A Prayer of Surrender

The Covenant Prayer by John Wesley

I am no longer my own, but thine.

Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.

Put me to doing, put me to suffering.

Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee, exalted for thee or brought low for thee.

Let me be full, let me be empty.

Let me have all things, let me have nothing.

I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.

And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son, Holy Spirit thou art mine, and I am thine.

And the covenant which I have made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven.

Amen

 

In 1775,  a covenant service was introduced by John Wesley and became an important part of spiritual life in the Methodist Societies. This renewal service was a time for the Methodists to gather annually in a time of self-examination, reflection, and dedication, wholly giving up themselves and renewing covenant with God. Repentance through confession and commitment was a key focus of the service, demanding humility.  The prayer above is used during the service which is usually held on the Sunday nearest January 1st.

For another prayer of surrender see:

The Serenity Prayer in Action

What to Change

 

 

Before We Forget edited by Nathan Millican & Jonathon Woodyard–Book Review

This book is a series of brief essays written by pastors about the challenges of shepherding a congregation.  One of the editors calls it “an exercise in the discipline of confession.”  Remembrance is also highlighted as a key spiritual practice.

“We want to remind ourselves of God’s work in our lives as He has conformed us into the image of Jesus and molded us into (hopefully) more faithful followers and more careful and helpful shepherds.”

Topics discussed include:

  • Insecurity
  • Pride
  • Taking the Pastorate for granted
  • Character
  • Sexual purity
  • Patience
  • Reconciliation
  • Suffering

Each theme has one chapter written by a young pastor, and one by an older pastor.  If you are not in ministry yourself, you should still read this book for a better understanding of the problems pastors encounter. The ministry is not easy;  it requires the ability to properly order priorities, persevere in the face of difficult circumstances and lead others while also acknowledging your own sins and shortcomings.

 

The topics covered are relevant to all church leaders, and in fact every Christian.  I especially liked the chapters on patience and reconciliation (which probably needs I need to work on these things!)

VERDICT:  5 Stars.  Very interesting and readable.

If you would like to purchase this book follow the link below:

https://www.lifeway.com/en/product/before-we-forget-P005815461

The Lutheran Ladies received a free copy of this book in return for a fair and honest review. Disclaimer pursuant to FTC 16 CFR part 255.

 

 

 

Sick of Me by Whitney Capps–Book Review #2

This book was previously reviewed by one of our other authors, Michele (Sick of Me – Book Review).  It sounded interesting, so I thought I would take a look for myself.  Here’s the book in a nutshell:

  • Whitney was “just plain sick of myself”
  • The cure for being sick of yourself is to become more like Christ
  • Becoming more like Christ is a process called sanctification

This is repeated in different ways throughout the book.  According to Whitney, most of us are quite happy to be “transparent”…. i.e. to admit to our sins.  The problem is, we’re also pretty happy to stay the way we are!  This is not the life God wants for us.  We’re called to be holy, not happy.  We’re called to be at odds with the culture, not adapt our behavior to it.  We’re called to mature in the faith, not stay spiritual infants.

In an engaging, easy to read style, Ms. Capps defines and helps her readers understand a number of important theological terms:  regeneration, justification, sanctification, condemnation and conviction. If you don’t know what they are when you start, you will by the end of the book.  Her emphasis is on the need for Christians to go beyond recognizing their sin to a true transformation in the way they live.  This isn’t easy and it doesn’t happen overnight.  In fact, none of us will be totally sanctified in this life.

I found her style a little flippant for such a weighty topic, but many will like it.  It makes for an easy read, but one that is also meaty and informative.

VERDICT:  4 STARS.  I didn’t learn anything new, but well presented and clear.

Are You Missing Something?

In a recent post, I talked about the sermon my family heard the Sunday after Thanksgiving in South Carolina.  It was a good one.  However, there was something missing in the service itself.

It was contemporary — not my favorite, I love the liturgy.  However, I can enjoy a contemporary service now and then. But this one was missing some key pieces.  First of all, no confession!  To me, this is crucial.  We can’t appreciate the light if we don’t understand our own darkness, which is sin. Without sin, all the darkness around us is reduced to bad luck, or something we can blame on another person.  Worse yet,  if we don’t acknowledge our sin, there is no need for the good news of the gospel.  We can save ourselves by becoming better people.

Also, no recitation of the Lord’s Prayer of the Apostle’s Creed.  Because we are sinners, we constantly need to remind ourselves of just who God is and what He has done for us.  Advent is a time, like Lent, when we should be pondering these things.  When we rush too quickly into Christmas, we forget the message of Advent– the anticipation, the meditation, the true joy of knowing that Christ came in human form to die for each of us.

So, don’t leave out the important stuff.  Don’t leave it out of the church service or out of your life.  Take time to appreciate the real meaning of Advent– confess, give thanks, remember Who you believe in and why. Christmas will mean so much more when you realize why we needed it so much.

