Halloween or Reformation Day?

romans-1-16-not-ashamed2It seems that our world is head over heels in love with Halloween to the point that you can go to almost any store and find all kinds of paraphernalia. Halloween has become big business and the merchants are using their “trick or treat” to drain our pocketbooks and fill theirs. If you have looked closely these days the merchants are also promoting the death culture with the ghouls and goblins dripping with blood. Our public schools spend the month of October in preparation for the party centered around Halloween, costumes, candy and spooky music!

Have we become so enamored with Halloween that we have forgotten about what happened on Oct 31, 1517? We as Christians should know that this is a day not just about “fun” but about what happened in a German Monk’s life that would ultimately alter not only his life but the life of the church from that point forward. So let’s step away from Halloween and learn about the courage of one German Monk named Martin Luther.
Luther had been searching for peace and digesting the book of Romans in preparation for his class he was teaching. He read “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes,” [Rom 1:16] It was his “light bulb” moment. He realized that salvation could not be purchased; indulgences sold by the church were not a “get out of hell card free.” He gathered his courage and wrote about this transformation that had changed his life forever! He wanted the world to know this marvelous truth as well as the church’s wrong teaching about salvation. After writing his 95 points/theses he nailed them to the Wittenberg Castle Door. Soon, because of Gutenberg’s printing press invention, these 95 points soon found their way across the Roman Empire. Martin Luther’s boldness changed not only his life but the life of the church from that time forward.
We too should be as bold and courageous as Martin Luther to tell the world of this marvelous news. Stop and use this opportunity to share the gospel with those who do not know. So although Halloween trick or treat is a fun activity there is something far more significant that we should be talking and sharing about.

Here’s some ideas you could use with anyone, child or adult. Google Martin Luther and learn about his life. Then choose one of these activities to do with your family or neighbors. Let’s teach our culture about Reformation Day, the day the world changed forever.

Sing “A Mighty Fortress is our God” written by Martin Luther

Print out a picture of Martin Luther for little ones to color as you explain this day

 

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 “The Word of God is Powerful”

bible-prayers2aBible history is fascinating and teaches us many practical as well as spiritual lessons. The prophet Nahum was sent to encourage the kingdom of Judah as they were being assaulted by the Assyrians. In particular it was the king of Nineveh who was brutal. If you think ISIS is brutal, you “ain’t seen nothing yet.” In a contest for the title of “most brutal”  Assyria would win hands down.

While Judah waits for Nahum’s prophecy to happen, God in His mercy places a righteous king, Josiah on the throne in Judah. Why did Josiah earn the reputation of a righteous king? He was transformed by the renewing of his mind through the power of the Word of God and that happens when the Holy Spirit steps in and convicts us of our sin. [Rom 12/John 16]

God’s Word pierced his heart. He “heard the words of the law scroll, and he tore his clothes,” [2Kings 22]. And like Jeremiah reminded us in ch 6, he knew he stood at a crossroads. He considered the path before him, sought wise counsel and followed through on it. The point of his story is not the discovery of the Law but that it led to a complete reformation personally and nationally. Josiah allowed God to reform his thinking and his actions and it will do the same for you. Take another example, Martin Luther. He too was transformed by the renewing of his mind when he read ““The righteous by faith will live.” He too stood at a crossroads and on Oct 31st he nailed his 95 theses on the castle door and sparked the reformation that led to where we are today.

Both Josiah and Luther were reformed by the Word of God and it will do the same for you. But, be forewarned, when the Holy Spirit takes charge powerful things happen. King Josiah cleansed the temple, removed the idols, and deposed false teachers. Martin Luther caused the church to wake up and bring the gospel message to the people.

Are you ready for God to work in your life?

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“I Have Plenty of Time”

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Nahum 2: Eternity is Just Around the Corner

Our world is consumed with “fluff” meaning that which is without substance. It wants what “feels good.”  The city of Nineveh was like that; trusting in its captured riches at the expense of others. Like Nineveh, today when we speak to others of the goodness, holiness and sure justice of God they answer “What? Me Worry?” about eternity? I have plenty of time.

Learn the lesson of the man who built his barns; sat back and said; “You have plenty of goods stored up for many years; relax, eat, drink, celebrate.” But God said “you fool, this very night your life will be demanded back from  you…” [Luke 12] That was the mindset of Nineveh. God gave Nahum a message of both hope for the Judahites whose riches had been plundered by them and a message of imminent destruction for Nineveh. They had had 100+ years of blessing from God’s decree of judgment but like so many today said–tomorrow I will worry about eternity.

