scripture

Finding Complete Contentment

It’s funny that I am charged to write this month about contentment when I myself have been feeling a stirring of unsettledness lately. Now, it doesn’t help that at this moment, the world is beginning a season of Christmas frenzy, a sheer display of a world yearning for contentment and looking in all the wrong places. It’s the yearly dash to fulfill something that we can’t quite place our finger on, but for a fleeting moment amidst the shopping, eating, and preparations, we think we may actually have found it.

Just for a moment…

contentment

Perhaps a bit of it has rubbed off on me as I can’t quite place my finger on the unsettledness. As a writer who constantly talks about Jesus being our everything, yes, even I succumb to the battle at times. We all do. No one is immune to discontentment.

Recently, I was reading Ecclesiastes and it sums up the whole thing. Man is constantly toiling and searching, yet the end result is the same for us all. Death. We all seek what is never truly found on this earth.

“Then I looked on all the works that my hands had done
And on the labor in which I had toiled;
And indeed all was vanity and grasping for the wind.
There was no profit under the sun.”
Ecclesiastes 2:11

Contentment is only found in Christ

The only answer for our unsettledness or discontent in this life is Jesus.

Without Him, it is as the writer of Ecclesiastes says…a life is lived for vain purposes. But with Him, our life is complete. We can’t base our contentment on what we have, or what we do, or the circumstances around us. We will only ever find true and lasting contentment one day apart from this earth.

Psalm 23 tells us the Lord is our shepherd and we shall not want. But we live in a world that tells us just the opposite. We will live in a culture full of wants. How do we remedy this?

Look at Eve. She was discontent. That is why she sought for more than she was already given. Not satisfied that God was all she needed, she stepped out and sought something apart from Him. And frankly, we all do at times. No matter how much we know that our contentment is in Christ, since we are not in heaven yet, we easily fall into the trap of dissatisfaction and looking to things around us to provide fulfillment.

That is why it is imperative to stay in the Word, cling to Jesus, and keep our gaze heavenward anticipating the day we see Him face to face.

Designed to Be Fulfilled in Him

For now, the knowledge of that day needs to be enough to fill us and to make us stop the endless pursuit of earthly vanities. And live for Him alone.

We live in a world that is on a continuous search but know that you don’t need to. You already have what they are looking for. The Creator of the universe designed you to be fulfilled in Him alone.

Praise the Lord, it doesn’t end with death for us, and it doesn’t end with a life lived in vain toil. The last portion of Ecclesiastes sums it up:

“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter:
Fear God and keep His commandments,
For this is man’s all.”
Ecclesiastes 12:13

Stand in Awe

Here we are told to fear God, meaning to stand in awe of Him. In a world that stands in awe of the latest celebrity, the latest gadget or technology, or the latest fad and fashion, we are to fear God and be awestruck. Then everything else around us will become a little bit less desirable, for we know it is all temporal. Only He will remain.

So yes, fear God, love Him above everything, and stand in awe of Him.

Lord forgive us for the times we look for contentment part from you. May we know that we don’t have to search, toil, or strive for anything. You have provided all we need, and You are our very life itself. We look forward to the day when we stand face to face, worshipping you forever, fully complete and filled with lasting joy. Amen.

God’s Plan, Your Sanctification

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5–6

Whenever Christmas rolls around I think of that John Lennon song that comes on the radio every year: “And so this is Christmas… and what have you done? Another year over. A new one just begun.”

contentment and rest

I guess it’s the pop version of “teach us to number our days, so that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12

I used to get to the end of the year with a mild sense of guilt thinking of all the things I could have done, or had planned to do and just never got around to. All the habits I was going to start. All the goals I was going to accomplish. Sound familiar?

I would even start to think back to all those wasted years before I accepted Christ, and all the failed efforts to BE a better Christian. That guilt, along with excitement for the new year, would push me into making new goals and new lists of things to do. So that I could look back on it all once again and be disappointed that it did not meet my expectations.

