A Failure to Commit

Lately I’ve been thinking about commitment. It started with a discussion in my bible study group. As we talked about church discipline, we realized how seldom it happens these days. Rather than accept discipline (which admittedly is not pleasant at the time), people simply change congregations. It’s easier to move on to a community that doesn’t know about the sin or doesn’t care about it.

At the same time, I’ve been reading a book by John Ortberg which I’ll review in a later post. It’s about relationships, and in one of the chapters, he deals with commitment, especially commitment to our marriage and to friends. Many people don’t want to get married any longer. Younger people tell me, “Why bother? It won’t make my partner any more willing to stay with me.” High divorce rates have eroded our trust in this important covenant. Many people don’t have deep or lasting friendships, either. Friendship is measured by the number of followers we can attract on our social media accounts. It doesn’t involve face-to-face interaction, and those who dare to disagree with us can easily be “ghosted.”

Finally, I spent some time talking with a lady at church on Sunday. She bemoaned the fact that the community service ministry she was part of seemed to be dying out. The volunteers are all older and soon won’t be able to do the work. People just don’t care to get involved. They have no connection to their neighbors, or the community at large.

God doesn’t want us to live an uncommitted life. In the book of Genesis, He says:

“It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.” Genesis 2:18

Marriage is meant to be deep and enduring. Over time, we become “one flesh.” Friendships are also important. In interacting with others, we grow in wisdom and understanding. “Just as iron sharpens iron, friends sharpen the minds of each other.” Proverbs 27:17. The congregation is described as a body, the body of Christ. When we walk away, we damage not only ourselves, but also Jesus and His mission on earth.

Commitment is not easy. It involves enduring through seasons of dryness. It means continuing to love people when we don’t agree. It requires us be vulnerable and admit our failures. However, in the long term the rewards are great.

“Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart.” Proverbs 3:3

For more posts about marriage and friendship see:

The Marriage Challenge – A Book Review

Spiritual Friendship — What is it?

Friendship Promises – Book Review

Laugh–It’s Good for You!

I love it when science confirms what we already know to be true because the bible tells us the same thing! According to the book of Proverbs:

“A merry heart does good, like medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones.” Proverbs 17:22

Here’s what research has shown to be the case about how laughter and joy affects our body.

  1. It stimulates vital organs by improving the intake of oxygen.
  2. It increases and decreases the heart rate, which “cools down” our stress response and relaxes us
  3. It also reduces stress by stimulating circulation and helping muscles relax
  4. It improves our immune system by activating neuropeptides that help fight stress
  5. It improves our mood and lessens anxiety and depression
  6. It improves our brain function by releasing brain derived neurotrophic factor which encourages the growth of new neurons and synapses
  7. It improves sleep function –ten minutes of laughter can result in two hours of pain-free sleep
  8. It lowers blood pressure, and glucose levels

The evidence is clear, and as Christians we have every reason to laugh and be happy. We have the Good News of eternal salvation. Let’s share it with others!

For more posts about health see:

Heart Health

Improve Your Health, Make a Friend

Choose Spiritual Health

Wisdom and Patience

According to the Bible, patience is another quality associated with wisdom. The book of Proverbs tells us:

“A person’s wisdom yields patience;
    it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.” Proverbs 19:11

Reacting quickly usually means reacting badly–probably because our default setting is sin. It’s not easy to overlook an offense. Our first impulse is to strike back or defend ourselves. We speak in anger and without understanding (another key element of wisdom) We may say hurtful things that we don’t really mean. Where does this leave us? In a state of pain and conflict. On the other hand, when we are patient, take our time, think things over, it is easier to listen and forgive. We may even come to the conclusion that we also need forgiveness!

Sometimes we’re impatient, not because we’re angry but because we’re anxious. We’re in a difficult situation and we want things to change. We begin to doubt God’s plan. This is not wise either, because:

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” Proverbs 1:7

Fear here does not really mean to be afraid, but to give God the proper honor and respect due to Him. It means to be humble because God knows best. We can trust Him and can rest in the knowledge that He will work all things out for our good.

