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Reformation—An Act of God’s Grace!

COVER STORY – REFORMATION

When we think of the Lutheran Reformation, we no doubt think of great men like Martin Luther, Philip Melanchthon, Johannes Bugenhagen, and others. They were all front and center in bringing back the glorious truths of “Scripture Alone,” especially our salvation by “Grace Alone,” through “Faith Alone.” However, the Reformation was not just about the grace of God, the Reformation itself was a wonderful act of His grace.

Mankind always has a propensity for turning away from God but has no power to turn back to Him. Psalm 81:11-12 says of the nation of Israel, “But My people would not heed My voice, and Israel would have none of Me. So I gave them over to their own stubborn hearts, to walk in their own counsels.” (ESV)Read More »Reformation—An Act of God’s Grace!

The Real Normal

 

DEVOTION—BACK-TO-SCHOOL

“Welcome to the new normal!” “I wish things could get back to normal!” “Finally, we’re getting back to normal!”

I have heard (and even expressed) similar sentiments since new guidance, mandates, and rules began to upset our lives a year ago last March. But I would ask you, what is “normal,” and do we really want to return to it? This question is especially fitting when it comes to our Christian schools, which will be opening their doors to students again this month.

“Normal” describes that which is expected, that which is considered typical. So, what was normal before the pandemic? Parents murdering their children, legally and illegally; people cheating and stealing from one another; political turmoil; areas of our world devastated by war and poverty; and, oh yes, we did have disease and death before COVID-19! Is this a world that we can call “normal” by any stretch of the imagination? Is this what we want to go back to?

God had a much higher standard for the world when He created it. “Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31) In the beginning plants, animals, nature, and mankind all worked together in perfect order and harmony with the Creator. That was God’s idea of normal! Yet man had a different idea from God’s. His rebellion against God in the Garden brought nothing but the disharmony and destruction mentioned earlier.Read More »The Real Normal

“Welcome Back to Church!”

COVER STORY – RETURN TO CHURCH

During the past year of pandemic isolation, we all have been very thankful to God that He has provided us with the means to share His Word through live streaming and other venues. Thanks be to God that He has spared the large majority of our members from severe health problems due to the virus! Now that restrictions have been eased and the danger has subsided somewhat, it’s a good time to remind each other of the blessings of in-person fellowship.

The word fellowship has to do with sharing. Church fellowship can be described as “whatever Christians do together as spiritual partners.” Examples include worship, prayer, singing hymns and spiritual songs, sharing the Lord’s Supper, Christian education, mutual encouragement in God’s Word, and mission work.

God wants to bless His believers through the interactive exercise of their faith with others who share the same beliefs in Jesus, founded on the truth of His Word. This fellowship that we share was never meant to be purely passive. Yes, it’s possible to do these things in a limited way from a distance, but the best blessings come when you give as well as receive:Read More »“Welcome Back to Church!”

Workers in the Word, Called by God

COVER STORY – THE DIVINE CALL

Carrying out the Lord’s kingdom work under a divine call is a truly awesome privilege. It is, at the same time, both enormously gratifying and profoundly sobering to recognize that God Himself has elected you to the office you hold. The Holy Spirit through Paul communicated the weight and origin of the divine call with these words: “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.” (Acts 20:28 ESV) He taught the gravity of the divine call by reminding us that the work is all about caring for souls that “he obtained with his own blood”—human beings for whom our Savior suffered and died. He also assured us that the origin of the divine call is God Himself .

The context of these words is also informative. They were spoken to the elders of the church at Ephesus. From Miletus, on the return leg of his third missionary journey, Paul had asked the elders from Ephesus to come to him. We therefore conclude from these words (“in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers”) that every divine call has the same source or origin—God the Holy Spirit—and that every single individual laboring under a divine call is charged by God Himself with the care of His own beloved children. Every Christian called to provide any aspect of soul-care to others is included. Divine calls are not limited therefore to the obvious (pastors, teachers, and missionaries), but include also every Sunday school teacher, every church council member, every elder and deacon, every layman that the congregation calls to conduct a Sunday service in the Pastor’s absence or to assist with the distribution of the elements in Holy Communion.Read More »Workers in the Word, Called by God

An Amazing Act of Love

COVER STORY – BLESSINGS OF FELLOWSHIP

“Say to your brethren, ‘My people,’ And to your sisters, ‘Mercy is shown.’”

(Hosea 2:1)

The above passage is the conclusion to one of the most amazing human love stories ever told. God told His prophet Hosea to marry a prostitute, so he married a woman named Gomer. She was repeatedly unfaithful to him. She bore him three children but he was not their true father. Yet Hosea forgave her, loved her, and cared for her and her children. After all that, she left him and somehow ended up totally destitute. Hosea, in an amazing act of love, bought her back to be his own wife again and cared for her.