Don’t you want something different? I know I do.

Of course, I have nothing against goals and establishing good habits for ourselves. I still do those things. But I’ve come to find great contentment and rest in a few key ideas that have grounded me. They have given me perspective rather than end-of-year angst:

  1. God’s plans are more important than my goals.
  2. God always accomplishes His purposes.
  3. God redeems our imperfect efforts.
  4. God’s mercies are new every morning.

Isn’t that such a relief? What a merciful blessing. Do you want to know what is even more encouraging? His plans and purposes for you are not elusive. He’s already told us exactly what He’s up to.

This is the will of God, your sanctification. 1 Thessalonians 4:3

Our sanctification is God’s goal, and it’s better than any New Years goal we could come up with on our own. It’s a sanctification that changes us ever into the likeness of Christ and can only be done in us by the work of the Holy Spirit.

What is our part? To yield to Him in full surrender. To simply trust and obey, just like that sweet hymn by John H. Sammis says: “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”

Dear sisters in Christ, as the new year rushes in, we can remain content and confident that God will complete His good work in us until it is finished. He will bring about all His good purposes for the glory of His name. Amen.

The Gift of Contentment

Ever heard the phrase “first world problems”? I’m pretty sure that’s an euphemism for “how many ways can we define our discontentment?” There are many way to describe the average American, I’m pretty sure discontent would have to be at the top of the list. Americans constantly chase more, bigger, better, faster; they seek superlatives yet not of it is ever enough. There is no satisfaction, no rest, no relaxation. The pursuit of something we cannot attain drives us as we seek that extra something that dominates our thoughts and actions.

contentment

The apostle Paul had it all: pedigree, position, and power. Possessions often accompany such a person as well. Yet, Paul knew better. He sought to destroy the very movement (Christianity) that offered what his soul longed for: contentment. He devoted his life to the pursuit and destruction of those who followed Jesus.

However, a dramatic confrontation on the Damascus Road caused a major conversion causing Paul to finally find his contentment. After years of an anger that literally drove him, he finally found a contented rest for his soul. The good news of Jesus Christ completely changed Paul from a bitter and discontented man into a loving and gracious man.

In Philippians he wrote,

“I have learned to be content in whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.”

Putting it another way, he’s saying that contentment has nothing to do with our situation but with what we are trusting in.

He found peace—the ultimate contentment—in Christ. These words, written by a man who had been imprisoned, severely beaten, stoned, flogged, shipwrecked, and pursued by his enemies. Despite all of that, one of the major themes throughout Paul’s letters is joy. How it that possible? He did not look around at the world, or its standards, for his happiness. Rather, he looked to Christ and found deep and abiding joy, which surpassed any circumstances. His discontentment is resolved by the One who brings a peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7). 

Our contentment can only be found in the Lord. Not Christ ‘and’, just Christ. He is enough. Paul tells us that Jesus is the One who gives us strength in all circumstances. When we look to Him, the temptations of the world, the draw of more stuff, loses its appeal. Nothing compares.

After reviewing his many accomplishments in the book of Philippians Paul puts it this way, “But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.”

My Everything

There is an old hymn that isn’t sung much anymore that I just love, it goes like this:

He is my everything,
He is my all,
He is my everything,
Both great and small.
He gave His life for me.
Made everything new.
He is my everything.
Now how about you?

Let’s practice teaching our children to pursue Him before seeking more stuff. I pray our children would know the gift of contentment this Christmas season—not because they receive everything on their list, but because He gave His life on the cross and rose to live again. May our discontentment be healed as we allow Him to be enough.

Purpose When Your Plans Fall Apart

You can make many plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail. Proverbs 19:21

I’ll never forget the day I had to deliver news that I knew would break my child’s heart. For many years my oldest son had set his sights on joining the military and being a member of the special forces. I have to admit that as a mother it took me a while to come accept this path, but there was no denying that he just seemed suited for this line of work in serving our country.

purpose

He began talking to recruiters and training his body. I finally began doing research of my own into ROTC programs and reading as much as I could about being part of a military family. I felt peace about his decision and began to be excited for him. Then I found the information that determined he was permanently disqualified from serving because he had celiac disease.

