New Month/New Theme

Recently I’ve been reading and praying about humility. It’s a neglected, maybe even forgotten virtue, maybe because our culture doesn’t teach us to be humble! Yet humility is the foundation for many other virtues — patience, kindness, self-control. The Bible links it with wisdom and understanding. It’s certainly well-worth studying and cultivating in our Christian lives.

So, this month, we’ll focus on humility. What makes us humble? What is true humility? Why do we need to be humble?

Stay tuned as well for book reviews, quotes music and more, as we continue to journey together!

God loves you and so do I!

Developing Trust

Trust in God is a quality I need to continually develop in my life. I’m an anxious person, and I like to be prepared, to know what’s going to happen next, and to quickly resolve uncertainties. However, as Christians we’re often called to live in an in-between state, waiting for God’s Will to be revealed. Here’s how author Brennan Manning once put it:

The way of trust is a movement into obscurity, into the undefined, into ambiguity, not into some pre-determined clearly delineated plan for the future. The next step discloses itself only out of discernment of God acting in … the present moment. The reality of naked trust is the life of a pilgrim who leaves what is nailed down, obvious, and secure, and walks into the unknown without any rational explanation to justify the decision or guarantee the future. Why? Because God has signaled the movement and offered his presence and his promise.”

Here are some of those promises:

“The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Deuteronomy 31:8

“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

““For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

He will always be with us; He is working everything out for our benefit; we will live with Him forever. Do you trust Him?

Are You Willing to Change?

“All human nature vigorously resists grace, because grace changes us, and the change is painful.”

Flannery O’Connor

“The goal of spiritual practices is not altered states but altered traits.”

From Golden by Justin Zorn and Leigh Marz

These are two quotes that I’ve written down in my journal recently. They remind me of the fact that our Christian faith is always challenging us to become better people, to become more like Jesus. That change can take many forms and is different for each of us. Often, we’re afraid of what that change may mean to our lives. Will we have to move? Give up the job or the money that makes us feel secure? Will we have to sacrifice what we consider to be “righteous” anger? Or maybe we’ll have to actually try to make friends with our neighbors, even the ones we find annoying?

However, when we open ourselves to the possibility of change, when we give it a try, we often find the rewards are great. If we line ourselves up with God’s will for our lives, we feel His pleasure, and that is the most wonderful feeling in the world.

So, ask yourself today, am I willing to change for the sake of Christ? What might that look like?

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2

For more about change see:

Prayer Changes Me

Change My Heart

Inner Change

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

A Conference Quote?

Sometime during the recent AFLC conference, I wrote this quote down — I can’t remember in what context it was given, I just know that I liked it and maybe you will, too.

‘When it is all over you will not regret having suffered; rather you will regret having suffered so little, and suffered that little so badly.’
-St. Sebastian Valfre

In our country, and our society, we know very little about suffering and we certainly avoid it in any way we can (I’m no exception.). Yet the Bible tells us that in this world we will suffer. (See John 16:33) Not only that, the apostle Paul tells us:

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” (Romans 5:3-4).

Suffering can seem pointless, but often it isn’t. Our suffering may lead to a hope that is anchored in Christ, instead of our own strength. If we bear our suffering patiently, asking God to reveal His will, we may reap great benefits.

Next time you are suffering, don’t ask why you are suffering. Instead ask God, “what can I learn?” or “how can I use this painful experience?” You may be surprised at the answer.

For more posts about suffering see:

Suffer Strong by Katherine & Jay Wolf–Book Review

United with Christ in Death and Resurrection

Behold the Man!

United with Christ in Death and Resurrection

Well, our study group came to the end of our lessons on union with Christ. This past week we discussed how we share Christ’s death and His resurrection. This is a hard concept to grasp. We may tend to spiritualize it, but as humans, we are also physical. In the Bible, our bodies are described as temples of the Holy Spirit. So, we experience the sufferings and raising of Christ externally as well as internally.

What does this mean? Consider the example of Joseph in the Bible. Joseph is considered a “type” of Christ. This is a technical theological term which means that certain events or people in the Old Testament prefigure the fulfillment of God’s purpose in the New Testament. Like Jesus, Joseph is misunderstood, mistreated, and thrown in prison. However, we later understand that through his sufferings, he was elevated to a high position, and able to save his family from the famine.

Since we are united with Christ, we should expect to see similar things happening in our own lives. We may be persecuted, experience difficulties, or be humiliated (we probably will). However, in Christ, God works all of these things out for our good, and the good of others. We become like Christ through the cycles of death and resurrection in our own lives. This is the pattern God used with Jesus, and with us.

