31 October 2016

A Brief Reformation Day History

While the world celebrates death with skeletons, ghosts, and goblins on October 31, the Church remembers the formal start of the Protestant Reformation. Begun by Martin Luther, a hammer, and his 95 Theses, men like Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, and many, many others would go on to challenge the heresies and abominations of the Roman Catholic Church. Their defense and weapon? The pure Word of God. May we be encouraged, challenged, and inspired by their fidelity and boldness, and, should we see God's Word abused, may we never cower, capitulate, or fail to speak, knowing that we stand upon a firm foundation of Truth.

Introduction

By the sixteenth century, God had uniquely positioned and prepared the Western world for what would come to be known as the Protestant Reformation. Closing out the Middle Ages and ushering in the beginning of modernity, the Reformation has been called the greatest event in history, next to the introduction of Christianity.1 Not only was the church, which at this time was the Roman Catholic Church, in dire need of reform, but at this point in history, even the secular world sat poised for a new beginning.

Exploration was expanding, trade was increasing and the middle class was gaining ground. Educational opportunities were increasing and, by God’s great grace, Johannes Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press allowed for a far greater dissemination of ideas. The Renaissance was at its peak and, in the midst of all this, God chose to raise up several well educated, godly, strong-willed, Christ-centered and Scripture-focused men.

Among these men was an Augustinian monk named Martin Luther. On October 31, 1517, Luther nailed to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany his 95 Theses against the Roman Catholic practice of selling indulgences. With this swing of a mallet, Martin Luther launched the Reformation.2

28 October 2016

This 'n' That

Well, it's Friday. No, it's not just Friday. It is Friday, October 28, 2016. Do you know what that means? No, I'm not thinking about Halloween. I'm not even thinking about Reformation Day (go ahead, tar and feather me in your mind). I am thinking about Game 3 of the World Series.

While I have long been a baseball fan, the truth is, I never cared about baseball in October. That's because my team, the Chicago Cubs, rarely played ball in October. Let's face it, for years (and years, and years), the Cubs lost all hope of October as early in the season as possible.

Source: Wikimedia Commons
Not this year. This year, 2016, 71 years after last winning the National League (NL) pennant and 108 years since their last World Series victory, the Cubs are once again finally at the top of the NL. They are the NL champions. For someone who's been a loyal fan since she was a young girl (despite not even living in Chicago until my 20s), this is a big deal. Adding to the poetry of this series is that it is against the Cleveland Indians, another team that has had little success in the postseason in years past.

So tonight is Game 3 of the World Series. Right now the series is tied, with Chicago and Cleveland each having won one game. As I write this, I'm pondering the appropriateness of donning Cubs gear at the office. It is Friday, after all.

As for the theological significance of the situation, well, there isn't any, unless I wanted to mutilate a few doctrines and liken Chicago's years of failure with someone trapped in a besetting sin and the grace of God to save even the worst of sinners. Such a comparison strikes me as a bit blasphemous, though, so let's not even entertain the thought. Instead, let's just enjoy the baseball moment. Go, Cubs, Go!

Further, let us simply thank the Lord for another Friday, the introduction to a weekend of rest for many. As you prepare to "Fly the W," why not also take some time to enjoy your week in review (kind of):

26 October 2016

Consequences of the Cross: Justification


Christ’s work on the cross is everything for the Christian. It must be.

It was essential that Jesus live in perfect obedience to the Law (Matthew 5:17).

Without the resurrection, our faith would be in vain (1 Corinthians 15:13-19).

Yet it is Christ’s work at Calvary that brought about justification (Romans 5:9). It was the pleasing nature of His substitutionary, atoning sacrifice before the Father that paid the ransom price for men’s sinful souls.

Justification is a one-time event. Upon receiving salvation, where once a man stood guilty and condemned before the holy God, he now stands justified and is reckoned as righteous before the Father (Romans 5:1).

Justification is wholly a divine work. It is God who justifies (Romans 8:30, 33) and men are justified as the righteousness of Christ is imputed to them.
He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
Justification is a gift from God that is granted to believers and is made theirs by faith (Romans 3:24).

No work of the Law can render men righteous before God, only faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

This truth is repeatedly stated in Scripture. Paul declares it boldly in Galatians 3:24-26:
Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.
Yet even this faith is a gift from God to men.
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Saints on both sides of the cross are justified by faith in Christ alone (Romans 4:3; cf. Hebrews 11).