St. Augustine said that “patience is the companion of wisdom.” It leads to peace. Peace with God, with ourselves and with others. Isn’t that the wisest way to live?

For more about patience see these posts:

Waiting Requires Patience

Have Patience

Patiently Waiting?

Wisdom and Understanding

Earlier this month I posted about the link between wisdom and humility; another quality that the Bible often mentions in connection with wisdom is understanding. Here are some examples:

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!” Psalm 111:10

“And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,” Colossians 1:9

“And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.” Isaiah 11:2

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

Understanding implies not just intelligence, or knowledge, but the ability to apply what is known. Definitions include:

*Skill in dealing with a particular thing

*A superior power of discernment

*Enlightened intelligence

Understanding requires thoughtful consideration. It takes time. On the other hand, the book of Proverbs tells us:

“A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.” Proverbs 18:2

There’s a lot of that behavior going around lately, and social media seems to encourage it.

So, if you want to be wise, seek understanding. Listen carefully. Examine the logic in the opinions you hear. Ask questions. Be open to other opinions but let the fear of God inform your decisions. Practice discernment. Apply what you know to be true (because you have studied the Bible) to your own life. If you do these things, you will not only be wise, but you will also make the world a better place.

“”Pay careful attention, then, to how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” Ephesians 5:15-17

For more posts about wisdom see:

Wisdom and Humility

Wisdom and God’s Law

Be Wise

Wisdom and Purity of Heart

I’m reading a book of short essays by Kosuke Koyama (December 10, 1929 – March 25, 2009), a Japanese theologian. One of them discusses the connection between what he calls ‘thinking well’ (I would say wisdom) and purity of heart. He believes that the heart is what motivates us, and to be pure in heart is to be concerned for others. This comes only to those who know God. Without God, our thinking will be egoistic, not wise at all!

Lack of concern for others can cause all sorts of problems in society– criminal activity being the worst. But what about waste? Using others as mere ‘human resources’ or even slaves? Even simply failing to be kind? All these sinful behaviors run rampant in the world today, and in the long run will lead to many sorts of destruction. Left to our own, we are not wise. That’s probably why the Bible tells us:

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” Proverbs 9:10

When we begin to know God, our heart changes. In the book of Ezekial, God says:

 “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekial 36:26

The Ten Commandments as well as the teachings of Jesus stress love and compassion for others. Kosuke Koyama puts it this way:

“…our failure in thinking well comes from our failure to live in purity of heart. Careless thinking and impurity of heart can make a dreadfully destructive combination. The brain must be guided by the heart. The heart must be enlightened by the brain. ‘Seeing God’–that is, the realization of the most satisfying peace … takes place among us when the dignity of man in his thinking well is combined with the grace of purity in heart.”

Develop a heart of compassion. It’s the only way to be wise.

For more about the heart see these posts:

Pure In Heart by J. Garrett Kell–Book Review

Where Is Your Heart?

Follow Your Heart?

A Generational Change

At the AFLC Annual Conference, my husband and I noticed that the current group of leaders are retiring and being replaced by a new generation — a change is in process. The current president, Pastor Lyndon Korhonen had announced his intention to step down after 9 years in office. The newly elected president, Micah Hjermstad (who previously held the office of Association Secretary) is much younger. Pastor Bob Lee, who has been the editor of The Ambassador (the denomination’s magazine) for years, also retired. Once again, the newly elected editor is younger. I’m sure this is happening in other positions as well.

This is actually a good thing — the faith and the ideals of the Association are not dying out but being carried forward by a new group of Christian leaders. We give thanks for that! But for those of us who are older, it’s also a bit sad. Are we still needed? Are all of our tasks completed? What do we do next?

In the book of Proverbs, we read:

“The glory of young men is their strength,
    gray hair the splendor of the old.” Proverbs 20:29

and Job 12:12 tells us:

“Wisdom is with aged men,
And with length of days, understanding.”

