Showing posts with label Our Saviour. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Our Saviour. Show all posts

Stars Write His Name


What is the instructive lesson to be learned from this first syllable of the angel’s song? Why this, that salvation is God’s highest glory. He is glorified in every dew drop that twinkles to the morning sun. He is magnified in every wood flower that blossoms in the copse, although it live to blush unseen, and waste it sweetness in the forest air. God is glorified in every bird that warbles on the spray; in every lamb that skips the mead...Do not all created things extol him? Is there aught beneath the sky, save man, that does not glorify God? Do not the stars exalt him, when they write His name upon the azure of heaven in their golden letters? ... Do not all things exalt Him, from the least unto the greatest? But sing, sing, oh universe, till thou hast exhausted thyself, thou canst not afford a song so sweet as a song of the incarnation. Though creation may be a majestic organ of praise, it cannot reach the compass of the golden canticle – incarnation. There is more in that than in creation, more melody in Jesus in the manger, than there is in world on worlds rolling their grandeur round the throne of the Most High. Pause Christian, and consider this a minute. See how every attribute is here magnified. Lo! What wisdom is here. God becomes man that God may be just, and the justifier of the ungodly.

-Charles Spurgeon



On Monday, we trekked to the darkest corner of our mountain town, the darkest place we could think of, so we could get a look at the Christmas star. Every twenty years or so, Jupiter laps Saturn as they hurtle around the sun, and to the naked eye they look like one bright star.  

The sky was pitch black, and the stars showed their faces one by one, outshone by a waxing moon and two planets skipping through the sky.  And as I looked at all that, I couldn't help but remembering the words of silent night in the quiet.

Son of God, love's pure light

Radiant beams from Thy holy face

With the dawn of redeeming grace

Jesus, Lord at Thy birth

Jesus, Lord at They birth.





For all the glories of the night sky, all the praise they pour forth night after night to their Creator, more glorious still is this - that God became a man in the person of Jesus Christ.  That He humbled Himself to an undignified birth in a stable, and to a hideous death on a cross, to reconcile us to Himself.  As Spurgeon says, all of God's great attributes are on display in the manger.  His justice, His mercy, His love that we could never deserve.


"But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.  For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.

Romans 5:8-11


This is the beauty of Christmas.  This is true peace, the peace with God that is offered to us through the God-man whose birth we celebrate. This is love, that while we hated Him, He offered us Himself, even to die in our place, to take the punishment we deserve for our offenses against Him.  What mercy is that!  This is hope, that He conquered death by coming back to life, alive on His throne forevermore! He reaches out His hands to us now to give us eternal life in Him when we trust in Christ alone. And this is joy, that when we turn, repent, trust in Jesus for our salvation - that we are reconciled to our Creator, that we are rescued from wrath, that we are forgiven and washed clean, that He now calls us friends. 

"In faith, there is joy." As Spurgeon would say.

I hope you find that joy and feel it more strongly than ever this Christmas, even in this dark year.  Like the stars and planets showing off in the inky blackness of the sky, the light of His birth shines always bright into our darkness, if we open our eyes to see it.


"The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined."

Isaiah 9:2


Just in case I don't get a chance to say it again before Friday, a joyful and Merry Christmas to you, friends!

For When You Feel Insignificant



I typed out these words on my phone this morning, intending to post them to Instagram - but they ended up being more blog-length, so I wanted to share here.  I hope you'll forgive this slight bit of blogging cheating this morning - I am still recovering from a successful hunting trip over the weekend!  more on that later in the week.  Happy Monday, friends!

---

 “Whence, as I said before, the Word, since it was not possible for Him to die, as He was immortal, took to Himself a body such as could die, that He might offer it as His own in the stead of all, and as suffering, through His union with it, on behalf of all, bring to naught him that had the power of death, that is the devil; and might deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.”


