Martin Luther

“Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason – I do not accept the authority of the popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other – my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen.” Martin Luther at the Imperial Diet of Worms, 1521.

While researching the life and teachings of Martin Luther, I came across some information on Luther that appalled me. We all know that he was the man who broke from the Catholic church, effectively beginning the Reformation and the beginning of Protestantism. He emphasized that Christianity should be about Redemption and Grace rather than Indulgences and the absolution of sin by clerics. I have a solid respect for his early teachings, but I found that as he matured, he became very antisemitic vocally and in his writings. That stance of antisemitism is not one I take lightly. Since JESUS was born into the Jews, GOD’s Chosen People, how can we possibly justify being anti-Jewish? I say with confidence that we (i.e. Christians, followers of CHRIST JESUS) cannot. If our LORD chose to send disciples to the Jews and the Gentiles, how can we do otherwise?

HOWEVER; I choose his comment from the Diet of Worms as one that I can easily agree with. No man shall have dominion over my faith and my salvation save one: JESUS, the CHRIST, MESSIAH, SAVIOUR of the world. The Apostle Peter wrote:

” ….. for you, who are protected by the power of GOD through Faith for a Salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; – 1 Peter 1:4b-‬7 NASB

Today’s world is much like the world of the 1st century A.D. Persecution of Christians was rampant, and like today it was more verbal, mocking and maligning than it was physical torture or persecution – although I believe that that time is coming, soon. In the United States alone, 23% of all Americans, and 34-36% among Milleniums (born after 1980), identify as having no religious affiliation, according to The Scientific American. ( https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-number-of-americans-with-no-religious-affiliation-is-rising )

If you do any research on the number of churches or on church membership in the U.S., let me warn you that there is an abundance of contradictory information available. As CHRIST-followers, should we be concerned? Absolutely! We live in a society that could be labeled “post-Christian”; one that is increasingly resistant and hostile to those of us who stand on the teachings of JESUS. Liberal, socialist, homosexual, transgender, anyone who espouses the view that there many ways to heaven, and every person who rejects JESUS is readily acceptable to our politically correct society. Accept that anything and everything other than the belief that JESUS is the Way, the only way, to heaven, and the world will love you. Stand on the Gospels of JESUS CHRIST and the world will hate you.

There is no room for fundamentalist Christians today.

Many people reject these teachings as too radical, too narrow minded, and too fundamentalist to have any value. The idea that JESUS was simply a teacher like Mohammed or Buddha is easier for most to accept, alongside the assertion that the Creator GOD, the Trinity, the Triune GOD – Father, Son, Holy Spirit, are merely stories made up by human minds. I ask, what human mind could possibly think this up? I think that Christianity, true Christianity as accepting JESUS as LORD, is the only “religion” on earth where we do nothing to gain salvation because GOD does it all for us. In any other religion, we have to work for it, and follow the rules in order to find redemption – and even then it’s not a guarantee. Our pastor, Mark Hitchcock, put it like this: “Our part [in our salvation] is to run away from GOD. His part [GOD] is to run after us until we find Him. A god we can understand is not a god at all. We don’t have to understand, just believe.” For me, the Trinity has secured my Salvation. I don’t understand it and I can’t explain it, but I believe it. I know in my heart and my soul it is true, and I have Peace because I have accepted His Grace and Mercy.

Listen to “Courageous,” sung by Casting Crowns. Powerful.

Image from ( http://www.aheartforgod.org/2013/09/26/a-lion-a-bear-an-uncircumcised-philistine-and-defeating-giants )

And When You Pray …..

AND WHEN YOU PRAY, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your Name. Your Kingdom come, Your Will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For if you forgive others their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” – Matthew 6:5‭-‬15 ESV

In verses 7-8, it seems to me that JESUS is rather condemning of us Gentiles here for being wordy and full of ourselves, but I don’t believe He’d want me to focus on that. In fact, as a young person growing up in church, there were a couple of people that, when called on to pray, caused me to cringe inside. Why? Because they were exactly as JESUS describes: using many words and heaping their prayers with empty phrases. Looking back, I feel sure that these people meant well in their prayers, and I’m certain they were sincere in their pleas before GOD. This is not a condemnation of their prayers. I am also certain that they would not have been called on for the benediction or any other time, had they not been in love with our LORD.