For another post on a similar topic:

“Hello – It Is Not Christmas Yet”

Choosing to Sin

Our small group has been reading and discussing the book, Outrageous Grace, by Grace Fabian Outrageous Grace by Grace L. Fabian–Book Review.  One of the study questions at our last meeting was:

” In what ways do you think Christians are guilty of reading and studying God’s Word, but not applying it to their own lives and obeying it?  Are we guilty of saying/singing that we love Him, but still hesitating to obey Him?”

Well, of course the answer is yes.  We are all sinners, and although we may struggle to do what’s right, we often give in to our “default” position which is sin.  We all know this.  Somehow, though, this time the question struck me even harder or more personally than usual.  I thought, it’s not so different from saying, “I know that exercise is good for me.  It’s not someone else’s opinion, I truly BELIEVE that I will be healthier if I exercise;  and yet for most of my life  I have CHOSEN not to do it.

I can believe in God, know His Word, and still consciously and deliberately choose to sin.  It’s not always just an accident or something I do when I stop thinking clearly.  Sinning is sometimes a choice that I make.

For example, I know the Bible tells us to “go and make disciples.”  Yet, I excuse myself by saying I’m an introvert, and evangelism isn’t my gift.  I’ll just “choose” to serve in another way.  I know that the Bible says we should not take God’s name in vain — and yet, I watch TV shows and read books that do just that.  I tell myself that bad language is simply so pervasive that it can’t be completely avoided these days and after all, I’m not the one saying those bad words, right?  (Sorry, this is known as vicarious sinning).  I know the Bible says that we should respect the civil authorities God has placed over us, and yet I complain and speak badly about them.  I could go on and on, and I’m sure you can make your own list if you think about it for even a minute or two.

I don’t have an answer for any of this, it’s more of an observation–an observation that is making me examine myself and realize that I come up wanting.  I’ve taken God’s grace for granted, and treated it like a get our of jail free card that I can use indiscriminately.  I say along with Paul,

What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Romans 7:24″

If believe in God, then I should practice true obedience to His Word, just as I say every week in the confession.  I can’t stop sinning, but I can identify and work at those areas where I deliberately sin.  I’m going to try to take that seriously;  I’m going to pray about it;  and I’m going to stop making excuses and chip away at those attractive sins I don’t want to give up.  I believe that with God’s help, I can become a healthier Christian.

For more posts on sin, follow these links:

What is Sin?

Respectable Sins by Jerry Bridges–Book Review

Sin Boldly?

How Do We Know Our Sins are Forgiven?

The answer to this question was in my daily devotional reading today.  The quote is from the writings of J.F. Clark (1810-1888), an American theologian and writer.

“We need to know that our sins are forgiven.  And how shall we know this?  By feeling that we have peace with God,–by feeling that we are able so to trust in the divine compassion and infinite tenderness of  our Father, as to arise and go to Him, whenever we have sinned and say at once to Him,  ‘Father, I have sinned, forgive me.’  To know that we are forgiven, it is only necessary to look at our Father’s love till it sinks into our heart, to open our soul to Him till He shall pour His love into it;  to wait on Him till we find peace, till our conscience no longer torments us, till we can feel that our sins, great as they are, cannot keep us away from our Heavenly Father.”

P.S. Lutherans also know they are forgiven when they receive the absolution every week as part of the liturgy.  What a blessing! As Martin Luther said about the Gospel– We need to hear it every week because we forget it every week.

Confess to One Another

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. James 5:16

If there is one thing I have learned from our Fanning the Flame process of church revitalization, it is the importance of prayer.  Prayer permeated the life of the early Christians (read the book of Acts to picture what this looked like) and it should be the foundation for every Christian congregation today.  We must pray for our church leaders, and guidance to be led to the people and ministries God has planned for us.  Most of all, we must pray for one another and, according to the verses from James, we should confess to one another and request prayerful intercession.

This is hard for most of us.  It’s easy enough to confess in a general way, in the church service.  You can do this without even thinking about the actual sins you’ve committed;  and even if you do think them, nobody else has to know, right?  However, the apostle James seems to be telling saying that I should actually tell another person the nasty things I’ve done (or maybe just thought) — and admit that I need prayer and healing.  Pretty scary.  Confessing to someone else, even a sister or brother in Christ, puts me in a vulnerable position.  It means not only knowing that I’m a sinner, but admitting it to another person.  What if they think less of me?  What if they blab about it to somebody else?  What if it means I actually have to take a real, close look at those sins myself?

Well, all of those things are possible.  But to be effective witnesses, we need to get down off the self-righteous pedestal we like to stand on when we’re presenting ourselves to the world.  After all, if we’re sinners, we’re going to sin, and if we could keep from sinning, we wouldn’t need Jesus.  The people we want to reach with the Good News should know that our story isn’t any different from theirs.

So, my advice is, find an accountability partner or group (for me this is the Via de Cristo reunion group).  Meet with them regularly. Keep everything discussed confidential.  Admit your failings (in other words, ‘fess up).  Ask for prayer.  You’ll find that their prayers for you are powerful and effective.

