In His Steps–Movie Review

This film is based (loosely) upon the novel by the same name written by Charles Sheldon. When a dying, homeless man accuses a Christian congregation of failing to follow the example of Christ, Pastor Henry Maxwell takes us his challenge. He and several members pledge to spend the next year asking themselves before every decision — what would Jesus do? Some of them find their lives irrevocably changed.

The acting was far from stellar, but the truths conveyed are important.

  1. True faith will result in Christian action
  2. Being a Christian is not always easy or comfortable
  3. Following Jesus will require sacrifices
  4. Not everyone in the church is truly converted

As an avid reader, I greatly preferred the book, which I read with a book club years ago. However, this movie would be a good youth group activity. There was also a song that I liked (but that will be another post.

VERDICT: THREE STARS. Watch this one with your teenager.

For more film reviews see:

Won’t You Be My Neighbor? — Movie Review

I Still Believe–Movie Review

Fatima — Movie Review

After the Weekend, Last Chapter

Sometimes God wants stretch us by trying something new or a little outside of our comfort zone. That happened to me years ago when my husband was the chairman of our church fundraising committee. He asked me if I would chair the communications subcommittee and I agreed, imagining I would be writing newsletter articles, bulletin inserts, and other things like that. When the fundraiser we hired arrived to brief us on our duties, I was astounded to learn that what my committee was REALLY responsible for was coming up with a logo for the campaign, designing a brochure, and organizing several large mailings — all on a very tight time schedule! I sat through the meeting in a daze and afterwards I told Terry, “I don’t think I can do this.” Then I calmed down and got to work. My basic tactic was to find people who were good at the things I wasn’t. Two of our skilled in computer graphics brainstormed with me and we came up with a logo and a theme for the brochure. I could handle the writing. Then I recruited a nice, detail-oriented person and turned full responsibility for the mailings over to her. Everything was completed on time and the finished brochure turned out really well. Completing this project required the use of a number of gifts I have like leadership (taking responsibility for getting the job done); discernment (recognizing what different people could do well); and encouragement (asking others to use their gifts). I discovered I did have the ability to get the work done, I just needed to worry less and trust God more.

In conclusion, I’d like to leave you with a little power phrase — “I’m not called to do everything, but I am called to do something.” God has called each of us to do his work in our own environment– at home, in our congregations, in the work place. Don’t be foolish and try to do everything in every place. This will lead to frustration, burnout and failure. Instead be wise. Pray. Study and pursue your own gifts and talents. When he does call, be ready to answer, “Here I am, send me.”

What Happens After the Weekend part 2

After a Via de Cristo weekend we’re usually eager to leap into action, but we need to remember that Christian action must be accompanied by piety and study or our Christian life will not maintain a good balance.

First and foremost, we must pray. All of us, as part of our Christian walk, should continually ask God to lead us to the ministry opportunities that are both appropriate for us and pleasing to Him. In the book of Ephesians, the apostle Paul says:

“We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which he prepared in advance for us to do.”

Isn’t that exciting? God already has a plan for each of us, but if we don’t take the time to listen for His voice we may never discover what it is.

That doesn’t mean we can never be spontaneous. I remember once I was at a church council meeting when the newsletter was being discussed. It had been published sporadically and one member suggested we just discontinue it. Well, I really enjoyed getting the newsletter and I like to write, so the Holy Spirit only had to nudge me once. I volunteered to be the editor and did it for quite a few years. However, often we don’t feel so clearly led. If you are not sure, take some time to pray before rushing into a new area of service. There was the time, years ago, when the Via de Cristo community decided to try putting together a Co-ed weekend (up to this point, all the weekends had been either solely for men or solely for women). We knew that adding an extra weekend to the schedule would increase the need for team members, and our first thought was how fun and interesting it would be to serve together. After praying about it, we both realized the timing was wrong. Our daughter Kate, was coming home from her year as an exchange student in Germany around that time, and we needed to reconnect with her and help her with things like getting a drivers license and visiting colleges. God was calling us to put that responsibility first, so we decided not to serve on a team for a while.

