HAPPY REFORMATION DAY!
One of my favorite quotes from Martin Luther appears below.
I simply taught, preached, and wrote God’s Word; otherwise I did nothing. And then, while I slept, or drank Wittenberg beer with my Philip [Melanchthon] and my Amsdorf [Nicholaus von], the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that never a prince or emperor did such damage to it. I did nothing. The Word did it all.*
You probably knew that Luther also taught and spent time with students and served as pastor. He kept busy much of his life. However, his point is still valid. What he could not do, what an earthly ruler could not do, God did! God weakened the papacy and brought about a reformation through His Word!
Due to God’s sovereign plan, imperfect men began to once again preach and teach His perfect Word! Post Tenebras Lux. After the darkness, light! Having heard the truth for the first time in their lives, people began to protest. Protestantism was born.
So many Americans today still consider themselves Christian or Protestant. They do so because they know they are not atheists or adherents to another religion. Consequently, the term has lost a bit of its significance. Christian used to mean disciple or follower of Christ. In the past, protestant meant holding to a faith and practice based upon the Scripture, not the edicts of councils and popes.
Another Latin phrase associated with the Reformation is Semper Reformanda. It means “always reforming.” Each October 31st (the date that Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the Castle Church door in Wittenberg) should serve as an opportunity for our self-examination.
Do I call myself a Christian? Do I say that I am a Protestant? If so, I need to evaluate my relationship with the Word of God. So many self-professed believers in God (they would call themselves “Christians”) do not spend any significant time reading and studying God’s Word. Thus, many of their beliefs and actions are in opposition to the ethic promoted by the Scripture. Even worse, although they know about the Lord, they do not know Him. And there is a difference! Furthermore, they think that their individual faith is sufficient and choose not to regularly gather with others for the purpose of mutual edification and worship.
So, what am I doing with God’s Word? What am I doing with it TODAY? Will any time be set aside to read it and contemplate how the stories and truths relate to my own life? Thanks to the reformers (men like Wycliffe, Luther, Melanchthon and Calvin) we have the Bible in our own language. We can understand it! But it is difficult to do if the book isn’t opened. The best way to honor those who risked their lives that we might possess the truth is to open The Book.
I’ll conclude with another Luther quote from his Tabletalk:
“Oh! how great and glorious a thing it is to have before one the Word of God!”
A couple weeks ago, I was recognized at a faculty development meeting for “excellence.” The award states, “in recognition of valuable contributions to the Chattanooga and Dalton campuses and for excellence in the classroom and unconditional ministry to our students.” As you can imagine, I was embarrassed to be the center of the attention for those brief moments (I like being the center of attention when I control the event, but I don’t particularly enjoy it when the spotlight is on me because I either did something poorly or because I did something well!).
I have to admit that (on the inside) I was a bit emotional. For me, it was like a pat on the back from my heavenly Father and from one of my earthly bosses (the academic dean). I had worked hard for the college this year and attempted to be faithful as I prepared and as I taught each course, each class. I am never satisfied with my performance and strive to make each lesson better than the last time I taught it. Jodi can attest how seriously I take my callings both at home and at the workplace(s). She can also describe how much I deeply desire that my students learn more than facts to regurgitate on my quizzes and final exams.
Over the past ten years, I have labored to proclaim the excellencies of God (1 Pet. 2:10). My intense hope is that I have made a difference in their lives. The Lord has not used me as the instrument that would lead anyone to exercise the gift of saving faith, but I have planted many seeds. Hopefully, I have also served as an example to my students that someone can love God, love people, and live with God-exalting freedom.
As the certificate was read, I was encouraged to be commended for offering “unconditional ministry.” I don’t know what I expected when I was handed the piece of paper. A few phrases would not have surprised me, phrases like “evident preparation” or “taught with enthusiasm” or “sense of humor.” But “unconditional ministry” made me pause. Did I really treat my students “unconditionally”? What does that even mean?
