Thursday, October 28, 2010

493 years ago...

On October 31, 1517 a monk named Martin Luther nailed 95 Theses (or arguments) to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenburg, Germany.

The next day (November 1) was going to be "All Saints Day" & the pope had decreed that all visitors to the Castle Church on All Saints Day who venerated the relics and gave a contribution could reduce their time in purgatory by over one million years.

(The Castle Church housed more than 17,000 relics -- the largest collection in Germany.  Among the relics they claimed to have were four strands of hair from the Virgin Mary, a piece of straw from the baby Jesus' manger, a nail from the cross, and a piece of bread from the Last Supper.)

Luther himself use to believe that veneration of relics & these kinds of financial contributions to the church (usually in the form of buying indulgences) was of some great spiritual value -- earning him salvation.  But the Lord had now graciously brought Luther out of this darkness of superstition & empty works. The Lord had brought this man to the light of a living faith in Jesus Christ.

Luther:  "Christ alone can forgive sins!  The pope has no power to forgive or to free souls from purgatory.  If he had such power why does he not release everyone from purgatory at once?  Why does he not do it free of charge?"

Hence the 95 Theses or arguments against such things as the sale of indulgences... on October 31, 1517... on the "eve" of "All Saints Day"... "All Hallow's Eve"... Halloween.

This is the date usually given for the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.

The breakthrough to Luther's "discovery" of the gospel probably began two years earlier when Luther was lecturing on the Apostle Paul's epistle to the Romans.

Romans 1.17 speaks of the gospel (literally "good news") of Jesus Christ as a revelation of the "righteousness" or "justice" of God... but that was precisely what Luther found to be so unbearable about God!  How is the "righteous justice" of God (which Luther had been taught to understand as the punishment of sinners) "good news?"

After a long & bitter struggle, Luther came to a rather surprising answer...

In his own words:  "I greatly longed to understand Paul's Epistle to the Romans and nothing stood in the way but that one expression, 'the justice of God,' because I took it to mean that justice whereby God is just and deals justly in punishing the unjust.  My situation was that, although an impeccable monk, I stood before God as a sinner troubled in conscience, and I had no confidence that my merit would assuage him.  Therefore I did not love a just and angry God, but rather hated and murmured against him. Yet I clung to the dear Paul and had a great yearning to know what he meant.

"Night and day I pondered until I saw the connection between the justice of God and the statement that 'the just shall live by his faith.'  Then I grasped that the justice of God is that righteousness by which through grace and sheer mercy God justifies us through faith.  Thereupon I felt myself reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise.  The whole of Scripture took on a new meaning, and whereas before the 'justice of God' had filled me with hate, now it became to me inexpressibly sweet in greater love.  This passage of Paul became to me a gate to heaven....

"If you have a true faith that Christ in your Savior, then at once you have a gracious God, for faith leads you in and opens up God's heart and will, that you should see pure grace and overflowing love.  This it is to behold God in faith that you should look upon his fatherly, friendly heart, in which there is no anger nor ungraciousness.  He who sees God as angry does not see him rightly but looks only on a curtain, as if a dark cloud had been drawn across his face."

Fall Festival, 2010

Monday, October 25, 2010

Joe Cool vs. Jesus

Brett McCracken wrote a very interesting article in the Wall Street Journal not long ago. It's called "The Perils of 'Wannabe Cool' Christianity."

Here are the last two ridiculously-good paragraphs of the article:

If the evangelical Christian leadership thinks that "cool Christianity" is a sustainable path forward, they are severely mistaken. As a twentysomething, I can say with confidence that when it comes to church, we don't want cool as much as we want real.

If we are interested in Christianity in any sort of serious way, it is not because it's easy or trendy or popular. It's because Jesus himself is appealing, and what he says rings true. It's because the world we inhabit is utterly phony, ephemeral, narcissistic, image-obsessed and sex-drenched—and we want an alternative. It's not because we want more of the same.

Exactly right. The church must value real over cool... we must value Jesus over trendy... we must value truth over image.