For more about prayer see:

Beginning the Day with Prayer

Pray Without Ceasing

Learning to Pray by James Martin, SJ–Book Review

Stay tuned for study .

Go and Do

Arthur P. Stanley (13 December 1815 – 18 July 1881) was an Anglican priest and ecclesiastic historian.  His quote below is a good reminder that Christ calls us not only to believe, but to take action.

“Up and be doing” is the word that comes from God for each of us.  Leave some ‘good work’ behind you that shall not be wholly lost when you have passed away.  Do something worth living for, worth dying for.  Is there no want, no suffering, no sorrow that you can relieve?  Is there no act of tardy justice, no deed of cheerful kindness, no long-forgotten duty that you can perform?  Is there no reconciliation of some ancient quarrel, no payment of some long-out-standing debt, no courtesy, or love, or honor to be rendered to those to whom it has been long due;  no charitable, humble, kind, useful deed by which you can promote the glory of God, or good will among men, or peace upon earth?  If there be any such deed, in God’s name, in Christ’s name, go and do it.”

Arthur P. Stanley

For more by Arthur P. Stanley see:

My Hope for the Future

Be Charitable

 

Grown-Up Faith

I can’t fairly call this post a book review because I started reading a book called Grown-Up Faith by Kevin Myers and didn’t finish it.  Not because it’s a bad book, but simply because after the first few chapters, I didn’t seem to be learning anything new.  I actually would recommend it for a small group, especially one with newer Christians, to read and discuss together.  At the end of each chapter, there is a summary about “Grown-Up Faith in Action” and some chapters in the Bible to read before tackling the next chapter.  These passages take the reader from Genesis through Revelation, giving a good overview of the Bible and its’ message.

Grown-up Faith: The Big Picture for a Bigger Life by [Myers, Kevin]

I did like the premise explained by the author at the very beginning.  Here it is:

“A grown-up faith requires the involvement of the whole person.  It doesn’t come from half measures.  We can’t be half-in and expect whole results.”

If we want to be mature Christians, we must engage our mind (Biblical knowledge), our heart (spiritual intimacy with God) and our will (holy obedience).  How many of us stop at some point in this process?  Or develop only one in one area, ignoring the others?  This can lead to several problems such as:

  • Intellectualism:  Biblical knowledge without any real relationship with God or obedience to His Word
  • Emotionalism:  A relationship with God without knowledge of the Bible and obedience
  • Legalism:  Obedience to the Bible’s “rules” without an understanding of the full meaning of the gospel or spiritual intimacy with God

Individuals and even denominations can fall into the trap of being less than whole Christians because they neglect some areas, or overemphasize one.  My big take-away is something I’ve heard for years at Via de Cristo retreats:

There is no Christian life without Christian action

And it might be added, that action must spring from a correct motivation — one that flows out of a heart-felt relationship with Christ and a true knowledge of His teachings.

This book gives us all something to think about.  On which area am I (and possibly my church) weak?  I would say the Lutherans with whom I’m most familiar, lean toward intellectualism.  We know our Scripture well, but don’t always have a true hunger for Christ and obedience to His Word.  We know we’re saved by grace, isn’t that enough?  Well, it is and it isn’t.  True grace will lead us into true relationship and true obedience. Wherever you find yourself, go one step further.  Grow up in your faith.

 

 

My Life Hymn

This is in response to Michele’s  challenge to post the song or hymn that moves us most.  It’s hard to choose, and I’m sure this month I’ll be posting others, but this one has been a favorite for a long time, and it speaks to me and calls me to Christian action. At times it brings tears to my eyes.  It actually has a very similar them to “Here I Am” which was Michele’s pick.  I’ve talked before about my life verse, so I guess I’d say this is my life hymn.

How Should a Free Person Act?

A while back, Michele did a post on how should a reborn person act.  I thought it might be appropriate to turn that same question to the current theme, freedom.  Our friend, Paul, has some thoughts about this. In Romans Chapter 8 verse 2 he says:

“The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death.”