Whatever it means, it must include the concept of hospitality. When my students enter the classroom, I greet them and get to know them. By the end of the course, many of them consider me a friend. I enjoy ribbing them and being teased by them. Some are now my peers. Others I have wanted to adopt. We’ve shared many a laugh as well as our burdens. I do indeed hope they have felt loved.
However, the fact that I have the capacity to offer unconditional ministry testifies that I am not what I once was! There was a time in my life that my goal in every pursuit was self-gratification. I lived wholly for the flesh, not particularly caring who I hurt in the process. No passage sums up my condition at that time better than Ephesians 2:1-3. Paul wrote,
“And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.”
That was me! I was a son of disobedience; a child of wrath. Ministering to others never crossed my mind. And I remained that way until God unexpectedly invaded my life, which He did in the winter of 1984. Paul continued in Ephesians, chapter two with these words:
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)” (2:4, 5).
A miraculous event transpired in my life. I was spiritually dead and then I was made alive! And that changed everything! God’s work of regeneration resulted in my having a new passion. His glory became my conscious chief end. Blessing others and preparing for eternity now became priorities. You know as well as I do that my flesh often gets in the way of my success in accomplishing these goals. There are many days in which I am easily the most self-centered person I know. But, by the grace of God, there are also days that He is indeed exalted and people are blessed and my time spent on planet earth is not wasted. Those are good days! Maybe I’ve had some in the classroom. For that, I praise God. Maybe I’ve had some at home and in the office. I praise God for those as well!
Maybe I’ll have one today. That’s the plan!
I have volunteered for “Dolphin Duty” this afternoon.
As I write this, I am sitting on the balcony of our condo, overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. Each trip we take to this area, we always hope to spot dolphins. Last year we saw a pod a couple hundred yards from the shore, frolicking in the waves. They performed a show you might expect to see at Seaworld. This year we have yet to see one of the gracious creatures.
This morning as I viewed a magnificent sunrise a line from a hymn came to mind. “When morning gilds the skies, my heart awakens cries, ‘May Jesus Christ be praised.'”
The second stanza of the poem reads as follows:
When you begin the day, O never fail to say,
May Jesus Christ be praised!
And at your work rejoice, to sing with heart and voice,
May Jesus Christ be praised!
I appreciate the contrast provided by the author.* I am to praise Jesus Christ at the beginning of the day. Later in the piece, he praises the Lord even at the conclusion of a restless night. But in this particular stanza, he exhorts us to give God the glory in the workplace. That is a theme which resonates!
Sitting here at the beach means that I am not sitting in my chair at the office. And that is a good thing. I need time away from my jobs if I am going to perform well at my jobs. That’s true for all of us, I think. We need to disengage. We need sabbath time. I find that the older I get the more my body requires it. However, I also remain grateful to have jobs I very much enjoy. Because of my experience of being unemployed several years ago, every day I wake up employed genuinely elicits praise. I truly do rejoice at work! That praise also translates to my work-ethic. When I work, I actually work. When I teach, I actually prepare. Sitting in a chair or standing behind a lectern isn’t sufficient. If I want Jesus Christ to be praised, I need to take my responsibilities seriously.
And that includes dolphin duty!
Hey…I think I see one now! It’s pretty far out there. It looks like a…hold on…it’s one of my kids! I’d better go! Hopefully, I don’t have to put on the superhero outfit again!
It finally happened. One of my kids actually fell in the pool.
Last week Jodi and I were outside cleaning the pool. Cadence was with us. And she was cute as can be, talking up a storm while trying to help us. She was probably trying to reach a leaf on the surface of the water when Jodi and I both heard the unmistakable sound of a human jumping or falling into water, wwwhhhhooosh.
Having super hero blood flowing through my veins, I sprang into action. First I assessed the situation. A two-year-old with an insufficient knowledge of how to swim has fallen into a pool. Second…wait a second…let’s see if she can swim to the stairs…wait a second…I think she’s got this…wait less than a second…not fast enough for my liking…rescue time! Super hero Dad jumps into the pool fully-clothed and saves the child. Both child and mother were headed into the abyss of emotional response but Super Hero Dad averted that disaster as well. Shock turned to fear which turned to relief which turned to happiness. And all was right in the world.
