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BY MICHAEL GRYBOSKI , CHRISTIAN POST REPORTER
October 31, 2016|
16th-century Protestant reformer Martin Luther(PHOTO: REUTERS/FABRIZIO BENSCH)

Plastic statuettes of 16th-century Protestant reformer Martin Luther, which are part of the art installation‘Martin Luther – I’m standing here’ by German artist Ottmar Hoerl, are pictured in the main square in Wittenberg, eastern Germany, August 11, 2010. The installation of 800 one-metre high figurines, based on a statue of Martin Luther on the town square and intended to replace it while it is being renovated. Hoerl’s creation has created some controversy, with some Protestant theologians saying the statuettes, make a mockery of Luther’s achievements.

For most Americans, the last day of October is a time of trick-or-treating, costumes, candy, and various spooky things from horror movies to haunted houses.

Halloween, the holiday most known for its playful scaring and bags of sweets, is most closely associated by mainstream culture with Oct. 31.

However, for hundreds of churches across the United States and many others throughout global Protestantism, Oct. 31 is a time to remember the birth of the Reformation.

Known as Reformation Day, many churches hold special services either on the day itself or the nearest Sunday, which this year was Oct. 30.

Below in no particular order are five facts about the observance, history, and celebrations scheduled for next year, the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.

Luther(PHOTO: REUTERS)

Statue of Martin Luther.

1. 95 Theses

Reformation Day marks the anniversary of when Augustinian monk Martin Luther nailed 95 theses, or questions and propositions for debate, to a church door in Wittenberg, located in modern day Germany.

Luther took issue with the Roman Catholic Church’s teaching that salvation came through faith and good works rather than faith alone.

Also a concern for him was the widespread practice of indulgences, in which people gave money to the Church in return for forgiveness of sins.

“The 95 Theses were quickly distributed throughout Germany and then made their way to Rome. In 1518, Luther was summoned to Augsburg, a city in southern Germany, to defend his opinions before an imperial diet (assembly),” noted History.

“A debate lasting three days between Luther and Cardinal Thomas Cajetan produced no agreement. Cajetan defended the Church’s use of indulgences, but Luther refused to recant and returned to Wittenberg.”

Soon enough, the movement spread throughout Europe, causing both violent upheaval, sweeping cultural change, and theological debates that continue to the present day.

Martin Luther(PHOTO: REUTERS/FABRIZIO BENSCH)

Plastic statuettes of 16th-century Protestant reformer Martin Luther, which are part of the art installation “Martin Luther – I’m standing here” by German artist Ottmar Hoerl, are pictured in the main square in Wittenberg, eastern Germany, August 11, 2010.

2. Varied dates

While Luther’s specific act that began the Reformation took place on Oct. 31, 1517, celebrations commemorating the action were not always performed and the dates do vary.
Read more at http://www.christianpost.com/news/reformation-day-5-facts-to-know-about-the-other-oct-31-holiday-171181/#fH0694gbht2QwBFU.99

 

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One reason people stay away from Christianity is not because they don’t know any Christians. It’s often because they do.

Our actions and our words as followers of Jesus have the power to attract or repel people from Christianity.

The number of people who never go to church or follow Jesus keeps growing. And their thinking keeps changing too.

So what can we do about it?

Well, in addition to modeling humility, grace, truth, love and so many other things that describe the earliest Christ followers, we Christians can watch our words.

This post was originally inspired by a piece by Scott Dannemiller wrote, in which Dannemiller urged Christians to stop saying “feeling blessed” whenever something good came their way. He makes a thoughtful, insightful argument around that.

In that vein, here are three other things Christians should really stop saying.

1. Prayer works

Should we really stop saying that prayer works? Well, yes and no.

Most people who say prayer works these days really mean God did what I wanted him to do. As if prayer was a button to be pushed to release exactly what they wanted from the vending machine.

Prayer is not a button to be pushed; it’s a relationship to be pursued.

Prayer does ‘work,’ but it works very differently than we’d like.

It still ‘works’:

  • When we can’t trace out any direct result from our prayer.
  • When the opposite of what we prayed for happens.
  • In those moments when we feel very distant from God.
  • When we bang down the door of heaven for years and are not sure anything is going on up there at all.

There are scores of people inside and outside the church whose spirits are crushed because they prayed (fervently) and:

  • They didn’t get the job.
  • Their mom died of cancer.
  • Their child was born without a heartbeat.
  • They ended up in a car crash that left them permanently disabled.

Prayer doesn’t ‘work’ because I got what I wanted and they didn’t.

