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Yesterday marked the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses being nailed to the church door in Wittenburg, Germany.  As we have reflected on the changes brought about by that act, we have recognized the debt we owe to those early reformers.  Our focus on grace alone through faith alone comes directly from this movement.Wittenburg door

But I have wrestled with something for the past several weeks leading up to this momentous day.

Are we still in need of reform?

It is said that the generation of leaders after Martin Luther held that every generation is in need of reform.  I believe that is true.  The Gospel message does not change.  The fact that all people are sinners in need of saving does not change.  The truth that salvation comes only by God’s radical free gift of grace does not change.  The reality that this grace must be received by each individual through a heartfelt trust and faith does not change.

But what does change is how we live with these truths and how the church seeks to carry out her calling into God’s mission in light of these truths in an ever-changing culture.  We walk a line between being in the world but set apart from it.

I believe we are guilty of gross negligence if we acknowledge the courage and boldness of Martin Luther and other reformers but do not take a serious look at where we may need reform today.  What are the areas we have conformed more to the world than been transformed to God’s kingdom and rule?  Are there areas of life and ministry where we have lost sight of what matters most?

Holy God, show us your ways!

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The Rest We Need

There is a direct link between trust and rest. When I finally decide to lay down on top of my bed at night, I am trusting the structure to hold me. I would not be able to completely relax if, with every turn and movement through the night (which are often and many) I were afraid the bed frame would collapse and I would end up on the floor.

In order to truly rest, we must trust.

Last week in our Bible study time we worked through one of the sermons Peter delivered in Jerusalem in the beginning days of the Christian church. In the third chapter of the book of Acts, we find Peter and John standing in the outer courts of the temple, calling people to repent and turn to God.

Peter offers two very powerful motivations to repentance. The first is that when we repent of our sins and turn to God, our sins are wiped out – blotted out – discarded – covered over! All the poor choices and mistakes, all the willful disobedience – all of it – forgiven.

But the second motivation Peter offers for repentance is that by confessing our sins, repenting and trusting God, we will receive “times of refreshing” from the Lord. The ASV translation clarifies that this “refreshing” comes from “the presence of the Lord.”

I don’t know about you but refreshment and renewal that comes from being in the very presence of God sounds pretty good to me!

What are you trusting God with today? Do you need a little rest and refreshment?

Whatever you are carrying today, God is big enough to handle it! Simply trust and experience his refreshment!

Be blessed with rest today.

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Last week I finished a little book entitled, The Greatest Salesman In the World.  It is an interesting read and one that causes the reader to think about what is important in life.

About mid-way through the book, one of the chapters begins with these words: “I will live this day as if it is my last.”  The same chapter ends with these words:  “I will live this day as if it is my last.  And if it is not, I shall fall to my knees and give thanks.”

I have continued to ponder those words.  I wish I could say with integrity and a straight face that I make the most of each moment.  But sadly, I fear there are more minutes in the day that go wasted than I would care to count.  Perhaps that is your confession too.

But what if, today, I truly lived this day as if I knew it would be my last?  What if I gave every ounce of effort possible to make sure that this would turn out to be the greatest day of my life?  Would this day look differently?

I am not referring to productivity only.  Relationships could be enriched.  Experiences could be life forming.  Words could carry deeper meaning.  Lives could be changed.

And then, at the end of the day, I could lay my head down in gratitude for the time God has given me.  And tomorrow, if God so chooses, if I wake, I should fall to my knees and thank God for another day to do the same.

God, may it be so!

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Are there things you know you want to accomplish or try today but you are hesitant?  What is holding you back?  Is it the fear of what others might think?  Or maybe the fear of failure?woman-in-fear

Yesterday, we continued our series, Plastic People – Being Real In a Fake World.  The topic of the morning was being real about our fears.  So often, we become crippled by our fears.  Unhealthy fear can render us helpless and ultimately useless to God and his kingdom.

Danger is real – fear is not.  Fear is an emotional response to the potential outcome of a situation.  The key word in that statement is potential.  Fear is a response to something that has not happened – a response to something that may not even come to pass.

I would suggest to you that while danger is always present in our fallen world, fear is an emotional choice – we can choose to be afraid or we can choose to trust.  When it comes to living into the life God intended for you, you must always remember two things:

  1.  God loves you implicitly and completely.
  2. God has your best interest at heart – always!

Given those two foundational truths – why should we have any reason to choose fear?  Romans 8:31 says, “If God is for us, who can be against us?”

Live into that promise today.

Attempt great things for God.

Choose trust over fear!

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If you could fast forward to bedtime tonight and then reflect back on the
day – what would make you glad that you were alive today?  What one thing remembered would give you peace to sleep comfortably through the night, thinking-about-a-questionknowing that you made a difference – that you really lived out God’s call on your day?

Think about that this morning.  Begin your day with the end in mind.

Dare to dream about what that might be.

And then go and do it!

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Recently, Kristi and I had the blessing of some time away in Costa Rica.  It is a beautiful country filled with wonderful people.  The countryside where we stayed was mountainous and the roads were passable but only barely in places.  But for the locals, the roads were no big thing – just a part of everyday life.

What grabbed my attention was the number of people riding bicycles.  As I watched these brave souls going up and down and around, I was impressed by the way they had to attack the hills.  Had I been on a bike, I most likely would have had to dismount and walk up the hill, dragging the bike with me.  But they were trained through experience to make it up the steep inclines.

bicycle-hill-climbOf course, when there are ups there have to be downs.  And so it was fun to watch these bikers reach the top and then get to coast.  The only thing they had to worry about then was getting up to speeds that would cause them to lose control.

As I have pondered those scenes, I have thought about the ups and downs of life.  There are always those times in our lives when we have to pedal hard to make the next hill – the next struggle.  There often is little training for such obstacles – it is conditioning on the go.

And throughout life, there are those times when things are good and we can let up a little and coast.  A little coasting is good.  We need to rest and regroup.  But if we get too comfortable, we lose the desire to attack the next obstacle.  It gets easier to simply exist and not try.  Comfort, and the desire for comfort, can overcome us.  Kahlil Gibran, in his little novel, The Prophet, says this about comfort:

have you only comfort, and the lust for comfort, that stealthy thing that enters the house a guest, and then becomes a host, and then a master?  Ay, and it becomes a tamer, and with hook and scourge makes puppets of your larger desires.  . . . Verily the lust for comfort murders the passion of the soul, and then walks grinning in the funeral.

When we allow ourselves to coast too much, we lose the drive to keep going.  So today, I challenge each of us to attack that next hill.  There will be time to rest on the other side.

Don’t quit.  Don’t give up.

Pedal!

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Today, one of my readings came from Mark 3:1-6.  This is a familiar passage that illustrates the opposition Jesus faced throughout his ministry.  In this account, we see Jesus being faced with a dilemma of whether or not to heal a man who had a withered hand.  This encounter happened on the Sabbath.

So if he healed the man who needed his touch, then the religious leaders would accuse him of breaking the Sabbath law.  But Jesus knew their understanding of the Sabbath was flawed.  He also knew the man needed his touch.

Today, as I read this passage, the controversy was not what impressed me with this story.  Today, what hit me was obvious.  There was a man with a withered hand and Jesus healed him.  As Jesus surveyed the situation and ran the scenarios of how this could play out in his head, he simply said, “Stretch out your hand.”

In this moment, you are dealing with areas of your life that are withered and need Jesus’ healing touch.

In this moment, Jesus is saying to you, “Stretch out your hand.”

Turn it over to him today.

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