When we do pray in public, it seems imperative to be cognizant of the Words of JESUS. I believe it is important to have someone to lead in us prayer during worship services for a couple of reasons. First is our Focus: we are so easily distracted from the reason we gather together that is good to have someone remind us where our minds should be. Second is having no words: there have been many times when I wasn’t able to form my own prayer, and the guidance provided by the pastor or other leader was just what I needed. There are also times when the opportunity to pray for someone (in public) comes up, and I believe that when that happens, we are to seize the moment. Praying quietly and privately with or for someone in public is a mighty witness. Simply bowing our heads and whispering a prayer goes a very long way towards defeating the enemy. He hates – with a passion – those moments when we call on JESUS and utter His Name out loud, even in the quietest voice.

Conclusion: pray often. In public, pray quietly and to the point. In private, pray softly, pray loudly, pray constantly. It’s a conversation with the CREATOR. I know, it’s mind-boggling that the LORD of the Universe wants to talk with me! And when you cannot say a word, just say JESUS. He knows.

Image from https://www.beliefnet.com

Delighted!

We all have places, people, and things that bring us delight. Babies laughing, puppy and kitten antics, majestic views, beautiful flowers and trees, music, food, children, spouses, friends, loved ones. These things, these delights, as much as we enjoy them and search for them, are all momentary and fleeting. On the opposite side, we also have our fears and frustrations, especially when when we are struck with physical, personal, or monetary crises. When disasters strike the righteous person, we question why. Why does the Almighty, Omnipotent GOD let His people suffer, but He allows the sinners and the lawbreakers, the evildoers, to (apparently) prosper?

I fervently believe that we will have it explained to us one day; the day we stand face-to-face with our LORD JESUS. Meanwhile …… it is important, critical, that as followers of the CHRIST we study and absorb His Word. There are numerous promises in both the Old and New Testaments that everyone will receive a final judgement in front of the Throne of GOD. The enemy of the LORD, the Father of Lies, the instigator who brought evil into our world, will receive his due – and it will not be pretty. All of the fallen, both people and supernatural beings, everything natural and supernatural, will receive their condemnation at that time. Read the Revelations of John! This is what I know to be true:

“Delight yourself in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in Him, and He will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for Him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices! Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil. For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the LORD shall inherit the land.” – Psalms 37:4‭-‬9 ESV

One day soon, Psalms 37:9 will come to pass. All evil that exists will be washed away and removed from earth, and those who have chosen to follow the LORD will be rewarded with a new home – one where heaven and the true, the real, Holy City will actually reside here on earth with us! My conclusion? Fretting and worry on our part indicates that we don’t think GOD can handle the little stuff. I’m guilty, too! Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!” – Psalms 37:7 ESV

I know, easier said than done! There’s a song done by Natalie Grant that pretty well sums up what often we do instead of waiting and placing our reliance on the LORD. What do you think?

When we stop trying to contain GOD, then we are able to delight in Him! Amen!

GOD Still Speaks

I love the ways God uses the Old and New Testament writers to speak to us today. Even when it is not something I particularly want to hear, it’s always something I need to hear. Is that true for you, too?

“In this is Love, not that we have loved GOD but that He Loved us and sent His SON to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if GOD so Loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen GOD; if we love one another, GOD abides in us and His LOVE is perfected in us. By this is Love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the Day of Judgment, because as He is so also are we in this world.” – 1 John 4:10‭-‬12‭, ‬17 ESV

Notice the word John uses to start the sentence that I highlighted above: Beloved. That one word sums up how the GOD Who created the universe – not just our little earth and and everything in it, but every galaxy, every planet, every star, down the the most minute particles and atom and beyond – this word says how He feels about each and every one of us! Mind-boggling, don’t you agree?

“When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your GOD.” – Leviticus 19:33‭-‬34 ESV

There are two points I see here. I think John is referring primarily to our brothers and sisters in CHRIST, but also to our brothers and sisters in humanity – everyone on earth is part of my (our) family, and I (we) should love them. Love the PERSON, not being swayed by the life choices or lifestyle, ethnicity, or social or financial status.