-Athanasius, On The Incarnation


“There is a pattern and a lesson here. As we read the lives of men and women who have been strategically used by Christ in building His kingdom, we note that the names of those through whom they were brought to faith in Jesus Christ are often forgotten or lost. But their significance is in calculable. God delights to use the hidden and the forgotten.”

-Sinclair Ferguson, In The Year Of Our Lord


This morning I read these beautiful words from Athanasius about Jesus’s sacrifice to save us from our sin and give us life - followed by these poignant thoughts from Sinclair Ferguson. Do you know the names of the people who brought some of the church fathers to faith in Jesus? I don’t.

Sometimes it’s hard to see the impact of our work, whether we are doing any good. Most of us will never be well-known outside our circle of friends and family. We make meals, we give our best effort at work, we keep our houses clean and comfortable. We smile at the grocery store clerk, we encourage a friend, we serve at church. We pray for the salvation of our children, we try to point them to Christ, we try to witness to others of His goodness when we can. But it can still at times all feel a little insignificant.

My grandma and grandpa were brought to faith by a door-to-door salesman who saw my grandma was searching and started a conversation. I don’t know his name. I’m pretty sure he isn’t in any history books. But a whole family came to faith in Christ because he was faithful.  Generations will be affected for Christ because of someone whose name is now lost to us.

It may be that no one ever knows your name. We’ll live in this little blip of history, and then fade away and be forgotten. But that doesn’t mean our work for the Lord is insignificant. He is using us greatly, though we may not always see it. 



The One Thing Your Church Needs To Get Right




(The steeple from my childhood church, in case you were wondering.  It was the best church photo I had.)

Let's do a little evaluating exercise, shall we?

I've mentioned a couple of times briefly that Derek and I have had some church upheaval to deal with over the last six months or so.  I won't get into details here, but we decided in light of everything that we needed to take a step back and evaluate our church situation a little bit, and seek where the Lord may have us go.  So we've been trying some of the churches in our area.

This is the second time we have gone through this process in the last few years, so between Derek and me, we have checked out over a hundred churches, either online or in person.  I wish I could say it's been an encouraging process, but on the contrary, it's been incredibly discouraging to me.  The most discouraging part hasn't involved service styles or anything to do with the people in these churches.  So many have been friendly and welcoming.  I've been more discouraged than anything by the content of some of the sermons.

One illustration we heard at a church-that-shall-not-be-named particularly bothered me, maybe because it is an example of everything that I've been discouraged about in our church hunt.  I'm tipping my hand here, but see if you can understand my point after you read the sermon illustration below.  I understand that every illustration is imperfect and falls apart when you try to take it too far, but I was particularly concerned with this one.

This is roughly what was said in one of the sermons we heard.

---

"Let's imagine that a man gets called into his boss's office one day.  His boss tells him that he needs to sell a million dollars worth of product.  He needs to do it in six months, or he'll lose his job.

The man works to sell the company's product.  Six months later, he gets called into the boss's office again.  He sits down, and his boss looks at him.  The man sweats a little bit in nervousness.  He doesn't think he did well enough.   He is fearful that he'll have to go home tonight and tell his wife that he's out of work.

His boss announces that he only sold $7 worth of product in the last six months.

The man hangs his head.  He knows he's going to lose his job.  He didn't do enough.

But his boss looks at him, and tells him that no, he didn't sell enough.  But because he cares about him so much, he's going to give him another six months to sell the million dollars."

"That," this pastor announced proudly, "is grace."


---

Okay.

The only problem is, that is not the Gospel.

I'm going to give that pastor the benefit of a doubt and assume he was merely trying to explain the general concept of grace rather than a Gospel illustration, but I'm using it as an example because the illustration was representative of alot of the teaching we've heard lately.  Let's just be clear:

The Gospel is not that God gives us grace to do better.

The Gospel is not that Jesus is our example.  He is, but He's so much more than just that.

The Gospel is not even about God changing lives.  That is the result of the Gospel, but it's not the Gospel.

