Tag Archives: christian living

Piety and Me

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We’ve been blogging about piety this month and my thought is this:  What does it look like in real terms?  I usually get this vision of a person standing or kneeling with their hands together as in prayer with this light shining off them or a halo over their heads.  Hmmm, maybe not.  OK, how about someone who is always doing something “Godly” like going to church, doing good deeds for others….  No…  How about a monk or a nun who never leave the convent or cloister?

Since we live in a world where we can’t all just run to the nearest convent or cloister, we have to look at this from a real-world view.  We can’t withdraw from the world and spend all our time praying to the Lord and studying the Word.  We need to support ourselves and our families.  So, what do we do?  What does piety really look like and how do we go about starting to live this way?

Let me preface this with the statement that this is my personal view on piety.  I’m still working this out in my own life, believe me, it’s a process and I know that I’ll never see an end to it.  Why?  Because there is no end until Jesus returns.

Piety is personal and is between a person and God.  A person may think that if they do an hour of devotionals in the morning and an hour of Bible study every evening, go to church 2,3, or however times during the week, that they are “pious”.  Not that doing all that is bad, that’s not what I’m saying.  But why are you doing it?  Are you doing all that to impress God?  You want a gold star at the end of the world and a pat on the head? That’s not going to happen.  Doing “works” is good only if it comes from the right place in your heart.  Doing something to impress God or others doesn’t cut it.  Jesus said it like this:

 “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.  But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.  Matthew 6:5-6

I think that passage says more about personal piety than anything I’ve seen.  Pray in secret.  Just between you and God.  Stay humble.  Go to church, study the Bible, pray, do devotionals everyday or when you can.  Work it out in your life.  But keep it between you and God.  Cause when you start looking for pats on the head is when you are doing all this for the wrong reason.

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Piety Part 1- by Jim Edgel

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The following are excerpts from a talk on Piety given by Jim Edgel – They have been reprinted with his permission:

Piety is a word we rarely use and may think of it in a negative way such as the “pious” ways of the Pharisees.  But authentic Christian piety is a very good thing.  In fact, if we explain the life Jesus led, it was a life of true piety.  Brothers, as we become filled with the Holy Spirit, God calls each one of us to a new life, and this involves a radical change from within.  This change alters our relationship with:  Our self, with God, with other people, and with the world, we live in together.  We see ourselves differently, knowing that no matter how broken we may be, we are forgiven and very valuable to God.  We have a new direction for our lives as children of God, full of marvelous capabilities.  We begin to see other people through God’s eyes, loving them as brothers and sisters who were created with the same potential that God has given to us.  And as we continue to transform; we see our world, as messed up as it may be, as God’s gift to us, given for our enjoyment and care.  When we speak of piety, we are speaking of a full response in all areas of our life to God’s amazing love and grace. We must seek a personal relationship with God, not just knowing about God … But knowing who God is.  Being Christian, not just doing Christian things.  How can we discover our God-given potential and be the complete person that God calls us to be as we live a life of grace?  This consists of balancing three key dimensions of our lives.  All three are equally important and it takes all three, working together, giving equal stability and balance in order to support us as we live in a close relationship with God.  To better understand the importance of Piety in our daily walks as Christians; which includes taking the Good News of Jesus Christ and Him crucified for you and me to the world, we must understand the difference between authentic piety and false piety. Authentic piety is an intimate, revitalizing deepening relationship with God. Jesus explains this to us.  You may remember reading in the Gospel of Matthew when the Pharisees gathered to question Jesus and one of the group asked Him which was the greatest commandment in the law.  And Jesus using His words with great precision, as always, not only answers their question, He explains authentic piety and sums up all the commandments in three sentences.  22nd chapter of Matthew verses 37, 38, 39 – And Jesus said to him “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it:  You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”False piety is a superficial, inaccurate or deceptive practice that appears to be Christian.  False piety is destructive.  It distracts and diverts people from seeking and knowing God.  It prevents them from finding and living the fulfilled life God has planned for them.  Friends … any of us can respond to God’s call in either of two ways.  We can follow a path of faith and commitment as Paul described in his letter to the Colossians “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” Or we can devote ourselves to religious, regulations and practices that mark us as “A good Christian” who does “Christian” things.  Those who take this path do not understand the role of God’s grace in the lives of those who are in a relationship with Him.

More to follow

 

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

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Psalms 120-134 are known as “Songs of Ascent.”  They were sung by Hebrew pilgrims as they traveled the road to Jerusalem, the highest city in Palestine, for the great worship festivals.  Eugene Peterson uses each of these songs to describe a portion of what takes place along the walk of faith, as we travel upward toward God.  The chapter titles include:  Repentance, Worship, Service, Security, Joy, Perseverance, Humility, Community and more.  I love Eugene Peterson!  He never fails to engage and enlighten me.

