What is Faith? (according to Martin Luther)

“Faith is a living, bold trust in God’s grace, so certain of God’s favor that it would risk death a thousand times trusting in it. Such confidence and knowledge of God’s grace makes you happy, joyful and bold in your relationship to God and all creatures. The Holy Spirit makes this happen through faith. Because of it, you freely, willingly and joyfully do good to everyone, serve everyone, suffer all kinds of things, love and praise the God who has shown you such grace. Thus, it is just as impossible to separate faith and works as it is to separate heat and light from fire! Therefore, watch out for your own false ideas and guard against good-for-nothing gossips, who think they’re smart enough to define faith and works, but really are the greatest of fools. Ask God to work faith in you, or you will remain forever without faith, no matter what you wish, say or can do.”

This is an excerpt from “An Introduction to St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans,” Luther’s German Bible of 1522 by Martin Luther, 1483-1546

For other Luther quotes, go to these post:

A Quote from Martin Luther

Martin Luther on Traveling Lightly

Martin Luther on Growing Our Gifts

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How it Works — the Fanning the Flame Process, part 1

This article was published in The Lutheran Ambassador, our denomination’s magazine.  It gives you a look at how the whole Fanning the Flame Process is working at St. Paul’s.  

I’m a member of St. Paul’s Free Lutheran Church in Leitersburg, Md.. Located in a small village, the congregation has grown smaller and the membership older over the years.  In an effort to become healthier, we embarked this year on a program of revitalization called “Fanning the Flame.”  Our ten-member team has been meeting, studying, and praying for the Holy Spirit to guide our efforts.  During this time of spiritual introspection, God has revealed our need to change our focus.  We must look outside of ourselves into our neighborhood, community and even the world.  We are small, but God still has a purpose for us.

Many member participated in a spiritual gift assessment to learn how we, as individuals and as a group, are best suited to serve God.  As Romans 12:6-8 says.

“We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.  If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith;  if it is serving, then serve;  if it is teaching, then teach;  if it is to encourage, then give encouragement;  if it is giving, then give generously;  if it is to lead, do it diligently;  if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.”

One of the most prominent gifts in our congregation is the gift of mercy.  This gift is the special ability God gives to some members of His body to feel empathy and compassion for other people who are dealing with physical, mental or emotional problems, and to translate their empathy into deeds that reflect the love of Christ.  (For a listing of all the spiritual gifts see Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4 and 1 Peter 4).

People with the gift of mercy are naturally attracted to caring ministries, ministries that help people meet all sorts of needs.  Caring ministries are also a great way to evangelize.  Why?  According to Pastor Harry Reeder, who developed Fanning the Flame, here’s what can happen when a congregation undertakes mercy ministry:

  • First, God is glorified because others see the gospel in action
  • Then, people are influenced by encountering authentic Christians
  • Last, church members are encouraged and edified, becoming better disciples as they participate in ministry

Since more than 50 percent of our members have the gift of mercy, it seemed like a no-brainer.  St. Paul’s needed to invest in mercy ministry.  Where would we start?

…… to be continued

A Different View of Life’s End

“We who follow Jesus Christ face our suffering and dying differently than others do.  We look to the Cross of Jesus Christ for hope and guidance and ultimately to the Risen Christ (2 Corinthians 5:15).  We, who belong to Christ through Baptism, do not measure a person’s worth by the ‘quality’ of life as limited by illness, disability, or aging.  We were of worth when helpless infants as in our Baptism God made us His (Romans 6:4), and we are still of worth in God’s care when we are helpless as a patient at the end of life (Romans 14:7-8).  We care about the dying, disabled, or elderly and attempt to bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2).  We bear witness to a better way, the way of the Cross of Jesus Christ in which God comes to care for us first by His suffering and dying (Hebrews 2:10) and then in our suffering and dying (Romans 8:28).”

Confession of Faith written for Lutherans For Life by Dr. Richard Eyer of Concordia University, Mequon, Wisconsin.  Learn more about Lutherans for Life by following this link:

https://www.lutheransforlife.org/

New Month/New Theme

The month of June makes me think of graduations and weddings.  At first glance, graduation seems like an ending — the end of life as a student.  Weddings on the other hand are a beginning — the beginning of a marriage.  But wait — every ending in life means a new beginning and every beginning means that something is over.  They’re tied together, birth and death, joy and sorrow;  and God is with us through all the changes.

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. ”  Romans 8:38-39

So this month, I thought the Lutheran Ladies (and our readers) would enjoy contemplating all of those beginnings and endings.  They’re going on every day, all around us.  What has ended for you this year?  What has started?  Are you a new person in some way you never imagined?  What lies ahead?  What have you had to leave behind?  Are you grieving?  Are you excited?  Are you anxious?

Let’s explore life’s changes together, in the presence of God.  He loves you and so do I!

Of course, there may be times when we will blog “off-topic” as the Spirit leads us.

Master of Your Own Destiny?