It never occurred to us that having to eat gluten free would keep him from a career in the military. All of his plans came to a halt that day and sent him into a it of a tailspin. It has taken him almost a year to refocus himself on his future. He still doesn’t know what career he want to pursue, but he is exploring his passions and has an interest in his schoolwork again.

The Lord will work out his plans for my life – for your faithful love, O Lord, endures forever. Don’t abandon me, for you made me. Psalm 138:8

I’ll never forget the tears in his eyes when he learned that his original plans for his future were no longer an option. The confusion and lack of purpose that overtook him. And maybe today you find yourself on a path that you didn’t want. A life that you didn’t plan.

While your plans might have been derailed, God’s purpose for your life has not changed. He hasn’t abandoned you. God is walking with you. He is working even through the pain and difficulties of your life for your good. (Romans 8:28) He is on your side.

Hold fast to the truth that God’s purposes are perfect and greater than our own plans. Remind yourself that God has a purpose and it is good.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

And when you feel like you’re floundering, remember, our ultimate purpose here on earth is to glorify God. Praise Him and then do the next right thing while He works the rest out.

Further Encouragement: Proverbs 3:5, Philippians 1:6, Colossians 3:23

A Pleasing Aroma

Happy Thanksgiving!

Isn’t it interesting how we associate certain aromas with specific times of the year? Pumpkin spice signals a season of thankfulness; cinnamon, pine, and peppermint usher in the season of giving.

pleasing aroma

Some smells are so lovely and inviting we automatically inhale deeply as soon as we detect them. (Yes, Starbucks, I’m talking to you!) Others are, shall we say…disgusting! Within nanoseconds of detection, windows go up, recycled air is blasted, hands cover nose, and we scream, “Skunk!”

Smells are powerful triggers, aren’t they? They can cause a visceral reaction instantaneously which makes it extremely important that we be aware of our own aromatic contribution to our surroundings.

Therefore, it is with much compassion as your sister in the Lord that I must tell you—and I mean this in the nicest of ways: You smell!

It’s true.

You have a distinct spiritual scent that follows you wherever you go. Don’t believe me? It’s true. The apostle Paul explained this concept to the church in Corinth:

“But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life.” (2 Cor. 2:14-16a)

In other words, to God, his children smell pretty amazing. To those being saved, we are an aroma that brings life. To those who are perishing, we reek of death.

As Paul continued, “Who is equal to such a task?” (2 Cor. 2:16b)

It’s a profound truth and responsibility that I never considered before. Some will love our “scent” while others will hate it. And most importantly, their reaction has little to do with me, and everything to do with Christ in me.

Our spirits have a sense of smell. Who knew?!

When you carefully consider this concept, it makes sense. Haven’t there been times when you just met someone or passed a person in the store and you somehow knew they shared your faith?

What about the time you engaged the Starbucks barista in conversation, and you instinctively knew he was a Christ follower? Or the time you explained your engine noises to the mechanic while simultaneously realizing she was a fellow Believer?

I’ve always assumed it was “something in my spirit” that recognized the connection, but I never considered what it was. Now, I know: My spirit has a sense of smell.

I’m not going off the deep end here—I promise. I’m simply using Paul’s analogy to help us think in spiritual terms about something we’ve all experienced: S.O.

You can think of spirit odor (S.O.) like body odor (B.O.)—it’s not as obvious to us as it is to those around us. And the aroma of our spirit depends a lot on where we’ve spent our time.

Let that sink in for a moment: We carry the smell of our environment with us wherever we go—physically and spiritually.

As a little girl, when I spent time with my chain-smoking Nana and Papa, you would know it as soon as I walked into the room, because I smelled like I’d been with them.