A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society / Edition 20

In the updated edition, Peterson uses his modern version of the Psalms, from his translation, The Message.  Many will like this, but I preferred to go back and read from the NIV, as I enjoy the familiarity.  His goal is to encourage people to once more pray the Psalms, as an encouragement to pray all their emotions, good, bad and messy.  We can take it all to God, in fact we must if we want to progress in the Christian life.  According to Peterson we won’t change overnight:  it takes “a long obedience in the same direction.”  This is not a popular idea in our “give it to me now” culture.

“There is a great market for religious experience in our world; there is little enthusiasm for the patient acquisition of virtue, little inclination to sign up for a long apprenticeship in what earlier generations of Christians called holiness.”

This book was recommended to me in a comment by my friend, Nancy, and I heartily recommend it as well.  It’s not a difficult read, and the chapters could easily be read one per day, as part of a devotional practice.  Has anyone else read this book, or others by Eugene Peterson?  If so, let us know what you think, we’d love to hear.

P.S. Check out the archives for another Peterson book I reviewed, Eat This Book.

A Bike Ride With God

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I used to think of God as my observer, my judge, keeping track of the things I did wrong, so as to know whether I merited heaven or hell when I die. He was out there, sort of like a president. I recognized His picture when I saw it, but I didn’t really know Him.

But later on, when I met Jesus, it seemed as though life was rather like a bike, but it was a tandem bike, and I noticed that Jesus was in the back helping me pedal. I didn’t know just when it was He suggested we change, but life has not been the same since I took the back-seat to Jesus, my Lord. He makes life exciting. When I had control, I thought I knew the way. It was rather boring, but predictable. It was the shortest distance between two points.

But when He took the lead, He knew delightful long cuts, up mountains, and through rocky places and at break-through speeds; it was all I could do to hang on! Even though it often looked like madness, He said, “Pedal!” I was worried and anxious and asked, “Where are you taking me?” He laughed and didn’t answer and I started to learn to trust. I forgot my boring life and entered into adventure. And when I’d say, “I’m scared”, He’d lean back and touch my hand.

He took me to people with gifts that I needed, gifts of healing, acceptance and joy. They gave me their gifts to take on my journey, our journey, my Lord’s and mine. And we were off again. He said, “Give the gifts away; they’re extra baggage, too much weight.” So I did, to the people we met, and I found in giving I received, and still our burden was light.

I did not trust Him, at first, in control of my life. I thought He’d wreck it, but He knows bike secrets, knows how to make it bend to take sharp corners, jump to clear high rocks, fly to shorten scary passages. And I am learning to shut up and pedal in the strangest places, and I’m beginning to enjoy the view and the cool breeze on my face with my delightful constant companion, Jesus.

And when I’m sure I just can’t do any more, He just smiles and says… “Pedal.”

(Author unknown)

Cycling, Cyclists, Tandem, Bicycles

The Hymn/Song That Moves You?

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“Next to the Word of God, music deserves the highest praise. The gift of language combined with the gift of song was given to man that he should proclaim the Word of God through Music.”

This is one of many quotes said by Martin Luther regarding our praise through song.

Think about it, I am sure there is a hymn/song out there that seems to touch you more than others.  I know that it can be a hard decision but I believe that God speaks to us in the song that touches us the most.  Now I also believe that the song can change as we grow in our faith or even as we surmount obstacles in life.  My song used to be “In the Garden” but recently I feel compelled to follow in the footsteps of “Here I Am”.  These words seem to resonate deep within me to be a witness in Christs’ name, without fear of rejection.  I am posting the lyrics to follow:

Here I am, Lord

I, the Lord of sea and sky,
I have heard my people cry.
All who dwell in dark and sin
my hand will save.
I, who made the stars of night,
I will make their darkness bright.
Who will bear my light to them?
Whom shall I send?
  Here I am, Lord.  Is it I, Lord?

            I have heard you calling in the night.
I will go, Lord, if you lead me.
I will hold your people in my heart.

 

I, the Lord of snow and rain,
I have borne my people’s pain.
I have wept for love of them.
They turn away.
I will break their hearts of stone,
give them hearts for love alone.
I will speak my words to them.
Whom shall I send?

Here I am, Lord. ……

I, the Lord of wind and flame,
I will send the poor and lame.
I will set a feast for them.
My hand will save.
Finest bread I will provide
till their hearts be satisfied.
I will give my life to them.
Whom shall I send?

  Here I am, Lord. …..

What hymn/song moves you?   I mean really moves you deep down.  I am interested to see the responses and why those particular words move you.

Now do not be shy, I WANT to know.

God Loves You And So Do I

Michele

Advent – Part 3 – Final Installment

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This is the third and final installment in the Advent sermon given by Jim Edgel.

