Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Reformation Day!

I am very grateful that my kind husband took time to write the following.
Please read, enjoy the history lesson, 
and - moreover - I pray you are enjoying the liberty found in Christ alone!

While most of the world is busy right now in the throes of Halloween (which at its best is an over indulgence in Resse Cups and Snickers, and at its worst is a celebration of and emphasis on that which is demonic) it is good for Christians to take a step back and give some celebration for that which has some substance, namely the Gospel and its wonderful working in the hearts of sinful humanity.

Martin Luther

            Historically this is what Christians (or at least Protestant Christians) have celebrated on October 31st . This is Reformation Day! For the Gospel believing Christian this day should get the same airtime as July 4th and September 11th. Like these days, October 31, 1517 marks a moment in history so momentous that nothing would remain the same after the events of the day unfolded. It was on this day that the German Monk, Martin Luther, nailed his famous ’95 Theses’ on the front door of the Wittenberg castle. Essentially this was a paper chocked full of protests (hence the name ‘Protest – ants’) that Luther made against the Roman Catholic Church.

Nailing the 95 Theses

            Luther had much to protest!  For reasons known only to God Himself the Catholic Church had, by this point in history, been allowed to drift into serious doctrinal error. As Luther (and others as well) began to search deeper and deeper in the Scriptures the discoveries of what was found when compared with both the doctrine and practice of the Catholic Church created major discrepancies. The proverbial ‘straw that broke the camel’s back’ for Luther was the Catholic Church’s selling of indulgences.

            Essentially an ‘indulgence’ is a spiritual commodity. It is a partial or full remittance of punishment due for sin.  In Luther’s day most people held to the belief of some sort of purgatory (an intermediate state of suffering one must pass through until they have paid enough for their sins and can move on into heaven and ‘saint-hood’). Simply put, the Pope not only propagated this belief but also preyed upon it by his sell of such indulgences. Here is how it worked:

            Suppose you lost a loved one a few years ago and were concerned about their spiritual well being. Well worry no longer. The kind, benevolent Pope has decided to run a special on ‘indulgences’ when, once bought, can be used to speed your loved one through the purgatory fires and expedite their entrance into heaven, and thus be rid of suffering once and for all. Who cares if you are suffering in this life and have little to live on? Your suffering is not worth comparing to the torment your loved one is in. How cruel is it of you to hold onto your money when giving it to the Church can alleviate so much pain for those you love. Or perhaps you really do not love them after all? Perhaps you are just plain selfish and calloused to the needs of others. This is exactly what the people of Luther’s day were hearing! The Pope even sent traveling salesmen to serve as ancient infomercials and thus create more sales. One of the most famous, John Tetzel (whom Luther had the most to deal with), is credited with coining this sales pitch, “When the coin in the coffer does ring, the soul from purgatory does spring.”

The selling of "indulgences"

            The monk Luther could take it no longer! If the Pope had such power to grant such forgiveness why did he need the money of peasants to do so? Could he not simply grant the forgiveness free of charge? Well, sure he could but then how could he build his magnificent Basilica in Rome? Wearing his gospel lenses Luther saw how unbiblical and destructive such thinking was. He penned his paper, grabbed his hammer and nail, and posted his “Protests” on the castle door (sort of a community bulletin board). He did so, and thus sparked what is now referred to as the “Protestant Reformation”.  What Luther and the other leaders of this movement sought was not a split from the Catholic (simply means Universal) Church, but rather a reforming of it. They wanted to bring the belief and practice of the church back into line with the Gospel. Thankfully, God used them to do just that (though not all of the Church was ‘reformed’).

A glimpse of Luther's 95 Theses.
To read them for yourself, 
click HERE.

            Well enough of the history lesson. What is the relevance for us? I am sure most of the people who read this will be Protestants, so should we simply applaud ourselves that we are on the right side and go watch football? No! What then should we do? Let me encourage you to do 3 things :

1. Give Thanks! Thank God for how He used mighty men like Luther to steer a ship so drastically off course back to Gospel currents. None of us will know this side of heaven how beneficial such redirecting has had on our lives as a nation and individually as well.

2. Remember and Anchor! We all have blind spots! We all have holes in our Theology! What belief or practice of ours will the next generation of Christ followers look back on at and marvel that we could believe or practice and still call ourselves ‘Christians’? We are all hard-wired to deviate from truth! We are all ‘prone to wander’! How then can we ensure that we will stay on the right track? Let me suggest using the 5-fold truths of the Reformation to help anchor us to true Gospel thinking and true Gospel living. Commonly referred to as the ‘Five Solas’ (Sola being the Latin for “only”), these phrases will serve as safety ropes and anchors as we seek to navigate life.

