When You’re Sick

Both my reunion group sister and I have been suffering from minor complaints lately: infection, fatigue, aches and pains. All of these “thorns of the flesh” interfere with my spiritual disciplines and make me feel guilty. The book of James tells us:

Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. “James 5:13

We should not stop praying when we’re ill, but it’s okay to be patient with ourselves. If you are struggling, as I have been, here are some comforting quotes:

“Make allowance for infirmities of the flesh, which are purely physical. To be fatigued, body and soul, is not sin; to be in ‘heaviness’ is not sin. Christian life is not a feeling; it is a principle: when your hearts will not fly, let them go, and if they ‘will neither fly nor go,’ be patient with them, and take them to Christ, as you would carry your little lame child to a tender-hearted, skillful surgeon. Does the surgeon, in such a case, upbraid the child for being lame?

Elizabeth Prentiss

“When you feel ill and indisposed, and when in this condition your prayer is cold, heavy, filled with despondency, and even despair, do not be disheartened or despairing, for the Lord knows your sick and painful condition. Struggle against your infirmity, pray as much as you have strength to, and the Lod will not despise the infirmity of your flesh and spirit.”

Father John

And remember:

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. Romans 8:26

New Month/No Theme

Hello readers! It’s a new month already, and for May there will be no theme, just going where the Spirit leads.

I’m sure I’ll be doing book reviews, and maybe even reviewing a movie or two. I’ll share some inspiring quotes and finish up my lectio divina study of the book of Mark. Maybe I’ll begin another study.

I hope this month each of you will think about how God is at work in your life, and how He is speaking to you. Is it through nature? Art? Worship services? His Word? The books you read or the people you meet? When you pay attention, you will find God is everywhere.

If you have questions, or a topic you’d like to discuss, please send a comment, or email the Lutheran Ladies at freelutherans@myactv.net.

God loves you and so do !

Spiritual Blessings

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” Ephesians 1:3

This post is actually a continuation of last month’s discussions on the Holy Spirit.  During one of the studies at our church, we talked about the blessings that come from the Spirit.  If you read further in the first chapter of Ephesians, you will find that those blessings include:

  • We were chosen by God for salvation
  • We have been adopted as children of God
  • We have forgiveness for our sins
  • We have been given insight into God’s Word
  • We have been received spiritual gifts
  • We have the power to do God’s Will
  • We will live forever with Christ

These gifts from “the heavenly realm” are not temporal, but eternal.  Because of our unity with Christ through the Holy Spirit, we enjoy them now.  In addition, the Spirit is at work in the church providing us with the spiritual blessings offered in the means of grace –Word (proclamation) and Sacrament (baptism and communion).

All people benefit from common graces which also comes from the Spirit of God–things like music, art, beauty, nature, marriage, community, creativity and more.  We have each been richly blessed — how should we respond?

For more about blessings see these posts:

Blessings

Martin Luther on Heavenly Blessings

Thankful for Spiritual Blessings

 

Unity in the Spirit

Most Christians agree that unity within the church is not only a worthwhile goal, but necessary,  In the high priestly prayer of Jesus, shortly before His death, he makes this request of God::

“…. that they (his followers) may all be one in me, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they may also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.  The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” John 17:21-23

This spiritual unity of believers is described in the Bible with organic analogies, such as the vine and the branches (John 15:5) or the human body (1 Cor. 12:12).  It is only possible through the reconciling death of Christ on the cross, and the action of the Holy Spirit.  It does not depend upon uniformity (we all have different gifts) or complete agreement with one another, but on love and forgiveness.  In Ephesians, Paul says:

“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  There is one body and one Spirit–just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call–one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.”  Ephesians 4:1-6

If you look closely, you will see that our unity depends upon the fruit of the Spirit:  love, gentleness, patience, and peace.  These are gifts.  Treasure them, cultivate them, be worthy of them.

For more on unity see these posts:

Unity Not Uniformity

Tertullian on Christian Unity

Dwelling In Unity

 

John Stott on the Holy Spirit

“Without the Holy Spirit, Christian discipleship would be inconceivable, even impossible.  There can be no life without the life-giver, no understanding without the Spirit of truth, no fellowship without the unity of the Spirit, no Christlikeness of character apart from His fruit, and no effective witness without His power.  As a body without breath is a corpse, so the church without the Spirit is dead.”  John Stott

This quote pretty well sums up all we have been discussing this month about the Holy Spirit.  For more about John Stott, see these posts:

How Should We Then Live? –A Quote by John Stott

How to Read Scripture (according to John Stott)

Stott on the Christian Life by Tim Chester –Book Review

 

Grieving the Spirit

“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. ” Ephesians 4:30

In our most recent class about the Holy Spirit, we discussed ways that we can mistreat or grieve the Spirit.

  • Disobedience–In Galatians, Paul says, “live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.”  If we deliberately live in ways contrary to God’s law, we are hurting the Spirit.
  • Blaspheming — this is not only cursing, but using the name of God in an unreverent or trivial way — such as using the phrase, OMG.  This is disrespecting the Spirit.
  • Lying to the Holy Spirit — remember Ananias and Sapphira in the book of Acts?  They tried to pretend they were giving more than they really were.  Peter chastised them, saying, “How could you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord?” Acts 5:9.  A promise to God should not be taken lightly.
  • Hardening our hearts — God is love, and if we when His Spirit is in us, we will be loving;  however, we can resist that Spirit by being angry, resentful, or unforgiving
  • Quenching the Spirit–the Spirit gives us gifts to be used for the benefit of the church and other people;  when we refuse to use those gifts, we are denying the Spirit
  • Spurning the sanctifying Spirit — the Spirit wants to make us holy.  When we refuse to participate in our own sanctification by neglecting worship, prayer and Bible study, we are turning away from the Spirit.

Why do we do these things? (and we all do some of the time).  There may be many reasons — fear, ignorance, worldly influence are at play for sure.  Mostly though, there’s one big answer — SIN.  God loves us; He wants us to be Holy.  He placed His Spirit within us to help us.  Don’t waste that gift.

 

 

The Counselor by A.W. Tozer–Book Review

A. W. Tozer writes in a style so clear and straight forward that you will easily imagine yourself sitting in church listening to him preach.  He presents the Holy Spirit as a person, not a quality such as enthusiasm or courage.  This person is a full member of the trinity, and as Christians, we should desire a close and transforming relationship with Him.

Tozer does not pull punches.  He believes that the Holy Spirit will change us, just as the disciples were changed..  After Pentecost:

  • They had the illuminating knowledge that God was with them
  • They were filled with joy
  • They preached with power
  • They had authority
  • They were separated from the world
  • They delighted in prayer
  • They loved the Scriptures

A Spirit-filled church will exhibit these same qualities, seeking a knowledge of God, exhibiting joy, being useful to the community and influencing the society around them.  Unfortunately Tozer says:

“Much of our Christianity is social instead of spiritual.  We should be a spiritual body with social overtones, but most of our churches are social bodies with spiritual overtones.”

Instead of being led by the Spirit, many Christians fall into one of these categories:

  • “Fun” Christians — using Christianity as a form of entertainment
  • “Sunday” Christians — going to church on Sunday, but living in a worldly way the rest of the time
  • “Comfortable” Christians –refusing to allow their faith to interfere with their own plans and routines
  • “Cultural” Christians –believing the cultural value of the church is good for them, but unwilling to allow the Spirit to change them

On the contrary, Spiritual Christians:

  • Want to be rid of their sins
  • Desire to know God
  • Hear God’s voice
  • Sense God’s presence

In spite of agreeing with Tozer about these and other fundamental points, I take issue with his understanding of how and when a Christian receives the Spirit.  As a Lutheran, I believe the Holy Spirit is imparted at the time of baptism.  Tozer maintains that the coming on the Spirit into the Christians’ life is a second event, separate from conversion.

VERDICT:  3 Stars because of the doctrinal differences

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

https://www.moodypublishers.com/the-counselor/

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

For more on A. W. Tozer see this post:

A Quote by A. W. Tozer

 

 

 

Are You a Spiritual Person?

What makes a person spiritual?  Too often these days “spirituality” is associated with New Age or Eastern beliefs, and some even insist that “I am spiritual, but not religious.”  For Christians the true meaning of spirituality is inexorably linked to the Holy Spirit, who indwells all believers.  In our most recent class on the Holy Spirit we learned how the Spirit works in the lives of individual Christians.  The Spirit convicts us of our sin, brings us into fellowship with God and others, and works through our sanctification to make us more Christlike.

According to the Bible, there are three types of people:

  1. The natural person — this is how we are born
  2. “People of the flesh”– people who know Christ, but are still living as spiritual infants
  3. Spiritual people– those who are led by the Spirit (1 Cor. 2:11-12); who are spiritually minded

Every believer receives spiritual gifts for the building up of the church (1 Peter  4:10-11) as well as spiritual blessings (Ephesians 1:3).  Believers are meant to be spiritual stones, built into a spiritual house where they dedicate their lives fully to God. (1 Peter 2:5).

Herbert Lockyer, (1886–1984) a minister and best-selling author of more than 50 books, lists these characteristics that identify a truly spiritual person:

  • They are misunderstood by most people
  • They show signs of development in their faith life (spiritual growth)
  • They accept the truth of Scripture
  • They are discerning, able to correctly understand spiritual truth
  • They are compassionate, putting their faith into action
  • They live a life that is confident in the knowledge of victory in Christ

Take a close look and evaluate yourself.  Are you a spiritual person?

For more about spirituality see these posts:

Streams of Living Water by Richard J. Foster–Book Review

Developing Spiritual Habits

What Damages our Spiritual Life? (according to Hannah Whitall Smith)

 

 

 

The Holy Spirit and the Church

If you read through the  book of Acts, you will see how involved the Holy Spirit was in the formation of the church.  In Chapter 2, on the day of Pentecost, the disciples were all together when they heard a sound like rushing wind and tongues of fire appeared and resting on each of them.

“And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.”  Acts 2:4                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     They begin to peak to the crowd that gathers in a variety of languages (note that these were known languages), so that each person can hear and understand the Gospel.  This leads into Peter’s sermon in which the Spirit lays out pattern for conversion for us to follow.  First, he cites the prophecy of Joel that extends the Lord’s plan of salvation to all of mankind:

” And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh …. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”  Acts 2:17 & 21

He begins by addressing “Men of Judea”(Acts 2:14), proceeds to “Men of Israel”(Acts 2:22) and finally “Brothers”(Acts 2:29), once again showing that the message of the Gospel is for all.  Many are convicted of their sin when he tells them:

“this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed ….” Acts 2:23

When they ask, what they can do, he replies:

“Repent and be baptized, every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Acts 2:38

The Spirit gives the Word, convicts the heart of each sinner, and leads to repentance.

“So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls”  Acts 2:41

The birthday of the church, the coming of the Spirit, forever linked.

For more on the book of Acts see:

Evangelistic Acts

Study Resources for Ladies

Wind, Wind Blow on Me

 

 

 

 

Apathy, Sympathy or Empathy?

I’m currently reading a book about kindness (a fruit of the Spirit) which I’ll review tomorrow.  Today, however, I want to talk about one interesting idea that stuck me — there is a difference between sympathy and empathy.  Here’s how the author describes it:

  • Apathy:  I don’t care if others get wet if I stay dry
  • Sympathy:  Here’s an umbrella, hope it helps
  • Empathy:  Standing in the rain, together

Often, as Christians, we show sympathy — which certainly isn’t bad, and sometimes it’s all we are able to do–but we never try to go any deeper.  However, the Bible tells us to:

“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” Romans 12:15

Sounds like empathy, doesn’t it?  Deep empathy requires listening to others so that we can understand what it is they really need.  We normally empathize more easily with people who are like us — people who have led similar lives or hold similar beliefs.  However, we can increase our empathy when we practice.  Here are some ideas:

  • Ask someone to share a favorite tradition from their culture or typical day in the country they are from.
  • Have a cross-cultural potluck.  Talk about what makes each dish a favorite.
  • Read a book about a different culture or with a main character whose race or country is different than your own.
  • Ask someone from a different faith tradition to write down five important ideas about their belief system and you do the same.  Sit down and talk about them.
  • Have a conversation with someone who is much older or much younger than you are.  Listen thoughtfully to their opinions.

Jesus was never apathetic.  He showed sympathy and empathy for many different people — the Samaritan woman, a tax collector, the rich young ruler.  He listened to them;  he spent time with them, and He understood their needs.  Of course, He was God and we are not;  but we are called to imitate Him and be guided by the Spirit.  As Paul said:

This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words.[“1 Corinthians 2:12

Listen to others; listen to the Spirit;  practice empathy.