Of course to some, being set free from law sounds like being able to do whatever you want, so Paul has to disabuse of that:

“What then?  Are we to sin because we are not under the law but under grace?  By no means!  Do you not know that if you yield yourselves to any one as obedient slaves you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin which leads to death, or of obedience that leads to righteousness …For just as you once yielded your members to impurity and greater and greater iniquity, so now yield your members to righteousness for sanctification.”  Romans 6:15-16, 19

Maybe he makes it even clearer in Galatians:

“For you were called to freedom, brethren;  only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love be servants of one another.”  Galatians 5:13

So, how should a Christian who has been freed from sin act?  He shouldn’t go back to being entangled in his sins. If he does that He is still enslaved to sin.  Instead, he must yield himself to the One who freed him with humility and gratitude.  He should love others in a sacrificial way.  Freedom in Christ doesn’t mean we’re free to keep being what we are –it means changing into what we were really meant to be;  becoming our true and authentic selves.

How has being free in Christ changed you?  (that’s a post for another day).  I want to hear your stories.

 

Why

Catchy title isn’t it?  So the question is – Why did Jesus Christ have to die?  I want you to take a minute and get the visual picture of our Lord on a rough, splintered cross; he has been severely beaten, lashed with a whip, and NAILED to a cross.  Do you have the visual yet?  Why? Because we are bad period.  We are full of sin and without the sacrifice of the ONLY totally sin free person to walk the earth we would DIE.  Sounds harsh, doesn’t it.  Well as they say the truth hurts, but thanks to the ETERNAL love of God we have the perfect sacrifice so we have eternal life.  All month we have blogged about sacrifice but today just a few days before the recognition of Christ’s sacrifice (Good Friday), it came to me that I haven’t given the credit to the one responsible for my eternal life in a fitting manner.  So let me delve into this subject a little bit.

The church I attend is currently studying the Book of Romans and recently we reviewed the 5th chapter and the following verse has been following me around all day, I saw it in a devotional I read & heard it on a radio broadcast I was listening to)

 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.  For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—  but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Romans 5:6-8

This verse is pretty powerful – He died because we are UNGODLY – it doesn’t say a little bit bad it says UNGODLY.  Wow – if we are honest with ourselves (we rarely are) we would admit that we are totally corrupted by sin.  It affects everything we do, and I mean everything.  I will give you a recent situation that involves me personally:

I wrote an article for our church’s newsletter in January (Posted here as Love Thy Neighbor) and one of my fellow congregants came up to me to tell me that they enjoyed it and it made them think a lot about how they treat others.  I thought – that’s great, what a good thing I did – Oh well it may have been good but now I tainted it with sin – Pride is a sin and I was proud of the reaction I got.

How can we combat this inclination we have?  I don’t know if we can, we are human and unfortunately sin seems to permeate everything we do, if it wasn’t for God’s redeeming grace, I fear that I would get a one way ticket to the great down under.  But fortunately, I thanks to Jesus’ sacrifice, I am headed on a one way ticket to Heaven.  Wow I got a first class ticket to eternal life and I didn’t do anything to deserve it, NOT ONE THING.  How great is the love of our Father.

Not that any of this means we stop doing the good things, just that we understand how even our good is tainted.

Remember that it is by Grace thru Faith for Works that we live.

Thank you Jesus for giving your life for me, a sin infested, ungodly miscreant who did not deserve it.

So I know this blog was a little harsh, but I want YOUR feedback – the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Let me know.

Remember God Loves You And So Do I

Michele Edgel

 

A Lutheran Martyr on Sacrifice

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“Who stands fast? Only the man whose final standard is not his reason, his principles, his conscience, his freedom, or his virtue, but who is ready to sacrifice all this when he is called to obedient and responsible action in faith and in exclusive allegiance to God- the responsible man, who tries to make his whole life an answer to the question and call of God. Where are these responsible people?”