What’s left to say about Martin Luther?

What’s left to say about Martin Luther?

Has it all been said about Luther and the Reformation?

I put off writing a blog post from this last Saturday (supposedly my normal posting day) until today due the fact that October 31, 2017 is the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his 95 theses on the church door in Wittenberg, Germany.  I decided I would wait until ‘Reformation Day’ to give my thoughts on Luther and the beginnings of The Protestant Reformation.  So what is there left to say??  Has not everyone everywhere (those who care about this topic at all) said whatever needs to be said??

I guess to some extent that is true.  A plethora of books, articles, sermons, videos, and commentaries have been produced to talk about all aspects of Luther, his life, and his significance.  So what is it I could say that would be ‘different’?

I want to encourage you (and me) to periodically refocus our lives

 Of all the great things that one can discuss about the Reformation, the one that is important to me is the idea of self-evaluation.  Consistently and periodically all of us should take a step back from our busy lives and see if what we are doing is matching with what we are believing.  We often get so busy with our hectic lives that we sometimes stray off the path, but because we are still on a nature hike we think we are doing OK.  I think of all the contributions to Christendom that can be credited to Martin Luther the single thing I applaud him for is taking a stand (no matter what the cost) to show people the church needed to refocus its priorities.  Luther was so singularly dedicated to biblical truth that he was willing to be not only an outcast but an enemy of the majority of Europe, if he knew he was OK with God.  In essence he told himself he would rather be accepted by God and rejected by everyone else than vice versa.  The church needed to examine what it did and why it did those things to see if they had wandered off the path.  Martin Luther was one (really among many) to stand before multitudes and declare that he was right and the church was wrong.  He encouraged them to refocus their faith in order to be good and faithful servants.

Are we in need of a person (or cultural) reformation??

I believe all followers of Jesus Christ need a ‘periodic personal reformation.’  We have difficulties sometimes ‘going through the motions’ and living our faith the way we have always done them, when what we need it to have a serious talk with ourselves to see if we are living biblically.  We also need to have the courage to accept our inconsistencies and change what needs to be changed no matter the personal discomfort.  As Luther did we need to take an honest look at ourselves and say to whomever will listen, ‘things need to change and I am willing to change them, no matter what’ (OK, I know that’s not a direct quote from him but I was attempting to pretend I know what he thought).

So What’s the point?

Here’s the point – Martin Luther compared his final authority on theology (the Bible) to his next highest authority (the Church) and decided the two did not match up.  Either the Church needed to change or the Bible needed to change.  The answer was a no-brainer – he decided the Church needed to change, but they refused so he changed himself, thus sticking with his ultimate authority: God and His Word.  I wonder if we need to change our understanding of God, Jesus, outreach, giving, and living by faith to better match what the Bible says??? Hmmmmmm, could be!

Let me know what you think.

Comment and tell me a story of how you evaluated your faith journey and changed it to be more pleasing to God.

Good night, and God bless

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What Happens When I Am Not Using My Spiritual Gifts?

What Happens When I Am Not Using My Spiritual Gifts?

Everyone has spiritual gifts: when, where, and how do you use them?

As I taught high school Bible class several years ago, we had a discussion about spiritual gifts.  The chapters we examined were in the New Testament in Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4, and 1 Peter 4.  Among the many gifts listed, these are but some: giving, administration, prophecy, and teaching.  The students in my class had several good questions and comments.  I informed them it was my understanding that all followers of Jesus are given at least one spiritual gift.  These gifts are to be used to further the kingdom and bring glory to God.  According to Ephesians God gave people gifts to to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:12-13). 

I informed the students it was my understanding that every follower of Jesus was given at least one gift of the spirit. And according to Ephesians these gifts were given to build up the body of Christ.  So then we got into a discussion of where, when, and how one is to use their spiritual gifts.  For example I posed the question, “if a person’s gift is teaching and they are not teaching a Sunday School class but instead are teaching in a school setting, are they fulfilling this command of God?  Is it OK for one to use their gift in a setting other than the local gathering? Or must they be using the gift inside and outside the church as long as their priority is the place where they worship regularly?

How am I supposed to use my gift?