 

Last week Michele and I were driving home from a friend’s house and were struck by the number of homes that already had Christmas lights brilliantly lit.   And during this week it has become even more so. It was my feeling that this year there are more lights than past years and I wondered why. Especially why there are so many on the homes of those who do not believe in the one who’s birth we celebrate in just a little over three weeks from now. Those who do not understand the treasure that is contained within our faith. I believe the lights that we see everywhere we go are expressions of defiance in the face of hard times. A tangible way to show that when all is increasingly dark – that there is hope. These lights are an attempt on the part of believers and non-believers alike to show that there is goodness and joy to be had. We all need beauty, we all should defy darkness, and we all need hope. The lights of Christmas provide or represent all three. Sadly, however, they do it differently for different people. For many people the lights that they string up represent a sad and futile hope.
                                 The hope of a Christmas like they had as a child and did not know the sorrow of this world –                                           a  Christmas of warm fires, cold snow and sweet aromas
                                 The hope for a family gathering – and a family life like that before they knew the pain of                                                  divorce, the agony of untimely death and the grief that separation brings.
                                  The hope for a world of magic, a world in which Santa Claus and his elves really make and                                            deliver all the toys that our children could possibly desire.
                                  A world in which all the problems and pressures of daily living can be erased if only the                                                  carols are played from the rooftop speakers loud enough.

But for those that do not have the real hope that Christmas represents… this is all in vain.

— The lights of Christmas cannot and will not make Christmas like it was when we were children.
— The lights of Christmas cannot and will not hold back the darkness of sin and sorrow.
— The lights of Christmas cannot and will not change the world and bring us the salvation we desire.

Only the Christ that was born on Christmas day can do that. Only the hope that we have in him, who was crucified for our sins and who rose from the dead and who has promised to return can change our lives and make them worth living. Only the risen and living Lord can make the celebration of his birth something that is more than a brief, frantic and senseless time of feasting until we are sick of sweets, drinking until we are sick of drink, and spending money we don’t have on gifts that our children don’t need – until the rest of the world is sick of our wasteful and self-indulgent ways. For too many people the lights of Christmas are a reminder of the joy that existed in the past, rather than the promise of a joy to come – the joy that is to come when the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains. For too many the decorations and the preparations are an attempt to capture for a brief moment the peace of forgetting the pain of the world rather than the triumphant proclamation that the Lord if light, the living God, will soon come and judge between the nations – and that on that day they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks – and that the pain of the world will be ended. Nations shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. There are many kinds of hope my friends, some are false hopes and some are true.

— It is a wonderful thing to prepare for Christmas by hanging lights and decorating trees and preparing gifts for those you love
— It is a wonderful thing to defy the course of the world and to proclaim that there is a special day – a day in which family and friends may gather and dine together in peace and with joy.

— But it is even more wonderful – when in doing so – you have reason to believe that a day is coming when the whole world will be at peace – reason to believe that when your life is done you will enter into a joy that is eternal – when you have reason to believe the light which only briefly defies the darkness during our Christmas celebrations, will be established forever.

We have such reasons – we have such hope.
And because of that – I – and you – can rejoice at Christmas time.

–Even when the money is tighter than we have ever known.

— Even when jobs are not secure or our health if failing.

— Even when our children have moved far away or our parents have died.

Because of the one who came at the first Christmas – because of his life – his death – his resurrection and his promise to come again – and because even now he is present in the hearts of all those who believe in him – you and I can face the world as it is – and make a difference to it – and be at peace in it.
The light of the world has come – may his light shine from your homes this Advent season and in all the seasons of your days. Amen.

Advent – Part 2 – The Wreath

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This is a continuation of the sermon Jim gave during Advent – Here he talks about one of the explanations of the Advent wreath.

 

“The Advent wreath was first used as a Christian devotion in the middle ages. I suspect Martin Luther had a hand in keeping it popular because the Advent wreath in its present form started in Germany as a Lutheran family custom. It was used as an in home Christian education device; and did not become widely used in churches until the 20th century, and therefore an exact standardized meaning for every part of it would not be possible. I will try to give a good general meaning to all of its components. First the wreath gets its design from the customs of Pre-Christian Germanic and Scandinavian cultures who used candles and greenery as symbols of light and life during winter.
We have a circular evergreen wreath with white flowers, the evergreen symbolizes renewal – In ancient times the cedar was revered as the tree of royalty, it also signified immortality, all these the sign of Christ who reigns as king forever. The circular shape represents the completeness of God. No Beginning and no end. The white flowers represent life and resurrection or purity. I’m sure you now understand that each part could have different meanings, yet lead us to one common meaning. There are five candles; the candles symbolize the light of Christ coming into the world. We have one white candle in the center, slightly taller than the rest, surrounded by four candles which represent the period of waiting during the four weeks of Advent, which themselves represent the four centuries of waiting between the prophet Malachi and the birth of Christ. There are three blue candles and one pink candle. The weekly progression of lighting the candles symbolizes our preparation through prayer and penitence. The blue color represents Royalty, prayer, penitence and preparation. We will get to the pink one in a minute. We light one blue candle on the first Sunday of Advent this reminds us of the hope Christ brings us. On the second Sunday in Advent we light the Hope candle and a second blue candle to remind us of the peace Christ brings us. On the third Sunday we light the first two and we light the pink candle to remind us of the joy that Christ brings us. Why is it pink? Long ago, the Pope had the custom of giving someone a rose on the fifth Sunday of Lent. The effect was to give some relief to the solemnity of Lent. ”