To read the whole article, click here.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Into Your Hands

With faith in the Lord Christ, Christians can even face death in the same manner that our Savior Jesus did. Do you remember what Jesus said, when he knew that his work on earth was done?

"'Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!' And having said this, he breathed his last." (Luke 23.46)

Archibald Alexander faced death this way. Alexander was the first president of Princeton Theological Seminary -- the first Presbyterian seminary in America. Alexander was not only the first president, he was actually the only faculty member the seminary had for the first year.

In the first fall he had three students... in the first spring he had six more... in the first summer five more.

His small, modest home served as the seminary library, chapel, & classroom. The students not only studied in his home, but also shared in the Alexander family's worship. Small but great beginnings.

But the seminary grew...& Archibald Alexander continued to teach there until his death, on October 22 (today), 1851 -- 39 years after the seminary's founding.

Knowing that his death was approaching, Archibald Alexander wrote this prayer to The God Who Wakes The Dead:

"O most merciful God!... Thou has a perfect right to dispose of me, in that manner which will most effectively promote thy glory: And I know that whatever Thou dost is right, and wise, and good. ...And when my spirit leaves this clay tenement, Lord Jesus receive it! Send some of the blessed angels to convey my inexperienced soul to the mansion which Thy love has prepared. And O! let me be so situated, though in the lowest rank, that I may behold Thy glory. May I have an abundant entrance administered unto me in the kingdom of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ; for whose sake and in whose name, I ask all these things. Amen."

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Go Dawgs!

We watch so little television that it makes no sense for us to have cable or satellite channels. We never even think about... except for during college football season.

If only they sold the channels one at a time...

"He's fair. He treats us all the same -- like dogs."
~Henry Jordan, on his football coach, Vince Lombardi

"Football isn't a contact sport; it's a collision sport. Dancing is a contact sport."
~Coach Vince Lombardi

"He could take his 'n beat yours, then take yours 'n beat his."
~Coach Duffy Daughtery, referring to Coach Paul "Bear" Bryant

"You can only really yell at the players you trust."
~Coach Bill Parcells

"Football combines the two worst features of American life. It is violence punctuated by committee meetings."
~George Will

"If a man watches three football games in a row, he should be declared legally dead."
~Erma Bombeck

100 Great Things About Living in Alabama:


Here are some great quotes from Jack Cristil, the announcer for Mississippi State football games. This was from the Egg Bowl a couple of years ago... when State was having a pretty rough season...

“The QB and the receiver weren’t on the same page there; but hey, it’s only week eleven.”

“Handoff to Dixon. And Dixon is murdered on the play.”

After Ole Miss went up 17-0 in the 1st Quarter: “They are going to have to send in their second kickoff coverage unit because the first unit is going to tire out with all of these kickoffs.”

“Ole Miss has just scored and we don’t know who scored because No. 85 isn’t listed on their roster. It’s academic at this point.”

After an MSU holding call, “Well, if you can’t block ‘em, hold ‘em!
John Correro: “One can only hope so, Jack.”

“It’s third down and so long, you will need surveying equipment to see how much is needed for a first down.”

“There are only 45 seconds left. Maybe Ole Miss won’t score another touchdown. In the 1st quarter that is.”

“Coming up on the end of the quarter – the third quarter, that is. We’ve still got another one to play."

“At the end of the third quarter, Ole Miss barely out in front, 38-0.”

“Ole Miss has punted once today for a grand total of 12 yards. They ought to improve on that with this next punt.” (Laughter in the background as he was saying it)

“Let’s punt it again. McAdams has to punt it a lot in his final game as a Bulldog.”

In the 4th Quarter: “For the record both teams have all of their timeouts left. So, that ought to make it fun.”

“Well, what do you know? The Rebels have put a couple of backup linemen in the game.”

“Mercifully, the clock continues to run.”

“About 3 minutes left, many fans have long been gone. In fact, some of them are probably already home by now.”

“Chris Relf can throw it long. He cannot throw it accurately, but he can throw it long.”

“Well, that’s only a loss of 9 there. So, it’s only third and 19.”

