Fanning the Flame #15 –Getting Good

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already obtained. Philippians 3:12-16

A book I read recently stated  that “getting good” at any complicated task takes about 10,000 hours of practice.  Now this author wasn’t speaking about the living the Christian life, but I imagine it still applies.  So if you want to “get good” at being a Christian, simply sitting in the pew won’t cut it.  At the rate of one hour per week, “getting good” will take approximately 192 years!  In case you haven’t noticed, none of us have that long!  To really mature as a Christian, we need to put in the hours –hours of prayer, Bible study, service and more.

This is exactly what the Fanning the Flame process is teaching us.  As a team, we are learning to be more disciplined in our prayer life;  to discover and use our spiritual gifts;  to repent of our sins;  to remember God’s promises;  to study His Word;  to fellowship with one another, and so on.  Hopefully, as we mature in our faith, we will influence others within the congregation to do the same.  We’ll be stronger, better witnesses.

Will we ever achieve complete sanctification?  Lutherans don’t think so.  However, like Paul, we need to press on and do what is in our power to become worthy followers of the gift we have already been given.  Christ died for our sins so that we could be reconciled with God and live with Him in eternity.  Is it enough to plunk ourselves down in the sanctuary once a week, sing a few hymns and drop a few dollars in the offering plate?  Is this a show of true gratitude, or is it just a pious habit we’ve developed over the years?  We can’t stand still in the life of faith, we have to practice.  We have to get good.

 

 

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Blessed to be a Blessing

“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times you may abound in every good work. As it is written, ‘He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.’ He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.”

II Corinthians 9:8-12 (ESV

Beth Ann blogged about the Aaronic blessing which we often hear at the end of the worship service, and I posted the hymn, “Sent Forth By God’s Blessing” which is a common recessional.  It occurs to me that God blesses us during our weekly worship, not only because He loves us, but because He wants us to go out and extend that blessing to others.  One church I visited had a sign as you exited the parking lot that read, “You are now entering the mission field.”  How often do we think about this?  Most of the time, church is over, and we simply slip back into our usual routines, without giving a thought to what God wants us to do next.  We’re happy to have been inspired, uplifted and blessed, but we don’t make time to “pay it forward.”

There are probably a million ways to do this.  We can just practice the fruits of the spirit by loving, being patient, kind and gentle in our interactions with others.  We can be generous to those in need.  We can invite somebody to church or Bible study.  We can say “thanks” or “have a blessed day.”  We can go down to the local mission and serve a meal.  We can help an elderly neighbor or a young mother.  We can give someone a hug.

The point is, God’s blessing isn’t just for you and me.  We’re to receive it, and then give it away.  There are many people out there who desperately need God.  How can we pass the blessing on?  I’d like to hear suggestions from other authors and readers.

 

Ponderings of a Pedaling Pastor — Book Review

This book is a discarded treasure I picked up recently in the local Salvation Army Thrift Store.  It caught my attention because the author, Pastor Dennis Whitmore, used to do a Christian radio spot with my husband, and I met his wife during my short stint as a substitute librarian for Washington County.

In the Bible, the Christian life is described variously described as a race, a journey, or a walk.  All of that implies direction.  To arrive somewhere, you have to travel in the right direction.  Pastor Whitmore has been traveling on his bike since childhood.  It’s given him time to muse about his beliefs and what it means to journey toward Christ.  In his brief essays he talks about the interesting people he meets (including John Glenn), little-know historical facts (the name Wheeling, as in W. Va. comes from an Indian word for ‘head’ and in the eighteenth century, Indians killed a man and put his head on a stake on the bank of the Ohio river as a warning — stay our of here!), and theology (after all, he is a Pastor).  Here are some of the things he has to stay about directions:

Ponderings of a Pedaling Pastor by [Whitmore, Dennis]

“Every path we take leads to a crossroads eventually.  Options present themselves.  Denying some to pursue others is necessary.  Even doing nothing is a choice.  But if you don’t regularly check your compass for true north, you may find yourself lost along the way:

“God sees who’s traveling in what direction.”

“Life constantly moves forward.  There is no reverse gear….it keeps going, and you have to go with it as it is.  That’s why in the Bible life is called a walk.”

“As I have watched many who ‘claimed the name’ embarrass that name and fall away, the message to me has been clear:  ‘Don’t follow my followers, follow me.'”

This is an engaging little book.  You can read it straight through, or read an essay a day as a devotional.  It will get you moving in the right direction.

No Choice

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.  These things I command you, so that you will love one another.” John 15:16-17

Jesus chose to love us and die for us as individuals.  Without Him, we would have no choice and no purpose at all! Our lives would be meaningless.  Amazingly, He chose us to be His friends (you will find this earlier in the same chapter) and for an important reason, to bear fruit, the fruit of love.  This is the harvest that will abide or last.

“Love never ends”  1 Corinthians 13:8

The worldly fruit we produce (money, knowledge, power, influence) is transient.  The fruit of love is eternal.  Like so many other topics the Lutheran Ladies have discussed this year, it all comes back to love.

The lesson?  Invest your time, talent and energy in the best fruit, the fruit that will last.  Cultivate love and give the harvest away.  That’s what the Christian life is about.