An Environment in Chaos

“Behold, the hour is coming, indeed, it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone.  Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me.  I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation.  But take heart;  I have overcome the world.”  John 16:32-33

Right now my environment seems to be in a state of chaos.  There was a major leak in the condominium above ours which called serious damage to our bathroom and kitchen.  We cannot live there until at least some of the rebuild work is completed–we are essentially homeless.  Even as I say this, I realize our blessings are great, because friends with a finished basement have taken us in, and we are able to go to our daughter’s apartment to cook and wash our clothes.

Our problems are minor in comparison to the troubles facing many in our world.  We have food, clothing, a roof over our heads,  and caring friends and family.  Yet we’re unsettled.  We can’t find things when we need them;  our routines are disrupted.  We feel a loss of control and security.  Satan loves this sort of thing, because it distracts us from God’s presence.  My prayer life has dwindled and the other morning I cried for no real reason — I simply felt frustrated and fed up with our situation.

In the verses above, Jesus tells us these times will come.  We need to expect them and not allow them to disturb our peace in Him.  We are never alone, never truly homeless, because He is with us, and He has overcome any chaos the world can create.  When our focus is on Christ, any problems in the environment recede.

Does your environment feel chaotic?  Turn it over to the Prince of Peace.  He loves you and so do!

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Leaders Who Imitate Christ

In the apostle Paul’s letters to various churches, he often tells the believers to imitate him.  Our leaders should be examples to us, but why is that?  For Christians it is because leaders are to imitate Christ, who is the ultimate leader of our lives.  Here’s some more of what Paul says in 1 Corinthians:

“So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.  Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.  Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1

In imitating Christ, Paul teaches other leaders to be unselfish, desiring always what is best for others, particularly when it comes to their faith and salvation. In honesty, I have to admit that I don’t always do this, but I should.  Who wouldn’t want to follow a leader who had their best interests at heart?  If we lead in this way, people will follow us to the one who can save them and give meaning to their lives.

Jesus Himself told his followers:

“And he sat down and called the twelve.  And he said to them, ‘If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” Mark 9:35

And remember the last supper?  The scene when Jesus washes the feet of the disciples.  He tells them:

“If I then, your Lord and Teacher have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.  For I have given you an example, that you should do just as I have done to you.”

Jesus gave us an example.  He wants us to imitate Him as a servant-leader.  If you are a leader in any way (and you probably are), be unselfish and loving.  Think the best of those you lead, and desire God’s best for them.  It’s the least you can do as an imitator of Christ.  He loves you and so do I!

 

 

The 4 Wills of God — Book Review

Most of us at some time or another ask the question, “What is God’s will for my life?”  According to author Emerson Eggerichs, the correct question, the one we should be asking, is simply, “What is God’s will?”  He asserts that there are four statements in the Bible which specifically identify a behavior as God’s will:

  1. John 6:40 — Believe in Christ
  2. 1 Thessalonians 4:3 — Abstain from sexual sin
  3. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 — Give thanks in everything
  4. 1 Peter 2:13-15 — Submit in doing right

Dr. Eggerichs asserts that as long as we are keeping these four “foundational” commands we can be assured that we are acting within God’s will and are free to make other decisions based on our best judgement.  He also believes that:

“As the apostle John told us in 1 John 3:21-22, when we keep His commandments and do what is pleasing in His sight, then whatever we ask–as individuals in specific circumstances– we receive from Him.”

I have several issues with this book.  First, I’m not convinced that Bible verses which include the phrase, “this is the will of God” should be singled out as the only, or even most important instructions concerning God’s will.  Paul, in his letters to the churches, lists many examples of appropriate and inappropriate behavior for Christians.  Aren’t these God’s will for us as well?

The 4 Wills of God: The Way He Directs Our Steps and Frees Us to Direct Our Own by [Eggerichs, Emerson]

Second, original sin renders us unable to perfectly or completely follow God’s will, no matter how good our intentions.  If we could do that, we wouldn’t need a Savior.  Our decisions will always be tainted.  Doing our best, or trying, won’t cut it, and doesn’t insure that our motives for decision-making will be pure.

Third, I feel that Dr. Eggerichs comes close to saying we can manipulate God.  If we follow these rules, we’re pleasing to God, and He will give us the things we want, often in surprisingly miraculous and unexpected ways.  Although he is careful to point out:

“Our omniscient God knows what is wisest and may countermand our conclusions”

and

“(we don’t) receive miraculous interventions like this every time (we) pray…”

he gives example after example of God supplying the right amount of money or intervening miraculously to fulfil the need of someone who has prayed and who is “within God’s will.”

The bottom line is, this book may actually damage the faith of some who are disappointed by decisions that don’t work out as they hoped or prayers that seem to be unanswered.  It also promotes a legalistic view that assumes our failures stem from insufficient faith and obedience.

