Seven-Mile Miracle by Steven Furtick–Book Review

In this book, author Steven Furtick examines the seven last statements (or “words’) of Jesus from the cross in light of the spiritual journey of every believer. He boils each one down to its’ essential meaning:

*Forgiveness –“Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34

*Salvation–“Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:43

*Relationship–“Woman, here is your son … Here is your mother.” John 19:26-27

*Abandonment–“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46

*Distress–“I am thirsty.” John 19:28

*Triumph–“It is finished.” John 19:30

*Reunion–“Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” Luke 23:46

Seven-Mile Miracle: Journey into the Presence of God Through the Last Words of Jesus by [Steven Furtick]

Each section includes questions for journaling or group discussion. At the end there is a forty-day reading guide with Scripture selections on the death and resurrection of Jesus.

This was an easy read would be a good pick to use as a spiritual exercise during the season of Lent. Since the author is not Lutheran, there were some theological statements I disagreed with, mainly around the issue of “making a decision” to choose Christ. As Lutherans, we believe Christ chooses us.

VERDICT: 3 Stars due to the theological issues.

For more about the death and resurrection of Christ see:

Martin Luther on the Resurrection

Martin Luther on God’s Victory Over Death

The Resurrection is Now

A Lenten Message Part 2

This is a continuation of a Lenten message which my husband, our pastor, sent out to the congregation.  For part 1 see: A Lenten Message Part 1.

The Lord Jesus was not only humble, He was constantly concerned with the well being of others.  When he looked upon people lost like sheep without a shepherd, He felt pity for them.  When He saw a group of men with leprosy which kept them exiled from the rest of society, He healed them.  When He saw a widow grieving over her dead son, He brought the boy back to life.  So, we can ask ourselves, how have I served other people? How have I worked to relieve their pain and promote their welfare?  If I have cared about others and served them in some way, did I allow any thought of self regard to mingle with and abase the good I have done?

Certainly, Jesus was God become Man, but He lived and learned as a man.  He learned how to be a carpenter.  He learned how to live comfortably in the world around Him.  He learned the Scriptures thoroughly.  So we should ask ourselves, have I spent enough time in God’s Word over the past year?  What did I learn or relearn about God’s will in my life?  If the devil tempts me to sin, can I respond as did our Lord, quoting Scripture or will I be unable to resist those glittering baubles the enemy holds before me.

We also see that Jesus not only loved other Jews, but all people.  More than once the Lord went out of His way to help Gentiles, people who were not like His own.  As we look at the news today, we see attacks on people of Asian descent, seemingly for no reason.  We see disdain for people of other races or cultures being displayed almost daily.  Yet these too are people for whom Christ died.  So we should search our hearts and minds and see if we too love those who are different from us.  Loving those just like us is easy, it’s not always so with loving those who aren’t.  But we should all remember that we who have been saved were descended not from Palestinian Jews, but from different cultures with different customs.  God’s love is not narrow, but wide.

For more about examining yourself see:

Examine Yourself

Examination of Conscience

 

A Lenten Message Part 1

Since we have not been having Wednesday Lenten services this year, my husband, our pastor, has been sending out a weekly Lenten message.  I thought this one was particularly meaningful.

As we near the end of the Lenten season, it would be helpful for us to review our lives in the light of the life of Christ.  What I mean by that statement is a comparison to how the Lord lived as a man among us as opposed to how we live in this world.  So let’s think about some of the characteristics Jesus displayed.

The Creator of all things was humble.  He chose to be born, not in a palace but in a stable.  He chose to live, not in a great city, but in a small village.  He chose not to keep Himself aloof from His surroundings, but to work in a carpenter’s show with His caregiver, Joseph.  The listing of His path of humility could be longer, but we all get the idea.  So how have you shown humility in your life during this past year?  Have you demanded the best and most of what you wanted?  Have you bemoaned your stature in this world or sought to have more than you need?  Have you looked at others whose lives are not as good as yours thinking, if they had only worked harder or better, would they be in such a fix?  Has pride in yourself been a persisting sin?

To be continued …..

For more about Lent see:

Questions for Lent

Lenten Discipline

Walking through the Services

 

Hesed–God’s Love in Action

This is a second excerpt from my husband’s sermon on hesed.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”John 3:16

John’s famous third chapter verse above is the best example of hesed I can imagine.  Look what it says.  First, God so loved.  The love which is God’s essence comes forth from Him to the world — to His own dear creation.  His love for His people is part and parcel of His love for the entire world in which we are found.  God has consistently shown His special care and loving concern to this little planet, and the people who live here.

The second example of hesed in this verse is that God gave His only begotten Son.  God gave of His very essence for His people.  He held back nothing at all in His love for us.  When we humans love, we always hold back something, even if we don’t think that we do.  There is always this urge, this compulsion to watch out for ourselves, to hold onto something that is just for us.  But the Lord does no such thing.  God held onto nothing, instead sacrificing everything for our good and our salvation.