            Sola Scriptura (The Word of God alone)
            Sola Fide (By Faith alone)
            Sola Gratia (By Grace alone)
            Solus Christus (In Christ alone)
            Soli Deo Gloria (For the Glory of God alone)

IN all of our thinking and living let us ask ourselves:

Are we basing everything on the Word of God alone? Or does our tradition, at times, trump the clear teaching of the Word?

Do we teach and believe that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone and in Christ alone? Or do we teach (or imply) that it is Christ plus something else? Do we say ‘grace alone through faith alone’ and then live like salvation depends on our doing? Deep in our hearts are we planning on offering some sort of ‘indulgence receipt’ of our own works when we stand before God on the final day?

Are we living for the glory of God alone? Or do we give lip service to such glory while we seek to establish our little kingdoms on this earth?

These questions and others like them are good ways to cause us to remember and anchor our hearts in the Gospel!

3. Sing!
Finally, after we have given thanks and examined our heart let us offer up a response of the heart. Singing is one of the best ways to do this, and what better song than Luther’s own, A Mighty Fortress is our God!

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;

Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:

For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe; 
His craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
 On earth is not his equal.
Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing;

Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing:

Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
 Lord Sabaoth, His Name, from age to age the same,
 And He must win the battle.
And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
 We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us:

The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
 His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,
 One little word shall fell him.
That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth;

The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him Who with us sideth

Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also; 
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
 His kingdom is forever.

Let us hold firmly to that Word that is above all earthly powers and let us hold loosely to goods and kindred here on this earth. The prince of darkness will always seek to get us to reverse our grips. Do not tremble at him, but look to Christ and always seek continual reformation in your heart. This is what I am thinking through this Reformation Day! (I will still enjoy a Snickers or two though! :)

Friday, October 29, 2010

Friday's Photo

And PLEASE Forgive Me!

With all of the talk of these precious little girls below, 
I can't believe that I've failed to mention our excitement over our
expecting to arrive in January!

We are thrilled!
Though she was a bit of a surprise to us all,
of course, we are SO thankful for the LORD'S PERFECT TIMING!

David's brother and our sister-in-law, Sheree,
already have two beautiful (and OH-so-FUN!) children,


and SILAS.

And as you can see, 
their little sister is bound to be nothing short of 

Can't wait to meet you, baby Kizziah!
We love you so much already.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Thursday's Thanksgivings

I am so thankful for my extended family.

And the Lord has been so gracious
to continue to add to our number.

We are thrilled to introduce the beautiful
 Lowery Elizabeth Downs 

She was born this morning
to my sweet cousin Erin, husband Drew, and big brother Griffin.
Griffin already loves his baby sister so much.

We were so thankful that sweet Lowery waited to come until she did.
Erin battled high blood pressure with both of her pregnancies;
but little Griffin wasn't as patient as his sister.

To read about Griffin and his miracle story,
click on the titles below:

In addition, 
my cousin Bethany, who's expecting a baby in March, 
found out today that we'll be adding another
to the family!!

We're so thankful for baby Ann Elizabeth and are anticipating her upcoming arrival.

This is Ann Elizabeth's big brother, Sterling.
And you can only imagine what a doll she'll be.

You can see more pictures and posts from Bethany on her blog HERE.

And now, for my own little lady.

I have been overwhelmed lately with how quickly she is growing.

Now 13 months old, 
Claire is quite charming

 and so much fun.

As she was recently hugging and kissing her dolls and stuffed animals,
I sat watching her with great joy. 

And then I was quickly overwhelmed 
with the weightiness of the reality that 
I am her MOTHER.

What a responsibility.

What a privilege.

Oh, how I pray for wisdom as David and I attempt to teach and shepherd 
her fragile (and, yes, sinful) little heart.

Thank you, Father, for baby Claire.
She is sunshine to my day;

and just as "bright and radiant" as her name suggests. 

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Buzz Lightyear Goes to School

 our very own Buzz Lightyear,
headed off to costume day at school

shooting the "Robot" with his laser 

Thank you, Granny and Pop, for the birthday money.
John David's been saving it for just the right thing.
And he couldn't be more excited about his new look!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Scripture Memory Monday

I mentioned briefly about the Out of the Boat Bible study that I was able attend last week.  Tollie Meggs, the founder of this ministry and leader behind these monthly studies, 
shared a story that left quite an impression on me.  

She mentioned about her recent mission trip overseas,
specifically regarding the reaction of those in a remote village 
who were hearing the name of Jesus for the first time.