I criticized a book recently in one of my reviews because the author said someone was the master of their own destiny.  The Bible teaches us that God is in control, and we are not.  However, I discovered this quote today that reminds us that we are in control of one thing — our attitude and how we respond to the things that happen to us.

“It is a proverbial saying, that everyone makes his own destiny;  and this is usually interpreted, that every one, by his wise or unwise conduct, prepares good or evil for himself:  but we may also understand it, that whatever it be that he receives from the hand of Providence, he may so accommodate himself to it, that he will find his lot good for him, however much may seem to others to be wanting.”  Wm. Von Humboldt (Prussian philosopher)

Jesus tells us that we will have problems.  The world is infected by sin, and so are we. We can never be good enough or wise enough to avoid the consequences.  Nothing will keep us safe.  However, we can have contentment when we place our trust in Him.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

He has our ultimate good at heart.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  Romans 8:28

Elisabeth Elliot, a missionary who went to live with the same Ecuadorian tribe who killed her husband had this to say about our destiny:

“I found peace in the knowledge that I was in the hands of God.  Not in the confidence that I was not going to be killed.  Not in the false sense of security that God would protect me, any more than He protected my husband, the four missionaries, or Honoria (a man who was speared) from the wooden lances.  Simply in knowing that He held my destiny in His two hands what He did was right.”

Expect trouble– and when it comes, don’t trust yourself, trust the one who made you.  He is the master of your destiny.

 

It’s About Time

This was originally published in our denomination’s magazine, The Lutheran Ambassador

To God, “one day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day.”  (2 Peter 3:8).  While God exists outside of time, we humans do not.  In fact, I have spent a great deal of my life thinking about time, and I bet you have, too.

As a child, and even a teenager, I felt that I had “all the time in the world.”  When I grew up, married, had children and a career, there weren’t “enough hours in the day” to finish all the tasks that needed to be done.  Eventually the children grew up, my parents grew old, jobs changed and “time marched on.”  A few years ago I turned 65, an age at which I am, at least according to government standards, officially old.  Suddenly I realize that “time is short.”

I find myself wondering, “What things do I most want to do or accomplish in the time I have left?  Time has become a limited and precious commodity and I must decide how to “spend” it.

In actuality, the Bible tells me that my time on earth has always been brief —

“Man is like a breath;  his days are like a fleeting shadow”

says the Psalmist (144:4).  This means every one of us, regardless of our age, should have a sense of urgency about time and how to use it.  We must “work the works of Him who sent me while it is day;  night is coming when no one can work” (John 9:4).

Scripture give us a number of clear instructions about how to do this.

  • Be Grateful

We have no control over the length of our lives (Luke 2:25), so every day is a gift.  The Book of Ecclesiastes reminds us that God “has made everything beautiful in its time”(3:11) and “everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil”(3:13).  This means we should take pleasure in daily life and give thanks to God for the small and large blessings of each day.

  • Be Wise

“Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).  In Proverbs, the wise person is described as one who fears the Lord and shuns evil(14:16), is humble(12:15) and wins souls(11:30)

  • Be Ready

We should be ready to witness:  “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope you have.” (1 Peter 3:15). We should “be ready to do whatever is good”(Titus 3:1) We should be ready for Christ to come again for “you do not know on what day your Lord will come”(Matthew 24:42)

  • Be Trusting

This is a crucial element in how Christians approach time.  We cannot control time but we know the One who does.  He sent Jesus to save us “at the right time”(Romans 5:6).  Can’t we trust Him with the events of our lives, as well?  As a Christian, I can say along with David, “My times are in your hand.”(Psalm 31:15a).

 

Faith vs. Hope

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.  This is what the ancients were commended for.”  Hebrews 11:1-2

I couldn’t let the month past without blogging on these verses from Hebrews, my favorite book of the Bible.  It’s chock full of inspiring statements and this particular one hangs on my bedroom wall.

My husband, who is a pastor, tells me that when he visits people who are ill or dying, he often hears these words:  “I believe in Jesus, and I hope I am saved.”  This is not quite right, because there is a difference between having faith and having hope (check it out on the website Beth Ann recommended, https://www.differencebetween.com).  Hope is anticipating that something may come to pass;  faith is an assurance that it will.  The author of Hebrews in exactly right:  if we have faith in Christ, we do not merely hope in our salvation we can be sure of it.  It also means we can be assured of many other promises of God, such as:

  • He is working all things out for our good
  • He will never leave us or forsake us
  • He will supply all our needs
  • Nothing can separate us from Him

and more.  Even those before Christ had this kind of faith because trusted in the promises of God even without seeing their fulfillment.

“These all died in faith, not having received what was promised, but having seen it and greeted it from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.” Hebrews 11:13

They were looking forward to something;  we are looking back.  Shouldn’t our faith be even stronger since we have the privilege of knowing our salvation has already been accomplished through Christ’s death on the cross?

Have faith, friends.  You can be sure.

“If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”  Romans 10:9