Reformation Day

Reformation Wall, Geneva

500 years ago today, Martin Luther nailed the 95 theses to the church door in Wittenburg, Germany, which sparked the Protestant Reformation.  I wrote more about the event here, but I want to focus more on why the Reformation matters to us today.

Why does it matter that the Protestant Reformation happened? Will it make a difference in your life or mine?

Aside from the amazing learning and science and art and political frameworks that resulted from the Reformation, the theology that came out of the Reformation makes a difference in my daily Christian walk and can in yours, too. On my way to work last week, I was listening to this lecture by R.C. Sproul and it suddenly struck me, like it struck Luther centuries ago, that if my salvation rests on my own works, then I am lost. I cannot possibly be good enough to merit God’s acceptance on my own. But if my righteousness is not mine, but Christ’s, then I can rest in His good works, I can trust in His righteousness, and I can be saved because of His sacrifice. (Read more here.)

The Apostle Paul wrote:

I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith” (vv. 8b–9).

– Philippians 3:7–9

The five solas of the Reformation (Sola Scriptura, Sola Fide, Sola Gratia, Solus Christus, and Soli Deo Gloria), that God has saved us by faith alone, that our authority is Scripture alone, that we are saved by God’s grace alone, that only Christ is our Savior, and that we live for the glory of God alone are our glorious inheritance. Let us thank God for the reminder of His great love for us in Christ, especially on this anniversary of the Reformation.

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A Mighty Fortress is Our God

A mighty Fortress is our God,
A Bulwark never failing;
Our Helper He amid the flood
Of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe
Doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great,
And, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide,
Our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side,
The Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth His Name,
From age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

And though this world, with devils filled,
Should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath 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.

That word above all earthly powers,
No thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours
Through Him who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go,
This mortal life also;
The body they may kill:
God’s truth abideth still,
His Kingdom is forever. — Martin Luther

April is Poetry Month – April 2

One of my favorite poets is George Herbert, especially at this time of year.  He wrote so much poetry about the Lord, the Christian life, and the Church.  I recently read an article about him, which reminded me again of why I enjoy his poetry so much.

Here is one of his poems that I particularly cherish:

“Perseverance”
My God, the poor expressions of my Love
Which warm these lines, and serve them up to Thee
Are so, as for the present I did move,
Or rather as Thou movedst me.

But what shall issue, whether these my words
Shall help another, but my judgement be;
As a burst fowling-piece doth save the birds
But kill the man, is sealed with Thee.

For who can tell, though Thou has died to win
And wed my soul in glorious paradise;
Whether my many crimes and use of sin
May yet forbid the banes and bliss.

Only my soul hangs on Thy promises
With face and hands clinging unto Thy breast,
Clinging and crying, crying without cease,
Thou art my rock, Thou art my rest.

–George Herbert

April is Poetry Month – Fourth Sunday

Here is one of my favorite poems by Christina Rossetti.  She is better known for Goblin Market and her children’s poems but I love how her devotional poems are so heartfelt and full of faith.  If I had been a literature scholar/professor, my thesis would have been how Christina Rossetti’s faith influenced and  is reflected in her poetry.

 

Weary and weak,–accept my weariness;
Weary and weak and downcast in my soul,
With hope growing less and less,
And with the goal
Distant and dim,–accept my sore distress.
I thought to reach the goal so long ago,
At outset of the race I dreamed of rest,
Not knowing what now I know
Of breathless haste,
Of long-drawn straining effort across the waste.

One only thing I knew, Thy love of me;
One only thing I know, Thy sacred same
Love of me full and free,
A craving flame
Of selfless love of me which burns in Thee.
How can I think of thee, and yet grow chill;
Of Thee, and yet grow cold and nigh to death?
Re-energize my will,
Rebuild my faith;
I will arise and run, Thou giving me breath.

I will arise, repenting and in pain;
I will arise, and smite upon my breast
And turn to Thee again;
Thou choosest best,
Lead me along the road Thou makest plain.
Lead me a little way, and carry me
A little way, and listen to my sighs,
And store my tears with Thee,
And deign replies
To feeble prayers;–O Lord, I will arise.

