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Posts Tagged ‘Martin Luther’

Give Jesus Christ a chance, give Him elbow room … 

because the devil doesn’t get lazy around you. (1)

Most Christians only pray when they are desperate.

As Screwtape might say to Wormwood in C. S. Lewis’ book, The Screwtape Letters:

“Never let them think they need to pray.  Let them have enough confidence in themselves and fate that they do not ask Jesus to intervene.  This way they create more space for our tempting ploys.”

Prayer is a bother to us because we have nothing measurable to show for it at the end of the day.  

This is why many pastors rarely pray.

How do you explain to the Church Board that the 3 hours you spent in prayer this morning was productive work, while Mr Jones and Mrs. Smith were at nursing home ailing in loneliness, while Darrin was off being a teenage derelict, and while the homeless at the shelter needed someone to cook them breakfast?

Let’s be honest, what would impress your boss and friends the most?

Tell them you woke up at 6 AM and prayed for 3 hours for the Spirit of God to mold your heart and mind, to send Jones and Smith a friend, to get Darrin on track, and to motivate volunteers to work at the homeless shelter.

Or

Tell them that you woke up at 6 AM to serve breakfast at the homeless shelter, then met with Darrin before he went to school, and visited with Smith and Jones as you passed the nursing home before arriving at the office at 9 AM.

No contest here.  We know who will get the big raise.

Genuine praise, adoration, and glory comes to the man, woman, or child who works for God serving the needy, while pleasing pleasant platitudes are offered for prayers.

At the end of Luke 10, when Martha complained to Jesus that her sister avoided kitchen work to listen to him, Jesus said:

“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” (2)

In Luke 11:1, Jesus is praying and one of his disciples said, “Jesus teach us how to pray!”

We all need more knee time with God.

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  1. I compiled this quote by combining two statements, the first from Oswald Chambers and the latter from Martin Luther.  Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest: Selections for the Year (Grand Rapids, MI: Oswald Chambers Publications; Marshall Pickering, 1986).  Luther, Martin; Galvin, James C. (2009-05-19). Faith Alone: A Daily Devotional (p. 240). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
  2. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Luke 10:41–42.
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Fear God and honor the king! (1)

Fearing God is the easier of the two parts of this command.  

Honor the king!  I am having a problem with this one, especially as the narcissistic stalemate in Washington DC, continues to rule on the basis of self-interest, money, and power.

Our leaders have abandoned the form of government advocated by Abraham Lincoln in his Gettysburg Address, “Government of the people, by the people, and for the people!”

Paul’s statement that all sin and fall short of the glory of God (2) is hard to dispute when examining the current political culture of the United States.

Christians have historically struggled with Jesus’ teaching “Give to Caesar what is his and give to God what is His.” (3)

Martin Luther, the leader of the Protestant Reformation, has provided the best explanation of what Jesus meant:

The secular government doesn’t extend any further than external and physical matters. God can tolerate secular government because it doesn’t concern itself with sin, good works, or spiritual matters. Instead, it handles other matters, such as guarding cities, building bridges, collecting tolls and taxes, providing protection, defending the land and the people, and punishing criminals. 

So Christians should obey government officials as long as these officials don’t command them to do something against their consciences.

If an emperor or prince were to ask me about my faith, I surely would tell him, not because of his governmental authority, but because I should confess my faith publicly. 

If, however, he ordered me to believe this or that, I would say, “Sir, take care of the secular government. You have no authority intruding on God’s kingdom. I will not obey you. You cannot tolerate anyone intruding on your domain. If someone oversteps their boundary without your permission, you shoot them. Do you think that God should tolerate your desire to push him off his throne and seat yourself in his place?” (4)

As the people of God we need to pray and work to keep the civil government from meddling in the affairs of God.

As you celebrate our nation’s independence today, established primarily to protect religious liberties, pray for our leaders, more and more of them believe everything belongs to Caesar.

As fear of God is replaced by expanding honor for the king our great nation grows weaker.

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  1. 1 Peter 2:17 .
  2. Romans 3:23.
  3. Matthew 22:21.
  4. Luther, Martin; Galvin, James C. (2009-05-19). Faith Alone: A Daily Devotional (p. 185). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

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In this life, we hear the sounds, not the symphony. (1)

We never see the whole picture of life.  Even in this Information Age of digital technology,  scientific discovery, and higher education we only know a fraction of all there is to know.