She mentioned how she and her team strung up a sheet between two trees,
cranked up a generator and began showing the Jesus Film via movie projector.
(And God had graciously turned the rain off for the first time that week 
so that this event could take place.)

She said that as she was seeing the footage of this film for about the 100th time, 
the life of our perfect Savior depicted on screen was anything but familiar to these nationals.

First of all, seeing Jesus multiply the few fishes and loaves of bread
to feed the five thousand was overwhelming to them. 
They couldn't fathom seeing food like this and in such abundance!

But she said watching these people ingest a portrayal of 
the perfect Son of God being sacrificed for the sins of a world that hated him
was unforgettable.

In horror and disbelief, 
so many of them lay prostrate, pulling their hair and screaming over and over, 
"Not the good man!"

They could not believe what they were seeing.
A perfect, sinless man
dying on behalf of the sins of the world . . . 

Tollie Meggs said she was convicted of how familiar this reality had become to her.
I was convicted as well.

The fact that the perfect Son of God 
has draped His righteousness over my life,
granting me salvation and justification (just as if I'd never even sinned!!) . . .   
This is truly the biggest, most shocking thing that's ever happened in history!

And the response of those villagers 
is EXACTLY what my response should be on a daily basis. 

what less than my ALL would be good enough to say 
for what Christ has done for me.

If I have truly encountered Christ, 
having my sins forgiven and His robe of righteousness wrapped around my wretchedness, 
such a reality will affect every part of my life - 
will it not?

If I have been overwhelmed by the reality of Christ's sacrifice on my behalf, 
He should be nothing less than my greatest Treasure in this life.

And if He's my greatest Treasure, 
my children (and all those around me) 
WILL see and hear and know 
- because of the way I live my life day in and day out -
 that nothing else in this life can satisfy the longings of our souls!

Oh, for grace to live this way.

So my prayer today
is that I will never get over what Christ has done on my behalf;

that I will never again be passive regarding His sacrifice for me, 
taking the debt that I owed but could have never paid; 

that I would never think lightly of the fact that 
"For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God."
(2 Corinthians 5:21);

that I would tell of His glory to my children
and live a life before them and others that
is permeated with a passion for my Savior!

Well, all of this leads me to the passage that the Lord led me to this morning 
that I wish to ponder this week . . . and for the rest of my life!

[1] I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever. [2] Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever. [3] Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable. [4] One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts. [5] On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate. [6] They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds, and I will declare your greatness. [7] They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness and shall sing aloud of your righteousness. [8] The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. [9] The LORD is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made. [10] All your works shall give thanks to you, O LORD, and all your saints shall bless you! [11] They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom and tell of your power, [12] to make known to the children of man your mighty deeds, and the glorious splendor of your kingdom. [13] Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures throughout all generations.
PSALM 145:1-13 (ESV)

Now as far as memorizing . . .
I'd love to memorize it all!
Yet realistically speaking, I know I won't be able to get that all down this week.
So I decided to focus on verses 4 and 5,
hence the green highlight.
Yet the passage was to good to gut,
and I hope that you are as blessed by this Truth as I was this morning.

May we indeed together
extol our God and King
and bless His name forever and ever (v.1)
for the grace and mercy He has extended to us through the sacrifice of His Son,
Jesus Christ.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Friday's Photo

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Thursday's Thanksgivings

Though my eyes are tired, my mind is swimming with things to write about.  I don't want to take much time, but I do want to make mention of much that I've been thankful for today.

In no particular order, I will try not to leave anything out.  

First of all, I was thankful to be able to attend an Out of the Boat Ministries event at one of our local churches.  It was a beautiful time of worship and fellowship and hearing God's Word taught by the passionate Tollie Meggs.  I was blessed, and the Lord brought much refreshment to my soul.  I am so thankful that David was willing to keep the children for the evening so that I could attend.  And to top it off, I was able to go with my precious mother!  I don't know the last time that we've been able to sit together - undistracted - and enjoy a time such as this.  Thank you, Lord, for the gift of tonight and for meeting with us in such a special way. 

Secondly, I wanted to mention a HUGE cause for thanksgiving in our family.  Pop, my dad's dad, was diagnosed with liver cancer not too long ago.  He has already had to undergo several rounds of chemotherapy for a reoccurring cancer in his mouth that the Lord has graciously healed him of.  Last week, he had to undergo surgery to see what we were dealing with and what could be done.  Not knowing what they'd find, the doctors only detected two spots on his liver that were simply able to be burned away.  THANK YOU, LORD, for your grace working on Pop's behalf.  I talked to Pop today, and he sounded great.  He had gone to drink coffee with his pals this morning and was enjoying a warm, beautiful day down South.  Pop said that he was informed by his doctor to expect "severe pain" for at least 5 or 6 days.  He was thrilled to let me know that he hasn't had to take the first pain pill!!  AND the doctor said that he didn't need to see him again for another YEAR!!  Praise the Lord!!  For this, I'm SO thankful!!

