Lunch Prayer

31 10 2007

I’ll appreciate your prayers today as I speak during lunch for a bible study at a law firm downtown.


Song For the Day

31 10 2007

Click here.

Luther, Ten Years Later

31 10 2007

1527: The Ten Year Anniversary of the Reformation*

James Swan

“Those who are in the teaching office should teach with the greatest faithfulness and expect no other remuneration than to be killed by the world, trampled underfoot, and despised by their own…… Teach purely and faithfully, and in all you do expect not glory but dishonour and contempt, not wealth but poverty, violence, prison, death, and every danger.” (Martin Luther, Works 12.220-221)

On October 31, churches throughout the world celebrate the nailing of Martin Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses to the Wittenberg Chapel door. The event represents the outpouring of Christianity unshackled and blossoming. Like Hilkiah finding the Book of the Law, the thirty-four year old Luther proclaimed the doctrinal “solas” to the world: scripture alone, Christ alone, grace alone, faith alone, and the recognition that all of life is lived to the glory of God alone. For over five hundred years, these biblical truths reclaimed by the Reformation have transformed individual lives and entire societies. Truly, churches do well to celebrate the victory of the Reformation.

But like all victories, we tend to overlook the struggles involved. We may even romanticize the Reformation. We see the triumphs, and think that God blesses particular individuals like Luther with great growth and success, while the rest of us struggle through our Christian lives with failures and hardship. Just ten years after the posting of the Ninety Five Theses, we find the forty-four year old Luther one of the most famous men in Europe. In 1527, he preached sixty sermons, lectured to students, wrote one hundred letters and fifteen tracts, and spent time working on his translation of the Old Testament. He did all this while having the responsibilities of a husband, father, minister, teacher, and political advisor. One can find this productivity throughout all of his life. We think God must have blessed Luther by making his life easier so he could concentrate on God’s work.

But a closer look at Luther in 1527 shows some surprising details. Scholars mark this as the year Luther’s health increasingly began to deteriorate. It is recorded that he had several fainting spells, even fainting during a sermon. Luther, a man who loved to preach, had to stop preaching for a while. He also complained of intense pain in his chest, accompanied by painful buzzing in the ears. It had become so severe that it was thought he was about to die. News of this spread quickly, and fear gripped the people of Wittenberg. An entire deathbed scene of “Luther’s last words” was recorded in which Luther, surrounded in bed by his closest companions, voiced a deep concern for his pregnant wife and infant son: “Lord God, I thank Thee for having allowed me to be a poor beggar on earth. I leave no house, property, or money. But you gave me a wife and children, I commend them unto Thee. Feed, instruct, and preserve them as Thou hast preserved me, O Thou Father of children and widows.”

Luther recovered, but his physical condition continued only to become worse from this point. This physical weakness brought on serious bouts of depression. This melancholy would accompany Luther throughout his life. As he struggled with failing health, he would at times wish for death to release him from the pain brought on by intense headaches, dizziness, arthritis, digestion problems, infections, and uric acid stones, to name only some of his maladies. In his pain, he questioned whether or not God had abandoned him. He wrote to Melancthon, “I spent more than a week in death and hell. My entire body was in pain, and I still tremble. Completely abandoned by Christ, I labored under the vacillations and storms of desperation and blasphemy against God. But through the prayers of the saints [Luther’s friends] God began to have mercy on me and pulled my soul from the inferno below.”

Some may be surprised to read these words by Luther. How could a man who stood alone against the Catholic Church and Roman Empire show such a lack of faith? My belief is that Luther was like all of us. We at times stand strong, and at other times we cry out to God to increase our faith. Where Luther lacked faith in 1527, he also displayed it remarkably in other instances. The plague ravaged Wittenberg that same year. Many of Luther’s friends died, and his students and colleagues fled for their lives. Luther’s son even became ill for a time. Luther though felt “public servants, preachers, mayors, judges, doctors, policemen, and neighbors of the sick who have no one to take care of them are on duty and must remain.” He did not begrudge those who fled, “for to flee dying and death and to save one’s own life is a natural instinct implanted by God and is not forbidden.” But for Luther, fleeing the plague was not an option. He turned his house into a makeshift hospital, where he and his pregnant wife took care of the dying. The house was quarantined, remaining so even after the plague subsided.

This was the year 1527 for Luther, the ten-year anniversary of the Reformation. How many of us in Luther’s place would question whether or not God was chastising us for sin? How many of us would question whether or not we were missing God’s will for our lives? How many of us would wonder why we were not successful in our Christian ministry? Luther though, expressed profound understanding for all these trials: “The only comfort against raging Satan is that we have God’s Word to save the souls of believers.” In all these trials, Luther clung to that Word, and its promise that it would see believers through the difficulties of life, and that it alone showed us Christ and our salvation, the only really important thing. Luther best expressed this at the end of the troubled year 1527, by penning, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.” Luther expresses that in our trials, God will be victorious, and so will we:

And though this world with devils filled should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God has willed his truth to triumph through us.
The prince of darkness grim? We tremble not for him.
His rage we can endure, for lo! His doom is sure.
One little word shall fell him.