Secondly, GOD specifically tells His People of Israel to treat the foreigners among them as they treat their fellow Israelites, but I don’t believe He was limiting His Voice to Israel. Jesus gave us the Golden Rule: “Love thy neighbor as yourself” in Matthew 22:37-40. ( Anyone who loves the LORD should be practicing these commands.) Who is my neighbor? It is not just the person who lives next door or in my neighborhood. My “neighbors” consist of every person I come into contact with – each shop clerk, every irritating person in line or traffic, co-worker, study group…. all neighbors, even the family member you really just don’t like. Do you see how this ties together? We have neighbors and strangers among us. They could be from another country, or a different religion, or value system, or lifestyle. They could be a recovering addict. Even in our immediate family we can have “strangers and foreigners”.

Look around. Are there “foreigners” around you? How do you treat them? I have to look at myself, and examine how I treat the foreigners around me; I need to love them and pray for them daily. Here’s a great way to remind ourselves!

Image from: https://scpeanutgallery.com/2017/10/29/21st-sunday-after-pentecost-29-oct-matthew-2234-40-the-bottom-line/

Note: This post is not politically motivated, nor is it in favor of granting illegals asylum in the United States. That is an ENTIRELY different subject!

Serenity

Serenity …… seems like an impossible goal.

I think just about everyone knows the first two lines from the “Serenity Prayer,” “A prayer written by the American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr. The best-known form is: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference.” (Source: Wikipedia ) It was originally published in 1951, but it may have been written as early as 1934. First adopted by AA (Alcoholics Anonymous), it has become permanently linked to the recovery movement.

God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
As it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
If I surrender to His Will;
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life
And supremely happy with Him
Forever and ever in the next.

Amen.

(Read more: https://www.lords-prayer-words.com/famous_prayers/god_grant_me_the_serenity.html#alcoholics#ixzz5cgsk4Dvz )

The words as written are not in the Bible, but it is certainly based on


scriptures, starting with the Psalms and into he New Testament, here are a few of the supporting scriptures:

“I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth. The LORD will keep you from all evil; He will keep your life.” – Psalms 121:1‭-‬2‭, ‬7 ESV

” ….. Fear not, for I AM with you; be not dismayed, for I AM your GOD; I Will strengthen you, I Will help you, I Will uphold you with My Righteous Right Hand.” – Isaiah 41:10 ESV

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask GOD, Who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” – James 1:5 ESV

“But the Wisdom from above is first Pure, then Peaceable, Gentle, open to reason, full of Mercy and Good Fruits, Impartial and Sincere.” – James 3:17 ESV

I challenge you to read the complete prayer again. Commit Psalm 121 to memory – it’s only 7 verses. If you have trouble memorizing (as I do!), then take the first two verses of both the Psalm and the prayer and memorize them. Write them on index cards and place them around the house where you will see them frequently. Some suggestions: the bathroom mirror, your dresser, by the coffee pot or teakettle, in your lunch, or in your workout bag. On the dash of your car. Make it fit your lifestyle! As the Apostle John wrote, I add as a benediction to us:

“Peace I leave with you; My Peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” – John 14:27 ESV

( https://www.lords-prayer-words.com/famous_prayers/god_grant_me_the_serenity.html )

My Utmost…

Oswald Chambers writes in “My Utmost for His Highest,” Let Us Keep To The Point (and I fail miserably at this….)

My Utmost for His Highest

“. . . my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed . . . .” We will all feel very much ashamed if we do not yield to Jesus the areas of our lives He has asked us to yield to Him. It’s as if Paul were saying, “My determined purpose is to be my utmost for His highest—my best for His glory.” To reach that level of determination is a matter of the will, not of debate or of reasoning. It is absolute and irrevocable surrender of the will at that point. An undue amount of thought and consideration for ourselves is what keeps us from making that decision, although we cover it up with the pretense that it is others we are considering. When we think seriously about what it will cost others if we obey the call of Jesus, we tell God He doesn’t know what our obedience will mean. Keep to the point—He does know. Shut out every other thought and keep yourself before God in this one thing only—my utmost for His highest. I am determined to be absolutely and entirely for Him and Him alone.

