IN CELEBRATION OF THE REFORMATION – part two

In the prior post, we noted that this is the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, an event that began when Martin Luther nailed his ninety-five theses to the castle church door in Wittenberg, Germany.  The debate that arose out of this action culminated in what is now called the Protestant Reformation.

One of the primary teachings of the Reformation is that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.  Good works do not constitute any basis for our right standing before God; rather, our good works are the result of and the witness to our faith in Christ.  Ephesians 2:8-10.

Justification is a legal term referencing God’s declaration that we are not guilty, that we are forgiven of our sin, and that we have righteousness  provided through Christ’s sacrifice for our sin.  2 Corinthians 5:21.

In other words, the Reformation’s clarion call is that the just shall live by faith alone, and that faith must be in Christ alone.

Once we are justified, through faith in Christ, we are to live a Christ-centered life in thankfulness for all that He has done for us and for the Holy Spirit’s presence within us.  Paul says we are new creatures when we have yielded our lives to Christ.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

2 Corinthians 5:17.

Elaborating on this statement, Paul says in Ephesians 4:22-24 that we are to:

“put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”

What would this look like?   Remember the butterfly? 

USED Butterfly close up (C)
At the Butterfly Farm, Cayman Islands

After the butterfly emerges from the cocoon, it not only can fly into the heavens, it must fly to live a healthy, fulfilled life. They must migrate to other locations, ultimately returning to their place of origin.  But we are not talking going around the block; oh no, we are talking long distances!

The flight of the butterflies is the longest known distance insect migration on Earth – and it’s been occurring for thousands of years. Monarchs sense certain topographical features, avoiding both large bodies of water and tall mountains. Instead, they choose cool valley passes between mountains. 

Several migration routes in central southern Canada lead down through the central U.S. Several others start in western North America and merge with central ones. The majority of Monarchs who survive obstacles and predators manage to thread a geographical needle, hitting a 50-mile wide gap of cool river valleys between Eagle Pass, Texas, and Del Rio, Texas, and then wind their way to a dozen specific high mountain peaks in central Mexico where they roost. After resting there for several months, the same generation returns north to Texas and other parts of the southern United States, where the females lay hundreds of eggs.  …  

Of course the question automatically pops into your head – How does the butterfly know where to go when they migrate such a long distance and end the trip on a mountain top to which they have never been.  Scientists believe that they now have an answer:

[Scientists] felt confident that they could prove that it was a combination of brain signals sent from the Monarch’s complex compound eyes and antennae that allowed them to track the position of the sun and the time of day (“like an internal GPS”) to navigate during their migration.

Monarchs have specialized body parts to help it navigate and migrate long distances. They orient themselves both in longitude and latitude, a unique ability, and can travel up to a mile high.

To conserve energy, Monarchs ride along prevailing winds and catch rising thermal waves, helping them travel great distances in a single day. They hide from the rain and will die if exposed to freezing temperatures and ice storms

[Information from http://www.flightofthebutterflies.com/epic-migrations]

Notice that? The butterfly has been given specialized body part to enable it to migrate such long distances.  And, the butterfly is so strong that it can travel hundreds of miles, even going a mile high, but rain or ice will kill it.

Likewise, once we emerge from the stranglehold of sin through faith in Christ, we too have been given equipment to enable us to walk the pilgrim passageway in strength and confidence.  Read Ephesians 6 to identify all the armor available to us.  We are strong in the Lord, but we are not impervious to peril.  Sin can attack and derail our efforts.  We must persevere and keep looking to our Lord as we live in this world. 

Putting off the old sinful self is hard – it takes struggle and dedication to Christ to accomplish it, even for a moment.  But God’s grace and mercy is always sufficient for our struggle because it is His plan to renew us in the likeness of His Son, our Lord.

Praise God that 500 years ago men were ready to stand up for the Gospel so we would learn that salvation comes through faith alone, in Christ alone.

Thank you, Father, for the provision and protection of your Word and for the work of Martin Luther and other saints of the church who suffered greatly for their proclamation that justification is a matter of faith in Christ alone.  And beautiful butterfly, a daily illustration that difficulties are for a time, and that the end result is worth the struggle as we are growing in the likeness of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

IN CELEBRATION OF THE REFORMATION – part one

Sometimes important dates come and fly past us and we don’t even recognize that they are gone. You know, the anniversary that passes unnoticed until someone (wife?) looks at the calendar!

I dare say that the anniversary of the Reformation is not something that many in our society think about on a day-to-day basis. 

But whether we think about it or not, this year is an important one in the life of the Christian Church.  It is the 500th anniversary of the day in October, 1517 that Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses on the door of the church in the German town of Wittenberg.  This act, so small and seemingly insignificant, lit the fuse that turned into the flame of the Protestant Reformation. And, that flame burns even today, 500 years later.

In thinking about transformation and reformation, one cannot help consider the example of the butterfly.  Its change from a caterpillar into the butterfly, a creature more beautiful and powerful, symbolizes the soul, reincarnation, and resurrection.

Beautiful butterfly
Beautiful butterfly found in Butterfly Farm in the Cayman Islands.

Butterflies are a type of insect.  They belong to the order of insects called Lepidoptera, which means “scaly wings”.  The butterfly’s life cycle is made up of four stages, each of which are unique and very different from each other.  This process is called metamorphosis which means “change of form.”  First, the butterfly starts as an egg.  After about a week, the egg hatches and a tiny caterpillar emerges. 

After 2 to 4 weeks, the full-grown caterpillar transforms itself into a chrysalis/ or pupa.  It hangs from a tree or bush, appearing to be doing nothing, but inside the caterpillar’s body becomes the adult structure of the butterfly.  This stage takes 10 to 15 days.

Then, the former caterpillar emerges as a beautiful butterfly.