The Gospel starts with understanding that we have a sin problem.  Not "messiness", not "mistakes", not "brokenness".  A pervasive, indwelling sin problem that we can never make up for because we are always piling on more sins.

No, nobody is perfect. And that's the problem, because we are talking about a perfect, holy God, full of goodness and light.  And we have sinned against Him (Psalm 51:4).  We have broken His laws.  God must punish sin, or He would not be perfectly just nor good.  We have earned for ourselves death and eternal punishment in Hell (Romans 6:23).  With every disobedience.  With every grumbling or unclean thought. With every "white lie".

That is not a message that some pastors want to focus on these days.  That is not a feel-good message.  That is bad, bad news.  It might even be offensive, because we all have a tendency to think we aren't "that bad" (guilty here).  But even that attitude is the sin of pride!  Even our good deeds are like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).  We're in trouble.

You have to understand the bad news to understand the good news.

God, out of the richness of His loving-kindness, didn't leave us in our sin and death.  He sent His Son, Jesus, who was fully man and fully God, and He was perfect.  He did everything we couldn't, lived a life without sinning even once.  Then because He was perfectly righteous, He took the punishment we had earned upon Himself.  He died in our place.  Then He rose from the dead, conquering our sin and death itself.  He took our sin upon Himself, suffered the wrath against sin that we deserved, and in exchange He gave us His righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21).

When we recognize who we are, and who Christ is and what He has done, the only thing we need to do is to repent.  We need to turn from our sin and turn to Christ with faith that He will save us.  With faith that He has done everything required for our salvation if we will just turn and trust in Him.

We don't have to be a "better person" to earn His favor.  We don't have to "clean up our lives" to earn forgiveness. We don't have to strive to do things "God's way" in hopes that we've done enough to make up for our wrongs.  We can do nothing to deserve His mercy, we can't make up for our wrongs. But Christ did.  

 "But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared,  not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit,  whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior," 

Titus 3:4-6

And when we understand that and turn to Christ, God takes our hearts of stone and gives us hearts of flesh.  We will respond in loving obedience, because when we understand Jesus died to save us from the punishment of our sin, we will start to hate our sin.  We want to turn our back on it and turn to Jesus because He already saved us from that.  And He enables us to now live for Him (2 Cor. 5:15) through the Holy Spirit working in us, sanctifying us.



---

So if we were going to take that illustration at the top of this post and make it represent the Gospel more truly, it would be something like this.

Your boss comes to you one day and says you have to sell a million dollars in six months or you will lose your job. Worse, you have been embezzling from the company for years, so you have to pay that money back before you can start earning the million dollars.  The total is astronomical.  You will never be able to earn it back.  You are in trouble.

In six months your boss sits down to look at your accounts.  He looks at the papers, and then looks up at you.  You are sweating.  You've done nothing that has decreased what you owe.  You know you deserve to lose your job and be thrown in prison for what you've done.

But he looks at you with eyes filled with compassion.  And he smiles.

He leans forward and tells you he knows what you've done.  He knows what you owe, and that you can never do enough to repay it, no matter how many years he might give you.  But he cares for you like his own child.  You have fallen incredibly short, but His son sold enough to cover everything you owe.  He has credited what his son has earned to your account, and he won't be pressing charges against you for the embezzlement because his son has paid your fine.

You don't have to do anything.  Your debt is payed, your way has been earned.  You can keep your job forever. 

That is mercy.  That is grace.

That is the Gospel.


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If you have not trusted in Jesus for your eternal salvation, I urge you, please be reconciled to God.  Trust in the One who has done everything necessary to give you eternal life.  Turn away from your sin and turn to Him.

And if you are a believer already, please get this right. And get yourself in a church that gets this right. 

