After the Weekend part 3

In addition to prayer, study can help us the direction our Christian action should take. Have you ever noticed that we’re not all good at the same things? From Romans, chapter 12:

“We have different gifts according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is in serving, let him serve. If it is teaching, let him teach. If it is encouraging, let him encourage. If it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously. If it is leadership, let him govern diligently. If it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.”

There are many books available about discovering your spiritual gifts. There are also personality tests such as the Meyers Briggs test, or seminars about personality types which are often available through your workplace. Take note of the things people praise you for, or tell you you do well. Ask your Pastor or your church friends to give you their opinion and advice. All of these things are study– studying yourself so that you can be a good steward of your unique God-given abilities.

Of course, unless you have physical limitations, there are many things that need to be done around the church that almost any of us can do–things like cleaning, making coffee, being an usher or folding bulletins. We should all be willing to do our share of those chores. Being gifted to teach, for example, should not be used as an excuse to avoid every doing anything else. So make an effort to fit some of them into your schedule. Your fellow members will be VERY grateful.

One more section to come ….

For more about spiritual gifts see:

What are the Spiritual Gifts?

Let Your Spiritual Gifts S–T–R–E–T–C–H You

The Purpose of Spiritual Gifts

Who is Worthy?

Recently the 4th and 5th chapters of Revelation have come up several times on different occasions, so I decided to do a lectio divina reading of those two sections of scripture. What stood out for me in chapter 5 is this phrase …. “Who is worthy….?”

There is great anguish in heaven because nobody is found worthy to open the scroll that will describe the fate of the world. The reason no one is worthy is simple and can be boiled down to one word — SIN. This is a motif that is repeated over and over in the Bible.. For example is Psalm 14:

“They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.” Psalm 14:3

And Romans 3:23

“… for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

The Jewish people believed that if they could keep just the Sabbath perfectly three times in a row, the Messiah would come. They couldn’t do it. He came only through the grace and mercy of God.

You’re not worthy; I’m not worthy; but thankfully there is One who is: Jesus, the Lamb of God. He took away our sins and set us free to be children of God. He holds the world in His hands. Thanks be to God! Amen!

For more about the book of Revelation see:

Revelation

Worthy Is the Lamb

Perhaps Today

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

His Commandments

I’ve come to the last chapter of 1 John in my lectio divina study, and here’s what stands out for me:

“…his commandments are not burdensome.” 1 John 5:3b

Many worldly people believe that to become a Christian, to submit to God’s will, would impact their life in a negative way. How boring to spend free time reading the Bible, praying, and going to worship services! How dull to be barred from behaviors that our society considers acceptable! Life would not be fun at all!

When our children were young, we tried to stress the truth that following God’s rules was not meant to be a punishment, but would make our lives easier. We might miss out on some momentary “fun” but the rewards were far more important. We would have better relationships, a support group in our church family, peace during difficult circumstances, and more. Better yet, at the end of our lives, we would not have too many regrets.

In the book of Matthew Christ tells us:

 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

That yoke is really simple, in fact it boils down to one word: love. Love God and love one another. The more you practice love, the easier it will be. And the rewards are great.

23For 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 obedience see these posts:

A Long Obedience In the Same Direction by Eugene Peterson — Book Review

Walking in Obedience

Obedience?

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1 Peter Chapter 3–What Stands Out?

This must be a favorite chapter of mine, because a number of phrases stand out and I have written about them before. For example, “a gentle and quiet spirit” 1 Peter 3:4 (A Gentle and Quiet Spirit), “with gentleness and respect” 1 Peter 3:16 (With Gentleness and Respect) and “seek peace and pursue it” 1 Peter 3:11 (Pursue Peace). Peter is chock-full of good advice! This time, I’ll pick something different — “the hidden person of the heart.” In any number of places, Scripture tells us that God does not judge us because of the way we look, or even our behavior, but by the true motivation and intentions in our heart. When God chose David, He told Samuel:

” The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

And Jesus rebuked the Pharisees saying,

““Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.” Matthew 23:27

What does this tell me? First of all, God sees everything. I may fool those around me by a lot of good deeds or holy-seeming behavior, but I can’t fool Him. Secondly, that I need to cultivate that “hidden person” deep inside. Changing what I do is important, but changing how I think is critical. In fact, if I change the way I think, I probably won’t have to worry so much about what I do!

This isn’t easy. When my reunion group friend and I review our behavior, we often admit that we’re more likely to be guilty of doing good things with a poor attitude than doing bad things. What’s the answer? I find it in prayer– praying to love those people who annoy me; praying to accept my duty with a cheerful heart; praying to give others the benefit of the doubt … just praying continually. I can change my behavior, but only God can change my heart.

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” Romans 12:2

For more about transformation see:

Rebirth and Transformation

This Is Your Brain on Faith

Learning to Count It All Joy

How Does It Feel to Walk With Jesus?

John Kenneth MacKenzie (25 August 1850 – 1 April 1888) was an English medical missionary to China. I’m sure he encountered many difficulties that could have discouraged him. Yet, in this quote, I can see that walking with Jesus kept his attitude positive.

“My position has come to this, Am I living near my Savior?; then I am as happy as the day is long, and as light-hearted as a child. It may be that I have plenty of annoyances, but they don’t trouble me when His presence is with me. Am I downcast and worried?: then I am away from God.”