 

 

Confession — It’s Good for the Soul

If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us. ” 1 John 1:8-10

Recently an elderly member of our congregation died.  The “funeral” was not held at the church because the woman’s daughter did not want the Pastor to say her mother was a sinner.  Instead, she wanted a “celebration of life” where her mother’s virtues and accomplishments were lauded.

Don’t get me wrong.  This woman was smart, funny and creative.  She had done many good things for her community, and yes, this deserved to be remembered with rejoicing.  However, as my husband puts it, “if we’re not sinners, the gospel isn’t good news.”  If we’re not sinners, we don’t need Jesus.  If we’re not sinners, we can make it on our own.  The fact that we’re sinners is the starting point for a faithful life.

The verses above tell us that when we deny our sinfulness, we’re living a lie.  Only when we confess and turn to God in true humility, will we begin to experience the freedom of forgiveness.  If you’re a Lutheran, you probably have a point, very early in the worship service, called “Confession of Sin.”  That’s so we come before God acknowledging our unworthiness.  Here’s how the one at St. Paul’s reads:

“Holy and righteous God, merciful Father, we confess to You that we are by nature sinful and unclean, and that we have sinned against You by thought, word and deed.  We have not loved You above all things, nor our neighbor as ourselves, and are worth therefore to be cast away from Your presence if You should judge us according to our sins.”

I don’t know about you, but I know if my heart that I haven’t loved God above all things –in my inner heart what I love best is myself!  And my neighbors?  Well, they’re pretty far down on my list.  I’m much more likely to criticize and complain than love them.  So guess what, that makes me a sinner.  No matter how many good works I do, no matter how many hours I pray, or worship services I attend.

Here’s the good news (also from the liturgy).

“But you have promised, O heavenly Father, to receive with tender mercy all repentant sinners who turn to You and with a living faith seek refuge in Your Fatherly compassion and in the merits of the Savior, Jesus Christ.  Our transgressions You will not regard, nor count them against us.”

Confession is good for the soul.  I need to do it not just weekly, but daily.  It puts me in the right place — depending on God.

Good Stewards Travel Light

Lessons I Learned in the Light: All You Need to Thrive in a Dark WorldA friend at church loaned me a book I’ve been using recently for my morning devotional time.  It’s called “Lessons I Learned in the Light” by Jennifer Rothschild.  This morning’s chapter was titled “Carry No Baggage” and it got me thinking about how as good stewards, we need to travel light.  We can’t take care of God’s stuff if we’re too worried about our own stuff.  Maybe you’re thinking about now, didn’t the Lutheran Ladies say it’s all God’s stuff?  Well, here’s the thing …all the good things are God’s, but there are still plenty of bad things that belong to us alone.  They start with that little word SIN.  Do you notice what’s in the middle of the word sin?  The letter “I.”  Sin happens when we’re turned into ourselves, when life becomes all about me, me, me.

What baggage are you carrying around?  It might be selfishness (that’s a big one for me), failure to forgive, anger, destructive habits you don’t want to give up, pride, lack of trust  and more.  All these things weigh us down and keep us from focusing on God, the good gifts He gives, and the people He wants us to serve.

Thankfully there’s a simple way to get rid of that excess cargo.  Confess.  Let God take care of your stuff, and then you’ll be free to take care of His.  We get to do this every Sunday in our worship service, not as a work of our own, but as a reminder that God has already forgiven all our sins for the sake of His son, Jesus.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9

Confess so you can focus on the good things of God.  Travel light.

 

Time to Confess

“Each one must give as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”  2 Corinthians 9:7

I hate to admit it, but I’m not a cheerful giver.  I always want to hang on to things and people tightly.  Now this can be good — it makes me loyal and persevering in relationships, for example;  but when it comes to being generous, it’s a bad thing.  I could make excuses and tell you I have an anxious personality, so I get worried that I may not be able to take care of myself if I give away too much.  Or I could explain that my grandparents grew up during the depression and they taught me to be excessively frugal and worried about money.  None of this gets me off the hook, however.  God wants me to give cheerfully to others, and often I don’t.

What do I do about this?  Well, as with other spiritual disciplines (and giving is a spiritual discipline), I start where I am, and try to grow.  When I’m asked to give financially, I give an amount I am comfortable with, and then I give some more.  When I’m asked to give of my time ( and I find my problems with this often come about because I don’t want to disrupt my plans or routine), I remind myself that I’m retired now, and my plans can usually be postponed or changed without causing a problem.  I also have the advantage of having a generous, godly husband and two daughters with the gift of mercy.  When it comes to matters of giving, I try to let one of them take the lead and I follow their example.

Has it worked?  Well, I still don’t always give cheerfully.  I’m seldom spontaneously generous.  It will never be my gift.  But I have grown.  I’m not where I ought to be, but I’m not where I used to be, either.  As our author, Michele says, I’m a work in progress, both saint and sinner.

I’m open to other suggestions.  Readers and authors, how do you practice generosity?  Have you grown in this discipline?

Image result for saint and sinner image and ok with it