Tag Archives: growing in Christ

Practicing Piety

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After a Via de Cristo weekend, participants are encouraged to form or join an accountability group.  In this group, we meet on a regular basis to discuss our plans for growing in God’s grace.  Since a balanced Christian life includes piety, study and action, group members take turns talking about how they are doing in each of these areas.  To mature as a Christian, we must practice spiritual disciplines.  Disciplines that increase our piety include:

  1. Congregational worship and communion
  2. Morning offering/evening thanks
  3. Devotions, meditation and prayer
  4. Examination of conscience
  5. Altar or chapel visits
  6. Family prayer
  7. Blessings before meals
  8. Spiritual direction

Maybe you’re not even sure what some of these mean.  I didn’t before my weekend.  (That may be the topic for another post).  Maybe you think it sounds a little mechanical, or even legalistic (Those are dangers, for sure.  It is possible to become a “routine Rita” simply doing Christian things without really thinking about what they mean).  However, like any other support group, banding together with others who want to go in the same direction helps us keep on track.  Knowing I have to “weigh in” next week encourages me to complete the task/s I’ve assigned myself.  It is also an opportunity to hear what works for others, and it’s helpful to learn all the creative ways my friends have learned to pray, to get recommendations for devotionals and just be held up in prayer.

At the end of the piety section there is a question to answer:  “What was the moment you felt closest to Christ?”  Maybe it was during a worship service;  maybe it was listening to a favorite hymn or song;  maybe it was an insight that seemed God-sent during prayer;  maybe it was a simple feeling of gratitude for time with family.  Sometimes I wonder if I would even notice these moments of grace if I didn’t have my reunion group meeting to make me think about them each month.

You don’t have to go on a Via de Cristo weekend to practice piety.  You do need others, though.  It’s too hard to go it alone.  Find a friend or friends.  Pray together;  study together;  talk about our Christian walk;  laugh and cry and vent when you need to;  do ministry together.  You won’t regret it, and you’ll look back years later to see where all that practice has led.  It will be higher ground.

God loves you and so do I!

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Fanning the Flame #6–Seeking God’s Will

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“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Then you will call upon me, and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.'”  Jeremiah 29:11-13

Beth Ann finished the vision narrative, in which she compiled all the thoughts and ideas that came to individuals on the team as we prayed and meditated on our future, shaping them into what our church might look like and be doing ten years from now.  All I can say is, every time I read through it, tears come to my eyes.  This is the church I want us to be!  This is the church that we can be with God’s help.

The word picture Beth Ann has painted depicts a praying church;  a church where virtually everyone is involved in the ministry of prayer.  Members are growing spiritually, through small groups and individual mentoring, gospel preaching, and Bible Study.  This church is active in many aspects of the community–welcoming in our neighborhood and assisting other community groups and churches in their ministries. They also encourage and sponsor foreign missions and missionaries..  Everyone is encouraged to serve as the hands and feet of Christ to others.  It is a light in the dark world.

Yes, some of our dreams are “big” ones, ones that will really stretch us.  Yes, some of these plans may change as we grow and develop according to God’s timing and will;  but many are baby steps, things we can start doing and changing now.  I’m humbled by the thought of what He might accomplish through one little congregation.

Great things happen when God mixes with us!

P.S. Beth Ann, I’m waiting for your post on what this process was like for you.

It’s Your Choice

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“This is what the LORD says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.'” Jeremiah 6:16

We Lutherans believe that we do not choose salvation;  God chooses us.  However, we can choose how and whether we’re going to progress in our Christian walk.  We can stay at a very basic, elementary level in our understanding and faith;  or we can grow into a greater knowledge and understanding of God’s ways and His will for us.  The way is marked out for us — we have the Holy Scriptures and we have the example of Jesus Christ.  We can study and learn, attend worship regularly and pray;  or we can be content to just coast along.  According to the prophet, Jeremiah, in the verse above, the “good way,”  the way God desires for us will bring rest for our souls.  Too often, though, we refuse to walk in it.  We’re busy.  We want worldly success.  We want to use our free time to amuse ourselves.  This is the easier way, but it doesn’t lead to maturity or bring true peace.