“A great many of the 55,000 fans have left the game now (45-0), they might even be home now watching on TV”.

“It’s 4th down and 24 yards to go, this ought to dictate a punt right now.”
John Correro: “One can only hope so, Jack.”

“Well, the Bulldogs take a delay of game. That backs them up to their 4 where it will be fourth and 31. We just wanted to make sure McAdams had plenty of room to kick the ball because he has such a powerful leg.”

“That’s it. Ballgame over. Ole Miss noses out Mississippi State, 45-0.”

“Sonic drive of the game….My drive home to Tupelo, MS I guarantee you that is my drive of the game.” Then he proceeded to give his home address.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

When The Lion Roars His Gospel

Cool story I just ran across...

King James VI of Scotland was notoriously rude during worship services.  He would sit in the gallery while the minister preached, but instead of listening to the sermon, King James would talk freely to those around him.

On one occasion the minister, Robert Bruce, paused.  When he fell silent, the king did too.  But then when the minister resumed talking, so did the king.

Pastor Bruce ceased speaking a second time.  So did the king.  The minister resumed; so did the king.

The third time this happened, Pastor Robert Bruce turned and addressed King James directly:  "It is said to have been an expression of the wisest of kings, 'When the lion roars, all the beasts of the field are quiet': the Lion of the Tribe of Judah is now roaring in the voice of His Gospel, and it becomes all the petty kings of the earth to be silent."


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Song for a Fifth Child

This poem almost made me cry.

Song for a Fifth Child

Mother, oh mother, come shake out your cloth!
Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
Hang out the washing and butter the bread,
Sew on a button and make up a bed.
Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She’s up in the nursery, blissfully rocking!

Oh, I’ve grown as shiftless as Little Boy Blue
(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
(Pat- a- cake, darling and peek, peekaboo).
The shopping’s not done and there’s nothing for stew
And out in the yard and there’s a hullabaloo
But I’m playing Kanga and this is my Roo.
Look!  Aren’t her eyes the most wonderful hue?
(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).

Oh, cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow,
But children grow up, as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down, cobwebs.  Dust go to sleep.
I’m rocking my baby.  Babies don’t keep.

1958   Ruth Hulburt Hamilton

Conquering temptation & "dejection of spirit"

1530:  Jerome Weller writes Martin Luther for advice on conquering temptations.

Luther responds:

"In this sort of temptation and struggle, contempt is the best and easiest method of winning over the devil.  Laugh your adversary to scorn and ask who it is with whom you are talking.  But by all means flee solitude, for the devil watches and lies in wait for you most of all when you are alone.  This devil is conquered by mocking and despising him, not by resisting and arguing with him.  Therefore, Jerome, joke and play games with your wife and others.  In this way you will drive out your diabolical thoughts and take courage....

"Be of good courage, therefore, and cast these dreadful thoughts out of your mind.  Whenever the devil pesters you with these thoughts, at once seek out the company of other Christian men, drink more, joke and jest, or engage in some other form of merriment.  Sometimes it is necessary to drink a little more, play, jest, or even commit some infraction in defiance and contempt.  Accordingly if the devil should say, 'Do not drink,' you should reply to him, 'On this very account, because you forbid it, I shall drink, and what is more, I shall drink a generous amount.'  Thus one must always do the opposite of that which Satan prohibits.  What do you think is my reason for drinking wine undiluted, talking freely, and eating more often, if it is not to torment and vex the devil who made up his mind to torment and vex me."

1534:  Prince Joachim of Anhalt writes Martin Luther, seeking counsel.  The prince was suffering from melancholy and "dejection of spirit."

Luther responds:

"I should like to encourage Your Grace, who are a young man, always to be joyful, to engage in riding and hunting, and to seek the company of others who may be able to rejoice with Your Grace in a godly and honorable way.  For solitude and inwardness are poisonous and deadly to all people, and especially to a young man.  Accordingly, God has commanded us to be joyful in his presence; he does not desire a gloomy sacrifice.  [Here Luther quotes Ecclesiastes 12.]  No one realizes how much harm it does a young person to avoid pleasure and cultivate solitude and sadness.  Your grace has Master Nicholas Hausman and many others near at hand.  Be merry with them; for gladness and good cheer, when decent and proper, are the best medicine for a young person -- indeed, for all people.  I myself, who have spent a good part of my life in sorrow and gloom, now seek and find joy wherever I can.  Praise God, we now have sufficient understanding of the Word of God to be able to rejoice with a good conscience and to use God's gifts with thanksgiving, for he created them for this purpose and is pleased when we use them."


