Reformation Day!

I never really understood how the modern-day churches came into existence until I became a Lutheran. There have been books, books and more books written about the Reformation and then there is the history behind the different “versions” of the Lutheran Church. I don’t want to engage in a discussion about the differences between the various churches in existence today except to say that, the world of religion would not be the same if it were not for Martin Luther. Today is Reformation Day. It commemorates the posting of Martin Luther’s 95 theses’ on the doors of the All Saints Church in Wittenberg Germany in 1517. Martin Luther was a Catholic Priest who was translating the bible from Latin into German when he started to truly understand what the messages were. Martin Luther began sharing the Word of God with lay people for the first time in history. Until his acts of disobedience, only the Priests of the Catholic Church were reading the bible and selecting verses to be shared.

One of his strongest positions was on the practice that freedom from God’s punishment for sin could be bought with money. He became an outlaw under Emperor Charles V and was eventually excommunicated by Pope Leo X in 1520. Martin Luther gave the Bible to the people and began teaching that the Bible was the only source of God’s Word. His “freeing” of the Bible into everyone’s hands became the birth of all Christian religions we know today. Martin Luther was also very antagonistic toward those of Jewish faith and believed in a very strict interpretation of the teachings of the bible. No matter what denomination you worship in, if you are reading the Bible, you have Martin Luther to thank. Happy Reformation Day!

20Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin. 21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. 28 For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.” Romans 3:20-26, 28

These verses show us where Martin Luther’s mind was at in 1517. The practice until then was for people to pay the church to forgive their sins and that it was only the Priests that could forgive sins. As a former Catholic, I remember going to confessional, telling my sins to the Priest and being forgiven after I recited prayers to God, the Saints or the Virgin Mary. Confession of sin is still a paramount tenet of Protestant religions and we should do so without hesitation. The key that Martin Luther wanted us to know is that you can speak directly to God about your sins and that they are forgiven because we have all been justified by God’s grace alone. No special payments, no works, no special prayers; just God’s grace and love is what has saved us.

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Finding Strength

“Why do I even bother?” It seems that I’m asking myself this question alot these days. Why vote? Why speak up? Why do I care? Does my opinion really matter? We all ask ourselves these questions from time to time. I wish I had an answer to why we ask them. It seems to me that we are programmed to care about many of things in this world, even the things that have no direct impact on us. I suppose this is where compassion lives – we care. When we care, it matters to us. Our ability to influence the outcome is another story altogether.But we still care and can get frustrated when we try to help and get no response. We’ll vote in the November elections and if our candidate isn’t elected, we’ll get frustrated and say, “Why bother?”

Imagine for a moment though, no one cared. If it didn’t immediately affect them, they ignored it. People being directly affected by discrimination started civil rights movements but it was people who cared enough to help that made a difference. You can see where change has taken place across the planet and there were always people willing to do something to make that change possible. This door swings both ways – good and evil are accomplished by people willing to take action. The good news is that the good has far out numbered the evil. So what motivates you? Perhaps it’s music or reading or maybe even a special person. Know what helps to motivate you and keep that close so you can use it when doubt creeps in. Staying positive is often easier said than done but you never know when or if you will be someone else’s inspiration.

16 May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, 17 encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.” 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17

I can’t even begin to imagine if God had given up on us. We were terrible children who won’t or couldn’t obey His simple commands and requests. We grew impatient waiting, we ignored Him and when He did send us a savior, we turned away and then killed Him. But God was patient and knew us better than we knew ourselves. He let His plan unfold and now there are millions of Christians in this world and millions more now have eternal life because of Jesus. We are encouraged because we have faith in the Word of God.

We often hear that we should be looking for the silver lining in everything. Honestly, it is hard to find good in so much of the bad that is going on in this world. God tells us to encourage our hearts and be strengthened in good deed and word. The best place to find these is in the bible. We will never know the real purpose of evil but we know the real promises of God, through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. The devil does bad things to get us to turn away from God and our best defense against him is turning toward God. Seek Him in everything and you will find encouragement and strength.

Why Me?

It seems that everywhere I look these days; someone I know is living through some hardship. There always seems to be a new cancer diagnosis or new medical condition afflicting a parent. I’ve been saying for over a year now, when I find myself talking to a friend about caring for our parents, this never happened when we were kids. We were supposed to be talking about grandkids or celebrating our children’s college graduation but instead, we talk about long-term care facilities. People faced with these types of challenges or even a serious personal medical diagnosis; often begin to question God and the purpose of these trials.

It is an easy path to go towards. How could God let this happen? It was a question heard often after the 9/11 attacks in the U.S. What we didn’t hear about were all of the people who were saved that day. The bus that ran late, the missed cab or train, and even the screaming fight between spouses where terrible things were said in anger; all resulted in saved lives. No one asked the question, why were they spared? Over time, these circumstances may reveal why they happened but they may not. I knew a woman who had been diagnosed with cancer at least four different times in her life. She fought each time and won. She became an inspiration to a number of people; they could use her example to boost themselves or people they knew when cancer struck another home.Our attitude and outlook are based on our reaction to the circumstances presented not on the circumstances themselves. We are in control of our attitude and focusing on that, instead of the meaning or reason, is what allows us to inspire others.