Especially in this season of Lent, we should not forget the magnitude of God’s sacrifice for us.  Looking at the cross should remind us in our deeper consciousness that God gave it all so that you and I would not spend eternity in torment.

As I said earlier, hesed means not just an emotional love, but a love that has feet, a love that shows itself in works.  God has shown this,love to His people.  So too must we, as people who are in Christ, display the love of God to the world by doing those works which He prepared for us to do.  Before time began, God established works of hesed, using our efforts, YES our efforts.

Much of the work God does in the world is done through the hands of men and women and even children.  So God does indeed show steadfast love when we care for the sick and the poor and the lost and those whose lives seem now filled with darkness.  We may not be able in and of ourselves to show hesed to others, but we can be used by God as His instruments in the grand eternal plan of salvation

For more about God’s love see:

Learning to Love

Forgiveness is Love in Action

Lovingkindness by William R. Miller–Book Review

 

Remember Me by Sharon Garlough Brown–Book Review

Remember Me is the sequel to Sharon Garlough Brown’s novel, Shades of Light (Shades of Light}.  It continues the story of Wren as she struggles to deal with anxiety, depression and grieves over the death of her closest friend, Casey.  Wren is helped in her journey by her Aunt Kit, a spiritual director, who has experienced similar issues in the her own past.  Together, thorough art, letters, and scripture, they walk in the steps of Jesus in the passion story and come to a better understanding of their own grief and mourning.

At the back of this novella, there are eight meditations along with artwork, so that you can move through the journey to the cross on your own.  They are perfect for meditation, prayer, and journaling, and could even be used with a small group. This would be an excellent Lenten discipline to undertake, alone or with a friend!

One idea I especially liked was the idea of writing an obituary to mark a loss in your life.  This might involve death, but there are many other ways we experience loss– a friend moves away, our children grow up and leave home, we lose a job.  It’s important to name and grieve these changes before we move on.

VERDICT:  5 STARS.  This is a great little book which will help and comfort anyone experiencing grief.  Highly recommended.

For other books by Sharon Garlough Brown see:

Sensible Shoes by Sharon Garlough Brown — Book Review

Two Steps Forward by Sharon Garlough Brown — Book Review

A Book about Surrender

An Extra Mile by Sharon Garlough Brown–Book Review

 

 

 

 

 

Final Questions For Lent

“There are often bound to us, in the closest intimacy of social or family ties, natures hard and ungenial, with whom sympathy is impossible , and whose daily presence necessitates a constant conflict with an adverse influence.  There are, too, enemies open or secret, — whose enmity we may feel yet cannot define.  Our Lord, going before us in this hard way, showed us how we should walk.  It will be appropriate to the solemn self- examination of the period of Lent to ask ourselves, is there any false friend or covert enemy whom we must learn to tolerate, to bear with, to pity and forgive?  Can we in silent offices of love wash their feet as the Master washed the feet of Judas?  And, f we have no real enemies are there any bound to us in the relations of life whose habits and ways are annoying and distasteful to us?  Can we bear with them in love?  Can we avoid harsh judgements, and harsh speech, and the making known to others our annoyance?  The examination will probably teach us to feel the infinite distance between our divine Ideal, and change the censoriousness of others into prayer for ourselves.”

Harriet Beecher Stowe

I’ve come to really appreciate the work of Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of the famous anti-slavery novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin.  She was a staunch Christian and prolific writer.  For more of Harriet, see these posts:

A Lenten Quote

Harriet Beecher Stowe by Noel Gerson — Book Review

For more on the topic of self-examination:

Examine Yourself

Examination of Conscience

 

 

The Way to the Savior by Jeff and Abbey Land–Book Review

This lovely book could easily become a family keepsake and treasure.  Forty family devotions with beautiful illustrations are intended for use during the Lenten season.  Each day highlights a different topic such as:  sacrifice, thanksgiving, commitment, obedience and more.  Every devotion contains a Bible story or explanation of the theme;  Bible verses, a prayer and questions to consider.  It would be suitable for elementary age children.

The Way to the Savior

At the end of the book there are some “Memory Maker” pages which the family can use to journal their answers to questions about Lent.  For example:  What did our family members decide to give up or add during Lent this year?  What will you wear on Easter Sunday?  What have you learned while sharing this devotional?  With plenty of space, the answers could be recorded for more than one year.  I can imagine what fun it would be for the family to look back on years later.

