, he doesn’t lose his faith.  He acknowledges that God has the right to control and direct his life:

 

Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return.  The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

 

We can learn some things from Job.  He wasn’t afraid to express his emotions. He kept talking to God, and God answered him.  It wasn’t an answer Job could completely wrap his mind around, but he admitted his lack of understanding and his total dependence on God.  I guess that’s what we mean by “the patience of Job.”

It’s easy to have faith when things are going well, but sometimes we find ourselves in a bad situation, like Job. We didn’t cause it, we don’t deserve it, but it’s out of our control. That’s when the rubber meets the road. There’s no way, as humans, we’ll ever comprehend God’s plan.  Things that look disastrous may turn out to be blessings. (think of the crucifixion).  The Bible promises He is working everything out for our good.  So I’ll leave you with this question:  when difficulties come (and they will) will you trust God and grow in your faith?

 

 

Funeral Songs

Last night I received an email from my good friend, Nancy, who is also one of our faithful readers.  She mentioned that she had been at a funeral and the music was just lovely.  In her words:

In keeping with the blog, I went to the funeral yesterday of a dear friend from church. It was the most singing at a funeral that I have ever experienced, and it was perfect. One of the songs we sang was the “Hymn of Promise” that I had sent to you. And we sang a medley of last verses of six old hymns that all spoke of heaven and Jesus coming to “take us home.” There were more hymns- all were affirmations of faith and hope.

This made me think about the songs that uplift me in times of grief.  One of my favorites is “I Know that My Redeemer Lives.”  It’s an Easter song, based upon Job 19:25-26

“I know that my Redeemer lives, and at last he will stand upon the earth, and after my skin has been thus destroyed, then from my flesh I shall see God,

Whom I shall see on my side, and my eyes shall behold, and not another.”

I can’t imagine anything more comforting and hopeful than that word  picture.  Here’s the whole hymn, in case you don’t know it:

 

What Do You Really Know?

We tend to think of our civilization as very advanced;  humankind has certainly come a long way.  We can cure diseases that were once fatal; we can access all sorts of information instantly via the internet;  we can fly any place in the world, and we’ve even reached the moon!  There is a temptation to feel that if we don’t know it all yet, we will soon.  How far from true that is!  Turn to the book of Job.  When Job’s life started going down the tubes, he questioned God and His plans.  He thought his situation was unfair and God was unjust.  Here’s God’s answer:

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?  Tell me, if you have understanding.

Who determined its measurements–surely you know!  Or who stretched the line upon it?

On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstones, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst from the womb, when I made clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling band, and prescribed limits for it and set bars and doors, and said, ‘Thus far shall you come and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed’?

Have you commanded the morning since your days began, and caused the dawn to know its place, that it might take hold of the skirts of the earth, and the wicked be shaken out of it?

It is changed like clay under the seal, and its features stand out like a garment.

From the wicked their light is withheld, and their uplifted arm is broken.

Have you entered into the springs of the sea, or walked in the recesses of the deep?

Have the gates of death been revealed to you, or have you seen the gates of deep darkness?

Have you comprehended the expanse of the earth?  Declare if you know all this.”  Job 38:4-18

In other words, God is God and we’re not.  There are many things about creation, death, and our own lives that we will never understand or know.  Real knowledge starts with humility — realizing how little we know, and how much we owe to God.

The Song of Christian Unity

“God has prepared for Himself one great song of praise throughout eternity, and those who enter the community of God join in this song. It is the song that the “morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy” at the creation of the world. (Job 38:7). It is the victory song of the children of Israel after passing through the Red Sea, the Magnificat of Mary after the annunciation, the song of Paul and Silas in the night of prison, the song of the singers on the sea of glass after their rescue, the “song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb” (Rev. 15:3) It is the song of the heavenly fellowship.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian Community

Image result for it is the church that is singing images

Contractual . . .

Hosea 13:4-6

“Yet I have been the LORD your God Since the land of Egypt; And you were not to know any god except Me, For there is no savior besides Me. I cared for you in the wilderness, In the land of drought. As they had their pasture, they became satisfied, And being satisfied, their heart became proud; Therefore they forgot Me.”

I read, ‘ . . . And being satisfied, their heart became proud; therefore they forgot Me.” And I think that Christians need to remember those words. Not because we need to tell others about the words of warning God spoke, but because Christians need to warn each other. God makes a promise and we all know he’ll keep it. We certainly balk if we feel he hasn’t or won’t; yet how easily we forget that long ago we agreed to uphold our part of a binding contract.

We are a government, people, society, even world of contracts. Paper work to verify other paper work to ensure promise of words written and said in processes of purchases, acquisitions, and agreements of all kinds. And we have laws that force any who would dare usurp such paperwork as this.

How hypocritical we all are. Christians descended of Jews who are descended of Abraham, Father of nations made a promise. To follow God, worship only Him, and to do so by obeying His will. Which, I might add, only looks to provide us the best and safest option. In other words, His will would never wish His people harm or leave us wanting. Yet we’ve strayed, and forgotten over and over that our God loves us and that we also made a promise. We have grown comfortable by the blessings He gives and in our comfort and satisfaction we forget who gives it. We think it must have been our own doing. That the ‘stars aligned’ and all our efforts came to bear fruit of prosperity and peace. But from where did we get the money? A job, the employer, the company, a city, the state, country; have all those things including the political web of red tape and regulations, with the world chess pieces of military power all been a product of our own hand?

God might ask us as He did Job if we laid the foundations of the earth and hung the stars and moon. No, we simply reap the benefits if we only obey putting one foot in front of the other. We must be cautious, and not forget when we sit on our soft couch in our warm homes just who made it all possible. Good for us we have a really big note a.k.a. the Bible, so that we can read it and remember not just God’s promises which are faithful, but our own.