It does little good for church pews to be filled each week, it does little good to hear superficially inspiring sermons, if the message doesn't point us back to Christ and what He has done to save us.  The pure, beautiful truth of what Christ has done for us that we couldn't do for ourselves. Understanding and believing this truth is what brings about actual life change, through God's grace.

I have seen the "gospel" taught wrongly so many times in the past few months, and I don't think I even realized how much of a burden that discouragement was putting on me until a few weeks ago, when we finally sat again in a church that preached everything I just tried to explain above.

I sat there in the pew with tears rolling down my cheeks.  It was such a relief to me, even as someone who is already a believer, after months of "do better" sermons, to hear again from the pulpit the beautiful truth of the Gospel preached clearly.  To marvel again at what Jesus did for me.

We believers still need to hear the Gospel too.






He Is Risen!


"this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for Him to be held by it..." Acts 2:23-24

This verse never fails to make my heart jump.  Jesus died for us while we were yet sinners, demonstrating His great love for us by paying the penalty we had earned. He died to pay it, even while we were still defiant and rebelling. But it was not even possible for our Savior to be held by death.  Now He is alive forevermore!  He has paid for our sins and conquered death! 

This is everything! 









Happy Resurrection Day, friends. He is risen!


New Orleans And The Resurrection

(Photos taken in April last year, because the trees are weirdly delaying their flowering this spring.)

I'm going to be totally honest guys, it's been a difficult few weeks around here.  Actually, if I'm being totally honest, it's been a difficult year for me so far.

By all measures, this should be a great year.  It's our first year in our new house.  The kids are all getting bigger, and a little easier since we don't have a tiny baby anymore.  Derek is happy in his job, and homeschooling is going fairly well.  It's not an election year (ha!).

But I've been having a hard time.  There is the difficult church situation that is leaving me feeling unanchored.  A couple relationship struggles that are giving me some stress.  Disturbing trends in the culture, and in the "capital-c" Church, that are making me fearful and deeply discouraged.  And my own sinful impulses that make me impatient and irritable with those I love most.

It's not too much, a bunch of (mostly) little things really, but all together it's done a number on my emotional state.

The last couple weeks I hit a breaking point.  One whole week I found myself waking up every hour of each night.  I've never done well on little sleep.  I was completely exhausted, both physically, emotionally, and spiritually as my relationship with the Lord has taken a hit through all this too (no one to blame but myself for that one).

I cried my way through the week, and I just so desperately needed a break.  I could see only endless months of the same ahead, with the only break (vacation) pushed out from May until August this year.  I needed a reset button, and vacation so often is that for me, but I couldn't even look forward to that for a long while.

Derek was due to go on a work trip in a couple weeks to New Orleans, and I could not imagine holding down the fort very well with him gone.  I was so worried about it, I remember shooting up a pathetically short prayer that the Lord would help me to maintain a good and cheerful attitude when Derek was absent.



But then Derek called my mom. And she agreed to watch the kids.  So I get to go with him to New Orleans.

There is something about getting away from my normal surroundings that gives me a clear perspective on life.  It reminds me what I love about home.  It allows me to look with fresh eyes on the things that I need to change.  Vacation almost makes me internally sheepish about how I've been taking my wonderful blessings from God for granted.  It all becomes more clear, somehow.

It's silly, so silly, to write about this during Passion Week.  This is the week that we remember how Christ suffered and died to pay the price for our sins.  For all my sin.  Including my sins of forgetting that Christ is my only anchor and hope, even when the church lets me down.  My sins of selfishness and pride that lead to the relationship struggles I've been dealing with.  My sin of fearing something earthly and temporary when God holds the future in His hands.

I deserved to die and bear the wrath of my own sins, but Christ bore that penalty for me.  He suffered more than I ever will have to suffer, He took my punishment.  And then He rose from the dead, victorious!  He cast my sin away and credited His righteousness to me when I put my trust in Him, and now I'm free of that burden forever.