After years of teaching periodically (at my local church, at a Christian school, at other local churches) I have had to wrestle with this one big question (given the instructions discussed above), that I had seriously been contemplating for years:  IF MY SPIRITUAL GIFT IS TEACHING AND I AM NOT USING THAT GIFT IN MY LOCAL CONGREGATION, AM I LIVING IN DISOBEDIENCE??  You see I believe my gift is teaching and I have had the desire since childhood that I want to spend my life teaching others the truths of God.  In college I narrowed my field to teaching the Bible (instead of some of my other interests like computers, or math, or history).  In seminary I focused on studying Church History and my passion for that topic grew considerably.  However after graduating from seminary and not going into teaching as a profession, my teaching opportunities were very infrequent.  I taught Sunday School classes when I was asked but rarely was teaching on a regular basis.  Was I not fulfilling the command to use my gifts?  Is it OK to teach in a school setting and yet not do so also in one’s own church??

I honestly am looking for answers

I know all Christians have spiritual gifts and they are to be used for God’s glory and the edification of the local body, but what happens when that local body had no opening for you?  If my gift is teaching adults yet all the church has is openings for 2nd graders, should I teach those students, even though I would be more comfortable and my higher education in theology could be better used in adult classes??  I just do not know what the answer is.  I have asked these questions and others like them for years and am not satisfied with the answers.

Please send me your thoughts on this matter.

Good night, and God bless

Baptist History part 3: English Reformers/Separatists

Baptist History part 3: English Reformers/Separatists

Where did the Baptists really come from?

I have discussed in previous blog posts 3 of the 4 commonly understood theories of the origin of the Baptist Church.  Now we come to the 4th and final possibility.  Many believe Baptists came directly from the English Reformation movement.  To be sure the actual beginnings are unclear for there is no record of a person or group of people deciding to start their own denomination called “Baptist”.  Like most of the origins of denominations the specific groups were labeled by outsiders with the name for which they would later to be known.

A product of the Protestant Reformation in England

This origin theory traces Baptist thinking and practice back to just after the Protestant Reformation movement.  As reformation thinking and ideas spread throughout Europe, major religious changes were on the horizon.  The Reformation impacted most European countries, such as: Germany, Switzerland, Scotland, France, Spain, and England.  There was growing dissatisfaction with the Roman Catholic Church in England.  King Henry VIII of England got into some trouble with the Catholic Church due to various marital difficulties so in order to solve his problem the best solution was to break from the Roman Catholic Church and start his own church.  This move would give him the freedom to do what he wanted (even if the pope refused his request) because the new ‘church leader’ would be greatly influenced by the king.  So Henry established what is now called the Church of England or the Anglican Church.

Henry VIII contribution to Baptist history

During these times of unrest and reform in England many of those following the ideas of Martin Luther and John Calvin were hoping Henry’s break with Rome would give them the reform and freedom they desired.  This was not to be.  Many English protesters agreed with Luther and Calvin that salvation comes by grace through faith and not through a decision by a local representative of God (the local bishop).  But these same people disagreed with the Reformers about certain other issues.  Some of these issues of disagreement were: church governance (who made the decisions for the local assembly?); the Eucharist (how were Jesus’ body and blood represented in the communion elements?); and baptism (are infants to be baptized into the covenant community or was it strictly for confessing believers?).  These issues, coupled with the need they felt to ‘purify’ English Christianity, were specifically what caused a group of English reformers (called Puritans due to their stress on purifying Christendom) to emphasize believers baptism and therefore be unique in the ever changing landscape of growing denominations.

English Puritans leave for Amsterdam

This purification process failed under Henry and many followers of Jesus were persecuted because of their ‘other’ beliefs, so some fled to a different country in order to escape the abuse coming from either the Roman Catholic Church or the Anglican Church.  A group of people led by a man named John Smyth escaped the English persecutions and fled to Amsterdam.  He was the pastor of a group of believers who taught and preached these new ideas, noting the idea of believer’s baptism.  Some of the documents from that time mention this man John Smyth and call him a Baptist, this may be where the term ‘baptist’ was first used to describe a different group of Jesus followers. Smyth had originally set up an Anglican Congregation but in 1609 he and a fellow separatist, Thomas Helwys, being so convinced of the need for baptism to be by confessing believers they baptized each other and the rest of their congregation.  They were shortly after called Baptists.