Recently, our teenage son was tending our friends’ chickens while they were out of town. After spending quality time in the coop to refill their food and water, surrounded by the little cluckers, he smelled just like them…all the way home!

Similarly, when we spend time in the presence of the Lord, we begin to “smell” like Him, too. It’s not a physical smell, but a spiritual aroma. We smell different than we did before, and it’s pretty distinct.

I guess you could say that we smell out of this world!

Detectable only in the spiritual realm, our aroma identifies us as having been with Christ.

As Alvin L. Reid says in his new book Sharing Jesus {without freaking out}, “As we live daily, bearing the fruit of the Spirit in front of others, we become the aroma of Christ to those we encounter.”

Now, here’s what’s interesting: According to Paul, the exact same aroma that smells like LIFE to some will reek of DEATH to others.

This was hard for me to wrap my brain around until I thought of our traditional main meal on Thanksgiving Day. Depending on your turkey tradition and what time zone you live in, it’s very possible that you’ll start smelling the turkey at some point during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade or the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. There’s nothing quite like the aroma of turkey on Thanksgiving Day is there? Unless, of course, you are a Vegetarian or Vegan. I’m guessing that if you’re one of the aforementioned noncarnivores, the aroma of turkey is probably more like a stench and you’d rather not smell it. Am I right? And what if it permeates your clothes and you go home smelling like Thanksgiving dinner. For some, this is perfectly welcome, and for others, the coats immediately hang outside to air out.

So, back to Paul’s statement: the exact same aroma that smells like LIFE to some will reek of DEATH to others.

This could be difficult—especially when you’re surrounded by those you love who do not share your faith. And it’s exacerbated during the holiday season.

Have you experienced high levels of stress or predictable conflict with someone for no tangible reason? Like every time you’re together something comes up and boom! Stress. Anger. Resentment. Conflict.

What if their reaction to you has nothing to do with you personally?

What if they are reacting to the pleasing aroma of Christ in you—only it’s not so pleasing to them. In fact, in their experience, you stink…not physically, but something in their spirit can’t handle your smell.

And… This is the reason you are reading this devotional today… Right now…

What would happen if, instead of taking the behavior and/or comments personally, you recognize the reaction for what it is. Choose not to be offended. Pray for their eyes to be opened to the truth. And turn to God who loves your spiritual scent.

During this holiday season, it’s critical that we remember two important truths:

  1. We cannot control whether or not others like our spiritual aroma, BUT…
  2. We can control what—and who—we smell like.

Remember: When you walk closely with the Lord, you will be “the pleasing aroma of Christ” both to Him and those who love to spend time with Him.

Sisters are for Encouraging

We have a lot of sisters at our house. Four to be exact. And that is just the right amount to produce a lot of fun sister activity. Unfortunately, it also produces a lot of not-so-fun sister activities; fighting, tattling, bossing, comparing, complaining, telling someone how to do it the ‘right way’…my list could go on and on and on. How easy it is to lose sight of our purpose as sisters.

purpose

When it happens over and over and over again…I get tired! It hurts me to see them hurting each other’s feelings. It makes me sad how they treat each other.

The girls know what I’m going to say before I even say it. I’ve said it over and over. I repeat it daily. Sometimes hourly.

“Sisters are for encouraging”

Sisters are not for:

  • …fighting with.
  • …tattling on.
  • …bossing around…Mom is the boss.
  • …comparing with. Life will NOT be fair. Everyone is better at something.
  • …complaining about.
  • …telling you how to do it their way.

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 

Our true purpose

Encourage one another. Build each other up.

That is the purpose of a sister.

Let’s go a step further. I’m talking about earthly sisters here. Those blood sisters. Yet, as I repeat this sentence over to my girls I hear the Holy Spirit whisper, “what about your sisters in faith?”

How should we treat our sisters in Christ?  What is the purpose for that kind of a sister?

The answer is astoundingly the same.

Sisters are for encouraging.

We don’t need to fight with a sister of Jesus.