Have you placed your faith in this great Savior?

See Also:
Consequences of the Cross
Consequences of the Cross: Redemption
Consequences of the Cross: Propitiation

22 October 2016

Equipping Eve: Stickers in My Bible


By now, almost every Christian woman is aware of the latest fad of Bible Art Journaling. Can taping stickers in my Bible and doodling in the margins really draw us closer to God? Or is this merely one more way that the whims of the world have crept into the visible church?



Further Listening

21 October 2016

This 'n' That

It's rare for me to cross the state line into Kentucky. There simply is no need for me to do so often, with the exception of every six to eight weeks. This is when I venture across the bridge to get my hair cut. I know, important stuff.

Now, on a soon-to-be-related note, this area has not seen much rain over the past two months or so. When the heavens opened and poured down Wednesday afternoon, then, I was thankful. It was still bright and pleasant outside, and as I walked to my car after work, there was a beautiful, perfect rainbow in the sky. It was a lovely reminder of God's promises. Little did I know...

I arrived at my destination, where I knew I would be for the next 90 minutes or so. The hair stylist and I chit-chatted about the rain (of which she had seen none; it had not yet rained in that part of the city) and work and upcoming vacations (hers, not mine. What is a vacation, anyway?). Then, as I sat there, I noticed the sky growing darker. Consulting Twitter, I saw that a severe thunderstorm warning had been issued. "Great, just what I need, strong winds and hail on the way home," I thought. Oh, well.

Within minutes, though, I saw this pop up on my screen:
Yes, you guessed it, I was right there, smack dab in the middle of the red. Tornado sirens started going off and continued to do so for the next hour or so.

The building we were in does not appear to be terribly sturdy, and there is no lower level, so three of us (yes, I made a new friend that night since we were both getting our hair done in the middle of severe weather) hunkered down in a center room where my dear, sweet stylist continued to work. Well, I guess if you have to sit around and wait out a tornado, you might as well keep cutting!

The rain pounded, and while I'm not sure we were the recipients of any monstrous hail (thankfully), it certainly sounded like it! The wind was fierce and the sky was the blackest I've seen in awhile. We prayed together and laughed nervously. The first tornado warning expired and we anticipated the storm would pass by. The rain kept pounding. Then another tornado warning was issued. Then, in one moment, the rain stopped and everything grew eerily still. The three of us looked at each other, anticipating crumpling to the floor, our arms over our heads. But it did not come to that. The rain started again and the second tornado warning expired.

It was an adventure, to say the least.

At the end of it all, there was no damage, we all made it home safely, and I ended up with a rather good haircut (although we had already decided that if something went awry and I ended up with a chunk out of my hair, we were going to call it the "tornado cut" and make a trend out of it). Haircut aside, it would be an understatement to say I was praising God for His protection!

Nights like Wednesday remind me of the magnificence of narrative passages such as Mark 4:35-41:
On that day, when evening came, He said to them, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd, they took Him along with them in the boat, just as He was; and other boats were with Him. And there arose a fierce gale of wind, and the waves were breaking over the boat so much that the boat was already filling up. Jesus Himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” And He got up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Hush, be still.” And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm. And He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” They became very much afraid and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?”
This Jesus, the great Master who saved us, not only commands the wind, He created it (Col 1:16)! That, friends, ought to bring us great comfort in times of turmoil.
Whatever the LORD pleases, He does,
In heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps.
He causes the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth;
Who makes lightnings for the rain,
Who brings forth the wind from His treasuries. (Psalm 135:6-7)
Do we rest in the sovereign control of our Lord over all things? May we do so daily, and may He strengthen us to do so in confidence.

Well, I hope you are not reading this while waiting for a tornado to pass, but regardless of where you are, I hope you will enjoy your week in review (kind of):

19 October 2016

Consequences of the Cross: Propitiation

In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10)
Sin separates us from God. Man’s disobedience toward the One who created Him and Who is sovereign over all things precludes us from being reconciled to God by any endeavor of our own.

Sin is pandemic and pervasive. It affects every man (Romans 3:10-11, 23) and its wages is death (Romans 6:23). Sin incurs the wrath and judgment of a holy, righteous, perfectly just God (John 3:36; Romans 2:5-8; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Revelation 20:12-15).

