Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Today is a lot more than Halloween....

While most people celebrate Halloween on October 31, in the course of researching my book, I found out something very important in church history happened on October 31st, that has mostly been forgotten. If you go way back to the 1500's you'd find the monk Martin Luther trying to be the best monk that he could ever be.

Luther was born November 10, 1483 in Germany. He was raised to have a terrible fear of Christ. He didn't see him so much as a Savior but as an avenger. The grace of God and how He had come to bear man's sin upon the cross was not the focus of Church teachings. Martin was afraid, terribly afraid.

Martin was going to be a lawyer, in order to please his father, and make a lot of money to boot. One day, as he returned to university on his horse a severe thunderstorm broke out. Fearing imminent death, Martin promised the city's patron saint, Saint Anne, mother of the Virgin Mary, that he would become a monk if she would deliver him from the storm. He was delivered, so Luther set out to be a monk.

Luther felt no relief of the fear of God in studying to be a monk. No amount of prayers, fastings, self-denial could take away Martin's guilt. Finally, one day one of his teachers told him he would become a professor and could study the Bible. When Martin studied the book of Romans where it proclaimed: "But the righteous man shall live by faith" (Romans 1: 17), a transformation occurred.

All his life he had tried to do good works to be right with God. Now this verse said righteousness came by faith in Another. It wasn't trying to keep a bunch of rules and laws. Martin Luther came to see that Christ as the Good Shepherd, who came to lay His life down from the sheep.(John 10:11)

He saw that his church was keeping people in darkness. No common people were allowed to read the Bible. It was only written in Latin. Only the clergy knew how to read Latin. To be pardoned of sin, the Church sold indulgences. For a sum of money, you could be cleared of grievous sins, like murder or robbery. Thus Jesus' agony on the cross became of no effect, since they could cheaply be bought and sold.

Luther came to a realization that his fellow church goers were being deceived. He used his study of the Scriptures to find all the ways that the Church had gotten away from Biblical Christianity. He came up with 95 grievances, or what we call today the
95 Theses. He nailed them to the door of the Church at Wittenburg, Germany on October 31, 1517.

Soon, an uproar ensued. Luther would eventually face a trial in which he was asked to recant his theses. But he remained firm. People joined his cause, and broke away from the Catholic Church, becoming known as Lutherans. Thus the beginning of the Protestant Reformation started with a troubled monk named Martin Luther.

Obscured by a pagan holiday, October 31 is an important day in church history because it opened the door for freedom for the masses of humanity to read the Scriptures once again. As Jesus said, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear!" (Matthew 13: 9) Come to think of it, maybe that is why there is a pagan holiday, the devil sure doesn't want people to read God's Word!!


"Why does the world abhor the glad tidings of the Gospel and the blessings that go with it? Because the world belongs to the devil; under his direction the world persecutes the Gospel and would if it could nail again Christ the Son of God to the cross, even though He gave Himself unto spiritual death for the sins of the world."
Martin Luther

Saturday, October 27, 2012

To God be the Glory

Last night I watched my last child graduate from nursing school. I was so proud as I watched him march with his class, carrying his candle, symbolizing the lantern that Florence Nightingale bore so long ago. When the pianist played Pachelbel's Canon as the graduates walked the stage for diplomas and pins, I could not hold back my tears. But they were tears of joy. And tears filled with happy memories. I remember the love he had for a yellow stray cat named Sam, a little dog on his paper route named Toby, the friendships he made with his customers as a news carrier...

This son has a special compassion within him, bestowed by Christ, that was evidenced to me when he was a little boy, and to his instructors as he performed patient care, as a student nurse. He used this same care while working as an EMT previously.

Yet I say, "To God be the glory." He grew up learning the Bible from the time he was very small. I had the privilege of homeschooling this child. Homeschooling is not always a bed of roses. Yet it was fulfilling. He used to come at night and say, "Thanks for teaching me" before he went to bed when he was little.

Now he has his own sweet wife, a home, and two cats to boot. He also got hired at the same hospital where he trained. Life is shaping up well for my boy. He has always honored us as his parents. I think God took that seriously, in the day and age where many kids are dissing their parents. In Deuteronomy 5: 16, many blessings are promised to the one who does so.

To God be the glory. In the book of Proverbs (22:6) we parents are told that if we train up a child in the way he should go, that even when he is old he will not depart from it. In the case of some children, we may have to wait a long time, but in this case I am blessed to say I didn't have to wait.

I have been through manifold shadowy trials in my journey through life. This is one sunny spot on my pathway. Thanks for letting me share it with you...

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Dead to Sin....Alive to God

I found an old message from my church while on my cleaning binge the other day. It was from five years ago. Sometimes, when we find old things like that, we tend to shrug them off, or at least I do. I think to myself, "Oh, that was from 2007, it's 2012, what could that message have to say to me now?"

I found out it had something very important to say. Something that I am ashamed to admit, I have not really learned yet, even after knowing Christ for the greater portion of my life.

The book of Romans is a foundational book. I need to understand Romans in my spirit for victory in my spiritual life. It tells me what Christ did for me, it tells me what happened that day when He took my sins upon His body on the tree. But it also tells me that I was crucified there with Him when He died, that my old sinful body was put away permanently.

Is that true or isn't it? Most of my life I have not believed it is true. But Scripture says I am dead to sin (Romans 6:11) but alive to God. That doesn't mean I won't sin anymore, but if I do, its because I chose it, God has made a way for me to be free from that old life forever.

I think it has to start with thinking about what Christ did for me, and not only me, but everyone else too. Seeing people differently than I have before. Like layers of onion skin, God slowly peels layer after layer away to reveal the truth about mankind and His great love for them.