Do everything without complaining and arguing Philippians 2:14

We don’t need to run and tattle when a sister is doing something we don’t approve of!

And make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands.
1 Thessalonians 4:11

We don’t need to boss a sister in Christ around.

They have the Holy Spirit to prod and guide into what they should be doing. We are NOT their boss.

When the spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth. For He will not speak on his own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak, and He will declare to you the things that are to come.  John 16:13

Sisters are NOT for comparing with.

OUCH. Life is not fair. Really, we wouldn’t want it to be. Our talents are not the same as our sisters. Our calling is not the same as that of ANYONE else. So we must not compare with our sisters.

We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.

We, however, will not boast beyond proper limits, but will confine our boasting to the sphere of service God himself has assigned to us, a sphere that also includes you. We are not going too far in our boasting, as would be the case if we had not come to you, for we did get as far as you with the gospel of Christ. Neither do we go beyond our limits by boasting of work done by others.

Our hope is that, as your faith continues to grow, our sphere of activity among you will greatly expand, so that we can preach the gospel in the regions beyond you. For we do not want to boast about work already done in someone else’s territory.

But, “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.
2 Corinthians 10:12-18

Sisters are not for complaining about. Or complaining to, for that matter.

Do everything without complaining and arguing Philippians 2:14

Sisters are not there for telling you how to do something… Exactly their own way. Again, that is the Holy’ Spirit’s job.

Jesus said in John 16:12-15 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”

Sisters are for encouraging.

Whether we are blood sisters or sisters in Christ. We must not try to take over the Holy Spirit’s job. Or boss them around like a lord over them. No, friends, let’s encourage one another and build each other up!

This is the purpose of a sister: encouragement.

Friends, let’s go be encouragers!!  

His Purpose For His Sheep

The Good Shepherd loves His sheep.

He tends, leads, guides, cherishes, feeds, and protects a flock. He’ll even lay down His life for their protection.

As Christians, Jesus is our Good Shepherd and He did more than just dying for us.

He set up a plan and purpose for each of us because He knows that there is an enemy that wants to take us out.
He knows this well because he tried to take HIM out!

his purpose

The thief’s purpose is to seal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.
John 10:10 (NLT), emphasis added

His purpose is our good, it’s extraordinary! not for our harm.
I long to walk confidently in that. With that kind of purpose that He has for me, I want to learn how to walk in the fullness of that.

Once you were like sheep who wandered away. But now you have turned to your Shepherd, the Guardian of your souls.
1 Peter 2:25 (NLT), emphasis added

I was a young mom of 3 at the time and I bought several books, searching for answers about my purpose and not “losing myself” as an individual. Those books didn’t satisfy and I was asking more questions than I originally had!

I was introduced to God’s Word and Jesus; a true relationship with Him, and found that my individual-self wasn’t lost after all! I am both hidden and found in Christ. He became my identity.

For me, a rich and satisfying life meant walking in step with Him. Deepening my understanding of His ways through fellowship with Holy Spirit. Joyfully learning to live an obedient and holy life (James 1:22-25).

My question went from “How do I not lose myself?” to “How do I find myself (in Christ)?”; from “What am I doing with my life?” to “What does God want to do through my life?”

Asking that takes me on a daily journey. It has for many years.

I learn the purpose of the day.

It may lead to a vision of something long-term, but if it doesn’t, I know that I lived in the fullness of that day.

As you go through your day with Holy Spirit, can you purpose to pinpoint the purpose of that day?

God’s Purposes or Ours?

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.Proverbs 19:21

In my early years as a mother, I was often overwhelmed by the enormous responsibility combined with the unpredictability of babies and toddlers. Nothing in my academic or professional life had prepared me for this challenge!

purpose

I tried to control the chaos by creating systems of planning, goal setting, and time management. That’s a rather grandiose way to describe my early hand-scrawled lists taped to the wall above our kitchen table so I could try to keep track of everything. I found so much satisfaction in accomplishment that I sometimes wrote down tasks I had already completed just for the pleasure of crossing them off the list!