God’s Word explicitly states that without the shedding of blood there can be no forgiveness of sins (Hebrews 9:22). Yet the divinely instituted Old Testament sacrifices merely foreshadowed a greater sacrifice; even keeping these rituals could not atone for man’s sin (Hebrews 10:4).

The wrath of God must be placated. It must be appeased. It must be propitiated.

How is this accomplished?
[Christ] Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world (1 John 2:2; cf. Romans 3:25; Hebrews 2:17).
The death of Christ satisfied the righteous wrath of God. Acting as a substitute, on the cross Jesus Christ bore the wrath of God for all who would ever believe upon Him. He, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God (John 1:29; 1 Peter 1:19), died the death deserved by all sinners.

Christ’s death pleased and appeased the Father, and all who are Christ’s were redeemed at once by this great act of love and obedience (Hebrews 10:10-14).

The reality of this divine propitiation means that Christians can rest knowing they do not stand condemned before God (Romans 8:1), but rather are clothed in the righteousness of their Savior (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Truly this is the act of a supremely loving God (1 John 4:10).

See Also:
Consequences of the Cross
Consequences of the Cross: Redemption

14 October 2016

This 'n' That

There was a time when I bemoaned the use of the Oxford comma. Oh, sure, like many my age, I was raised to use it. Yet upon entering the writing world in my twenties, I was finally free. Free to not use this optional comma. Free to assert myself in my exclusion of this tiny punctuation mark.

Let me pause for a moment, because I fear there may be at least one person reading who is unfamiliar with the Oxford, or serial, comma. The Oxford comma is "placed immediately before the coordinating conjunction" (eg, and, or) in a series of three or more items. For example, the following sentence includes an Oxford comma (bolded):
I went to the store to get apples, eggs, and Oreos.
Come to think of it, that might actually be my current grocery list. Anyway, this next sentence excludes the Oxford comma:
I went to the store to get apples, eggs and Oreos.
In spite of my temporary rebellion against the Oxford comma, over the past few years I've grown to appreciate it again. Lists without it seem unpolished and hurried. After all, consider the confusion that can be caused by not using it:
At the store, I ran into my friend, an Elvis impersonator and a botanist.
Wait a minute, my friend is neither an Elvis impersonator nor a botanist! You see, this sentence should read,
At the store, I ran into my friend, an Elvis impersonator, and a botanist.
Otherwise, you might think I have some rather strange friends! (For the record, I've never met an Elvis impersonator or a botanist in the any store, which is kind of surprising considering the years I spent in Los Angeles and Chicago.)

Last I checked, there were no spiritual implications to using or not using the Oxford comma; however, I think I've seen it used in the NASB translation. The only logical conclusion, then, is that saved people use the Oxford comma. (Calm down, that was sarcasm.)

Okay, now that you've had your grammar lesson for the day, why not brew a cup of tea, slip on some fuzzy socks, sit back, and enjoy your week in review (kind of):

12 October 2016

Consequences of the Cross: Redemption



Most of us know what it is to pay a ransom, though few of us have actually been required to do so! A ransom may be defined as a payment made for the release of a prisoner.

In Mark 10:45, Jesus declared, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” At the cross, Jesus Christ paid the ransom for those who are His.

Scripture speaks of Christ paying this ransom in another term, namely, “redemption.”

Colossians 1:14 says Christ rescued us “from the domain of darkness” and teaches that it is in Him that, “we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

Peter reminds us that we were redeemed “with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:19).

Hebrews 9:12 tells us that Christ obtained “eternal redemption” for His own.

Redeemed.

Redeemed from what? From sin and slavery to sin. All men stand guilty before God, unable to obtain their own righteousness (Romans 3:10-18, 23) and the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23).

Redeemed by what? By the blood of Christ, of whom John the Baptist proclaimed, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). It is only by the shedding of blood that sins are forgiven (Hebrews 9:22) and “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4).

Why were we redeemed? It pleased God to set apart a people for Himself. As the spotless Lamb, Jesus Christ, bled and died, He did so for the sake of those who had been given to Him by the Father (John 10:11, 15, 17, 18; 1 Peter 1:20-21).