The parade of saints across the centuries would have been shocked to see prayer reduced to God-doing-what-I-asked-him-to-do-when-I-asked-him-to-do-it. God is not a puppy to be trained or a chef in the kitchen who prepares food to suit our every whim. He is sovereign.

As Richard Foster says:

For those explorers in the frontiers of faith, prayer was no little habit tacked on to the periphery of their lives; it was their lives. It was the most serious work of their most productive years. Prayer—nothing draws us closer to the heart of God.

Do things happen supernaturally when we pray? Well, yes they do. But often in ways we cannot understand or even trace out.

I think Christians can take consolation in the fact that when we pray, we often don’t know what to pray for or even how to pray, yet the scriptures tell us the Holy Spirit will translate the prayer into something better than we could phrase in the moment.

So pour your heart out to God. Pray about the things the scripture says are close to God’s heart. And when something ‘goes your way,’ be grateful and offer it back to the God who gave it to you.

And when things don’t go your way, understand that God is still very much in control and very much loves you. Just because God is silent doesn’t mean God is absent.

2. God told me to…

Often, you hear people (and pastors) say things that start with, “God told me to…”

The longer I follow Jesus, the more hesitant I am to say God told me to do anything specific. Maybe that’s an issue I need to work on, but it springs from my observation that I’ve seen this misused far more than I’ve seen it used well or authentically.

In fact, I’ve often noticed that the more outrageous the claim, the more likely someone is to say, “God told me to…”

When I hear someone claim God told them to do something, I feel like saying:

God told you to do that? Really? God himself spoke directly to you and told you to specifically build that building for which you have zero money? Or leave that church that you were in deep conflict with without resolving things? Or buy that house that’s way out of your price range? Wow!

Are you sure it wasn’t the pizza? Or the voice in your head that often tells you to do the things you simply feel like doing?

For the record, I believe there are times when God does speak to people today. But let’s be realistic. What made me put this phrase on the list is the number of times I have heard the phrase used to describe a decision that is:

  • Selfishly motivated (come on, admit it … you’re justifying your impulses).
  • Contrary to scripture (the scriptures pretty clearly suggest that what you’re doing is sinful … or at least isn’t wise).
  • Designed to shut down debate (does anyone really think they can win a “God told me” debate?).

I’m not saying God never tells us anything directly, but I am suggesting it happens far less than most of us claim.

So what’s a better course?

Say something like, “Based on what I know from scripture, I believe this is the best/boldest/wisest course of action.”

That makes sense. And then you can have an intelligent discussion.

And you don’t pull the God card to justify something about which Christians and others can have a legitimate discussion.

Or, if you’re just trying to shut down debate, just be honest. I wanted to do it, so I did it. There. Now you said it and everyone will feel better.

If you’re dead honest, you might even realize you made a crazy decision.

3. I could really feel God’s presence

You’ve heard this before. We live in an emotional age and we’ve arrived at a place where many of us feel like we’ve become mini-authorities on when God is present and when God is not.

But analyze that.

The truth is, we tend to feel God’s presence more:

  • When the band played our favourite song.
  • When the band played five of our favourite songs in a row.
  • When the room was packed.
  • When the decision went our way.
  • When we felt happy during our quiet time.

For the rest of the post…

“Study the history of revival. God has always sent revival in the darkest days. Oh, for a mighty, sweeping revival today.”

~ Adrian Rogers

“The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness”

~ Lamentations 3.22-23

“Steadfastness in believing doth not exclude all temptations from without. When we say a tree is firmly rooted, we do not say the wind never blows upon it.”

~ John Owen (1616-1683), Works of John Owen

John Owen by John Greenhill.jpg

Andrew Hess

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Billy Graham just posted a very timely word on his Facebook page:

“I’m absolutely convinced that no matter who’s elected America is not going to be saved unless we have a moral and spiritual revival.”

You might think Billy said these words recently, but this quote actually comes from an old episode of “Hour of Decision.”

Billy’s words are as true today as they were when he first said them.

“No nation has ever improved morally without a revival of religion … and America needs a revival today!”

For the rest of the post…

 

Prayerlessness is the great enemy of true happiness. If we give up on prayer, or refuse to pray, we surrender our seat at the very source of the highest and fullest joy. “You do not have, because you do not ask” (James 4:2).

But even those of us who do pray can find ourselves in danger of forfeiting prayer’s fullness as we fall into stale ruts of familiar words and repeated requests. We wake up each day, say the same prayers, and wonder why it doesn’t feel more real and life-changing.

