martin-lutherSo we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified. Galatians 2:16


Quick! What happened 499 years ago today? Answer: Martin Luther nailed his list of 95 Theses, or proposals for change, to the door of the Catholic Church. Luther disagreed with the Catholic practice of “indulgences,” or promises to offer remission of sins to their purchasers. Luther believed that Christians are saved by grace alone (Ephesians 2:5 and 2:8) and that forgiveness could not be purchased. The 95 Theses are widely accepted as the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, with many believers moving towards a new doctrine rejecting many of the practices of the Catholic tradition.


In modern times, much is being done to bridge the gap between Catholics and Protestants. It is important to remember Christ’s challenge to continually “reform” our minds and our hearts to align with God’s will. Christ Himself was the great Reformer, constantly provoking His followers to seek Him and the kingdom of God. Romans 12:12 tells us, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” In 1 Corinthians 2:16, we are told to strive to have “the mind of Christ.” Christian leaders including philosopher Augustine of Hippo (St. Augustine) have stressed that the church is in a constant state of reformation.


The word “reform” means “to make better as by stopping abuses; improve; cause (a person) to behave better.” Synonyms include words like “reorganize, restructure, transform, revolutionize and upgrade.” So both the body of Christ—that is, the church—as well as each member of that body all have a responsibility to continue towards the most Christ-like state which may be achieved in the church and in this life.


If you were to nail 99 Theses—or ideas for improvement—on the door of your church, where would you begin? Jesus would say to begin by laying your life down at the feet of the master and daily seeking His will for you.


God of Good Changes, support our efforts to follow You in Your perfect ways. Amen


jesus-and-babyEven the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Matthew 10:30


The other day, I drove forty-five minutes to my daughter’s house to help chauffer some of her four kids around. Their dad travels with his job, so my daughter functions as a single mom much of the time. She had taken her oldest son to have senior pictures taken at a lovely park about thirty miles in the opposite direction from where they live. Their only girl had a choir concert and had to be at the high school by 5:00 to ride a bus to the auditorium where the concert was taking place. The other two boys, ages twelve and nine, were on their own so I took them to their favorite fast food restaurant where they entertained me with tales of their latest video game conquests. The youngest boy had been home from school all day because his teachers had a training day. The next oldest got out of school early to go to the orthodontist to have his braces tightened. “Six turns to the right,” he told me (whatever that meant), “and I go back in another week.” I dropped them off at their house, made sure they were inside with the doors locked, and headed for home. Their mom would be home shortly. I don’t know how she keeps track of all four of their schedules, and she doesn’t ask for my help very often. I was happy to help.


God has seven-point-five billion children and counting. He knows all about each one of us and never has trouble keeping track of our schedules. “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up (our) wounds” (Psalm 147:3). He feels our aches and pains and hears each tiny prayer we whisper. He knows our hurts and our disappointments, our fears and our sorrows. Our Lord is more caring than any earthly mother. “How often I have longed to gather (my) children together,” Jesus said, “as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings” (Matthew 23:37).


In Jesus’ time on earth, little sparrows weren’t worth much. They sold two for a penny. “Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care” (Matthew 10:31). “So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows” (v. 31).


Lord, thank You for the great love You show us each day. Amen


nebulaHe could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. He was amazed at their lack of faith. Mark 6:5-6


Who sets the limits on what God can do in our lives? Not God! We are the ones who doubt, who waver. It is our lack of faith in His ability that prevents God’s power and love from moving within our lives and our beings.


Consider the story of Jesus’ return to his hometown of Nazareth in Mark 6. His “homies” were skeptical. “Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son…?” they said (v. 3). Who did He think He was, some kind of God? Why, not that long ago, they all knew Him as just another boy in their town, nobody special. A carpenter was a menial job, working with wood and maybe stone sometimes. He learned that from his dad, Joseph. And now He had the nerve to say He was not Joseph’s real son, but the Son of God. How dare Him! You can’t really blame the town’s people for not trusting or believing what others were saying about Jesus Son of Mary.


But the God of the universe is a builder, and His Son learned this trade from His earthly father—His step-father. Jesus the Savior of all humankind began His time on earth at the feet of a human builder. Young Jesus exercised patience in working with simple materials to produce something of beauty. He could have simple waved His hand and created a magnificent structure. But instead He contained His power and worked alongside Joseph to learn a simple trade. Jesus held His power in until the time was just right.