As I think of that somewhat traumatic experience for my daughter, I couldn’t help but consider it an analogy of sorts for lives in this world. We, too, unexpectedly fall. We are taking care of business, moving through our lives and, sometimes instantaneously, we find ourselves over our heads in the circumstances we would not have chosen for ourselves. What do we do at those times? Like my two-year-old, we immediately begin the process of attempting to fix our situation. Our arms and legs start flailing.
Cadence didn’t have much choice. Her instincts took over and what few skills she learned from a summer in the pool were put to good use. Often times, however, we actually have a choice. We can selah. That’s a biblical word for pause and consider. In other words, we can contemplate the situation and remind ourselves of truths such as the sovereignty of God and knowledge that all things work together for the good of those who love God (Romans 8:28).
This coming Sunday I’ll be teaching Romans, chapter 8. Each week we learn the key word, key phrase and key verse from the chapter for the week. Romans is so full of awesome content that I could have chosen a variety of words, phrases and verses! Perhaps no chapter of the Bible means more to believers than this one! That’s why so many of us turn to it during difficult seasons in life. It is helpful to be reminded that, no matter how badly we failed yesterday, we are not condemned (8:1), we can please God today (8:8), and the Spirit is ready, willing, and able to help us in our battle with the remaining sin (8:13), He causes us to remember that we are children of God (8:16), our present identity will be revealed in the future (8:18), the Spirit is praying on our behalf (8:28), our salvation–from start to finish–is God-wrought (8:29-30) and NOTHING can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus (8:31-39)!
Does truth make a difference when you unexpectedly fall in the pool? You bet it does!
It’s hard to believe, but I am now in my 10th year of teaching adults in college degree-completion programs. So many things come to mind as I reflect back upon the experience and the people I’ve been able to meet. One aspect particularly stands out to me: self-betterment.
The Collins Dictionary defines this term as, “personal improvement in terms of education, prospects, etc.” (Collins English Dictionary*)
For ten years, I’ve seen men and women labor to complete their bachelor’s degrees. In spite of schedules that are already packed, they attend class no less than one time per week from 6-10PM. Like me, they work all day. Like me, they have to work in the morning. Why do they do so? The answers vary. Some are completing their degrees to qualify for a promotion at the office. Others are doing so to fulfill at promise they made earlier to themselves or to another. Some have admitted they are finishing their undergraduate work in order to be an example for their children or even their grandchildren. Regardless of the reason, I respect them. And I have told them so.
Completing a college degree is a commendable act.
Is that something you need to consider? If so, I highly recommend Belhaven University!** If Belhaven doesn’t have a campus in your area, I bet another college does!
But maybe there is some other worthy task you need to tackle. Maybe you need to discipline yourself enough to replace the television remote with a book. Maybe it’s time to begin to exercise again. Maybe…[you complete the sentence].
Consider these options from an article on http://www.intelligentq.com***
- Learn a new language
- Dress more professionally
- Eat more healthily
- Take instrument lessons
- Write something substantial
What do you need to do in order to know you are moving forward?
What can you do today to take the first step in that direction?
Don’t kept putting off what you know–deep down–you should begin.
Consider this that nudge you needed!
PS–This has me thinking as well! What step(s) do I need to take? I’ve taken several this year, but I am wondering if there might be a BIG one I need to take in the near future.
A couple weeks ago, I heard some lyrics on the radio that truly struck a cord with me.
“When did I forget that You’ve always been the King of the world?!”
I’ve since learned that it is a Natalie Grant song. I’ve included the link below. The song is a great reminder to us all that God is securely upon His throne and we can trust Him.
No matter what.
But we so easily find ourselves acting exactly like Peter.
You know what I am talking about.
Inches away from Jesus and we yell, “Lord, save me!” (Matthew 14:30).
I’m grateful for the beautifully sung nudge to remember exactly WHO GOD IS!