A single event on a single day changed the world. It was October 31, 1517. Brother Martin, a monk and a scholar, had struggled for years with his church, the church in Rome. He had been greatly disturbed by an unprecedented indulgence sale. The story has all the makings of a Hollywood blockbuster. Let’s meet the cast.
First, there is the young bishop—too young by church laws—Albert of Mainz. Not only was he bishop over two bishoprics, he desired an additional archbishopric over Mainz. This too was against church laws. So Albert appealed to the Pope in Rome, Leo X. From the De Medici family, Leo X greedily allowed his tastes to exceed his financial resources. Enter the artists and sculptors, Raphael and Michelangelo.
When Albert of Mainz appealed for a papal dispensation, Leo X was ready to deal. Albert, with the papal blessing, would sell indulgences for past, present, and future sins. All of this sickened the monk, Martin Luther. Can we buy our way into heaven? Luther had to speak out…
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Verse 1: Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand.
Verse 58: Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
As I pondered these verses I started thinking about some of the things about God and Scripture that I consider really good news (gospel). These are all reasons why I am willing to take my stand on the gospel and give myself to the work of the Lord – knowing that it is not in vain. I will list them without a lot of commentary – each one is worth thinking deeply about.
God is Sovereign – He is in control even when things seem like they are out of control.
We were created on purpose and for a purpose.
Absolutely nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.
There will indeed one day be a reckoning.
Heaven is real and one day those who believe will find everlasting joy in the presence of God.
God has promised to be with us as we walk through the difficult days of this life.
God is at work to redeem our suffering.
The Bible is the inerrant Word of God and is God’s primary way of nourishing and feeding our souls.
Grace is indeed amazing and abundant and free. There is nothing I need to do to secure favor from God.
In the midst of chaos and craziness there is a peace that surpasses all understanding that cannot be explained to unbelievers.
In 1997, I wrote my first book, Age of Opportunity: A Biblical Guide to Parenting Teens. I felt God calling me to write more books, but I was equally as persuaded that Age of Opportunity would be my only one on the topic of parenting.
But for the past two decades, as I saw how people were using that book (and my brother Tedd’s book Shepherding a Child’s Heart), I grew increasingly uncomfortable. Something was missing in the way these parents were interpreting and applying the strategies detailed in the pages of our books.
It took me a while to figure out what was off. Then it hit me: the missing piece was the gospel. It sounds obvious, almost cliché, but it’s more significant in our lives than we realize.
18 Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sina person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own,20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
Here are a few questions that this passage provokes me to ponder. I will leave them without commentary because they are pretty convicting in and of themselves…
Does God consider sexual sin any different than other sin, and if so, why?
What are some practical ways that we can flee sexual immorality?
What comes under the category of sexual immorality?
Am I involved in anything that would be considered sexually immoral?
What kind of shape is my temple in?
What would the Holy Spirit have to say to me about the shape of my temple?
In what ways do I act as if my body belongs to me and not to God?
Prayerlessness is the great enemy of true happiness. If we give up on prayer, or refuse to pray, we surrender our seat at the very source of the highest and fullest joy. “You do not have, because you do not ask” (James 4:2).
But even those of us who do pray can find ourselves in danger of forfeiting prayer’s fullness as we fall into stale ruts of familiar words and repeated requests. We wake up each day, say the same prayers, and wonder why it doesn’t feel more real and life-changing.
As we walk through the valley of the shadow of rut, many of us just put our heads down and hope for better days. But the Bible speaks too often and too highly of prayer for us to stay here long. Yes, we may know the Lord’s Prayer by heart, but those five verses are not the only guide we have to help us pray. God has given us all kinds of routes out of daily ruts in prayer. Take Psalm 86, for example. Here are seven simple daily prayers drawn from David’s prayer….
There is lots of good stuff in First and Second Thessalonians – but I have always been drawn to the impromptu blessings that Paul gives in these 2 epistles. Here they are:
1 Thessalonians 3:12-13 12 May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.13 May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.
1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 23 May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.24 The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.
2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 16 May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope,17 encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.
2 Thessalonians 3:16 16 Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.
I will often use these to help me pray for other other people. There seems to be a Pauline blessing for pretty much any circumstance that people are dealing with. I just personalize them as I am praying. This is an easy way to pray the Scriptures. For instance, if I was praying for my friend Louie, who’s life had been turned upside down because of a job loss or marriage difficulty or health issues I might pray 2 Thessalonians 3:16 like this…
“Father, on behalf of Louie, because You are the Lord of peace, I ask that You would be his peace and give him peace as he deals with _____________. May he recognize that You are with him throughout every step of the day.”
Here are a few more of Paul’s blessings that I will use as I pray:
13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Hebrews 13:20-21 (may or may not be of Paul)
20 Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep,21 equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
And here is one that I made up based on the way I saw Paul blessing the people that he cared about:
May the God of all joy fuel your soul with the hope of the glorious gospel and fill you with an abiding sense of His presence. And may you be refreshed by His Spirit as you trust in Him to satisfy your every desire and need.
We live in sad times. But the debacle of the 2016 presidential election is not the cause of our times. It is the sign of our times. And we need to have our eyes wide open to the world and our hearts full of gospel joy and our feet swift to our great work. This does not mean a retreat from public life or from our democratic stewardship. It just means that we know where we have pinned our hopes for this life and the next. And believing that, we bear witness to a coming King who will one day make all things new (Rev. 21:5). For here we have no lasting city, but we are seeking a city which is to come (Heb. 13:14).
As the news from both presidential candidates goes from bad to worse to nightmarish to surreal (see below), I find myself grieving. There is no other way to put it. I’m not grieving as one who has no hope. But I am grieving all the same.
It is bitterly painful to see America arrive at this point, neck-deep in corruption and vulgarity, edging closer and closer, day by day, towards moral, spiritual, social and economic implosion.
We desperately need a revival, a sweeping spiritual awakening, to put us back on the right track. Will it come? I honestly do not know. I’m praying — pleading — for the Lord to give us one, and soon. I’m praying for each of the presidential and vice presidential candidates, and their families and advisors. I’m praying the Lord will supernaturally salvage this train wreck of an election and give us a surprise ending that will truly bless the entire country. Yet I’m also praying for His infinite, amazing grace and mercy if He chooses to let us proceed down this ugly path “as is.”
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