Yes, we still have work to do. We may not have the strength needed to do all the daily tasks, but we can advise; we can mentor; we can write and research and study; we can pray; we can encourage. Roles may change, but until we are called home, we all have our part to play, our place in the body of Christ.

“For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another,” Romans 12:4-4

For more about passing the faith on see:

Family Faith

All the Saints

Paul, Barnabas & Timothy

Some Lutheran Humor

The Bible tells us that laughter is good medicine (Proverbs 17:22), so it’s not surprising to find that borne out by science Laughter is, indeed, good for our health. It reduces stress, fights against depression and sorrow, fosters a positive outlook on life, and relieves tension. Laughter also lowers blood pressure, and impacts the cells in your body, preventing disease and setting you up to live long and strong. Although our annual church conference is serious business, there are moments of humor, and I thought I would share a few of these with you today. Maybe you will find a way to pass these small jokes along and make someone’s day a little merrier!

Q: Who was the best businesswoman in the Bible?

A: Pharoah’s daughter. She went to the Bank of the Nile and drew out a small prophet (profit).

The Bible tells us: “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” Proverbs 27:17, but sometimes this process creates a lot of sparks!

Of course, there were many more puns, jokes and good-natured teasing, as we went about the discussing matters that were important for our entire church body. The WMF (Women’s Missionary Federation) sang their report, which was hilarious. It does us all good to remember that is part of life, too, and a bit of it, used correctly, can defuse a difficult situation, lift spirits, and inspire hope. As Christians, we have lots to be joyful about, so don’t forget to laugh!

“Our mouths were filled with laughter,
    our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
    “The Lord has done great things for them.” Psalm 126:2

For more about laughter see these posts:

Laughter in Heaven by Barbara Jean Meter–Book Review

More Easter Laughter

Take Time to Laugh

Waiting Requires Patience

We Americans are not known for our patience. We’re fans of fast food; we covet faster internet service; we expect to be able to connect with our loved ones instantly. We’re used to doing things on our schedule at the time we choose. However, the Bible tells us we need to wait for God’s timing, and this requires patience. a fruit of the Spirit.

How can we grow this fruit in our lives? Here are some suggestions.

  1. We must endure. Often waiting requires some kind of suffering, which is unpleasant, even when that suffering is more mental than physical. However, we are promised that that there will be a reward:

“More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3-5

2. That brings us to the second thing we can do. Hope. We must remind ourselves of God’s promise:

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

3. Which means we must trust in that promise, even when we don’t understand.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. “Proverbs 3:5-6

4. We also must not sit idle. There is always work for us to do, even when we are in “waiting” mode.

“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. “Galatians 6:9

Hmmm… that seems to take us back to endurance again!

Waiting may be uncomfortable, but it isn’t bad. It will teach us patience; we will learn to trust God; and in the end we will see that His timing is the best.

“Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” Psalm 27:14

For more about patience see these posts:

A Different Kind of Fast

Have Patience

Producing Fruit

Why to Avoid Sin

Sometimes people think that sin means having fun, and that Christians are sad people with all sorts of rules that interfere with enjoying life. Not so! Here’s what the Bible says:

But he who sins against me injures himself; All those who hate me love death.” Proverbs 8:36

In the end, sin will not make us happy. Samuel Shaw (1635–1696), an English nonconformist minister. describes it this way:

“Sin itself is hell, and death, and misery to the soul, as being a departure from goodness and holiness itself; I mean from God, in conjunction with whom the happiness, and blessedness, and heaven of a soul doth consist. Avoid it, therefore, as you would avoid being miserable.

Sin leads to a life of pain, regret, and ultimately separation from God; the righteous enjoy peace, now and forever. Which will you choose?

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” Romans 6:23

For more about sin see:

Sin and Grace

God’s Victory Over Our Sin

Choosing to Sin

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