Butterfly close up (C)
Butterfly having some strawberry lunch

But that emergence did not come easily … the insect has to struggle inside the cocoon, pushing against the sides before ultimately breaking through into the sunlight.  It is the struggle to emerge that strengthens the insect’s wings so that it will fly. 

In other words, it is in the struggle itself that strength is born!

So, think about your life.  When did you have a trial, a struggle?  Have you seen strength come from the struggle?

The writer of Hebrews talks about struggles during persecution of believers:

But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated.

Hebrews 10:32-33 ESV. 

Then there are the struggles that come from sin:

Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.

Hebrews 12:3-4 ESV

In light of what Jesus did for us, we must persevere and not grow weary during our own struggle against sin.  We know that the struggles we have are strengthening us in our Christian life and that we can be strong in the Lord through the Grace that God grants liberally and freely to those who call on His Name.

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. As it is written, “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.”

2 Corinthians 9:8-9 ESV

Consider the butterfly and the struggle that it had to endure before it could soar over the fields.  Now, thank the Lord for giving you the ability to soar in spirit to your Heavenly Father, now and for all eternity.

Father, thank You for granting us salvation through Your Son, Jesus Christ.  I praise Your Name for putting me under the protection of the Good Shepherd.  Thank You, too, for the struggles that have come which serve to strengthen me and which allow me to grow through Your Grace and Mercy.

 

WHO IS IN CONTROL HERE?

 

I am in control of my life … right?  Are you in control of your life?  Really?

 

We get up, brush our teeth, go to work, come home, prepare meals, chauffeur the kids to and fro, do the laundry, mop the floor, make the beds, pay the bills, run to the post office for stamps, wash the toddler’s hands and face, do more laundry, exercise, go to the gym, ride the bicycle … the list is never ending. But, we are in control, right!?

Birthday cake on face (C)
Adorable toddler with birthday cake on her face!

 

Then there are the other obligations that we have on our schedule. Things like birthday parties, anniversary celebrations, worship at church, preparation for the children’s class party, choir rehearsal, women’s meetings for fellowship and prayer.

 

Thanksgiving meal new recipe (C)
Yummy acorn squash that folks would enjoy!

 

We take food to those who are suffering, participate in the Bible study and prayer group, leadership meetings, and work with outreach activities such as Habitat for Humanity, the Soup Kitchen, Second Harvest, etc.   And we still think we are in control, right?

 

Of course, we would be remiss if we ignored the incessant interruptions that the smart phone provides – email, tweets, Skype, messages, not to mention phone calls (the purpose of the telephone)! And we must not forget the magnetic call of social media such as Facebook. Hundreds of our friends want to know what we are doing, minute by minute. Could I honestly post that my status is that “I am in control of my life”?

 

Being in control of my own life is the focus of our culture … songs glamorize the concept by saying  “I did it MY way” and “I want it all and I want it all now!,”  an illustration that the focus of our world is I/me/mine!  In essence, we are the center of our universe. All else is irrelevant. Yet we still are running, we are out of time and energy, and, because we are so busy that we can’t squeeze another thing into our schedule, we believe that we are in control of our own life!

 

If we are honest, it would appear that we are slaves to the chores and obligations of family, home, society and employment! Like the little pet hamster, we are on the treadmill — running in circles with no visible exit point where we can rest, rejuvenate, relax, and refresh!

 

Ocean waves and beach (C)
Oregon beach with waves coming in, nonstop, with soothing sounds.

 

When was the last time you got off the treadmill and stopped so that you could listen to the sound of Nature? When was the last time you experienced the continual, powerful, pounding of the ocean and remembered that there is no switch to turn it off, yet the Lord could still the waves with His voice?  Mark 4:39.

Colorado Rocky Mountains
Colorado mountains, awesome in grandeur and strength.

 

When was the last time you stopped to look at the mountain and to consider the power of Him who holds the summit in His hand?

 

Beautiful butterfly
Beautiful butterfly found in Butterfly Farm in the Cayman Islands.

 

When was the last time you were still enough to inspect a butterfly, one of the magnificent beauties of God’s creation?   Creatures that are so fragile they will be blown away by the wind, yet they are strong enough to fly in migration across the ocean!

 

When was the last time you sat in a quiet room with your Bible open, reading it so you can learn more of Who God is? When was the last time you listened for the still small voice of God, speaking to you in a whisper in your soul, telling you that He loves you and wants you to focus on Him, not on the treadmill?    1 Kings 19:11-12.

 

Cross
Consider the cross, a reminder of the glorious gift provided to us by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

 

The very life we have, breath that we breathe, is a gift from God.  Certainly, those blessings are deserving of our thanks.  But even more we should be thankful for the gift of salvation, purchased at such great cost as Christ’s death on the cross, as payment for our sin.  When was the last time you said “Thank you” to Him for all His blessings that He has given you, because of His grace?

 

Who is in control here?  According to Scripture, the answer to that question is “God is in control.”  In speaking to the men of Athens, Paul says it like this:

And he [God] is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation of men that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.  For in him we live and move and have our being.

Acts 17:25-28.

 

In the Psalms, David describes God in a much more personal way.

For you [God] created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

Psalm 139:13-15

 

God is in control and I can allow Him to take me off the treadmill so that I can do the work that He has planned for me from the foundation of the world.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Ephesians 2:10

 

May I glorify God and His Son, Jesus Christ, as I experience the glorious adventure of life with my Savior holding my hand as His Spirit guides my path.

 

Father, I praise, glorify, and honor you as the Creator God, sovereign, all-powerful, and all-knowing. I thank you that you are in control, and I bow in humble gratefulness that I am yours. May I live in the fullness of life that you have provided through Jesus Christ my Savior and through the power of your Holy Spirit.