There are two categories of people really. One is bound for heaven. Earth is the closest to hell they will ever get. The other group is blinded by the evil one for whatever reason. Let us have compassion. They may do us great harm. Let us have compassion. This is the only heaven they will ever see.

Its not about "trying" to be nice to them. It is about begging them to be reconciled. (II Corinthians 5: 20-21) We don't deserve redemption either. It is realizing Christ took their sin burden just like He took yours and mine. He paid for their crimes too. That is what makes "hell" hell. They could have had heaven as a free gift. But they said no.

If I stand here and judge by my own human judgments than I am just like the rest of the world. But Jesus said "Judge the righteous judgment." (John 7:24) Jesus judged nothing by appearances, how much less so then should I?

It boils down to this: Everyone I see is "a dead man walking." Now hear me out. You are either dead to sin and alive to God like the Bible says if you are in Christ,(Romans 6: 11) or if you are not yet born again you are dead in your trespasses and sins.(Ephesians 2:1-3) But, and here is a BIG but, you can change that destiny, however, in ONE moment, by a moment of personal faith in Jesus Christ.

Lord, help me reckon, moment by moment, I am dead to sin and alive to God... Amen.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

In tribute to my loving neighbor...

A neighbor friend of ours that moved away back in the 70's graduated to Glory on Sunday after a long battle with liver cancer. Yet I remember her as if I had seen her yesterday. And I have comfort... comfort because I know I will see her again.

The year was 1974. I was in the dreaded 4th grade at a school I hated. My neighbor, Mrs. P was there at the bus stop the first day of school when I alighted off the bus, tears rolling down my face. As we came up the hill to where our houses stood side by side she told my mother, "There's only one sad tail here... " Nobody else seemed to mind our new school, but I did. I knew I was in for a rough year.

Mr and Mrs. P were of Greek origin and had four beautiful daughters, whom we played with. They also had a little collie dog named Raindrop who would run around the yard barking as we frolicked outside til it was dark. She and my Mom would sit with their lawn chairs in the front yard chatting away while their husbands worked at stressful jobs, bringing home the bacon.

But the thing I remember most about Mrs. P was that she took the time to open up her house for the kids of the neighborhood to host a Child Evangelism Fellowship- "Good News Club" for all the kids in the neighborhood. My sister reminded me that they moved all the furniture out of their family room so all the kids could cram in. We had Bible stories on flannel board, songs that we sang every week, Bible verses that we would memorize, and a snack. If we memorized our verses, we would get a New Testament.

I was in the midst of the traumatic fourth grade year, and was already well established in my habit of being a worrier. I used to tell Mrs. P my worries and she would listen to me and reassure me. The day came when I had memorized all of them. She presented me with a New Testament called The Greatest is Love, if I recall correctly. In it she wrote a special verse for me:

"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication
with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace
of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds
through Christ Jesus." Philippians 4: 6-7

Someone cared enough to take the time to intervene in the life of a child. How I remember that! How thankful I am for that! Well, the P's moved away back in the 70's, and I lost all touch with them. Somehow my sister started getting Christmas newsletters from them and one time about a year or so ago I got their address. I wrote Mrs. P, and thanked her for having that club, and for caring about me so many years ago.

Her girls got in touch with me and told me that letter meant a lot to her. They have kept us updated as both parents have been quite sick. I sent her one more card a couple weeks before she died. I hope she heard the message.

When I got the news yesterday, I had already been upset by some other long standing issues but it reminded me: Life is brief. If you love someone, tell them now. We all are as dust, a vapor blowing in the wind. I can rejoice because I know where Mrs. P is now. She trusted Jesus to be her Savior, her firm Rock, her only ticket to heaven. She stood on the Solid Rock.

While everything in this world crumbles around us, will you stand on the Solid Rock too? Believe that He did all the work for your salvation today and call upon His name today.

Friday, October 5, 2012

A Hurting World

Look around you. Do you see much hope on the horizon as you look at our world today? It seems we are growing expononentially in terms of technical knowledge but are we using this knowledge for good or for evil? When a woman can find out if her baby will have a defect so then she can get rid of it, is that "good"? Is advancing physics so we can build a better bomb "good"? Yes, we have so much more enlightenment than our ancestors, but where has it gotten us? Do you think this knowledge has made people happier?

I get so wrapped up in myself. Do you? You don't have to go very far to find someone that is down, in pain or hurting emotionally. Maybe just next door. All of have been bruised in our fleeting time on this planet where we breathe the numbers of breaths apportioned us by Almighty God. We are just a little bump on the horizon. Men have been born before us, and men will come after us.

You see someone acting out. My instant reaction is to think, "What a jerk." But wait. I don't know the path that led the person to that moment. The hidden hurts. The insults. The injustices.

Yes, we hurt each other. Sin against each other. But God knows deep down inside us the things that have made us the way we are. See how he knows us in Psalm 139. He knows like no one else could ever know. He knows even better than we could ever know ourselves.

So the next time I see a "jerk" am I going to be one right back to him? I hope not. I hope the mercy and grace of Christ will constrain me. Sometimes just a smile given to someone who is having a horrible day can help turn things around for them. Or what about the guy who cuts me off in traffic? If I am gracious, maybe I could help prevent an act of road rage, who knows?

All I know is, I have been given mercy, and I sure as heck don't deserve it. "Those people," the ones acting like jerks, have also been recipients of mercy, but they don't know it, they don't know the good news that Christ died for them. If I react as they do to me, they will continue in the blindness of ignorance. I am supposed to be Christ's representative in this dark world. Will I be one? That is up to me to decide.