If you are in the market to buy a new car you can visit on-line and real-time car dealers, research Consumers Report, read on-line reviews, test drive, and crunch all the numbers, but at the end of the day you will never know if you made the best decision.

Buy the Volkswagen and be left wondering if the Ford was the better deal and car, if the VW brought you greater joy, if this and if that … The list of qualifiers goes on and on.  You never know.

JP Morgan lost $2 billion and, according to latest reports, may lose up to $9.6 billion on a specific complex trade of credit swaps, derivatives, economic voodoo.  Instead another trader out-guessed them and took them to the cleaners.

Our biggest mistakes are made in life when we believe we are hearing the full symphony, rather than a collection of sounds.  We listen to a distant drumbeat, add some imaginary notes, compose lyrics, and make a decision.  Then we dance to our music, hoping it leads to life.

The Apostle Paul spoke about our blind leap into life:

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then we shall see face-to-face. (2)

So what should we do when confronted with information over-load in a world where we never see the whole picture.  My counsel is to follow the most trustworthy source.

In my life, I have only found one trustworthy source of information and guidance for living.  That source is the Bible, the Holy Scriptures of the Christian faith.  It provides wisdom sufficient for making any decision you need to make in life.

The Bible is the infallible Word of God.  The Bible will never fail you.  In my own life, when I have faithfully lived according to the truth of the Bible, my life has gone well.  When I have listened to the world’s music or my own, my dance has turned into a limp.

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. (3)

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  1. Luther, Martin; Galvin, James C. (2009-05-19). Faith Alone: A Daily Devotional (p. 180). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
  2. 1 Corinthians 13:12.
  3. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Psalm 119:105.

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Everywhere love turns, it finds burdens to carry. (1)

I use to have a friend who I loved, as friends love each other, but I dropped the friendship because he became too difficult to love.  Carrying his burdens became more than I could bear.

We have all had this experience, whether with a friend, a spouse, a parent, a child, or a sibling.  It became too much of a burden to love them, so we dropped them.  While we did so with regret, we did so convinced that we had to.

Love brings burdens.  

We all sin and fall short of God’s glory.  None of us are perfect.  

When my wife said, “I do” at our wedding nearly 32 years ago, she knew I was incomplete and imperfect.  Together we agreed to share each other’s burdens in the exchange of these vows:

I will you love you, comfort you, cherish, honor and keep you in plenty and in want, in joy and in sorrow, in sickness and health, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in whatever our life may bring, as long as we both shall live.

Yes, love brings burdens.  Yet, love also finds ways to carry those burdens either through a season of difficulty or until the burden has been relieved.  

This is where most love fails.  There is a weight limit to the load we are willing to carry.  When we reach the limits of the weight we can or are willing to carry, we cry out, “Loving you is killing me!”

I have wept with others who stand at this crossroads.  I understand the heaviness of the load and the pain and suffering it brings.  

Love is a heavy load.  

Love is a rose set in a bed of thorns, in this setting love is a many-splendored thing. (2)

Jesus said it best, 

“There is no greater love, than to lay down your life for your friends!” (3)

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  1. Luther, Martin; Galvin, James C. (2009-05-19). Faith Alone: A Daily Devotional (p. 171). Zondervan. Kindle Edition. 
  2. This phrase is from the 1955 movie, Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing, which is based on Han Suyin’s 1952 autobiographical novel A Many-Splendored Thing.
  3. John 15:13.

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Life is a Battle!

A friend told me recently, “I avoid conflict! I’ll do anything to get out of conflict!”

I was tempted to add to his last sentence, “… except kill yourself.”

Can you live life and avoid conflict or battles?

In my devotional reading today I read these two quotes:

Life is not victory, but battle. (1)

Combat comes before victory. (2)

The sum of the two could read: 

Life is a battle which precedes victory!

The presence of evil and the reality of sin assure us that life is a battle between good and evil.  This is the story of life … Good and Evil are in a battle to the finish.  Only one can win the battle.    

People often complain that the Bible, especially the Old Testament and The Book of Revelation, is a gruesome battlefield which does not seem befitting for the people of God. 

It’s a valid complaint because the battle of Good and Evil is the story of The Bible.  We often forget that the cosmic battle between Good and Evil is fought everyday on earth, as well as in the heavens.

Thus, the ultimate question of life is,

“Which will be the victor? Good or evil?”