The apostle Paul said:

“… (we) boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” Romans 1:2b-5

In suffering we become more like Jesus, and more fruitful. We can comfort others in despair because of the experiences we have been through. Are you willing to suffer for Him?

For more about suffering see:

Suffer Strong by Katherine & Jay Wolf–Book Review

Behold the Man!

The Great Good Thing by Andrew Klavan — Book Review

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

Identity Crisis

These days it seems like many people are suffering from an identity crisis. We are told that we can be anything we want to be — we can even choose our own gender! This simply isn’t realistic. The Bible says:

“For you (God) formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” Psalm 139: 13-16

God created each of us with talents and also with limitations. He also has a plan for us, a plan that involves others. We are not just individuals; we are an integral part of the whole of history. Our identity is wrapped up in our union with the One who created us, who saved us, and who sustains us.

For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.” Galatians 3:26

As the adopted children of God we are:

“…heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” Romans 8:17

Don’t try to make yourself up — that’s bound to end in disappointment. Instead, accept your God given role as His child. His plan for you is will never fail.

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2

For more about God’s plan see:

Your Dream. God’s Plan. by Tiffany Smiling — Book Review

Everything According To God’s Plan & Timing

When God Says go by Elizabeth Laing Thompson–Book Review

Sin Consciousness– Why We Need It

We can’t be in Christ without sin consciousness. In other words, we need to understand that we can’t save ourselves — we need a savior. As an example of this, in our last class on union with Christ, we looked at the life of the apostle, Paul. Paul had every reason to trust in his own ability to keep the law. Here’s how he describes himself in the third chapter of Philippians:

  1. He had the right pedigree –an Israelite, a member of the tribe of Benjamin
  2. He was outstanding in his performance — a Pharisee, faultless in righteousness
  3. He had been strictly raised and trained in all the Hebrew rituals — circumcised on the eighth day, and so on

He had no sin consciousness at all — and many of us have the same mindset. Although we profess our belief in Christ, we believe we are “good” people, raised in the church, who have never sinned in any significant way. We don’t want to accept the fact that our sinful nature makes it impossible to obey God.

We see in chapter 7 of the book of Romans that the sin of covetousness was the one that got Paul’s attention. (Perhaps his encounter with Stephen led his to covet the grace Stephen displayed.) He realized that the law was given, not so that he could become righteous, but to help him recognize his sin for what it was. He puts it this way:

“Did that which is good then (the law), become death to me? By no means! But in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it produced death in me through what was good, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful.” Romans 7:13

Finally accepting his inability to do good, he is able to turn to Christ. He became a man in Christ who found that nothing was more valuable to him than knowing Jesus and being united to him. As he says,

“… I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ … I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, becoming like him in his death … ” Philippians 3:8-10a

Are you sin conscious? If not, the season of Lent is a good time to ponder this.

For more about sin see:

Why to Avoid Sin

Sin and Grace

More About Sin

What’s Your Superpower?

What’s your superpower? I hear people ask one another this question sometimes. The answer usually has to do with a talent, or passion. Something we really enjoy or are able to do well.

As Christians, we have a different sort of superpower– through our union with Christ, we have received the Holy Spirit. In the gospel of John, as Jesus is preparing for his crucifixion, He tells the disciples that although He will be leaving them:

“… the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” John 14:26

Paul experienced this power because he said:

My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.” 1 Corinthians 2:4-4

This power is not just for spiritual giants like Paul. In the book of Romans we are told,

“... those who are led by the Spirit of God, are sons of God…. The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” Romans 8:14 & 16

This month I’ve been reading a devotional book written by Andrew Murray called Like Christ. I’m going to close this post with a quote about how the power of the Holy Spirit can work in our lives.

“O Christian, have a great reverence for the work of the Spirit who dwells within you. Believe in God’s power, which works in you through the Spirit, to conform you to Chrit’s life and image moment by moment. Be occupied with Jesus and His life, in the full assurance that the Holy Spirit knows, in deep quiet, to fulfill his office of communicating Jesus to you. That life is, simultaneously, your example and your strength. Remember that the fullness of the Spirit is yours in Jesus. It is a real gift which you accept and hold in faith, even when you do not feel its presence, and on which you count to work in you all that you need.”

You and I have the Holy Spirit — we don’t need any other superpower!

For more about the Holy Spirit see these posts:

The Holy Spirit and the Church

Who is the Holy Spirit?

Spiritual Gifts from the Holy Spirit