 

The unknown author of Hebrews chides his readers this way:

“For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God.  You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child.  But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.”  Hebrews 5:12-14

The choice is yours —  will it be milk or meat?

 

Being a Christian: How Jesus Redeems All of Life – Book Review

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Being a Christian, by Jason K. Allen, is a good book to read if you are a new Christian or just wanting to know what Christianity is all about. He will take you through all the different areas in life and will show how the Gospel impacts every part.  He starts with the personal and then moves on to Marriage, Family, Time, Money and Work.  It’s a very easy read and has scripture throughout.

This would be a good book to have handy when helping new Christians in their walk, so even if you’ve been a Christian for awhile, this book would be a good one to add to your library.

Mr. Allen is the President of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and is one of the youngest presidents in all of American higher education.  He has written several other books and has a website, jasonkallen.com,  with a blog and podcasts.

For more information or to purchase this book, go to the following link:

http://www.bhpublishinggroup.com/products/being-a-christian

Be Kind at Christmas

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I’ve been using a devotional recently called “The One Year Daily Acts of Kindness Devotional” by Julie Fisk, Kendra Roehl, and Kristin Demery.  These women were concerned about the attitude their children displayed about Christmas — begging for the newest toy, complaining about what they couldn’t do or didn’t receive.  They decided to combat this tendency each family would do one kind act each day during the Christmas season and post about it on social media to encourage others.  Their report?  It changed them all much more than they expected.  They saw their relationship with God grow as they put their faith into action with simple acts of kindness.  It evolved into the devotional which gives many good suggestions for intentionally showing kindness.  Here are some of the Advent Acts of Kindness listed at the end of the book:

  1. Write encouraging notes to place in your children’s lunch boxes
  2. Buy or make treats for your coworkers
  3. Send cards and supplies to servicepersons or veterans through organizations like Operation Gratitude or the USO
  4. Babysit for free for a single mom or young couple so they can have a night out
  5. Take cookies or other homemade gifts to your neighbors
  6. Drop off boxes of tissues at a local school to help replenish their supplies
  7. Write a note to a business, recognizing an employee by name and commending them for excellent service
  8. Invite someone who may be lonely to dinner
  9. Donate pet food to the local humane society
  10. Go caroling in your neighborhood or at a local nursing home

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These are only a few suggestions to be found in the book, and once you start, you will be able to come up with lots of ideas of your own.

Christmas has become a time that is often filled with stress and rudeness.  Shoppers are harried, store employees tired out and irritable, travelers impatient.  Why not go against the flow and spread  kindness instead?

“And the King will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, as you did to one of the least of these, my brethren, you did it to me.”  Matthew 25:40

Growing Our Gifts

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“For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property.  To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability.  Then he went away.”  Matthew 25: 14-15

Most people are familiar with this parable of Jesus.  It goes on to tell us how the first two servants used their talents to increase the wealth of their master;  the third servant simply buries the talent in the ground.  Those who made more of what they were given are commended as “good and faithful”, while the servant who hid his talent is rebuked as “worthless.”

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The moral?  God gives each one of us talents, too.  Our talents include not only money, but abilities, roles in society and family, education, time, life experiences and more.  If we are His servants, He expects us to use those things to grow His kingdom.  We’re each unique and some of us are able to do more than others;  that isn’t the issue.  God doesn’t say we have to reach a certain level to earn His approval; He doesn’t tell us exactly what to do;  He

simply wants us to continue to grow and progress.  Other parables tell us He is patient …but eventually we’ll have to account for how well we’ve handled what’s been entrusted to us.