The Iron Men of DPC have been studying Ecclesiastes together on Tuesday mornings.  This kind of counsel -- though parts of it may shock today's American evangelical -- comes right out of the pages of Ecclesiastes.

And it's all the richer when you understand what Luther meant by spending a good part of his own life in sorrow and gloom.  Remember the monk who was trying to please God with his self-imposed misery and denial and asceticism?

Well... he found the gospel.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Beauty of Adoption

Great Wall Street Journal article on the beauty of Christ's people sacrificially adopting needy children (made in the image of God, human beings whose souls will live forever) into their very own families and opening a huge door for the grace of God to shine forever... read the article here.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Take My Mask Off.

“It seems to me, my dear Spalatin, that you have still but a limited experience in battling against sin, an evil conscience, the Law, and the terrors of death. Or Satan has removed from your vision and memory every consolation which you have read in the Scriptures. In days when you were not afflicted, you were well fortified and knew very well what the office and benefits of Christ are. To be sure, the devil has now plucked from your heart all the beautiful Christian sermons concerning the grace and mercy of God in Christ by which you used to teach, admonish, and comfort others with a cheerful spirit and a great, buoyant courage. Or it must surely be that heretofore you have been only a trifling sinner, conscious only of paltry and insignificant faults and frailties.

"Therefore my faithful request and admonition is that you join our company and associate with us, who are real, great, and hard-boiled sinners. You must by no means make Christ to seem paltry and trifling to us, as though He could be our Helper only when we want to be rid from imaginary, nominal, and childish sins. No, no! That would not be good for us. He must rather be a Savior and Redeemer from real, great, grievous, and damnable transgressions and iniquities, yea, from the very greatest and most shocking sins; to be brief, from all sins added together in a grand total.”

~ Martin Luther

The gospel is not for "trifling sinners." The gospel is for "real, great, and hard-boiled" sinners. Take off the mask. Step into the sunshine & breath the free air of salvation.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Upon what (or whom) have you set your heart?

"A 'god' means that from which we are to expect all good and to which we are to take refuge in all distress, so that to have a God is nothing else than to trust and believe Him from the [whole] heart; as I have often said that the confidence and faith of the heart alone make both God and an idol. If your faith and trust be right, then is your god also true; and, on the other hand, if your trust be false and wrong, then you have not the true God; for these two belong together faith and God. That now, I say, upon which you set your heart and put your trust is properly your god."

~ Martin Luther

From what (or whom) do you expect all good?

Where do you take refuge in all distress?

Where is your heart set?

"I am Yahweh your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me."

~ Exodus 20.2,3

Friday, October 1, 2010

Prepare the Cake Mix! Josey's Six!

Six years ago today a great warrior came into this world that is in such desperate need of a hero.  I don't know about you, but since that time all manner of dragons and pirates and dinosaurs and robbers and bad guys have been successfully driven away from my own hearth and home.

In the present era this mighty champion counts the following among his dearest God-given pleasures...

... his weapons...

...chewing gum (apparently awesome gladiators LOVE to chew gum)...

And physically tackling his brother on the trampoline!

Joseph, my prayer for you on this birthday is that you will always trust the Greater Warrior for your salvation, your righteousness, your hope, your wisdom, your sanctification, your redemption, and your greatest triumph ever... the triumph over sin and death and Satan that He has won for you.    

Remember that the first word we have about Christ is a promise that he will be our Mighty Warrior, our Victorious Champion, the True Hero for which our  hearts are longing.  God said (in the serpent's face), "I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel."  ~ Genesis 3.15

"The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you."
~ Romans 16.20