As we walk through the valley of the shadow of rut, many of us just put our heads down and hope for better days. But the Bible speaks too often and too highly of prayer for us to stay here long. Yes, we may know the Lord’s Prayer by heart, but those five verses are not the only guide we have to help us pray. God has given us all kinds of routes out of daily ruts in prayer. Take Psalm 86, for example. Here are seven simple daily prayers drawn from David’s prayer.

1. Listen to my prayer.

Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer; listen to my plea for grace. (Psalm 86:6)

David wrote an entire book of divinely inspired song-prayers to God, so you would think he might know that God hears all our prayers. But over and over again, he still pleads with God to listen (Psalm 4:1, 17:6, 27:7, 28:2, 30:10, and more). Do you ever ask God to hear your prayer — or do you just assume he will?

The ever-present help of God can make us prone to take him for granted. We hear, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it to you,” and quietly, even subconsciously, we begin to presume that God exists to meet our needs. That kind of entitlement, though, robs God’s promise of its power and empties our prayer-life of its wonder.

God Almighty, the sovereign and infinite Maker of heaven and earth, hears your prayers. Don’t ever, ever take God’s ear for granted. Know his holiness, and your sin, well enough not to presume he will listen, but for Jesus’s sake. Ask him to hear one more prayer.

2. Save me, and keep me.

Preserve my life, for I am godly; save your servant, who trusts in you — you are my God. Be gracious to me, O Lord, for to you do I cry all the day. (Psalm 86:2–3)

In the face of all his enemies, David looked to our God for protection and deliverance. He was often surrounded on every side, threatened in every way imaginable. But he found hope and confidence in his sovereign, unchanging Father in heaven (Psalm 18:2).

We have an enemy far greater and more fearful than all of David’s enemies combined (1 Peter 5:8). He has planted his mercenaries at every turn (Ephesians 6:12). And we are helpless against his schemes without a warrior fighting for us (Ephesians 6:11).

You were saved, and you are being saved every day (1 Corinthians 15:2). You are being kept (1 Peter 1:5). But not without prayer (Ephesians 6:18). Each day is another new confident plea for protection and keeping:

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. (Jude 1:24–25)

3. Make my heart happy in you.

Gladden the soul of your servant, for to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul. (Psalm 86:4)

Humans were not created just to be rescued from sin, but to be flooded with joy in the Rescuer. Sin disrupted God’s ultimate plan for you; it didn’t create it. Jesus is not only a get-out-of-jail card, but a get-into-eternal-joy Savior and Treasure. God made you to demonstrate his worth by making you happy in him — not just by placing you in heaven, but by giving you himself.

God commands us to have that kind of joy in him (Psalm 32:11; Luke 10:20; Philippians 4:4). But any of us who have tried know we cannot put on joy like we put on a pair of pants. Something supernatural has to happen in our hearts, and the supernatural only happens one way: with God’s help.

No matter what you’re going through or how far away happiness feels, never settle for anything less than joy in the Christian life, and never assume you’ll find it without asking God for it.

4. Teach me your ways.

Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth. (Psalm 86:11)

Knowing the truth is not the end of God’s plans for everything you learn about him. He wants to see the truth come alive in you — in your priorities, in your relationships, and in your heart. A Christian is saved apart from our doing (Ephesians 2:8), but we are delivered into a life filled with doing, good works prepared specifically for us before we were even born (Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 2:10).

But the dots between what we know and what it means for our daily lives are not always clear. The dots between the One we love and the way we should live can often be foggy at best.

As un-American as it may seem, God doesn’t expect us to just figure it out on our own. He wants us to ask him for wisdom and guidance — “God, teach me your way” — and he wants to do the work himself, by his Spirit, through our working. Paul says, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12–13).

5. Give me your strength.

Turn to me and be gracious to me; give your strength to your servant. (Psalm 86:16)

Some of us do not need to be convinced to work. We wake up ready to tackle our to-do list and take on the world. We just forget to ask for help, or to serve in anyone’s strength but our own. That kind of effort may work for a while, but eventually we are out of gas and left with small, short-lived returns. “It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil” (Psalm 127:2).

Along with our prayers for guidance and direction, we need the physical and spiritual resources to walk and work well. Nothing of any real, spiritual, lasting value happens in our strength. “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain” (Psalm 127:1).

For the rest of the post…

“We cannot organize revival, but we can set our sails to catch the wind from Heaven when God chooses to blow upon His people once again.”

~ G. Campbell Morgan 

“Revival is falling in love with Jesus all over again.”

~ Vance Havner

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