6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” 1 Peter 1:6-8

I have written before that we WILL have trials. We see this repeated in the bible. This verse in First Peter is very revealing. I first saw verse 8 and thought about writing about faith as expressed in our not seeing Jesus Christ or God. However, the verses before and after are more inspiring. We will have trials, our faith is to be strengthened by them and as a result, we will have salvation. These trials are a result of our sin, started in the very beginning, and continuing throughout our lives.

We sin daily; its our nature. God sent His Son to live the perfect life – free from Sin, so that we may have eternal life through Him. Lets not let the trials of this life get in the way of our eternal life. God’s trials will test our faith but we should not let that diminish our belief in Jesus Christ as our Savior. Anger is a human reaction to negative circumstances but it doesn’t produce a single positive outcome. Turn to God for understanding, comfort and most of all, LOVE. God loves you and while it isn’t how we would show love; we aren’t Him. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him, shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16. Our Father loves us; never forget that.

What’s the Plan?

Do you start your workweek with a plan? How about the workday? Planning is easy for some people and then there are those who struggle to get out the front door on time each day. The concept of “planning” can be used for short-term things like the best way to drive to work or for long-term projects like building a house or starting a business. Whichever you are doing, a plan always starts with the end in mind. What is it you want to do or accomplish? Some authors call that the vision but “the end” is as simple as knowing what you are planning for. The best analogy is taking a car trip. We start by knowing where we want to go and then we look for routes to get us there. Along the way we look for cities or towns where we can stop for fuel or grab something to eat. Longer trips require us to look for a place to spend the night.

Whether you are doing long or short range planning, the process is virtually the same. Write down your goal or the end and workout a route to get there. Whether you are seeking personal growth planning or directing the work of a team, route the course to get to the end. Write down your goal and the steps (course) to get there. Share it with members of your work-team or for those personal goals; share them with close friends to make it more meaningful and to get support from those who might help along the way. Consider them your “reservations” for points along the way. You will need support to achieve your goals and a good plan will make the path that you take a little more direct.

“Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.” – Proverbs 16:3

I have written before about God’s plan for us. If we let God direct our lives, we cannot fail and bring glory to Him. Letting God direct our lives sounds like He’d be our personal Google Maps and He chooses the path for us. Like Maps, we can choose to ignore the directions but it is always easier to just let the App tell us where to go. While this might be easier, its not what God wants for us. He wants us to enjoy our lives, love our neighbors and most of all, He wants us to be faithful to Him – Commit to the Lord.

If we work with the goal of being faithful to God, doing what He commands, sharing the good news of our salvation in Jesus Christ, how can we go off course? God loves us and sent His Son to die for our sins so that we may live with Him in Glory for all of eternity. The irony of eternal life is that there is no end. Our lives here on earth will end, so we must make plans to Glorify God in whatever we do. At work, be honest, work hard, be obedient and support those around you. In your life you can bring Glory to God through regular worship, bible study, Christian fellowship and supporting your fellow man. When your walk in life is in step with God’s, your plans will succeed because your goals are the same – sharing eternity with each other.

Meeting Your Needs

These are uncertain times for sure. There is global unrest and the U.S. election isn’t making anyone feel great about the future. How have these past few years been for you? My guess is that they’ve been tough. If you think about it though, you have been provided for in some way. Paychecks have been flat for a few years, hours are still reduced or there’s been no overtime to supply the extra buffer of cash you counted on but you have still been provided for. It’s hard to think positively about positively when the past few years have been a struggle.

Think about what makes you happy at home and at work and focus on those things. Many people have “re-invented” themselves these past few years when a job loss forced it. What do you want to do? Is there something that you’ve always dreamed of doing? Now may be the time to do it. The world that we knew has changed and doors are being opened for people in a lot of unusual ways, they just don’t see it. Leaders should be finding ways to open doors for their people. We should be seeking opportunities to expand our experiences by offering to help our bosses with their projects. If you feel “stuck” in your job with no hope, look outside of current position for a new future. They say it’s always easier to find a job when you have one. If you are without one or are “underemployed”, follow your passion!

“…God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:19

So many people think that they are in control of their destiny and that if THEY don’t do things it won’t happen. As Jesus would say “Those Fools!” God has said throughout the bible that He has the plans and that they are not for us to know. He also promises to meet all of our needs and this verse from Paul is another reminder. He reminds the Philippians that God will meet their needs. What God doesn’t promise is that he’ll meet the needs that WE desire.

We have to remember that what we need to sustain us here in this life is NOT the same as what we need to sustain ourselves for eternity. Paul reminds the Philippians (and us) that we need the riches of Christ Jesus, our savior. God wants us to be happy in this life and he wants us to keep our focus on Him, not our happiness. If you are down about the current situation in your life, send your cares to God through prayer. He didn’t finish His work when He raised up Jesus from death; He was just beginning His work. He continues to tell us where to focus our lives. Live to His glory and He will meet all of your needs.