How silly of me to worry and agonize about the future.  My future is secure for eternity because of what Jesus did for me.  As it is also for everyone who turns to Him in repentance and faith that He alone will save them.

And I'm remembering all this now, as I'm packing a bag for New Orleans.

Maybe it's just a trip to The Big Easy, but planning for that trip at the same time that I'm planning for celebrating His resurrection on Easter has reminded me.  He took care of the biggest thing, the sin that has separated us from Him.  He took care of this relatively small thing of giving me the refreshment of a break that I didn't even dare to pray for.

He's got the rest of it under control too.

"But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." 
1 Corinthians 15:57



I may try to write again before Easter, but if I don't, Happy Resurrection Day, friends! I pray you know the peace that comes from knowing our Savior.  He is Risen!

And A Merry Christmas To You!



Confession time: Christmas break has not exactly gone as I planned.

I had so many ideas for advent readings and crafts to do with the kids.  We were going to bake, and learn new Christmas carols and Bible verses.  I was going to continue waking up before the kids and get in a rich, meaningful personal Bible study leading up to Christmas Day.

And then the king of all colds struck us last week.  I tell you, if I ever needed a non-serious reminder of the sinful, fallen state of the world, this cold was it.  Even though we are well past being contagious, we still are struggling with scratchy voices and irritating remnants of a cough.  Derek took time off from work, and I rolled out of bed too late every morning for the past week.  Needless to say, my plans did not come to fruition. 

However, I finally felt well enough to get back to my new morning routine again this morning.  I grabbed the Christmas present I bought myself, an illuminated Scripture journal for the book of Hebrews.  I figured I'd just start by checking out the cross-references, and I stumbled across two passages that have helped set my heart back on Christ amidst the Christmas-Eve craziness this morning. (The first one is kind of long, try to take time to read through the whole thing - it's so good!).

"He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.  He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.  For by Him all things were created that are in Heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions, or principalities, or powers.  All things were created through Him and for Him.  And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.  And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have preeminence.  For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in Heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross."
Colossians 1:13-20

"For it is God who commanded light to shine out of darkness who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ."
2 Corinthians 4:6


I just love how these passages talk about the light of Christ.  We are lost in darkness, in our sin, without Him - but when we were stumbling around in the dark, God sent us the light of Christ, the light of Himself.  He was born to make peace for us through the blood of His cross.  We are the ones who deserve darkness and death forever because of our sin, but He bore that penalty for us on the cross.  And now if we will merely raise our faces to His light, trusting in His sacrifice and what He has done to save us, we need never be lost in darkness again.





















Merry Christmas, friends.  I pray that the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ is shining bright in your hearts this Christmas (and that you have more joy than Georgie in that last picture)!

To Those Who Are Joyful This Christmas




I have found my Christmas joy again this season.

I haven't shared much about it here, but a few years back I struggled with a bit of postpartum depression.  I always say "a bit", "a little", because it didn't feel severe enough to say it without a qualifier.  I never felt suicidal, or like I wanted to hurt my baby.  I didn't stay in bed all day.  I just cried a lot, and struggled with my purpose, and felt like I was viewing my life through a bubble, without being able to feel enough of the joy.  And I just teared up writing that sentence.  It was just "a little", but it was still devastating in it's own way.

I think my struggle manifested itself most at Christmastime.  For a couple years there, when I was going into depression and coming out of it, Christmas was just about the motions.  I tried to listen to the music in church, to let the preaching reach my heart, to meditate on Christ and what He did by coming to save us.  I tried to conjure up an emotion.  But I was mostly just stressed and waiting for Christmas to be over so I wouldn't feel so behind on my to-do list.  So I wouldn't feel the pressure to feel joyful when I couldn't.

It's been a relief to find that I've finally come fully out of that.  That I can enjoy the beauty and joys of Christmas without the same kind of stress and heaviness pulling me down.

I share all this I suppose just to say that Christmas time isn't always filled with joy for everyone.  And I know people who say that seem like they are being killjoys (quite literally), but I have a point here, just hang in there with me.