I believe both will win.  

Evil will win the battle of the flesh and Good will win the battle of the cosmos.  

However, since the Eternal will always outlive the Temporal, I am casting my lot with the God, the Eternal Good! 

Martin Luther wrote in his great hymn, A Mighty Fortress is Our God:

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, thru 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.

Yes, life is a battle!  This is the bad news.

The Good News is: Jesus wins!

It’s good to know who will win!  

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  1. Samuel G. Hardman and Dwight Lyman Moody, Thoughts for the Quiet Hour (Willow Grove, PA: Woodlawn Electronic Publishing, 1998).
  2. Reimann, Jim; Cowman, Mrs. Charles E. (2008-09-02). Streams in the Desert: 366 Daily Devotional Readings (p. 239). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

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The great enemy of the life of faith in God is not sin,

but the good which is not good enough.  (1)

 

Last evening I told a group of friends, “Today may go down as the most significant day in my journey of faith!”

They asked for more information.  I told them it was too much to try to explain in a minute or two, much less in an hour or two.

For years I have been wrestling with a good which was not good enough.  For years I had been longing for this good to quench my thirst and to satisfy my heart.  It always left me wanting.  It never brought me to The Promised Land which it promised.

Yesterday I finally let go of this good.  I did not free it as much as I freed myself.

My grasping to the good, my longing for it to satisfy and become great, perfect, and true has been the enemy of my faith for decades.

Today I am free.  Today I am at peace.

The good was a false hope in something to satisfy all the hopes and dreams of my heart.  

Even though you are longing to know what the good was, it does not matter.  

It was the good to which I clung and in which I hoped.  It was the good which kept me from grabbing onto God with both hands.  It was the good which prevented me from loving the Lord my God with all of my heart, and soul, and strength. (2)

Martin Luther in his great hymn, A Mighty Fortress, (a favorite since my childhood) wrote:

Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also; the body they may kill; God’s truth abideth still; his kingdom is forever.

A few years ago I began to recognize the bruise, the rotten spot of the good to which I had clung.  But I kept to the hope that with TLC, with effort, and with some buff and polish I could help remove the bruise, the spoiled rotten mark which infected this good.

Yesterday, I realized that the spoiled rotten bruise is here to stay, much like a birthmark.  I can cover it with beautiful clothing, with the best beauty cream and make-up, and with denial, but the birthmark will remain.

I am grateful I finally accepted this reality because I am free from the good which was never going to be good enough.  

My soul is no longer troubled.  

My faith in God is no longer divided between Him and this good.

Jesus said:

“Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (3)

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  1. Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest : Selections for the Year (Grand Rapids, MI: Discovery House Publishers, 1993).
  2. Deuteronomy 6:5
  3. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), John 4:14.

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We’re living here on the devil’s turf. (1)

Sport teams frequently name their stadium, arena, court, or field, after a local hero.  We have:

  • Lambeau Field for Packers Coach Curly Lambeau;
  • Wrigley Field for Cubs owner William Wrigley, Jr.;
  • The Dean Dome for UNC Coach Dean Smith;
  • Coach K’s Court for Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski.

When I coached basketball we frequently reminded the boys, “This is our house!”  The reminder was offered as an exhortation during a home game in which the Visitors were walking all over us and our poor defensive play.

Why would Martin Luther refer to earth as The Devil’s Turf when scripture affirms in Psalm 24:1 The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.

Luther’s comment is not a declaration, rather it is a warning about present reality!

Satan does not rule the earth, but it is his playground.  He is constantly recruiting players who will play for his team and by his rulebook.

His players eventually become his victims!

Martin Luther’s words are a helpful warning, not a denial of God’s sovereignty.  Additionally, his words are one’s of comfort and consolation.

The local news can be depressing.  Daily headlines are about murders, robberies, thefts, and crime, all in our own community.

There are days when it seems as Satan is winning the battle.  Yet Satan is always one Word from defeat.

In his great hymn, A Mighty Fortress, Martin Luther writes:

For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe; 

His craft and power are great, and armed with cruel hate.

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.

The last line in these lyrics is critical:  One little word shall fell him.

That one little word is Jesus.

This world may be the devil’s playground, but the earth is the Lord’s.

Satan plays, but God wins!

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  1. Luther, Martin; Galvin, James C. (2009-05-19). Faith Alone: A Daily Devotional (p. 80). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

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