My Unstoppable Determination for His Holiness. “Whether it means life or death—it makes no difference!” (see Philippians 1:21). Paul was determined that nothing would stop him from doing exactly what God wanted. But before we choose to follow God’s will, a crisis must develop in our lives. This happens because we tend to be unresponsive to God’s gentler nudges. He brings us to the place where He asks us to be our utmost for Him and we begin to debate. He then providentially produces a crisis where we have to decide—for or against. That moment becomes a great crossroads in our lives. If a crisis has come to you on any front, surrender your will to Jesus absolutely and irrevocably.

Lord, the range of Your power, the touch of Your grace, the breathing of Your Spirit—how I long for these to bring me face to face with You. Forgive my tardiness; it takes me so long to awaken to some things.”

The Apostle Paul wrote “For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die.” – Philippians 1:20 NLT

It’s very difficult to to add anything to these two men of God, Amen!

Wisdom, Understanding, and Folly

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD.” – Jeremiah 17:7 ESV

Isn’t it fascinating that the author of Proverbs, reputed to be Solomon, the wisest man on earth, addresses Wisdom and Folly as female:

“Does not Wisdom call? Does not Understanding raise her voice? On the heights beside the way, at the crossroads she takes her stand; beside the gates in front of the town, at the entrance of the portals she cries aloud: “To you, O men, I call, and my cry is to the children of man.” ….. “The LORD possessed me at the beginning of His work, the first of His acts of old. [“The LORD brought me forth as the first of His works, before His deeds of old ….. – from the NIV] Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth. When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water. Before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills, I was brought forth, before He had made the earth with its fields, or the first of the dust of the world. When He established the heavens, I was there; when He drew a circle on the face of the deep, when He made firm the skies above, when He established the fountains of the deep, when He assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress His Command, when He marked out the foundations of the earth, then I was beside Him, like a master workman, and I was daily His delight, rejoicing before Him always, rejoicing in His inhabited world and delighting in the children of man.” – Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-27, 30-31 ESV

Even the earth is referred to as “she” in ancient history. Don’t misunderstand me. I believe that GOD – GOD the FATHER, GOD the SON, and GOD the HOLY SPIRIT; the Triune, Three-in-One Creator GOD – are masculine. That’s how they are ALWAYS referred to in scripture, but here in Proverbs the writer makes a point of using the feminine forms to describe Wisdom and Understanding and Folly. It is as if they are creations, too; in fact, in verse 22, it clearly states that Wisdom was brought forth as the first of His works, His acts, of old. We also see in verse 1 where the writer refers to Understanding as feminine: “Does not Understanding raise her voice?” I have struggled with the idea that God would create His companions – the angels, the Seraphim and Cherubim and all of the heavenly hosts – only as males, but and only after that create man and woman, and all of the creatures on earth as male and female.

Are all angels, then, created as masculine as portrayed in the masterpieces of old? Clearly, there are masculine angels, but for example, is the Archangel Michael masculine – or perhaps feminine? We won’t have a definitive answer until we get to see JESUS, but in whatever form, they are definitely created by God, and they are His warriors. Satan is obviously male (based on the scriptures where the reference is always “he”) but remember that one third of the heavenly hosts followed him in his rebellion (that’s where Folly comes in). Before we (women) start to get too proud of the fact that Wisdom is feminine, we need to read what the scriptures say about her sister, Folly:

“The woman Folly is loud; she is seductive and knows nothing. She sits at the door of her house; she takes a seat on the highest places of the town, calling to those who pass by, who are going straight on their way, “Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!” And to him who lacks sense she says, “Stolen water is sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.” But he does not know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of Sheol [also know as Hell].” – Proverbs 9:13‭-‬18 ESV

I don’t really think it’s worth spending a lot of time trying to figure out the masculine and feminine of all of our GOD’s Creation, because it is as He created it. Worry or concern over it won’t change anything. The important question, the critical question, is this: Do you choose each day to follow Christ, and listen to wisdom, or do you prefer to listen to folly? (Be sure to read that last verse, Proverbs 9:18, again!)

Just some thoughts.

Artist: Adam de Colonia, 1660-1685, oil on canvas