Over the years my system became more elaborate, with carefully categorized daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, and life plans. I developed a home study course for sharing it and began speaking about how to get things done. It was thrilling to discover that my system worked well for other people too.

But a system isn’t enough.

Lists, charts, and schedules can be wonderful tools to help us be good stewards of our time and our lives. But I’ve learned that while plans are good servants, they can be terrible masters. We can become so focused on checking tasks off our lists that we run roughshod over the people around us. Our plans can even become idols. Successful planning can create pride, arrogance, and an illusion that we really are in control . . . but we’re not. Our days and hours are ultimately in God’s hands, not ours.

The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps. — Proverbs 16:9

So should we just throw planning out the window? Not at all. The important thing is our heart attitude—our willingness to trust God’s providence and lean on His guidance . . . even when life doesn’t follow our plans. How we handle interruptions is a good way to gauge this.

We must pray for discernment to know how to respond to each situation. Sometimes the appropriate response is to ignore an interruption and continue the task at hand. At other times, an interruption is a signal to be sensitive to God’s timing and to recognize an opportunity to serve someone who really needs us. C. S. Lewis said, “What one calls the interruptions are precisely one’s real life—the life God is sending one day by day.” This realization has softened and enriched my overachiever approach to planning.

English nun Janet Erskine Stuart’s attitude provides a wonderful reminder of how God’s providence applies to interruptions. Her assistant’s explanation convicts and encourages me, and I hope it will do the same for you:

She delighted in seeing her plan upset by unexpected events, saying it gave her great comfort, and that she looked on such things as an assurance that God was watching over her stewardship, was securing the accomplishment of His will, and working out His own designs. Whether she traced the secondary causes to the prayer of a child, the imperfection of an individual, to obstacles arising from misunderstandings, or to interference of outside agencies, she was joyfully and gracefully ready to recognize the indication of God’s ruling hand, and to allow herself to be guided by it. (Maud Monahan, The Life and Letters of Janet Erskine Stuart, 93)

Purpose: His Way or Mine?

There is our way and then there is His way. Only one can be right. And it is not ours.

In order to go forward and listen to Him instead of insisting on Him blessing our plan, we need to follow His way, embrace His purpose. Take some time now to ‘approach the throne of grace with confidence.’

purpose

Go as a daughter of the King of kings, not as a pauper, or out cast, but as an heir. Consider, what it is that your heart desires most? What has He placed there for His glorious purpose? What are the dreams that you have suppressed and hidden away as the enemy has convinced you that they were too big and you were inadequate. Those desires, those dreams, that purpose…they’re all placed there by your heavenly Father.

Now, what do you want to ask Him about them? His favor? His timing? His direction? His strength? His peace?

Ask Him.

He already knows. He is your heavenly Father. He wants to hear from you. Too often we think asking is akin to selfish desires, but that does not have to be the case. What about asking Him for a vision of His plan for your life? The life of your husband? The lives of your children? What about asking Him what He sees that you need to deal with? Improve on? Or move past? Are you willing to ask Him to move in and through you, to instill His purpose in your heart, as He deems necessary for the kingdom?

Secondly, where are you seeking Him? Are you seeking Him in His Word or in the world? What are the scriptures that speak to the issue? How can you study them for insight and direction?

Seek.

Who would be wise counsel for you to share and pray with about the issue? Do you have a teachable spirit? Are you seeking His will through your friends or through His Holy Spirit? Do your friends encourage you to obey your heavenly Father or do they encourage you to question Him? Is your faith at the foundation of your search? Is His purpose your true desire? Or are you trying to make sense of it all to the point that your search is even a sidetrack to your faith? Have you let your lack of understanding sidetrack your belief?

When you have asked, and have searched the scriptures and the time has come to Knock, are you listening? Are you beating down the door impatiently? Or gently knocking and waiting? Are you grumbling in the meantime? How are you spending the ‘wait time’? How could you use it to prepare for the door to open? Are you willing to share your burden with others? Have you rushed off to another door before He has had time to answer? What time limits have you set on His response? How could you praise Him while you wait? How could you be a testimony while you are waiting?