This is something each of us needs to think about and assess regularly.  Have you thought about your talents and how you’ve been using them?  Have you made more of what God has given to you?  Have you contributed to His kingdom through good stewardship?  Or are you hiding your talents out of fear or laziness?

Readers and authors, I want to hear your thoughts!

You Can’t Teach An Old Dog New Tricks?

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You’ve all heard the familiar adage above.  I’m not sure it’s true, at least in the case of human beings.  Life should be a journey in learning:  learning about God, about ourselves, about others.  I thought I’d talk a bit about what I’ve learned through becoming a Christian blogger.

I’m retired, and I’m not part of the generation that grew up using technology.  I still have a flip phone (much to my granddaughter’s dismay) and I’m not of Facebook or Instagram.  I don’t skype. I don’t text. I prefer books to my kindle.  You get the idea.  If you told me a few years ago that I’d be spending my time writing blog posts, I would have laughed at you!  Then my husband starting blogging, some women at our church said we ladies should have a blog, one of them set it up and voila!  I was suddenly a blog author!

Of course, I do have some interests that drew me to try this “something new.”  I love to write, I love to study, and I love to encourage others.  Blogging seemed to be a way to combine all three of those things.  Along the way, here are some of the things blogging has taught me.

  1. I’ve become more adept at using technology.  I can now copy an image or a video from YouTube or a link.  I can reblog an article.  I started accounts on Linked In and Pinterest (still avoiding Facebook).
  2. I’ve learned to write quickly, and be less of a perfectionist.  In the past, I found it hard to just sit down and write something because there was no deadline.  Now I have a deadline every day, and I have to write and be content to let my article go without agonizing over the “best” wording or examples.
  3. Because we have a theme every month, I have a reason to think deeply and seriously about a particular topic.  I pray about our theme, look up verses, check books out of the library, etc..
  4. I’ve learned more about some of my sisters in Christ, through their posts.  It tickles me no end to observe Beth Ann’s love of music, Michele and Leslie’s passion for study, and to see how Sarah and Kate (both of whom I’ve known since they were small)  have grown up in thoughtfulness and Christian maturity.

I think God is always seeking to surprise and amaze us.  He wants us to learn and grow, to use our talents, to become the people He intended us to be.

What new tricks have you learned this year?

Reunion Group Relationships

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If you attend a Lutheran Via de Cristo weekend, you will be encouraged to continue growing in Christ by participating in what’s called a reunion group.  This is a small group that meets on a regular basis (monthly, weekly, whatever you choose) to talk about how things are going in the spiritual life of the members.

I have been in a reunion group on and off for over twenty years.  The groups change, of course, as people move or their life changes.  The group I am in now meets at our church once a month, and each month we discuss an aspect of our Christian walk:  piety (this covers things like prayer, worship and moments of closeness to Christ), study or action.  Each of us has an opportunity to tell how we’ve been doing in that area and what our plans are for the coming month.  We encourage one another and hold each other accountable.  We pray together and we pray for each other.

Over time being in such a group together fosters strong bonds.  It was my first group that taught me being quiet and shy didn’t mean I couldn’t be a leader and influence others for Christ.  The group I am in now started this blog!!  My reunion group sisters are the kind of friends who will support me, encourage me and jump in to help if I take on a commitment!  They hear my confessions and keep my confidences.  Through the years in reunion groups I have helped to plan congregational activities, organized small group Bible studies, participated in “crafty” projects (that one is a real stretch for me), and had fun in the process.  Rightly lived, a reunion group becomes a Christian community affecting the world.

If you’re not in a group like this, don’t put it off, it’s too important.  You don’t have to go on a Via de Cristo weekend;  you don’t have to call it a reunion group;  you don’t have to do things exactly as we do.  The point is to find a group of others who want to direct their lives to Christ and grow in faith.  Meet regularly, pray together, encourage one another, work together for Christ and hold each other accountable.  In years to come you’ll look back and be amazed at what God has done through you and how you have grown in faith together.