Gomer was a vivid picture of the rebellious people of Israel. They were committing spiritual adultery by worshipping idols instead of the Lord. God had named Gomer’s daughter “Lo-Ruhamah”—No Mercy. He named her second son “Lo-Ammi”—Not My People. After loving and forgiving Israel for several hundred years, God indicated that they were no longer His people and He would not have mercy on them. Without God’s protection, the Assyrians conquered them, scattered them among the nations, and they became destitute. Then, in an amazing act of love, God promised to buy them back to be His people once again.Read More »An Amazing Act of Love

Pentecost’s Primary Miracle

COVER STORY – PENTECOST

“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me
in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
(Acts 1:8)

Soon we will arrive at one of the high festivals of the church year, Pentecost. This year Pentecost falls on Sunday, May 23. This is the day when we commemorate the outpouring of the gift of the Holy Spirit on Jesus’ disciples. It happened fifty days after Jesus’ resurrection, ten days after His ascension. In obedience to the instructions Jesus had given them, the disciples tarried in Jerusalem in anticipation of receiving this gift. As they were gathered at a certain location in the city, all of a sudden, out of the blue, extraordinary things started to happen. The sound of a gale-force wind filled the house where they were staying. Something that looked like tongues of fire appeared and came to rest on each of them. They were given ability to communicate in languages they had never gone to school to learn.

For what purpose did God cause these supernatural phenomena to occur? The sound of a howling wind, itself a miracle, served the purpose of drawing people to the place where the disciples were so they could hear the message Jesus had given the disciples to share. The fiery tongues miracle conveyed a loud and clear message to all those gathered around: “Something noteworthy is going on here! Let’s find out what it is!” But the primary miracle (on a scale of one to ten you could give it a “ten”) was the sudden ability the Spirit gave the disciples to speak the wonderful works of God to others with courage and boldness, so that many were led to faith. These one-time scaredy-cats, who not long before had secluded themselves in a locked room to avoid detection, were changed into people who were supremely happy—and not the least bit afraid—to openly spread the Gospel of Jesus! They just couldn’t keep themselves from telling the assembled multitude about the Savior Who lived for them, died for them, came alive on Easter morning, and Who promises to come back to take all who trust in Him into the place of perfect peace. It was through the sharing of these blessed truths that thousands were converted and became recipients of the priceless gifts of forgiveness, new spiritual life, and an unfading inheritance in the life of the world to come. It’s not difficult to imagine how, when they returned home from the Pentecost festival, they also became witnesses for Jesus in the places where they lived.Read More »Pentecost’s Primary Miracle

Put on Your Resurrection Glasses!

COVER STORY – EASTER

” . . . the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 1:18-20)

According to the Vision Council of America, seventy-five percent of American adults wear some kind of corrective lenses for their eyesight. Glasses or contact lenses are an indispensable aid for many to overcome nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism or other vision problems. A statistic that is even more startling is the one that Jesus relates in the Gospel of Luke: fully one hundred percent of the world’s population sees through spiritual “lenses” of one kind or another: “The lamp of the body is the eye. Therefore, when your eye is good, your whole body also is full of light. But when your eye is bad, your body also is full of darkness.” (Luke 11:34)

There are many millions of people throughout the world whose natural eyes see reasonably well and who consider their minds to be enlightened, but their hearts are actually dark. The worshipers of Allah or Vishnu, the followers of Buddha, and your neighbor who is “spiritual but not religious” all have this in common: they hope to improve themselves enough so that the afterlife will be better than this one. And many of these people of other faiths—or no faith at all—are brilliant in their own ways. Yet they’re wearing the wrong glasses, and they don’t even know it. Paul describes them as those “whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.” (2 Corinthians 4:4)Read More »Put on Your Resurrection Glasses!

The Great Maundy Thursday Disinformation Campaign

COVER STORY – MAUNDY THURSDAY

The devil had a dilemma. In the Lord’s Supper, God had just bequeathed to mankind a gift that held the potential to cripple the devil’s plans for mankind’s eternal destruction. Perhaps man didn’t yet realize the power of the gift, but Satan did, and he immediately set to work. What he needed was an ongoing disinformation campaign—obviously—since the truth would continually remind God’s children of the Gospel itself, and against that Gospel Satan knew he was powerless. So Satan initiated a disinformation “campaign of opposites.”

The first phase of his campaign was to promote the idea that what Jesus had instituted in the upper room on Maundy Thursday was not a gift but a requirement—not something God would do for man, but something man must do for God—Law, not Gospel. Anything but Gospel. And it worked, as even those who called themselves Christians came to regard this “Lord’s Supper” as something that they would offer to God as, at minimum, a partial payment for their sins, something they must do to pay down on their sin debt.Read More »The Great Maundy Thursday Disinformation Campaign