I found only one issue:  the devotion discussing “the elements” or sacraments, describes the Holy Communion as a “representation” of Christ’s blood and body. According to Lutheran doctrine, Christ’s body and blood are present, not simply represented,” in with and under” the bread and wine. So if you are a Lutheran, or other denomination with a different view, review this section ahead of time so that  you can modify it to match your own beliefs.

VERDICT:  4 STARS because of the one doctrinal issue.

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

https://www.lifeway.com/en/product/the-way-to-the-savior-P005822240

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

The Right Kind of Faith

Our congregation has weekly Lenten services, and this year we’ve been blessed to have a minister who attends our church bring the Wednesday messages.  His homily this week addressed the critical topic of faith.

Have you ever thought about the idea that there are different sorts or levels of faith?  For example, I may understand Christianity.  I may be able to recite the Apostle’s Creed.  I may even read the Bible and attend church, and be perfectly well informed in the basics tenets of the faith.  I may know all this, but still not really believe it.

Or, I may know it and believe it in a superficial way.  I may intellectually accept it.  I may say, “yes, this is true.  These are the facts.”  I believe that Jesus died, was resurrected and is God’s Son.  I may believe in this way and yet still act as if these things do not matter.  I may fail to put my full trust in the facts that I profess to believe.  This has been called being a “practical pagan” or a “Christian atheist.” (You’ll read more about this in an upcoming book review.)

Saving faith not only understands and assents to the Christian worldview, it transforms believers.  Those who truly believe are willing to make changes in the way they live.  They surrender their will to put on” the mind of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 2:16) They trust Him even when their life and the world seem out of control.  Job was evidencing a saving faith when he said:

“Though he slay me, yet will I trust in Him.”  Job 13:15

The analogy our speaker gave went like this:  maybe every day, you see a man push a wheelbarrow across a tightrope between two skyscrapers;  you see it with your own eyes, so you know it is true;  you believe that every day he will continue to do this successfully.  However, this is the test– are you willing to get into the wheelbarrow?

There are some big theological words for each type of faith, but I don’t remember them, and you probably don’t need to know them either.  So I’ll simply leave you with our Lenten question for the week:  Do you have the right kind of faith?  Will you get into the wheelbarrow?

Brothers and Sisters in Christ, I implore you– Part 2

Part 2 (first and final measure)

What does the Bible say?

Revelation 21:

1 Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.  2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.

A long-awaited day. A day awe and joy so full you cry with relief. A day that reinforces all the promises, validates all the heartache, and ends the unnecessary. In this season of Lent as we look toward the day our King died for His people, His loves . . . this vision comforts. His love is so great; that like a hen covering her chicks, He took the disgusted spit in the face that we deserved. He took the slap that was for our shame, the angry clenched fist bruised and broke His skin instead of ours. The lashes meant for the criminal he willingly accepted. So much so that His countenance no longer resembled the Lord and Teacher His disciples came to know.

This Christ, the same Christ we put to death and who defeated it Is the Christ I follow. This Christ who says to me truly, truly; is the Christ Lord Jesus that is not just a swear word to me. He is my teacher, my confidant and loving Abba, Father. This is what the title Christian means and represents. I bring shame if I carry it carelessly. Therefore, I expect any church I attend to take this title and responsibility with the same seriousness. I expect any church that claims the title of Christ to believe in EVERY, SINGLE, TRUTH, written down and handed down to us in the Holy Bible. The true word of God. Anyone that selects as they wish, or adds a meaning without context, or intentionally disregards anything; should take a good long look at Revelation 22: 18 & 19.

Churches, Pastors, remember please. Remember your duty. Your sacred job to tell the truth. Your job is not to pander, it is not to spare feelings. (Re-read the new testament if you think Jesus did.) Your job is to unburden the burdened. To free the trapped. Your job is to warn those who blindly go. To warn the ignorant and hope they return to God and away from worldly temptations. And your job is the most important job on the planet.

John 14:

 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”

22 ` Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.

 

 

For this reason, God’s word must be the Christians first and final measure.  The rule by which we test all things. The standard for all templates of worship must follow the instruction, the guidebook and sacred history that is the Bible. It proves itself true time and time again. It shows us truths of heaven that are but shadows on this earth. Just as Jesus said.

 

John 14:

“They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: “See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.”

 

 

I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
Maker of heaven and earth.

And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died and was buried.
He descended into hell.
On the third day He rose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven
and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.
From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy Christian* Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.

*Christian: the ancient text reads “catholic,” meaning the whole Church as it confesses the wholeness of Christian doctrine.

Jesus I Come

We sang this hymn during our Ash Wednesday service, and it touched my heart. It is certainly appropriate for Lent, as it reminds us of how deep our sin is, and how gracious is the God who saved us.  It was evidently often used as a altar call and if you would like to know more about it, you can follow this link:   https://barryshymns.blogspot.com/2011/04/jesus-i-come.htmll.

Listen and enjoy: