Category Archives: October Theme: Reformation

I don’t get what I deserve.

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What I deserve is Hell. Really, the ten commandments show me how true that is. According to law, I deserve nothing but punishment for the sins that I can’t help but commit. I’m selfish, I’m an ungrateful child, I’m inconsiderate . . . A glutton. For sure Sarah, the christian is not an iota better than her peers.

Yet for all my shortcomings, what makes me different is that I know something. I know Christ Jesus came and redeemed me. Linkin Park sings in one of my favorite songs,

“So let mercy come and wash away
What I’ve done
I’ll face myself to cross out what I’ve become
Erase myself
And let go of what I’ve done”
I wonder if they knew that Jesus is Mercy? I wonder if they knew when they wrote these words that Jesus does and did, wash away what we’ve done? I wonder too if they knew that they didn’t have to face themselves alone. Cuz, when we are left alone to meditate on our mistakes, it is truly unbearable. I certainly hope everyone comes to have the knowledge, that erasing ones self and letting go of what we’ve done, is only fully possible when Jesus does it for us. I know I deserve hell and the pain that comes with it. I also know (through the Holy Spirit) that Jesus saved me from that fate.
Thank the Lord almighty I don’t get what I deserve.
That being said, you now understand (I think) my perspective when I tell you that as I cancelled my appointment for a Spinal Cord Simulator ( https://www.spine-health.com/video/spinal-cord-stimulator-implant-video ) I did with faith. Faith that God knows what I go through. Faith that God is using my story for His good. Faith that one day I will get better than I deserve.
I passed the tests, I got approved, and it wasn’t enough. We came ten percent shy of being able to get it done. And time is almost out. Next year begins new deductibles and new hope. It’ll get done, or it won’t. And tomorrow me and my gimpy leg will wake up and move. I know what I deserve. And I know I’ve got it good. No one but God and I can see my pain, and that holds true with many others out there suffering and struggling with whatever.
 2 Corinthians 11:29&30
  29″ Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not burn with indignation? 30 If I must boast, I will boast about the things that show my weakness. “
Philippians 1:21
“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

 

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All the Glory to God

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This is the talk given by one of our congregational members during a recent workshop held. The amazing thing about this is that he is young and autistic, but he managed to grasp the concept better than some adults. The Lord was definitely speaking through him, It is with his permission that I post this. Thank you Nicolas for a heartfelt look into the Glory that should always be God’s.
Worthy Are You
Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created. Revelation 4:11.
The topic I have chosen is Glory to God. For my starting point, I would like to acknowledge that some people without knowledge of the Lord and his works might think its “selfish” of God to expect us to give glory to him. So I would like to start off with “why” should we give glory to God, and I will try to explain his works by putting them into perspective to do so.
Let me start off in the Old Testament with the Israelites. God’s people were in slavery in Egypt, but Moses did as God told him, and was able to lead them out. God even provided them with food and water in the wilderness. They still disobeyed God however, and were stuck there for 40 years. But even so, God still provided for them, and even allowed them to conquer Jericho as time passed. History went on with a similar cycle, that being: God lets Israel thrive and prosper, they disobey God and are disciplined for it, and God forgives and lets them prosper again and so on. There were several more specifics and details, but that sums up most of it until Jesus came. No matter how much they disobeyed, God always made things well in due time, he constantly forgave without limit.
Now let me talk about my own life for a bit. My Mom and Dad didn’t mean to start a family, they didn’t even love each other, and obviously this was a dysfunctional family. Eventually, they divorced, and took turns with the kids. One hand, you have a guy with a really loud and scary voice, coupled with a short temper. On the other hand, you have a woman who has anxiety, and is now has low income working day care. Combine both with two 6-8 year olds with autism, and a big sister to boot, and that will not go well with my Dad’s temper, or my Mom’s anxiety. They were put in this situation in the first place by disobeying God, by being intimate before marriage. But just like with the Israelites, God provided. My Mom got remarried to the ultimate male role model that is my stepdad, and is now so very happy. My brother & I were also put in a small Christian school, and a social skills group. It’s safe to say we have been much happier, and become more mature ever since. Also just like the Israelites however, I have done and said many things that I regret, and overall sinned against God, and I’m sure my family has too. And just like the Israelites, God has always forgiven me. To ensure that, he has his own son, Jesus, die on the cross, taking my sins with him. At this point, I hope it’s really been put into perspective.
Not only did he send his son to die so myself, and all of you can have a reserved seat in heaven with our names on it, because no matter how much I endlessly sin and disobey, he endlessly forgives me to no end! On top of that, he takes the time to provide for me and my family, and makes hard times good while we’re still here on earth! He did this exact same thing with the Israelites over 2000 years ago, and is still doing that now with no signs of stopping or slowing down in sight! He provides for us all, even when we sin, we may have to be disciplined, but he always forgives and continues to provide no matter what. He’s been doing that forever at this point.
The amount of mercy, grace, and love it takes to do that is so massive, it’s far beyond comprehension, and always will be. Every human has a breaking point for that sort of thing, a point where they snap, but God has been doing this for years and counting for everyone on earth! That’s a lot of tolerance, a lot of mercy, and most of all, a lot of love. For him to love, give, and provide unconditionally for thousands of years, for all his servants at once, deserves far more glory than we could ever give. If that doesn’t deserve the highest amount of glory we could possibly give and more, than nothing will.
Now we know, and hopefully understand why we should give glory to God, now we ask “how do I do it”? Well, to put it simply, we should thank, praise, and acknowledge God in everything we experience and do. We can lead by example doing God’s work, and by that, I mean showing Gods love to everyone around us, and making sure to acknowledge it is God’s love. To do that, we are to humble ourselves, if we are not acknowledging that it is God’s love we are showing, we would be getting all the credit, therefore glorifying ourselves, not God.
One simple, but effective way to glorify God is simply by thanking him for everything we have. An important thing to note however, is that even if we glorify God, that doesn’t mean everything is just going to be unicorns and rainbows in our lives. However, just like I mentioned earlier, when times are bad, God will still provide. So when we are in these times, it is important that we still take time to glorify God. If you glorify him in the good times, but neglect him in the bad, then did you really mean any of it at all?
So, in short, we show Gods love to our neighbors, acknowledging that it is God’s love, and thanking God for everything we have, any chance we can get, no matter our current situations. Those are just some examples, but the main point, is that we are to be “channels” of God’s love and glory to others, not sources of our own glory.
However, many Christians today misunderstand glorifying God, it is important to note things we should not do, as to not misunderstand. There are three main points I will mention, however, all can stem from one thing, pride.
The first is idol worship; idol worship is putting anything above God. An example for me, and probably many of you, is most forms of entertainment. Think for a moment, are there any movies or shows you watch, games you play, or books or stories you have read, that God would not be a fan of? If you’re like me, chances are there is for all three of those categories. For me to use these, is basically me saying “well, I suppose it couldn’t hurt, it’s just a game/show/book”. By me thinking that, it’s basically me saying “I don’t really care enough”. I’m putting my own interests over Gods, and that is my own pride at work. There has to be a line, where if we cross it, we just say no, and turn it off.
The second is hypocrisy, or judging, they fall into similar categories. This seems to be the most noticeable problem Christians of today have. We say we should obey the law, but many of us drive 5 miles higher than the speed limit on the highway. We say to turn the other cheek when wronged, yet we often feel the need to provoke another when they insulted us. There are more examples that many modern Christians tend to condemn. Homosexuality or transgender, abortion, believing in evolution, and many others. We know all of these things are not what God has willed, but if we see others doing these things, we should not condemn, or look down upon them in any way. Not to mention God can forgive any of those sins if asked, just like he can forgive any of ours. Even though we have not done those things specifically, if he can forgive them all the same, then what reason do we have to condemn them, and not our own sins? When we judge others, we think we are better than them. That is your own pride taking over, but that’s not the only sin here. By judging others for their sins, it gives others the impression that God is a God of condemnation and hate, which is not true. By doing this, we are not glorifying God, we are tarnishing his name.
The last of these things is lying. When we lie to others, it is most likely to protect ourselves or our reputation. But if found out, what does that say about God? It gives the impression that our priority is our own wellbeing, rather than that of God’s, which is not true. By lying, you are putting your own reputation above Gods reputation; you think you’re better than him. You know what that is? You guessed it, pride.
When we glorify God, it is important to not let our own pride get in the way. If you do, it will lead to various other things that do not glorify his reputation, but tarnishes it. If we are humble, and acknowledge it is all God’s work and love, we are most definitely glorifying him, but letting pride take over, does the exact opposite.
Now, are we expected to always do this without fail? Of course not, we may be the channels for Gods glory to others, but we are not God. We will make mistakes, we will disobey him, and we will do things that tarnish Gods reputation. Why? Because we are human! We have a sinful nature by heart, so we will continue to sin, that’s why it is important to keep a level head, and be understanding. If someone does bother us, if we lose our temper, and get angry or upset, we are more likely to have an irrational way of thinking. When in this state, we are more likely to say, and do things we will regret, and do things that tarnish God’s reputation.
So, in summary, to glorify God, we must keep a level head, be humble, understanding, and free of self-pride, acknowledge God in all things, at all times-good or bad, and show his love to others, through us.
Now, is this something we absolutely have to do to gain God’s forgiveness or salvation, in other words, are we forced to glorify him? No! We shouldn’t think we give glory to God because we have to, we should as a way to thank him for all he has done for us, it’s the least we could do. And after seeing, hearing, and experiencing Gods love firsthand in our own lives, what joy it would bring to show that same love of God to others who don’t know, haven’t seen, or don’t realize it yet. It makes God happy, and it makes us happy too.
Glory be to God everyone, it’s the least we could do, and it will make us and others happy too.

By: Nicholas Marquez

In a Sea of Princesses, Be Batman!!

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Ok, so maybe this seems a little off-topic for reformation, but I thought the picture was appropriate given that it is Halloween. When I think of the reformation, I try to put myself in the shoes of the leaders of this reform. What must it have been like to go up against something as mighty as the church? For them to say ‘nope- I don’t agree with your interpretation of God’s word’. Can you imagine the strength of conviction it would take to do that? The leaders at the time were telling them that they could ‘buy’ salvation and forgiveness, which as we know is not the truth of the word. Did the reformers ever have any self doubt? Did they ever think about what it would mean if they were wrong and the church was correct- would they lose their salvation? No, because they had read and studied God’s word, rather than just depending on the thoughts of others. In this world today, we are constantly bombarded by similar wolves in sheep’s clothing- telling us everything that we might want to hear. Television ‘pastors’ tell us that what God wants is for us to be rich, to have material things, to serve and love only ourselves. It is by attending a true church with members who both serve the Lord and study his word that we are able to combat and avoid this. In some ways, our church members are todays reformers- reformers of the current society that we live in. So we must continue to go to church, study the bible, and share his word. Be Batman!!

Interactive Study Blog-Hebrews Chapter 11

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One of our other authors, Michele, asked me to post the last several Hebrews interactive studies for her.  I hope you’ve been reading through Hebrews with her as much as I have!

In Chapter 11 we are told about faith.

“Faith is what our mind has that our emotions cannot change.”

I may be paraphrasing this quote from C.S. Lewis in “Mere Christianity” but I feel this is one of the best definitions I have ever heard.  As humans, our emotions can cause us to cycle back and forth on the way we feel, but our faith is something that our brain should never question.

Through our faith we come to understand the grace given to us.  But we cannot come to faith without scripture.  All of this works together to provide us with the food we need to mature in our faith.

Reformation Women

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The information in this post came from an article in The Lutheran Witness entitled “Faithful Women of the Reformation.”

Katie Luther–Martin Luther’s wife.  Luther called Katie, “my rib” and depended upon her good sense and management skills to run the household that became famous for Luther’s table talks and hospitality to students and many other. Katie was a former nun  You’ve probably heard of her, but what about these other reformation women?

  1. Elizabeth Cruciger who like Katie was a nun who converted to Lutheranism after reading the writings of Dr. Luther.  She has the privilege of being known as the first female Lutheran hymn writer and poet.  After sitting at the feet of the Reformation’s foremost theologians, she was inspired to write the text to the hymn, “The Only Son From Heaven.”
  2. Elizabeth of Brunswick, daughter of German nobility, married Eric I, Duke of Brunswick-Luneberg.  She converted to the Lutheran faith after being introduced to his teachings by her mother and corresponding with Luther himself.  After her husband’s death, Elizabeth ruled as regent for her young son and her influence was instrumental in the establishment of the Lutheran Church in lower Saxony.
  3. Ursula Von Munsterberg was the granddaughter of the king of Bohemia.  She was sent to a convent when very young and was instrumental in having Luther’s writings smuggled in for the nuns to read.  This lead many of them to leave the convent and monastic life.  Ursula took refuge in Luther’s home and wrote a defense(which was published)to the accusation that she was encouraging others to godless living.

How can we do our part to be “Reformation Women” today?  Send us your thoughts.

 

 

Luther and the Gospel

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” For in it (the gospel) the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.” Romans 1:17

For a  long time Martin Luther struggled with this verse.  Interpreting it according to the doctrines of the Catholic church at that time, he saw a wrathful God, intent upon punishing the unrighteous.  The only way to be righteous was to follow God’s laws and do good works.  The gospel was an extension of the law.

Luther was so eager to comply, to be righteous and earn God’s approval, that he spent as much as 6 hours a day in confession.  Still, he knew he could never do enough.  He was convinced of his own unworthiness and failure.

One day, in what is described as his “Tower Experience” Luther had an ‘aha’ moment.  He realized that the gospel was the free gift (grace)  of Christ’s righteousness imputed to us through faith.  God knew we couldn’t measure up and the gospel was the good news that God loved us anyway, and provided a way for our debt of sin to be paid by His Son.

This made a big difference to Martin, and it should to us.  It’s wonderful to have grown up Lutheran and to know the difference between law and gospel.  Here’s the verse that comes right before the one that brought Luther so much confusion and grief:

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” Romans 1:16

Are you thankful for the gospel?  Do you understand it rightly?  Send us your thoughts and comments.

Preparation

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This article by my husband stresses the importance of preparing for Reformation Sunday, and indeed for worship every Sunday. How do you/will you prepare to celebrate the Reformation this week?

goodnewsforabadworld

Today I began preparing for Reformation Sunday.  Some of you might be saying “what’s that?”.  Well, it’s the Sunday closest to October 31st, the 499th anniversary of the day Martin Luther began the Reformation by nailing 95 Theses to the door of the castle church in Wittenburg.   It always amazes me how many Protestant Christians know next to nothing about the Reformation.  After all, it’s the most important religious event of the last 1000 years.  But then again we live in a country where most people probably can’t tell you who was president in the year they were born, must less what happened in Germany 5 centuries ago.  (I know, I’m being smarmy, but it’s been that kind of day)

Still, for Lutherans at least, this is an important day, a day when we remember and celebrate the movement God began to reform His Church after many years of…

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What Stands Out? Hebrews Chapter 10

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Wow, we’re getting to the good part.  There are so many beautiful verses in this section of Hebrews.  How about …

“For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near.”  Hebrews 10:1

I love that phrase … “the law has but a shadow of the good things to come.”  Think about that.  The best things of this life are only a shadow of the joy we will feel when we meet Christ face to face.

And how about this one:

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”  Hebrews 10:24-25

It’s telling us, don’t waste time!  Enjoy the fellowship of other Christians!  Encourage them! Spread the good news, so that others do not miss out on eternity with Jesus.

“Therefore do not throw away your confidence which has a great reward.”  Hebrews 10:35

All of Hebrews up to this point has been telling us that we can rest assured of our salvation because Jesus is the perfect fulfillment of the law.  We are reconciled with the father through His blood.  He was the perfect and final sacrifice, and we no longer need to live up to God’s standards on our own.

This is a truly inspiring chapter– what do you think?  What stands out for you?

Christ Alone

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Our Elders recently held a workshop on the 5 solas of the Reformation.  There was singing, food and fellowship (what can I say, we’re Lutherans!) and a brief talk on each sola (speakers ranged from age 17-70 something).  I thought I’d post my talk on the topic Christ Alone.  Let me know what this sola means to you!

At first blush, Christ Alone may seem like a no brainer.  After all, we call ourselves Christians and we don’t have a collection of gods for every occasion like the ancient Greeks or modern day Hindus.  Doesn’t that mean we worship Christ alone?  Well, think again.  How many people, even Christians, have you heard say things like this:

  1. We all worship the same God by different names
  2. There are many paths to God
  3. God is loving and would not condemn anyone who is a good person, or has sincere religious beliefs, even if they are wrong.  After all, how can someone be held accountable for the family or culture  they are born into?

Because we live in a society that values tolerance and diversity ideas like this are widespread.  They may seem fair.  They may make sense to us. Unfortunately, they aren’t scriptural.  In John Chapter 14, verse 6 Jesus says:

 “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the father but by me.”

He doesn’t say I am one of the ways that some people come to God.  He says he is the way, the only way.  There is no wiggle room.

This is a big challenge to us as American Christians today, and one we should keep in mind when we think about “Christ Alone.”  Those of us studying the book of Ezekiel in our evening Bible Study are learning that God’s wrath was aroused not because his people abandoned Him, but because they were worshipping the gods of other nations along with Him.

The Christians of Martin Luther’s time had a different challenge to face, and in order to understand why “Christ Alone” was a rallying cry of the Reformation we need to know what it meant to them.  If you want a fancy term for this, it’s “sitz im leben”, a German phrase which means the setting or context in which something is placed.

In the 1500’s the Christian church in the West was the Roman Catholic Church.   Although the church taught that Christ’s death atoned for our sins, church doctrine added to Christ’s work by teaching that our souls must go to purgatory after death where they suffer and are purified of any sins not dealt with in life.  The prayers of the saints and the faithful could release them more quickly from purgatory. Good works and certain rites of the church (especially confession and penance) would also shorten the time in purgatory.  This led to many abuses, such as the selling of indulgences, and caused anxiety among the faithful, who could never be sure that they, or their loved ones had done enough, or fulfilled all the requirements necessary to be saved.  If you’ve read a biography of Martin Luther you know that he also fell prey to these kinds of doubts and fears.  Luther spent as much as 6 hours a day confessing his sins and still felt no true peace with God.

The Catholic Church no longer sells indulgences but their basic doctrines have not changed.  Indulgences are now granted for a long list of things that include studying the scripture, praying the rosary or obtaining a blessing from the Pope. They can be earned by individuals and also religious institutions and still have the same purpose – to lessen the time of suffering in purgatory.

As Protestants we do not believe in purgatory but many of our denominations have fallen into other kinds of legalistic practices.  Perhaps you have heard someone say “do your best and then rely upon Christ to do the rest?”  Or met a Christian who insisted that you must “invite Christ into your heart”, pray the sinner’s prayer, be fully immersed in baptism or perform certain specific works if you want to be saved.

Again, this thinking may make sense to us.  We like to know the rules.  We are accustomed to believing we get what we deserve and what we earn.  But the Bible tells us in Romans 10:9:

 “…if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord, and believe in you heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

And in 1 Timothy 2:5-6

 “For there is one God and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, the testimony to which was borne at the proper time.”

The Reformers pointed to these and similar verses to prove that the sacrifice of Christ for our sins is sufficient. In fact it’s presumptuous to think man can add anything to what God has done.

I’ve been a Lutheran for most of my life and have had good Lutheran instruction, so I find it fairly easy to accept and understand the doctrine of Christ Alone intellectually. Maybe you feel the same way.  However, as I prepared this talk, I realized that if I owe my eternal life entirely to Christ, shouldn’t I also be living completely for Him?  I’be been asking myself questions like this:

  1. Do I trust in Christ Alone?  Or do I trust in my pension, my savings accounts, my education or the military might of my country?
  2. Is Christ Alone my heart’s desire?  Or are things like an attractive home, a successful family life, or an exciting vacation what I really want?
  3. Do I strive to “put on the mind of Christ when making a decision?  Or am I influenced by my friends, family and even well-known experts?
  4. Do I long to hear Christ say “well done good and faithful servant”?  Or would I rather hear words of approval from my fellow church members, spouse, children or friends?
  5. Is my service to the church and my works of charity something I do for Christ?  Or something I do look good in the eyes of others and gain their admiration?
  6. Do I mean it when I say ‘thy will be done’?  Or do I really want my own plans to be blessed by God?

So today, I’m asking you….

Where do your thoughts linger?  How do you spend your time and your money?  Do your checkbook, your calendar and your thoughts reflect a life lived for Christ alone?  Remember John the Baptist said, “I must decrease so he can increase.” Are you living your life every day so that people will see more of Christ and less of you?

I’d like to close with a quote from a Christian classic called The Christian’s Guide to a Happy Life by Hannah Whitehall Smith that I find personally challenging.

“Once it was ‘I and not Christ’.  Next it was ‘I and Christ.’  Perhaps now it is even ‘Christ and I.’ But has it come yet to be Christ only and not I at all?”