Life after John Smyth

John Smyth not long after this left his ‘Baptist’ congregation and attempted to join the Mennonites partially because he had changed his thinking about infant baptism and apologized for baptizing himself (which he admitted was the wrong way to go about his altering of interpretation on that issue).  Without Smyth, Helwys and his congregation drafted the first Baptist confession of faith in 1611.  Following Smyth’s departure the ‘baptists’ grew in numbers in Amsterdam.  Some of this newly formed denomination decided to move to the new world (America) and when they did the Baptist church grew eventually to become one of the largest denominations in America.  Thomas Helwys returned to England as the pastor of the 1st Baptist church in England, this was in 1612.

In the Americas

One prominent name that comes up when discussing the history of Baptists in Americas is Roger Williams.  He was a baptist for a short time and founded a Baptist church in Providence, Rhode Island in 1638.  He held to many Baptist beliefs, but later left the Baptist church not affiliating himself with any specific denomination.  His church in Providence, however, was the first Baptist church in the new world.  The Baptists grew in number and prominence becoming very well known in America’s history.  Baptists eventually started a wide variety of subgroups within the denomination.  Because of the controversy of owning slaves the Baptist churches split into a northern larger group and a southern larger group.  There are a myriad of subgroups but they mostly come from either the Northern Baptists or the Southern Baptist Convention.

What is my opinion of the history of Baptists?

It is probably pretty obvious, but I find this particular origin story of Baptists to be the legitimate one.  It makes sense that some English Reformers looked at specific doctrines written about by the Reformers and made up their own minds what the Bible said concerning them (which went against almost all other Christians).

Let me know what you thought of this series on the History of Baptists.

If you are member of a specific denomination or would like me to write a short history of that denomination let me know.

I value all comments.

Good night and God bless.

 

 

 

3 Bullet Thursday: How about a radical reformer named David Joris

One of my readers read a post on the history of the Baptists where I commented on the Anabaptists.  That reader suggested I  research a man named David Joris who was a reformer (Anabaptist) in the Netherlands, so here it is.

The Impact of the Protestant Reformation in Europe

When Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses on the church door at Wittenberg, the dissatisfaction with the Roman Catholic Church spread like a wildfire throughout Europe.  There seemed to be ‘reformations’ popping up in all of the European populace.  Lengthy postings could be made (even books have been written) on the impact of the Reformation on France and England and Ireland and Spain and Denmark and the rest.  People all over were encountering and then embracing much of the theology of Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, and Menno Simons.  The Protestant Reformation truly was a game changer.  People thought one way about life (especially the church and eternal life) in the late 1400’s and by the late 1500’s they were thinking in a totally new and different way.  There was not a people group that was untouched by the ‘rebellion’ of the Reformation.  One group I would like to write a little bit on today is the Reformation in the Netherlands and especially an Anabaptist bishop named David Joris.

One of the Anabaptist bishops

David Joris was born in Flanders, Belgium around 1501.  He was an accomplished glass painter (some of his paintings still can be seen today). While travelling around in the Netherlands he came in contact with the ideas of Martin Luther.  After listening to stories about the Anabaptists being martyred for their faith (and so being impressed with their dedication to Jesus), in 1533 he was baptized into the Anabaptist Church.  He became so passionate about his beliefs that one day during a gathering of Roman Catholics he adamantly, verbally opposed them.  For this action and rejection of Catholic theology Joris was arrested and for punishment they used a steel ball to bore a hole in his tongue to stop him from preaching and teaching ‘heresy’.

People started listening and following Joris he became an Anabaptist bishop in the city of Delft, Netherlands.  He was regarded by many of his followers (and himself) to be prophet from God.  William R. Estep in his book  The Anabaptist Story says Joris was an extreme inspirationalist, which means he claimed that the Bible was inadequate and therefore needed to be added to by his own ‘inspired’ writings.  For this extreme belief he was disowned by the biblical Anabaptists in 1536.  He was later condemned as a heretic in Delft in 1544 and therefore fled for his life.  Eventually he settled in Basel, Switzerland under an assumed name, that of Johann Van Brugge.  He apparently kept his radical ideas to himself after this time for he died in 1556 and it took the people of the town 3 years to figure out that Johan Van Brugge was in reality David Joris.  So hated was he that once they figured out his true identity they dug up Johann’s body and burned it publicly.