The other day I stumbled across a Bible verse while I was looking for something else, but it stopped me in my tracks.  This is the verse:

"Like one who takes away a garment in cold weather, and like vinegar on soda, is one who sings songs to a heavy heart."  
Proverbs 25:20

I think we can all testify to the truth of this from personal experience.  But I think this verse really stood out to me this time because I've seen this very situation happen recently, right in front of me.  It's a little different seeing it as more an observer than a participant, and I think it grieves me more.  When you are the one with the heavy heart you are absorbed in the emotion, but when you observe this happening more on the outside of yourself, you see the damage.  And it feels like there is nothing you can personally do about it.

But maybe there is.



Today I was driving in the car, listening to a radio program, and I was reminded of that old song.  It's mournful notes are playing in my head now.  "They will know we are Christians by our love..."

I went home and looked up 1 John and read a couple chapters.  The lyrics above aren't actually in the Bible, but there is plenty about loving one another.  The closest verse to that song is when Jesus tells His disciples that "By this everyone you will know that you are my disciples, that you love one another." (John 13:35)

First John expands on the idea of loving each other:

"My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in action and in truth." 
1 John 3:19

"Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.  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.  Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought to love one another."  
1 John 4:7-11

I think it's easy to miss that fact that all this talk about love is specifically talking to us as Christians to love our Christian brothers and sisters in Christ.

This stood out to me more this time I read it, I think because we are currently going through a difficult situation at church that is painful in a lot of different ways.  I think in Christian circles today there is a lot of emphasis on loving non-believers, but on the whole I haven't seen as much emphasis on loving the church.  On loving the people in the church.

The thing is, it's a little easier to love people in the world sometimes, trying to point them to Christ (though too often through mere action, without the necessary accompanying words).  And we pat ourselves on the back for following Christ's command to "love one another".

But if we aren't showing that same love to people in our church, we are missing the whole point.  In the context of these passages, that is what we are being told to do.  To not just love the world, but love each other, love our fellow believers.  That's how Christ says they will know we are His disciples.  If we love our fellow believers.

So how are we supposed to do that, specifically this Christmas, when pain feels like it has to be hidden, and maybe those who are joyful have unintentional blinders amidst all the merriment?

1. You have to be in a church, or some gathering of believers.  Preferably a church though.  That's what the church is supposed to be for, for believers to come together to lift each other up, challenge each other to press on, to encourage one another, to care for each other's needs.  You can't do that as well if you aren't gathering regularly with fellow believers.

2.  Stop plastering on a smile.  We don't gather together on Sunday mornings to pretend we are all perfect and joyful and nothing is ever wrong.  We are sinful humans.  We still struggle with sin as believers.  Life is still hard.  We are still going to go through difficult times.  Jesus promised us trouble while we are here (John 16:33).  We still hurt.  We still hurt each other.  It's okay to show you are hurting or need help, so someone else can lift you up.

3.  Take the blinders off.  Maybe we all hide our hurt or stress so much because we've too often had our pain or grief ignored.  If you are blessed enough to not be currently struggling, maybe keep your eye out for someone who is.

4.  Don't sing songs to a heavy heart.  I think this is about paying attention to other's struggles instead of just our own situation.  There are usually little clues if you pay attention, little signals that maybe not everything is well in someone's life.  Often we don't even respond right when our brother's or sister's pain or hardship is glaringly obvious.  But that's a big reason why we are supposed to be gathering together in the first place.  To take care of one another, and lift each other up.  Singing songs to a heavy heart is not the way to lift each other up (it says so right there, in the verse I shared at the beginning).