* This was sent to me via email this morning from a pastor friend in AR; Originally posted @ Alpha and Omega Ministries

Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences

30 10 2007

Commonly known as The 95 Thesis, were posted by Luther 490 years ago.

Worship Follow-Up…

30 10 2007

Maybe a new feature on the GC blog? We’ll see how it goes…

In Sunday’s sermon, Nathan highlighted three requests which Moses brought before the LORD in Exodus 33 (which serve as a great template for praying for GC!):

  1. LORD, let me see Your ways, that I may know You
  2. LORD, let us have Your presence
  3. LORD, show me Your glory

And, I was especially struck by this line in Sunday’s sermon…

The same Moses who went before Pharaoh, and crossed the Red Sea, also bows low and worships God without presuming on His grace. We too must beg God to come with us.”

I invite you to interact with Sunday’s sermon also by supplying a comment below.

Dealing Responsibly With Anxious Souls-#8

29 10 2007
To some of the Lord’s redeemed children it has been granted to live with reoccurring doubts about their salvation.

Still others–who are not truly the Lord’s–have been enabled to coast through life with a firm confidence that their day of reckoning will prove favorable in His presence, when in fact, that day will be horrifically the opposite.

Why, then, does the spectrum of soul-confidence yield such disparity? And where must we turn to find a responsible soul-physician to diagnose the real problem and prescribe the right solution?

Last night I did something I’ve never done before; I listened to two different TV preachers deliver their ‘sermon.’ In separate broadcasts, both men successfully provided terribly unbiblical and destructive soul-care to his hearers (what’s new?).

The blame for their heresy will one day soon be laid at each’s doorstep.

The first, a white guy (from Houston), recounted “God’s blessing” to his church–because of his faith–that came by way of Bank of America loaning $65 million to his congregation so they could “finish” their meeting-facility “the right way.” The first bank (which had little faith) from which he sought the loan wouldn’t even come off of $25 million, excuse me, “just 25 million.

As this ‘preacher’ continued to emphasize, we too should have a “fatted calf” mentality rather than a “starving calf” mentality. The first bank, he said, “Had a calf that hadn’t eaten in six months” [insert big smile here]. But I, on the other hand, should expect God’s material blessings becauseGod is waiting to pour out His blessings on me if I will but trust Him.” [insert even larger smile here]. Therefore, I should stop saying, “I can’t afford it,” but should start saying, “I can’t afford it…right now.”

Implication: Go take out a loan from whatever bank will give it to you for whatever you really really really want to have…because God wants you to have it too. This is salvation.

The second TV ‘preacher,’ a swole African American guy who could easily kick my tail, challenged his hearers to be like the lame man to took up his pallet and walked. His invitation admonished his hearers to be like the healed lame man who was the only one in the room with Jesus who had enough self-will to change himself. [insert long sigh here].

Implication: If you want spiritual healing, you will have to muster up the determination to heal yourself and Jesus will be happy with you for doing so. This is salvation.

After that, I couldn’t handle it any more. I turned the TV off and went to bed. As I lay there, I thought about and prayed for the people of Grace Church. “Are we giving the gospel to them?” “Who’s right? The TV guy, or the things we’re teaching at Grace?” “How can we know?” “Are any of our people feeding on the sort of mess I heard on TV?” “Do any of them have a false confidence about their salvation?” “Do I?

Then, the Lord brought to mind three of the sources for false assurance mentioned in the Bible. Do any of the following fit you?

1. Knowing the Bible may give an unbeliever a false assurance of his salvation.

The end of John 5 unfolds an encounter between Jesus and the Jews. The Jews wrongly believed that their diligent “searching of the Scriptures” would grant to them eternal life. And search they did! We would be hard-pressed to find someone in our day more familiar with the Old Testament than a 1st century Jew–especially the Pharisees. However, the Jew’s false-confidence of their salvation was stemming from their knowledge of the Bible.

2. Supernatural spiritual experiences may give an unbeliever a false assurance of his salvation.

Jesus told us that “many” will recount to Him, on the day of their judgment, the supernatural spiritual experiences they have enjoyed as reason for their acceptance with God. Even though meaningful spiritual experiences happen to us, it is not reason enough to believe we are the Lord’s. (Receiving material blessings would fit into this category).

3. A reformed spiritual life may give an unbeliever a false assurance of his salvation.

For many, the alteration of lifestyle, the turning over of a new leaf, or the success of oath-keeping (“God, I promise I will never again…“) gives to some an assurance of their salvation that is faulty. The bible has something to say about this sort of person (see here also). Like the second TV preacher taught, this would be the category that a person with a great deal of “self-will” could find a false assurance of his salvation.

Lord willing, the next post in this series will seek to highlight to the Bible’s remedy for soul-anxiety, by pointing to the Bible’s only ground for legitimate assurance of salvation.

Two Questions for Reformation Day

29 10 2007

1. Do you know why this is being offered at this price?
2. If you don’t already own it, why haven’t you already clicked on the previous link to order it?