I hope our readers and my sister bloggers will join in by discussing this further.  Have you been in a reunion group (or a similar accountability group)?  How did it impact your spiritual growth?  I want to hear your stories.

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.  Let us knot give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another — and all the more as you see the day approaching.”  Hebrews 10: 24-25

 

 

 

It Takes Time

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There was a recent article in our local newspaper, featuring a couple who had been married 74 years!  Wow, what an accomplishment!  My husband and I have a long way to go to top that (we’re babies at 45 years of wedded bliss).  It made think about how unity grows over time.  Yes, there is probably an instant attraction and feeling of compatibility, but over time two people work together, learn how to complement each other, come to understand one another more and more, until finally the union becomes so complete that it’s hard to imagine life alone.  When my husband is gone for a few days, I start to feel uncomfortable.  My routines are disrupted;  there are things I want to share or ask.  Life just isn’t right.  When he’s teaching Bible Study, I’ll make a comment or ask a question and he’ll say …”You’re jumping ahead….I’m getting to that very topic …in a minute…”  We’ve trained our brains until we think along the same lines.  Of course, we’re don’t always agree.  He supplies the logic, I supply the feelings.  We complement one another, and have come to rely upon the other in areas where we are weak.  We’ve had to adjust who does what chore depending upon both personal preference, and time and job constraints.  We’ve balanced two careers, two children, and two large extended families as well as we could.  It’s been quite an journey and it’s not over yet.

I’m sure everyone won’t agree, but I think our union with Christ and His church grows, too.  There is often an original event — for many of us it is our baptism, but it can be one of those “aha” moments when we realize that God has taken hold of us, and we’re His for good.  Like our marriage, we start to do things together:  we pray, study His word, worship and sing.  We become active in the church, we use our gifts, we serve Him with others.  We learn what we’re good at, and where we need help.  We understand more and more until we can’t imagine life without Jesus and the family of God anymore than we can imagine life without our spouse.  In fact, as much as I love and depend upon my husband, I love and depend upon Jesus even more.  Lutherans call this journey sanctification, and it’s never complete in this life.

So readers, what do you think?  Does unity happen like a clap of thunder, or with a process of continuing cultivation?  Or both?  I’s like to hear your thoughts.

Remembering My Via De Cristo Weekend

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As I write this post, a Women’s Lutheran Via de Cristo weekend is beginning.  The retreat starts on Thursday evening and ends on Sunday afternoon.  When you think “retreat” you may imagine lots of free time, reading the Bible and praying alone, maybe communing with nature.  Via de Cristo is not like that!  It is a weekend jam-packed with singing, fellowship, worship, talks by laypeople and clergy on spiritual topics, discussion and (what Lutherans love best of all) plenty of coffee and good food.

The weekend is designed for Christians who want to grow in their faith, and the amazing thing is, everyone experiences it differently.  For many it is a real mountaintop high;  for some a time to cast off burdens; others experience the love and presence of Christ in a special way;  still others find it a time of refreshment and renewal.  On a weekend, you will meet Christ where you are, and receive something special that He has planned just for you.

When I went on my weekend, over 25 years ago, I didn’t hear anything new or startling–but it put all the pieces together for me.  Suddenly I could see my faith journey as a whole and it has been a big help in keeping my focus in the right place.  On my weekend, I made friends, found a way to go closer to the Christian friends I already had at church, and learned to see myself as a leader in the Christian community.  It changed my life.  Not in a lightening flash, but gradually, over time, as the message of the weekend was absorbed and incorporated in my daily life (hmmm…reminds me of the leaven in the bread thought).

So readers, this weekend, please pray for the ladies on retreat, and consider going on a Via de Crist weekend yourself (by the way, you don’t have to be a Lutheran to do this and there are weekends for men as well).  If you would like to learn more, contact the Lutheran ladies for more information, we will be happy to help.

For those authors and readers who have made a weekend, I hope you will post and comment.  And remember, God loves you and so do I!