When the door is opened, now what? Are you ready to obey? Maybe you have been standing in front of an open door for quite sometime, afraid or refusing to enter. What is next? What are you afraid of? Your sacrifices? Your reputation? Your plans? Why are you refusing to enter His ‘rest’? Is it different from your expectations? Does it mean you will have to make some changes? What would those be? Where is your faith? Have you asked Him for some more?

 

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.

Ephesians 3:20-21

By Faith Alone, in Christ Alone

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

October 31, 2017, known as Reformation Day, marks the 500-year anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, which began when Martin Luther nailed his list of ninety-five theses on the door of All Saints’ Church in the German town of Wittenberg. The list, which outlined a number of abuses by the Roman Catholic Church, was a bold public statement by Luther, although he probably had no idea just how significant his actions would prove in the aftermath of that fateful day in 1517.

Of course, history tells the story of trials, resolve, martyrdom, and great awakenings that were born out of the Reformation. Meanwhile, the Word of God spread like wildfire as the Scriptures were translated into common languages (by Luther and others) for the first time and the development of the printing press made it possible for ordinary people to read and study the Bible for themselves.

reformation day

Any number of Protestant denominations arose out of the Reformation, including the Lutherans, Methodists, Calvinists (Reformed churches), Anglicans, Baptists, Presbyterians, and more.

So what was so revolutionary about Luther’s ninety-five theses that it changed Christendom forever? Now that five hundred years of dust has settled, what are the major takeaways from this momentous event?

Perhaps the most important theological understanding that emerged from the Reformation is the preeminence of Scripture in our lives and faith. Prior to Luther’s act, believers considered the church and its leaders in Rome to be the ultimate authority on any doctrinal issue. But today, numerous churchgoers might say, “The Bible says it, I believe it, and that settles it.”

However, there are really five major pillars, all closely related, that came out of the Reformation and have stood the test of time:

Sola Scriptura. Sola scriptura is Latin for “by Scripture alone,” meaning that the Word of God is the sole infallible authority over Christian faith and practice. “All scripture is breathed out by God . . . that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Sola Gratia. Sola gratia means “by grace alone.” This means that the totality of our salvation is a gift of grace from God. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Sola Fide. Sola fide is Latin for “by faith alone.” In other words, salvation comes by way of faith, not by works. We can do nothing to earn or buy our way into heaven. When the jailer asked, “What must I do to be saved?” Paul and Silas answered, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). Paul also wrote, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. . . . For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith” (Romans 1:16-17).

Sola Christus. Sola Christus means “in Christ alone.” This is the belief that Christ is the one and only mediator between God and man, and He is the only way to salvation. “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

Soli Deo Gloria. Soli Deo gloria is Latin for “glory to God alone.” In other words, we must give every part of our lives to God and do all for His glory alone. Johann Sebastian Bach signed each of his compositions with the initials SDG to declare that God alone was to receive the glory for the wonders of His creation and redemption. “Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).

In 1521, a few years after the incident at Wittenburg, Martin Luther stood trial before an assembly of the Holy Roman Empire and was ordered to recant his teachings. Although the words were not recorded in the trial transcript, tradition holds that Luther concluded his defense by saying, “Here I stand, I can do no other. God help me. Amen.”

Do you stand with Luther? Do you stand on Scripture alone, by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, for the glory of God alone?

O Lord God Almighty, I come before you now in humility, with a heart full of gratitude for your amazing grace that saves this wretch. Thank you for saving me by faith in Christ alone. Thank you for your Son, your Word made flesh. Thank you for the Scriptures, which reveal the truth of my sinful state and the means by which I can be saved. To you be all glory, now and forevermore. In the name of Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.

 

Walking by faith and enjoying the homeschooling adventure of a lifetime!

© 2017 Davis Carman
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