God is slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness but he is also “a zealous and avenging God.” He also “will certainly not allow the wicked to go unpunished.” God loved Judah; God loved Nineveh and God loves you. He may allow the storm to continue but one day the storm will pass and the sun will shine forth. God will bring an end to suffering and He will make all wrongs right again.

The Ninevites trusted in their walls but it was washed away in a single night. What do you trust in?

“Some trust in chariots and others in horsesbut we trust in the Lord our God.” [Psa 20]

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The Heart of God

exodus-34-and-jeremiah-5-character-of-god2Have you ever felt your heart so sad that you thought it would break? This is what Jeremiah faced for five full chapters. That is why, as Jeremiah, we begin to wonder—-is there any good news? Is it all bad news? And there right front and center we see the heart of God.

Jer 5:1 “See if you can find a single person who deals honestly and tries to be truthful. If you can, then I will not punish this city.” Flashback: Return to Gen 18 where we encounter Abraham and the Lord God as they converse about Sodom and Gomorrah. In His mercy he had quietly shared with Abraham: “I must go down and see if they are as wicked as the outcry suggests, If NOT, I want to know.”

We know that God is omniscient yet He still “wants to know.” And that is because God is a personal God not an arbitrary idol god. Chisolm writes: God always thoroughly investigates a situation before passing judgment and sending calamity. “The Lord would not arbitrarily destroy them [the people of Sodom and Gomorrah]. As a fair and just judge, He would examine the evidence and then reward their deeds appropriately. God does the same for each one of us and it is because God’s character is “compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness and truth.” It is because His “lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail.” [Lam 3] James reminds us that we too are to be “quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger.” [James 1]

Thank God for teaching us how to respond according to His character. May we learn to exhibit this same character quality to others.

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Read Jeremiah 2 and 3 “Then and Now”

Ever hear:  “I don’t want you and I don’t need you?” Devastating words that creep into your soul and you say how did it come to this? What did I do to deserve these words spat out at me? This is where God is in chapters 2 and 3. God asks; what have I done that you have chosen to dismiss Me out of your life? You were devoted to Me in our early years of our courtship. You had loved Me just like a new bride.

That was then.

This is now the new reality. You do not even ask where is the Lord? Even your priests who are responsible to teach the Law do not know me or ask this question. What happened? Was it something I said or did? These are the questions that come to mind when someone blatantly pierces our hearts.

God says you are like broken cisterns. The true Living Water is available but you have come to the cistern, looked away and said; I have my own shovel and will dig my own. Audaciously and coyly you say to God; isn’t it right that you are a forgiver of sins and gracious beyond all that I can understand? And yet, your words are words of a faithless child because you go your wayward ways. It was only pretend. Jesus charged the Church at Ephesus with losing their first love and this is the message God sent through Jeremiah.

God is pleading; return to me. Be truthful and honest. Break your rebellious ways and I will be a Father to you once again. Will you heed God’s pleading?

Listen to this youtube video and ask where you are: still stuck in the then or moved forward to the now.

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Tough Times Calls for Tough Messages

tough-times-calls-for-tough-measures2We know that Facebook users love, love, love pictures. Why? Because a picture is worth a thousand words. And Why do people love to switch churches? They don’t want to be told: you are a sinner! They want their ears tickled so they feel good when they leave church. People don’t like a preacher or a Facebook post talking about sin but if we don’t talk about sin and its consequences then we are failing to bring the Good News and Good News begins with the bad.

God’s message to Israel and to lost sinners is this: “you will be uprooted and torn down, destroyed and demolished, rebuilt and firmly planted.” We all must go through the bad before we can experience the good.  And that is why many who are unsaved reject the gospel message. Yet, the truth is this: unsaved people are broken. God wants to restore them to wholeness.

God prepared Jeremiah, and us as well, to be His chosen vessels and it comes at a very hot price—God’s kiln. But, that is not all; God has commissioned Jeremiah, and now us, to carry His message that all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. [Rom 3] Israel had forsaken God; people had then and now exchanged the truth of God for a lie. “Tough Love” words are needed because tough times call for a tough message.  You can’t know God’s “compassion, graciousness, slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness and faithfulness” character until you face the bad news of who you really are before God.

And this is why God chooses to use the ordinary to present His extraordinary message of repentance and restoration.  God is pleading, “come back to me” [Jer 3] Will you be God’s spokesperson?

 

 

 

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Jeremiah 1 “What’s Your Excuse?”