I imagine Jesus was hurt by the rejection of his hometown people. He must have known, in His infinite wisdom that this rejection was to come. But now His story has been told and we know Who He is. Why then, would we doubt His ability to shower us with light and love? We still put Jesus to the test each time we say, “I don’t know….I’m not sure I believe this can be….” Trust Jesus today to change you and fill you with His love and power.


Jesus, be my Lord and Savior! Do not let me doubt Your ability to change my life! Amen


christ-among-us“Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” Luke 24:32


I have always loved the story of the men on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-32). These two hapless fellows are walking along discussing the events that have occurred over the past few days in Jerusalem: a man claiming to be the Messiah has turned everyone’s thinking on its ear, preaching, healing the sick, raising the dead. He Himself is arrested, given a phony trial and crucified. But that’s not all: He somehow comes back to life and appears to many of those who followed Him! While these men are discussing the mind-blowing events, the Messiah Himself comes alongside them, “but they were kept from recognizing Him” (Luke 24:16). Now this Man seems clueless, so the travelers explain the entire course of events to Him, asking how He could not know about these astounding happenings.


As Jesus appears to depart from the men, they invite Him to join them in the inn for a bite to eat. They are probably thinking, this poor Guy is ignorant of His entire surroundings; maybe we should take care of Him before He comes to some harm. Jesus takes the loaf of bread and breaks it—and kazam! “Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Him” (v. 31). And just when they figure out Who He was all along, Jesus disappears! The men say to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” (v. 32)


Aren’t we just like these men? We can’t see Jesus right in front of our faces. He appears to us in each small kindness shared through a friend or neighbor. His light shines forth in the words of the great men who penned the Scriptures, and those who came after with Christian writings and impassioned sermons we’ve heard and read throughout our faith journey. His divine majesty is renewed in each sunrise, each tiny baby’s hands, each prayer breathed over us throughout our lives. Jesus’ followers “had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel” (v. 21). What do you hope He will do for you?


Lord, cause us to “see” You each time we break bread with You. Amen


sandbagging-cedar-rapidsThere is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28


Glen Gardner and his wife Lauren call Cedar Rapids, Iowa, home. That’s why he called the flooding of the Cedar River in September “an extremely sobering 24 hours.” It was the second highest flood level ever recorded there. But Glen posted a more positive spin of what was happening in his community.


“I can’t help but compare what I’ve seen in this community with what I saw in Charlotte (North Carolina),” Glen said. “The flood in Cedar Rapids will impact upwards of fifteen-hundred structures. Evacuations are underway and thousands of people stand to lose everything. Unlike Charlotte and other places plagued by racial strife, natural disaster is an equal-opportunity destroyer of dreams.


“This Tale of Two Cities shows what people can achieve over two days when they work together as a community as opposed to burning, killing and looting….There are no network satellite trucks here and just barely a footnote in the national news. (Instead) the headline is about two days of looting, burning, killing and hatred. When we were helping sandbag yesterday we were surrounded by our neighbors…black folks, white folks, Asians, Native Americans, Muslims and every other persuasion under the sun banding together to help and not hurt. Despite the fact that thousands of structures and streets are deserted, there is no looting, no burning and no troops with tear gas and long-guns. This is not just a city, but a community.


“Yesterday we passed by the Iowa African American Museum on the banks of the Cedar River. There were people of all colors working harder than you can imagine to save that important piece of this community. It needed saving and the entire community came together to do what it needed to….You probably didn’t know that the oldest mosque in the United States of America is located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The ‘Mother Mosque’ is located squarely in the expected flood zone. City leaders and people of all denominations have been working side-by-side to save this important building. There was no hate-inspired anti-Muslim rant advocating this might be a quicker way to let nature do the xenophobes’ bidding. Again, it was a community coming together to save something rather than destroy it.

“In the same time it took the violent element in Charlotte to kill, destroy and burn, a community about a thousand miles west came together to sandbag hundreds of structures, build miles of dikes and help protect what is not necessarily dear to us, but to our neighbors. Why isn’t this as compelling as burning, looting and shooting…?

“As Dickens so appropriately mused, ‘It was the best of times and the worst of times….’Let’s focus for a while on what brings us together as opposed to what and who benefits by tearing us apart. I have never been more proud to call a place home….”

Father of All Nations, stir in us compassion to help our neighbors and not to tolerate dividing walls between us. Amen


Permission to reprint this article granted. http://www.glengardner.net  Glen Gardner and Associates