Christian, do you thank God for the redemption that was obtained for you at the cross?

Have you praised Christ for paying the ransom price that freed you from your bondage to sin?

See Also:
Consequences of the Cross

11 October 2016

Equipping Eve: The Great Exchange


Open your Bible to the book of Romans and study along as we look at how the Apostle Paul, under the divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit, describes a great and glorious exchange.

Click here to listen to this episode of Equipping Eve.

Click here for Sinclair Ferguson's book, In Christ Alone: Living the Gospel-Centered Life.

Additional Resources
Equipping Eve: Counted Worthy to Suffer
Equipping Eve: What Is Sanctification?
Equipping Eve: A Victim of Spontaneous Baptism

07 October 2016

This 'n' That

Source
To keep things interesting at the office, we recently engaged in a challenge to determine the best flavor of Oreo (there are so many now!). Mint won, of course, because mint Oreos are amazing. Amazing. Did I say they are amazing? Especially the thin ones. They are...well, you get the idea.

But I digress.

Did you know that there is a Swedish Fish flavored Oreo? Well, there is, but they are only available at Kroger stores, so they are a bit elusive. That may not be a bad thing.

Think about it: Swedish Fish...and Oreos. You've probably started imagining the flavor in your mind by now and might be thinking, "I'm not sure how I feel about that." Yeah, listen to that hesitation and avoid them. They are not overly pleasant.

The lesson? Change isn't always a good thing. That is why the Word of God is so precious—it does not change.
The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever. (Isaiah 40:8)
For,
“ALL FLESH IS LIKE GRASS,
AND ALL ITS GLORY LIKE THE FLOWER OF GRASS.
THE GRASS WITHERS,
AND THE FLOWER FALLS OFF,
BUT THE WORD OF THE LORD ENDURES FOREVER.”
And this is the word which was preached to you.
(1 Peter 1:24-25)
The Word of the Lord will stand forever. And ever. And ever. It will never waver or falter. It will never become obsolete. It cannot, for it is the very Word of God! Yes, and God, too, is immutable by nature.
For I, the LORD, do not change. (Malachi 3:6a)
It makes perfect sense, then, that His Word would reflect His character and also be intrinsically immutable. This is why the 66 books of the Bible are authoritative in their entirety. They are God's Word. They will not change. Ever.

Is this not a great source of comfort in the uncertain times in which we live? Is this not a firm foundation upon which we can stand when everything around us teeters and eventually topples? How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord, is laid for your faith in His excellent Word. Amen.

Yet, the world today is ever-changing, which is precisely why we can bring you another edition of your week in review (kind of):

05 October 2016

Consequences of the Cross: Introduction

But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ… (Galatians 6:14)
It may rightly be said that the cross is the universal symbol of Christianity. To ancient peoples, the image of the cross would have evoked thoughts of torture, blood, agony, and death. To the earliest Christians, it also would have elicited sweet, thankful thoughts of the Savior. This is what Christians today must remember when they see this symbol. It is not merely a pretty piece of jewelry; no, the cross is demonstrative of divine accomplishment, power, and love.

What must truly come to mind for the Christian who ponders the cross? Consider the Apostle Paul’s focus on the cross in his writings:

In Galatians 6:24, Paul said he desired to boast in nothing except “in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

In 1 Corinthians 1:23 he declared, “we preach Christ crucified…”

Just a few verses later, he emphasized, “For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2).

The cross of Christ is central to Christianity. As Puritan Stephen Charnock said, “Christ crucified is the sum of the Gospel, and contains all the riches of it.”

Christian, we can never hear, read, or talk too much about the cross of Christ. The crucifixion was preordained by God (Acts 2:23; Is 53:10). It was an act that Jesus carried out willingly and obediently (John 10:17-18; 19:30).

Without a crucified and risen Savior, there is no hope for eternal life. At the cross were rendered the glorious gifts of redemption, propitiation, justification, reconciliation, sanctification, and eventual glorification for those whom God has saved.

The cross displays the wretched blackness of sin and the magnificence of salvation. It reveals God’s boundless love for His children and motivates those children to holy living.

May we recoil at the thought of boasting in ourselves and instead, with Paul, boast only in the cross of Christ.
________________________
1Stephen Charnock, “The Knowledge of Christ Crucified.”