Next, I did want to mention what a wonderful time we had last week with my mom's parents, Grammy and Daddy Jim.  We were able to take a little vacation and spend time at their home on beautiful Lake Santa Fe.  I was so thankful for the time we were able to share with them, as well as all the fun that was had!!  I'll try to document more about the trip soon, but until then, here's a glimpse of some of our activities. . . 

Now on a bit more serious note, I want to thank the Lord for Circlewood Baptist Church.  Providentially, Circlewood (the church my husband grew up in) provided David with a job very quickly after we felt that the Lord's leading us overseas had come to an abrupt halt.  It was during our missionary training that we received John David's autism diagnosis.  At that point - as hard as it was to transition our thinking and planning - we felt the need to return home to seek services and therapy for John David, as well as the support of our family and friends.  We thought it best to not attempt to learn a new language and culture of another people group as we were now beginning to learn the language and culture of autism.  Honestly, we just needed a chance to catch our breath.  

Two weeks prior to the diagnosis, one of David's best friends had just resigned as Circlewood's Student Minister.  So when we felt peace about heading back home, this position was open, and the Lord graciously worked out the details for David to fill it.  Amidst all of this, the family at Circlewood embraced us immediately, supported us with prayers and finances, and showed us grace as we were healing and seeking the Lord's will for our family.  So, if anyone from Circlewood is reading this now:  Thank You.  We are so thankful for the love and patience you've extended to our family.  We praise the Lord for each of you.  Like David said during his resignation last night, you all have blessed and served us far more than we've been able to in return.  

And those of you that may be reading this that are not from the church, please know how thankful we are to the Lord for providing a position for David to serve at a place full of people whom we already loved dearly.  It was truly a blessing of grace.   

Now this leads me to another cause for thanksgiving.  Though David has served the past two years as Student/Education Minister, the Lord has truly gifted him with a pastor's heart.  And I will be the first to attest to the fact that this is exactly the way the Lord has wired my husband.  He is a wonderful preacher and teacher and has a huge burden to shepherd and disciple the body of Christ.  Though we thought that he would be doing this in another country, we now feel that the Lord would have him use these gifts here in the US.  Despite our burden for the nations and our desire to see the Great Commission fulfilled, we have transitioned into more of a mobilizing role.  Thankfully, David has been able to lead several short term mission trips since feeling led to "stay," and I'm sure he'll continue this as long as the Lord allows.  

With David's heart to pastor - along with the beautiful progress we've thankfully seen in John David - our hearts were prompted to begin looking for a position in which David could best use his gifts.  Through much prayer and seeking the Lord, as well as many feelings of inadequacy and humility, God has opened the door for David to serve as senior pastor at a church in North Carolina.  As I said, he has felt inadequate for this high calling, and my feelings have been identical.  But we cannot overlook the providence of God in orchestrating all of the details that have led us to this point.  Therefore, it makes us excited to see God - once again - pour out His all-sufficient grace and to be able to watch His power being made perfect through our (many!) weaknesses (2 Corinthians 12:9).  

So, although it will be hard being away from dear family and friends, we cannot help but express our excitement about this opportunity that the Lord has allowed.  We are so thankful and humbled to be apart of what God is doing at Lake Gaston Baptist Church.  

Thank You, God, that Your timing is perfect;
our lives are in Your hands.
Thank You that You are also perfectly good and kind and wise.
Please give us grace to trust You with each detail, every step of the way.
Thank You that You can be trusted completely 
and that Your grace is indeed sufficient.
Please make us more like Your Son, 
no matter what it takes to do that.
Just be near us, O Lord;
Your nearness is our good.  

Okay, so I did take a lot of time, and my eyes are now burning.  Good night! :)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Singing in the Rain!

Last November, 
John David became quite fond of the 1952 musical
Singin' in the Rain.

He loved pretending to be Gene Kelly,
acting and singing and dancing.

Although still fond of the movie,
John David doesn't burst into these famous melodies as he once did.

Yet the precipitation tonight prompted some authentic
and very entertaining
singing in the rain! 

I didn't get any pictures of her, 
but little Claire - thanks to her Daddy - joined in the fun too!
(And she sobbed upon having to return inside.  That girl... :)