 

One of my favorite things about this poem is the participation of the Lord with the poet in arising.  She arises but He gives her breath and leads her and carries her and listens to her–a beautiful picture of sanctification.

Wednesdays with Words – April 23, 2014

I’m reading By Design by Susan Hunt for my Sunday School class this quarter.  It is an excellent, balanced book on God’s design for women and how they can contribute to the Church.  Here are a few quotes:

“We were created to help, not hinder. We were created to complete, not compete. Competition destroys relationships, and the writer of Proverbs said: “The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down” (Proverbs 14:1).”

“Woman’s helper design is not so much what we do but rather who we are. It is not the only aspect of who we are, but it is an essential part of our essence. ”

“In other words, in many situations men and women may do much the same thing. But our design equips us to bring a unique perspective to that role. We put our own female spin on the particular task, and that is as it should be.”

“We must not dilute the worth of our design as women by capitulating to the voices in our culture that say we have to do the same things as men in order to have value.”

“When we join a church, we place ourselves under the authority and protection of the elders (or governing body) of that church in matters relating to church-life, realizing that the Holy Spirit has guided in their selection (Acts 20:28). We enter into a covenant relationship that involves accountability. ”

“The decision to join a church is not a social decision; it is a spiritual decision with spiritual ramifications.”

“Any genuine resurgence of Christianity, as history demonstrates, depends on a reawakening and renewal of that which is the essence of the faith-that is, the people of God, the new society, the body of Christ, which is made manifest in the world-the Church. “

April is Poetry Month – Good Friday

Why is this called “Good” Friday when the most holy, righteous, perfect man who ever lived was cruelly killed?  It is “good” because he voluntarily gave His life so that you and I might live.  Hallelujah!  What a Saviour!

I have a poem and a hymn today to help us meditate on His sacrifice:

 

The Four Quartets, T.S. Eliot

East Coker, IV

The wounded surgeon plies the steel
That questions the distempered part;
Beneath the bleeding hands we fell
The sharp compassion of the healer’s art
Resolving the enigma of the fever chart.

Our only health is the disease
If we obey the dying nurse
Whose constant care is not to please
But to remind of our, and Adam’s, curse,
And that, to be restored, our sickness must grow worse.

The whole earth is our hospital
Endowed by the ruined millionaire,
Wherein, if we do well, we shall
Die of the absolute paternal care
That will not leave us, but prevents us everywhere.

The chill ascends from feet to knees,
The fever sings in mental wires.
If to be warmed, then I must freeze
And quake in frigid purgatorial fires
Of which the flame is roses and the smoke is briars.

The dripping blood our only drink,
The bloody flesh our only food;
In spite of which we like to think
That we are sound, substantial flesh and blood–
Again, in spite of that, we call this Friday good.

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of Glory died;
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ, my God;
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.

See, from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down.
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were an offering far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all. –Isaac Watts

 

 

April is Poetry Month – Maundy Thursday

 

As this is Holy Week, I wanted to find a poem that remembered some of the main events in the life of Christ.  Maundy Thursday is celebrated throughout the world as the day on which the Last Supper occurred.  “Maundy” comes from the Latin word mandatum, meaning commandment since the Lord gave His disciples (and us) several commands during the Last Supper, especially to remember Him each time we take communion.

Here is a poem that commemorates that last meal:

Here is the source of every sacrament,

The all-transforming presence of the Lord,

Replenishing our every element

Remaking us in his creative Word.

For here the earth herself gives bread and wine,

The air delights to bear his Spirit’s speech,

The fire dances where the candles shine,

The waters cleanse us with His gentle touch.

And here He shows the full extent of love

To us whose love is always incomplete,

In vain we search the heavens high above,

The God of love is kneeling at our feet.

Though we betray Him, though it is the night.

He meets us here and loves us into light.

–Malcolm Guite, Sounding the Seasons