This David Joris was an interesting person who due to his contributions to Anabaptist history in the Netherlands deserves to be studied and examined more closely.

The 3 bullets for David Joris

Here are my 3 takeaways after studying David Joris:

  • He had an unbelievable passion for preaching what he considered the truth of Christianity.

  • He was one of the names in Anabaptist history to be remembered for his contributions to Anabaptists in the Netherlands.

  • He was labeled a heretic by other Anabaptists who judged the idea of him being the ‘next David’ (after King David, and Jesus) and preaching his prophesies to be unbiblical.

 

Is there some favorite person or event in Church history of yours that you would like me to research and write about?  Leave me a comment and let me know.

Good night and God bless!

 

 

For What Should I Be Thankful?

It’s Thanksgiving Day 2016 and this is what I am thankful for

As I pondered what to write in this blog I kept coming back to Thanksgiving and what I am thankful for.  I also did a little research on some respected men from church history to see what they thanked God for.  There are so many things for which to be thankful if I stopped to write them all down, I suppose the whole world could not contain the list and explanations of all the things for which I am thankful (I tried to paraphrase John 21:25).  But the point is there are so many things I take for granted every day for which I should be thankful, it seems an insurmountable task to list them all.

Sort of keeping up on the theme of 3 bullet Thursday on this Thanksgiving

I simply decided to tell 3 things for which I am thankful then give you a link to read a short article on a Thanksgiving Day sermon from Jonathan Edwards.  Here are the 3 things for which I am thankful:  Faith, Family, and Friends (although those of you who know me could add a 4th, which would be Food, but that’s another blog post).

  • Faith

  • Family

  • Friends

My faith is extremely important to me.  I tried to thank God daily not only for His love, mercy, and grace but specifically the love that sent His Son to die a horrible death to deal with my sins.  I spend some time every day pondering the mysteries of Christianity.  I attempt to filter all of my life through the lens of God and His world.

My family is another thing that I am thankful for.  I grew up with a Christian mom and dad who tried to instill in me the importance of seeking after and living for the God of the universe.  Also have brothers and a sister with whom God has blessed me.  I enjoy their fellowship and interaction.  My wife is the most wonderful woman on the planet for me.  She keeps me grounded and gives unconditional love.  My 2 children are a blessing who have taught me much about myself and my shortcomings.

My friends are a Godsend that I do not take lightly.  Each of them shows me something to which I should and can aspire: whether it be more study of the Bible, or more passion for family, or more compassion for the needy.  I cherish the times spent in conversation and dialogue.

I could go on and on and on and on and on, but I won’t

As mentioned earlier I could go on about the innumerable blessings God has given me and then ponder a deeper question, which is Why has he blessed me so much, but I will stop here.

A short description of a Thanksgiving sermon by Jonathan Edwards

As I was researching people from church history and what they said about giving thanks, I came across an article from Christianity Today from several years ago that gives a link to a sermon by Jonathan Edwards on Thanksgiving and then summarized the sermon.  I thought this was a very good article so here is the link, enjoy.  http://www.christianitytoday.com/history/2009/november/edwards-ian-thanksgiving.html

For what are you thankful,  let me know.

Be thankful, be very thankful

Good night, and God bless

3 Bullet Monday: William Carey

It’s about time to discuss a missionary

Due to my natural affinity toward theology and scholarship I often neglect discussions of missionaries (unless they are also theologians).  For whatever reason I am not drawn to the significance and impact of missionaries throughout the world.  So in order to rectify this situation I decided to write about a man now known as ‘the father of modern missions’, William Carey.

A poor cobbler and a poor cobbler

William Carey was born in England northwest of London in 1761.  Due to his family’s lower income and a childhood illness he chose to apprentice a shoemaker.  He showed very little aptitude for cobbling but as he grew older and married hoped he could do it well enough to pay for food for his family.  During his time as a shoemaker he was able to teach himself biblical Greek.