5.  Practically - just reach out.  I think at this time of year, it's too easy to just ignore the pain of others, inside and outside the church.  There is merriment to be had, after all!  But I think in doing that, we miss the whole point of Christmas.  We are celebrating, after all, how God Himself reached down to rescue us from the death and judgement we deserve because of our sin.  He sent His Son to be the sacrifice, to pay the penalty for our sin, to give eternal life to those who believe in Him!  We ought to be reaching out to offer that hope to those outside the church, and comfort and help to those inside the church.

6. Share in someone's pain.  We are all really good at rejoicing with those who rejoice (at least outwardly), but I think mourning with those who mourn is even more important.  You can be happy by yourself and be just fine, but mourning by yourself is a terrible burden.  And maybe we reflect the truth of Christmas best when we are willing to reach a hand down to someone else.  Not just in generic, good-deed, pat-yourself-on-the-back ways, but with a heart to share in someone's pain.  It's harder to do that.  It costs more to feel someone's pain with them.  But it's also the way we can maybe lift them a little bit out of it.

The main point is: if you are rejoicing this Christmas, don't forget those who are mourning, even (or especially) those in the church - and take a little time to reach out to them with the love of Christ.  I think that is one of the best ways we could celebrate Christmas.

Have you ever had a Christmas where it was hard to feel joy?

I hope and pray that someone in the body of Christ reached out to you when you needed it.

How We Celebrated Reformation Day (And Why)

(Some affiliate links in this post!  Just on the books you know, so I can buy more books...)

A few weeks ago, we were working through a history lesson, and somehow I got onto the topic of the Reformation.

"So Martin Luther nailed his 95 points to the church door, and there is a thing called Reformation Day now."

"Reformation Day?" Wyatt asked.

"Yes, and it's actually on the same day as Halloween."

Gwen looked thoughtful for a moment.  "Mom, can we celebrate Reformation Day this year?"

And just like that, we were celebrating Reformation Day this year.

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I already explained a few weeks ago why we choose not to celebrate Halloween in our family, so I am not sure why it hasn't occurred to me to celebrate Reformation Day.  Reformation Day is on October 31st, which is the day that Martin Luther nailed 95 theses to the door of a church in Wittenburg.  He was mostly arguing against the practice of indulgences at that time, but he came to realize through this process of studying the Bible that our salvation is purely by the grace of God.  We contribute nothing to our salvation, because we have no righteousness of our own with which to approach God.  Christ took the punishment for our sin and gives us His righteousness when we put our trust in Him, and our salvation is completely through His sacrifice and apart from our own works.

You can read more about the Reformation on your own (that was a very surface-y explanation above), but the bottom line is that if you are part of any Protestant Christian denomination, it all started right here.  With Martin Luther and other Reformers, who studied the Bible, through their study rediscovered the truth of the good news of the Gospel, and brought the church back to the firm foundation of the Word Of God.

This is YOUR history, and you are still reaping the benefits of the work the Reformers did in bringing the truth of the Gospel to light. 

I think that is worth celebrating for sure!

As a mom, I really want my kids to know Christian history, and the heritage that has been passed down to us through the sacrifices of people like the Reformers, who fought and died for the truth of God's Word.  I think in Protestant circles, we tend to get a little disconnected from our history, and I'd really like my kids to have a sense of the history and heroes of the faith between the end of the Bible (around 96 AD) until today. I explain these things to them, but I think making a celebration of this part of our history is a wonderful way to help personalize it for my kids.  As I was thinking about how to celebrate Reformation Day, I was trying to think of some ways to have a little fun while we remember our Christian history too.  Here is how we celebrated this year!



1. Reformation Day Shirts 

Several months ago, I stumbled across Diet Of Worms apparel, which makes clothing for "little (and big) reformers".  I laughed out loud at their "It's Hammer Time" t-shirt, and I ordered one for Wyatt and a "Sola Fide" t-shirt for myself.  They have since gone out of business, so I took some inspiration from them and made t-shirts for everyone else in our family myself!  A little guide:

Sola Fide - Latin for "faith alone".  This is one of the five "solas" of the Reformation.