“Originally, before shopping malls, Advent was a solemn fast in preparation for Christmas, so the custom was extended to the third Sunday of Advent to lighten it up a bit too. On the fourth Sunday of Advent, we light the first three and the remaining blue one to remind us of the love that Christ brings us. Each Sunday the light keeps getting brighter until we celebrate the birth of Jesus on Christmas Eve and the light is brightest when we light the Christ candle. This, of course, is the slightly taller white candle in the center which reminds us that Jesus is the sinless, spotless Lamb of God, sent to wash away our sins. His birth was for his death and his death was for our birth.”

 

More to follow – Stay tuned

What is Advent – Part 1

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The following is the first in a series of excerpts from a sermon given by Jim Edgel on Advent.  Each day I will post another part of this.  He explains the meaning o advent and some of the traditions we celebrate.

 

“Friends this is the first Sunday in the season of Advent. The word “Advent” comes from the Latin word “adventus” which means “coming” or “arrival”. The advent of our Lord is the beginning of the “Church Year” and observed during the four weeks prior to Christmas. This is a time for Christians to Prepare their hearts as a welcome place for God and Prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus and to Prepare for the second coming of Jesus as the risen Christ to rule triumphantly over life in heaven and on earth. During the Advent season our prayers and Bible readings should be focused on preparing us spiritually for Christmas (the first coming), but also for his eventual second coming. That is why Advent services include both Old Testament passages related to the expected Messiah and New Testament passages concerning Jesus’ second coming as judge of all. Also passages about John the Baptist, the precursor who prepared the way for the Messiah. Jesus is the light of the world. We who have sat in darkness have seen a great light, the light of Jesus Christ, our salvation.  We are reminded of the light that Jesus brings us by lighting the candles in our Advent wreath.”

 

Next time – The Advent Wreath  – Stay tuned.

“Hello – It Is Not Christmas Yet”

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Okay, so I admit I am a little perturbed at all the Christmas stuff going on.  I can not even turn on the radio without hearing Christmas music.  First off, I am not a grinch, I just wish the true season of Advent would get its just attention.

The Advent season is important too, it is the time we Christians are suppose to be in prayer and study for the arrival of Jesus.  But as we are typical, we do not want to wait, we want it now, so we put up the tree, turn on the music and shop til we drop.

I ask all to remember that this season is NOT about the tree, lights, decorations, presents or even the feasts planned – Advent is our time of anticipation, desire to see and joy at the upcoming arrival of our Lord.  DO NOT rush this season – savor with anticipation the coming – look forward with joy to His words – and sincerely appreciate the best gift ever given which was His life for our sins,

DO NOT RUSH

SAVOR
ANTICIPATE

APPRECIATE

Enjoy the Advent season more thoroughly and you may find that Christmas is all the more precious.

 

God Loves You And So Do I

 

Michele

Bearing Fruit – A Book Review

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“Bearing Fruit” is the third installment of Robby Gallatys’ Growing Up series. The series presents a biblical plan for spiritual growth.  In this book Gallaty discusses Christian maturity which is marked by the “fruit” it produces.  He rightly divides law and gospel and does an excellent job of defining some important theological terms:

 

We could say that justification frees us from the penalty of sin, sanctification frees us from the penalty of sin and glorification frees us from the presence of sin.”

 

“Bearing Fruit” focuses on the process of sanctification which Gallaty calls “the most misunderstood” concept of the three.”  He explains that no Christian can produce fruit on his own; fruit comes only from abiding in the true vine, Jesus Christ.  Our fruit is not our own and we do not earn righteousness through our good works.  Fruit is the work of God in the life of the believer.

 

VERDICT:  I would recommend this book as a study for individuals and groups and I would be interested in reading the others in the series.  It includes a plan for yearly Bible reading and memorization.

 

 

http://www.lifeway.com/Product/bearing-fruit-P005793617

 

Posting for Joan Culler