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In chapter 18 of Jeremiah we read that the Master Potter forms and uses the clay to form perfect vessels, of whom we are. You are God’s chosen vessel. God is a promise keeper to equip us for the task.  But, like Jeremiah and Moses (see Exodus 4) we come up with all kinds of excuses to not obey God’s call.

Remember Moses first excuse and now Jeremiah. “I can’t speak eloquently.” Beloved remember this, God doesn’t bless the silver tongued orator but the tongue that has been touched by the coals of the fire of His kiln. He has been forging His kiln to cleanse you, perfect you and prepare you as we said yesterday “for such a time as this.” This is the first of the many “deadly d’s” to keep us from obedience.

Second excuse is that “I am inadequate.” I am young or I am too old. “our Lord Jesus Christ equip you with every good thing to do His will.” If God calls He will spiritually enable you to do His work (2Tim 3:17). “I will most assuredly give you the words you are to speak for me.”

Third excuse is “fear of the unknown or fear of failure.” Beloved remember this truth: we haven’t been given a spirit of fear but of love, power and a sound mind. “I will be with you to protect you.”

Fourth excuse; it’s a dangerous world out there. Is this world more dangerous or is Hell waiting for the lost a more powerful reason to step out into the world? This world is filled with the women at the well who are seeking to alleviate their thirst.

Fifth reason; do I have to do it now? The answer is “YES!”

So what is your excuse? You might go and read the account of Moses whom God called. God finally in His mercy allowed Aaron to assist him. If you read the accounts in Numbers you will find that this was not the best choice. Aaron may have been Moses helpmate but he was “flaky” and truly not committed to the task of leadership. God used him but it was not God’s first choice. Will you be God’s first choice?

 

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Think About It—-

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2Corinthians 13 “Do I Have to?”

When children are being disciplined they are often sent to their rooms to “think about it.” Paul is saying to his beloved Corinthian children to think about their faith and their character as a child of God. A child is still a parent’s child but they are to think about their actions as related to their status. The Corinthians were to examine themselves, not for their salvation, for Paul had affirmed that over and over. They were to be fruit inspectors and examine or test themselves ‘in the faith.’

So how does one test to see if you are in the faith?

This is not a list of “do’s and don’ts’. Instead Paul infers that one must check one’s lifestyle that is apparent to all. We could begin in Matthew 5 with the “Be-Attitudes.” As kingdom people we are to demonstrate kingdom character qualities: poor in spirit, mourning over personal sin, meekness under pressure, hungering and thirsting for righteousness. These character qualities are observable in kingdom people’s conduct: merciful to others, pure in heart; and being a peacemaker. As others observe our character and our conduct they can see that we are God’s child because we have been anointed by the Holy Spirit with His fruit:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Beloved, you are not being “sent to your room” because you need to check your status as God’s child, but you are being asked to examine your life according to the character of God. How do you stack up?

 

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Contentment is a Learned Exercise

contentment2I have struggled with what Paul wrote to the Philippians when he wrote: “I have learned to be content in any circumstance…I have learned the secret of contentment.” How does one “learn” contentment?

I think I found the clue here in 2Corinthians 12. The background: Some spiritually proud “super apostles” sought to lead the Corinthians astray. Paul knew what they were saying behind his back; he is not becoming in appearance and he isn’t eloquent. What they had not known, and up to this time Paul had not shared, was that 14 years prior to this he had (for lack of better words) an “out of body” experience. Consider this; these so-called super apostles often boasted about their so-called revelations, but, Paul did not. In fact it was not until he had heard enough that he shared what had transpired to keep him humble.

Paul is saying “fast forward” now 14 yrs later. Let me share with you what happened ‘after’ my experience. I was given a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to keep me from spiritual pride; unlike these who had infiltrated the church.  It was real; it was painful.  I sought at least 3 times to have it removed but Christ said emphatically “no;” I have given you my grace of supernatural enablement.

And now Paul explains the secret of his contentment. He learned that a no answer is not the end but the beginning. A no answer meant that Christ would be his sufficiency in times he would need it most. It meant that the grace he had received was not ‘just enough’ but ‘more than enough.’ It is like the miracle of the loaves and fish. When in need, Christ provided not just enough but abundantly and that is what Christ did for Paul. And that is what Christ will do for you and for me.

The lesson for me, and perhaps you, is that Christ will provide just what I need at just the right time. Contentment is not a one time exercise but an on-going step by step, daily exercise. His grace is truly sufficient. 

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