Image via Facebook



1517 - The year Martin Luther nailed up his theses (this year was the 501st anniversary!).



"The Righteous Shall Live By Faith" - the phrase in Romans that led to Luther's epiphany that our salvation is through faith alone.



"On This I Stand, I Can Do No Other" - This is what Luther said at the "Diet Of Worms", which is actually what they called a church council/trial held in the city of Worms, when church leaders asked Luther to recant his writings.  The full quote is here:

“Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason (I do not accept the authority of popes and councils because they have contradicted each other), my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God. Amen.”

The kids loved their shirts and asked to wear them again the next day!  This was fun for me, because it was a like a little Reformation Day present/surprise I could give them.
Speaking of the Diet Of Worms...

2. Worm Pudding
As a play on the Diet Of Worms, we had a "diet of worms" in the form of gummy-worm-and-orea-pudding!  I thought this was really funny and clever of myself, ha!  My kids were a little young to get the joke I think, they just enjoyed the pudding.
3.  A Sausage Dinner
This is in honor of a different sausage dinner, and a sermon preached by a priest there, which kicked off the Reformation in Switzerland.  You can read more about that here.  (Sausage dinner not pictured, but it was really good.)

4. Reformation Day Books
I first toyed with the idea of celebrating Reformation Day last year, for the 500th anniversary, but I was hugely pregnant, and to be honest, I wasn't sure if my kids were old enough to "get it".  This year my oldest two are 7 and 5, and I have to say, it's been really pleasantly surprising to me how much they understand about what the Reformation means!  The got an idea of what we were celebrating just through conversations together, but I wanted to find some books to drive it home.  These are the two I picked:
Reformation ABC's - This is a thorough book for kids, covering a different aspect or hero of the Reformation for each letter.  We didn't read this whole book, since it's probably geared for kids a little older than my kids, but we read several pages, about the Bible, Luther, Hiedelburg and Westminster.  my kids were excited when they recognized a catechism question on the Westminster page!
The Life Of Martin Luther: A Pop-Up Book - This is a pop-up book (obviously), and my kids asked me to read it three times!  It's the story of Martin Luther in a nutshell, and the pop-ups make it so fun.  The only thing I'd change about this book is a line on the last page that mentions Luther introducing "new ideas" - I would rephrase that "biblical ideas" - but other than that, it's just perfect!
5.  Reformation Reading For Me 
This whole celebration of Reformation Day really started with my reading challenge this year.  One of the categories was to read about church history, so I picked up a couple books about the Reformation.  I have been a Christian since I accepted Christ as a child, and I grew up in the church, and it was shocking how much of this history I DIDN'T know!  If you want to celebrate Reformation Day with your kids, I highly recommend familiarizing yourself with the history too!  Not only has is been helpful in teaching the history to my kids, but it has made me pay more careful attention to different verses in my Bible reading, and really enriched my own faith this year.
The Reformation: How A Monk And A Mallet Changed The World by Stephen Nichols - This book is short and sweet, and most importantly, very readable!  I found this whole book really fascinating, and learned about how I've benefitted from the sacrifices of Reformers I'd never even heard of.  This is a must-have primer on the history of the Reformation, in my opinion.
Why The Reformation Still Matters by Michael Reeves and Tim Chester   -  If the book above is about the history of the Reformation, this book is about the nuts and bolts of what the Reformation was really about.  A lot of the theology discussed is more subtle than I originally thought, but the distinctions are so, so important.  I'm almost done listening to this one on audio, and highly recommend it!

Also a heads up - one of my favorite podcasts/websites has a free "Reformation Day Celebration" for download!  I haven't had a chance to watch it yet because our internet was out last week, but it's still available here!


Stay tuned for Reformations Days in years to come, because I have more ideas already spinning in my head for next year!

Have you heard of Reformation Day?  Have you ever celebrated it (and how)? 

I highly encourage you to give it a try next year!  We had fun with it!









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