If you would like to learn more about this book and author, follow the link below:

http://www.bhpublishinggroup.com/products/the-4-wills-of-god

P.S.  In case our readers are wondering why I would post a review of a book I do not recommend, the Lutheran Ladies became reviewers for B&H Publishing some time ago.  We receive free books to review in return for posting the reviews on our blog and on other venues.  This is my first negative review.

 

 

 

All the Loves

“He who does not love does not know God;  for God is love.”  1 John 4:8

The other night I asked my husband, a pastor, which of the Greek words for love best describes God’s love for us?  Of course, we first thought of agape love.  God loves everyone, regardless of our looks, ethnic background, temperament, intelligence, or worthiness.

“But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Romans 5:8

However, we realized that God’s love is also eros.  In a number of places in the Bible, Israel, and later the church (the new Israel), are referred to as God’s wife or bride.

“Return faithless people”, declares the Lord, for I am your husband.” I will choose you–one from a town and two from a clan–and bring you to Zion.” Jeremiah 3:14

The fact that God is our father, and Jesus our brother,  exemplifies storge, or family love.  Jesus teaches us:

“And call no man your father on earth, for you have a Father who is in heaven.”  Matthew 23:9

“Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy, are of the same family.  So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers.”  Hebrews 2:11

Of course, philia is part of God’s love nature as well, because through the incarnation, Jesus became our friend.

“I no longer call you servants. because a servant does not know his master’s business.  Instead, I have called you friends, for everything I learned from my Father, I have made known to you.”  John 15:15

So, God no only is love, His is all the loves, and we find every love and everything there is to know about love in Him.  What a wonderful gift!  Remember, He loves you and so do I!

 

 

The Wrong Bread

“Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.  Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you.”  John  6:27

These words of Jesus are to the crowds who follow Him after he feeds 5000 people with five barley loaves and a few fish.  Who wouldn’t follow?  Free food for life, and all I have to do is listen to this rabbi.  What a deal!  Jesus sets them straight.  This food will only fill us up temporarily;  the food we really needs leads to eternity.

Times have changed, but people haven’t.  Human beings are focused on the needs they perceive as primary, starting with food and shelter, moving on to love, self esteem, and other things that make life worthwhile(remember Maslow’s Hierarchy?).  We spend our time chasing after them, only to find in the end we’re still not completely fulfilled.  That’s because, as Saint Augustine said:

Sometimes we also seek Jesus for the wrong reasons;  we think Christianity will make our life easy;  we want to have “nice” friends; we want to be admired and respected for our piety;  we may even think God will bless us by making us successful in a worldly way. These things aren’t only wrong, they aren’t even necessarily true.  We need to seek Jesus because of who He is:  the way and the truth;  the bread of life;  the only one who can truly satisfy all our hungers.

 

What is a Cha?

“When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, ‘Do you understand what I have done to you?  You call me Teacher and Lord and you are right, for so I am.  If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also out to wash one another’s feet.  For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.” John 13:12-15

If you go on a Via de Cristo (or other type of Cursillo) retreat, you will find a group of people who are there just to serve you for the weekend.  They bring you drinks, supply any need you many have (tissues, snacks, aspirin, etc.), run errands for you, and so on.  In Via De Cristo we call them the chas, which stands for Christ’s hands in action.  Everybody loves their cha, and often say they wish they could take their cha home with them!

Image result for images of christ's hands in action

Well, guess what?  You don’t have to be on a retreat weekend to be a cha.  Of course, it’s true, we all have many responsibilities and we cannot dedicate all of our time to fetching and carrying.  We can, however, be Christ’s hand and feet and voice in the world every day to the people with whom we interact.  We can help a neighbor carry her groceries, we can give up our place in line to a harried parent, we can say “have a blessed day” to the cashier who rings up our order, we can serve dinner to our family with words that are kind instead of complaining.  Jesus gave us an example when he washed the feet of his disciples — he didn’t have to do that.  It wasn’t expected, and it wasn’t his “job.”  He did it to show us that good stewardship means using our time, our bodies and our minds to serve others.

Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we all became chas?

 

Jesus, Our Friend

“No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing;  but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father, I have made known to you.”  John 15:15

Joseph Scriven, author of the hymn “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” lived a rather tragic life.  He immigrated to Canada in 1845 following the sudden death of his fiancée.  He fell in love again, and this time his intended contracted tuberculosis and also died before they could be married.  Joseph poured himself into ministry and charity work, living a simple life.  This story is written about him:

“Until a short time before his death, it was not known that he had a poetic gift.  A neighbor, sitting up with him in his illness, happened upon a manuscript copy of “What a Friend We Have In Jesus.”  Reading it with delight, and questioning Mr. Scriven about it, he said that he had composed it for his mother, to comfort her in a time of special sorrow, not intending that anyone else should see it.  Some time later, when another neighbor asked him if it was true he composed the hymn, his reply was, ‘The Lord and I did it between us.'”

I hope you enjoy this hymn, as I always have, and use it as an opportunity to meditate on the wonderful gift we have:  friendship with Christ.