Strangers in a Strange Land

I’ve started a lectio divina reading of 1 Peter. If that’s unfamiliar to you, it means reading a chapter or a short portion of the Scripture daily in a slow, meditative way, letting yourself see what phrase or verse stands out. Maybe because the theme this month deals with walking and traveling, what stood out for me in the first chapter is this:

“… live your life as strangers here in reverent fear.” 1 Peter 1:17 (NIV)

In the English Standard version, it’s stated this way:

“Conduct yourself with fear throughout the time of your exile.” 1 Peter 1:17(ESV)

What does it mean to live as a stranger or an exile?

The first thing that comes to my mind is, as a stranger, you aren’t too attached to the things around you. You don’t want to accumulate too much, because you won’t be here forever. Who wants a bunch of junk you just have to pack up and move, or leave behind? That is certainly a scriptural theme, as we are told in Matthew:

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal,  but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-24

That brings another thought to mind: as strangers we are always yearning to get home. We’re not entirely comfortable in this place — maybe we don’t speak the same language, or wear the same clothes, or eat the same food. We just don’t blend in. In fact, as Christians, we don’t want to blend in. We need to remember who we are and to whom we belong (that’s the reverent fear part).

So today, after my reading, I’m asking myself:

*How important to me are my “things”? After all, they are only temporary.

*Can the people I meet everyday tell I am a Christian? Or do I look and behave exact like everyone else? If so, I’m fooling myself about the depth of my faith.

*Am I looking forward to “the life of the world to come’? Or am I really devoted to the here and now?

*Am I “afraid” of the right things? Do I have a reverent fear of God and a desire to be holy, or am I really just afraid to die?

“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

I can walk with Jesus or walk with the world. I can’t do both.

For more about conforming to the world see these posts:

Pilgrim or Tourist?

Am I Habituating?

Do You Have a Saintly Worldview?

Nothing by Natalee Creech –Book Review

In this book, attractively illustrated by Joseph Cowman, children learn about the depth of God’s love. Whether we are traveling in a train, boarding an airplane, flying into outer space, rafting down a raging river or diving under the ocean in a submarine, the love of God follows us. God does not abandon us when we say or do things that we regret. His love is permanent and unending. NOTHING can separate us from God’s Love!

Nothing: Nothing Can Separate You From God’s Love!

Youngsters will love the colorful pictures and winsome rhymes. The words are energetic and seem to bounce off the page! The message is biblical and easy to understand. It brings the verse below to life in a way that young children can grasp. This would make a great addition to any toddler’s library!

“Nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus our Lord: not death or life, not angels or rulers, not present things or future things, not powers or height or depth, or any other thing that is created.” Romans 8:38-39

For more books for children see:

When God Made You by Matthew Paul Turner

GraceFull by Dorena Williamson — Book Review

The Gift That I Can Give For Little Ones by Kathie Lee Gifford–Book Review

God is Love

“Some of us believe that God is all mighty, and may do all; and that He is all wisdom, and can do all; but that He is all love, and will do all, there we fail.”

This was written by Mother Juliana, also known as Julian of Norwich (1343 – after 1416), She was an English anchoress (someone who withdraws from society in order to live a completely prayer-oriented life) during the Middle Ages. She wrote the best known surviving book in the English language written by a mystic, Revelations of Divine Love. The book is the first written in English by a known woman author.

Julian is right is saying it is easier to believe that God is all powerful, and all knowing than to believe that He loves us at all times. Whenever bad things happen, it’s easy to doubt or to question the love of God. At those times, this verse is comforting:

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

We may not understand, but we can trust. God is love.

For more about the love of God see:

Hesed–God’s Love in Action

Martin Luther on God’s Love (Agape)

Love Through God Goggles

Dedicated — An Important Word

I just finished a book entitled, “Dedicated–The Case for Commitment in an age of Infinite Browsing.” Pete Davis, the young man who authored it, believes we’re surrounded by a culture that discourages us from dedicating ourselves to anyone or anything — there are so many options that we’re paralyzed by FOMO (fear of missing out). If we marry too quickly, we might miss out on our real soulmate; if we stay at the same company for many years, we won’t advance as quickly; if we devote ourselves to a certain craft or area of study, we’ll cut off other options.

Although this is not a book about religion, he does mention that the word “dedicate” has two meanings:

  1. To make something holy
  2. To stick with something for a long time

Christianity encourages us to both kinds of dedication. Life wth God has been compared to a marriage, a garden, or a building — all things that take time and effort. According to the Bible, we are to commit our entire lives to Christ.

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship” Romans 12:1-2

When we dedicate ourselves in this way, our lives become holy.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light”. 1 Peter 2:9

Dedication has great value. As Mr. Davis says:

“The Counterculture of Commitment is made up of people who are tilling the soil, planting seeds, and growing small forests–and in doing so they are generating hope. Their commitments don’t just transform society–they transform the committers themselves.”

So don’t put it off. dedicate yourself today to the One who gives us a living hope — your life will be changed, and so will our world.

For more posts on changing the world see:

The Lutheran Ladies Changing Their Environment

Changing Your Environment–Joan’s Story, part 2

Changing Your Environment — Joan’s Story, Part 1