A poor teacher

Carey realized that he had an aptitude for languages, teaching himself Greek, Hebrew, Latin and several other languages.  He started a school hoping to inspire students to learn the languages that were so important to himself.  It ended up, however, that he did worse at teaching than he did at shoemaking.

A poor pastor

So he changed occupations once again and became a Particular Baptist pastor.  He succeeded less with pastoring than with teaching.  So William Carey could have been seen (or seen himself) as a failure, but the struggles are not over.

After reading about the exploits of Captain Cook in the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii), he had a conviction that the church had an obligation to proclaim the news of Jesus Christ to the unreachable people of the world.  Many of his friends tried to discourage him from going on the mission field because they thought ‘if God’s wants the heathen saved he does not need you’.  Carey replied, “expect great things from God!  Attempt great things for God!” He started a missions agency to send people across the world to share the Gospel, and he went with a doctor friend to India.

A poor missionary?

The journey to India and the subsequent life were very difficult.  The doctor partner of Carey’s left the mission early on, taking all the money.  Personally Carey had one struggle after another:  2 children died, the doctor took off with their funds, he contracted malaria, and his wife battled depression and had to be restrained.  Throughout all of these hard times William Carey said, “I can plod”.  He was convinced of his mission for Jesus yet his efforts were not showing much results, but he kept on plodding away and thousands of lives were changed.  In India he also helped people in the lowest caste system to get them out of their poverty.

“Seventy-six years after William Carey’s death, more than 1,200 missionaries from 160 mission boards met in Edinburgh, England.  By that time, the number of Christian ministers living outside Europe and the Americas had increased more than one thousand percent.” (Christian History Made Easy by Dr. Timothy Jones, page 152).

3 bullets:

  • Father of modern missions – missionary in India

  • Taught himself several (at least 5) languages – so translated the New Testament into 24 native languages of India

  • “I can plod” – kept plodding his way spreading the Gospel, in the midst of much struggle and hardship.

Please give me comments and suggestions for topics.

 

Soli Deo Gloria

 

3 Bullet Thursday (or Monday): Augustine of Hippo

I said it would be difficult to post every Thursday

As I wrote in a previous post, I knew it would be difficult to keep up even a short blog post once a week.  This is one of the things that I am trying to stay consistent with, but you all know that life gets busy.  So bear with me while I struggle through this.  So today’s post is late but I will also try to post another one on Thursday.

Augustine of Hippo (bio):

Born in AD 354 in North Africa (modern day Algeria) his father was a pagan member of the Roman government, and mother was a devout Christian.  He was a brilliant child so his parents sent him to get a good education to a modern city (Carthage) out of his small town with its limited opportunities. He soon became a teacher of rhetoric (debating) and later one of the lead rhetoricians in the Roman Empire.  He had no need of the Bible (it was to pedestrian) but was insatiable in his quest for truth.  He also struggled personally with his own sin, evil, and rebellion.  He began following Jesus Christ while living in Milan, Italy and listening to a charismatic preacher named Ambrose.  After Augustine moved back to his home town to spend the remainder of his life as a monk in contemplation of the things of God, he was coerced into becoming the pastor of a church in Hippo Regius (modern day Annaba, Algeria).  He spent the rest of his life pastoring and writing (in his native Latin) and thinking about theology.  He wrote about many, many topics, among them: salvation, the church, baptism, sin, the Trinity, the Christian state, sex, time, the sovereignty of God.  He debated against many bad philosophies of the day, such as Pelagianism, Manicheism, and the Donatists.

Augustine’s 3 bullet points:

  • Battled Pelagius whose preached the idea that man has the ability to work toward his own salvation (idea summary is “man is a sinner because he sins”).  Augustine fought this preaching by believing, “man sins because he is a sinner”.

  • Wrote On The Trinity which expressed God as an eternal transcendent, infinite, and perfect triune God.

  • Wrote The City of God responding to the destruction of Rome in 410 by the Visigoths, emphasizing God’s sovereignty and providence.