I could not let the significance of this day pass without writing to you about it. Most people in our country are celebrating Halloween. But for those of us who are believers we have much more to celebrate on this day as we commemorate the 500th anniversary of Reformation Day.
It was on this day in 1517 when a German professor named Martin Luther posted his Ninety-Five Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg. Now that might not mean a lot to you now but I promise that it was a very big deal. And it will mean a lot to you in the future.
Here is what Kevin DeYoung (an author/pastor that I hope you will read much of as you grown up) wrote in his blogpost this morning about this day:
We give thanks for Luther, flawed and fallible though he was, for the role he played in igniting a reform movement that caught fire in the cities of the Holy Roman Empire, spread through the rest of Europe, and now reaches to the ends of the earth. Wherever we find Scripture alone as the highest and final authority, grace alone as the only hope for resurrecting spiritually dead sinners, faith alone as the only instrument by which we are joined to Christ and justified by the imputation of his righteousness, Christ alone as the only atoning sacrifice for sin, and God alone as the ultimate object of our worship—wherever we find these truths sung, savored, and celebrated, we have reason to rejoice in the Reformation….
And so on this momentous day when we celebrate the rediscovery of the gospel and the recovery of true worship, we commit ourselves once again to the worship of our triune God and the gladhearted declaration of this gospel. And if the Lord should tarry another half-millennium, our prayer is not first of all for another Luther, but that we may be an instrument in the Lord’s hands just as Luther was.
De Young mentions the 5 Solas that are paramount to the Reformation:
Sola Scriptura (“Scripture alone”): The Bible alone is our highest authority.
Sola Fide (“faith alone”): We are saved through faith alone in Jesus Christ.
Sola Gratia (“grace alone”): We are saved by the grace of God alone.
Solus Christus (“Christ alone”): Jesus Christ alone is our Lord, Savior, and King.
Soli Deo Gloria (“to the glory of God alone”): We live for the glory of God alone.
I look forward to talking with you in the days to come about why these are so important to what we believe. I am so glad that I am your Pop Pop and very grateful for each of you.
Never ever forget that you are very loved!
(By the way, today is your dad/uncle Tucker’s Re-birthday. Ask him to tell you about that day sometime)
Let me tell you about my friend Leon Dorleans. You will probably never meet him but he is worth getting to know. He is almost 70 years old now. I met him about 20 years ago. He is a pastor from Haiti that I got introduced to at a time when our church was looking for an opportunity to do some mission work in that country. We struck up a friendship which began a great relationship between us but also between our church and his ministry – Haiti Outreach Ministries. There is much that I have learned from him over the years. Here are a few things that I hope you will learn as well:
Your early life does not define the rest of your life – Leon was born in one of the poorest countries in the world. Even today the per capita income is less than $800 per year. Most Americans make more than that each week. He had nothing materially but he did have a mother who insisted that he get an education. And it was his education that gave him opportunities to be a difference maker on behalf of the kingdom of God. He has been used to influence thousands of young men and women in Haiti and to bless the country of his birth – even when he easily could have left Haiti and lived in the comfort and ease of America.
Vision separates great leaders from good leaders – Almost 30 years ago Leon started a Bible Study with a few people in the Cité Soleil area of Port-au-Prince. But he did not allow the success of that study to keep him from thinking bigger. Much bigger. Out of that Bible Study has come 5 church plants reaching over 3200 people each week and 4 schools providing an education to over 1500 children. A medical clinic. An orphanage. And a vocational school. Leon’s vision continues to fuel Haiti Outreach Ministries with the power of possibility as he holds onto the promise that “nothing is impossible with God.”
Enthusiasm is contagious – You do not have to be around Leon for very long to recognize that he is passionate about the work that God has entrusted to him. And he has a gift for communicating that passion very enthusiastically. People are drawn to be a part of the work God is doing in Haiti because of his excitement. As you grow up, my prayer is that you will find a God-ordained passion and unashamedly tell everyone you come in contact with about it with unbridled enthusiasm.
Investing in people pays huge dividends – Leon realized early on that there is much more profit to be gained by investing in people than money. The dividends that are being reaped are eternal and are growing at a rate far beyond what a healthy portfolio could ever produce. Take note of the way that other people invest their lives in you as you grow up and then make it a life long pursuit to invest your life in the lives of others. This is a gospel mandate – to make disciples who will make disciples who will make disciples.
I hope that one day I will have the opportunity to introduce you to my friend Leon. If not, make it a point to learn from men like him.
And by the way… never ever forget that you are very loved!
Do you know what my signature verse of Scripture is? (It is not to be confused with my Life Mission Verse which is for another epistle at another time) My signature verse is the verse you see on the banner at the top of my blog: “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” You would also see it displayed on my business card if I gave you one. Let me give you a bit of context for this familiar verse….
It is found in the Book of Nehemiah chapter 8. God’s people had just recently returned from exile in Babylon, having traveled about 900 miles to get back home. The Word of God had just been heard by them for the first time in a long time. They heard it read by Ezra the priest and then several of the Levite men helped the people to understand what the Scriptures said. Their hearts were pierced and they were overcome with grief as they realized how parched their soul’s were and how hungry they were for a Word from God. Nehemiah tried to comfort them by saying, “Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
The people were weary. They were weary physically and emotionally as well as spiritually. As you grow up you will find that there are times in your life when this will be true for you as well. And you will need strength. And my hope is that you will find that strength in the “joy of the Lord.”
You will have other options – options that will promise you strength and courage but that will ultimately leave you feeling even more empty and even more weary. But if you seek to find strength in the joy of the Lord you will ultimately be satisfied. Here are a few reasons why this is so – no matter which way you interpret the phrase…
1) If you interpret “joy of the Lord” to mean “the Lord who Himself is joy-filled” then finding strength in Him will indeed be satisfying. Why? Because God is a happy God. He is not a grumpy Gus who is stewing over the way things have gone wrong and why people won’t listen to Him or do what He says. He is by His nature joyful – or to say it another way, full of joy. Have you ever been around people that you consider joyful? They are refreshing. They are energizing. They are invigorating to be around. They infuse the people that they are around with vigor – or strength. Being in the presence of God is the same way: “The joy of the Lord is your strength.”
2) If you interpret “joy of the Lord” to mean “the joy that comes from God” then finding strength in Him will also indeed be satisfying. Why? Check out this awesome verse in Romans 15…
13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
When God fuels you and fills you with His joy it is accompanied by peace and hope. And peace and hope can revive a weary soul and give much needed comfort, contentment, and fortitude in the midst of life when it is most draining. Find your joy in Him and you will never regret it or be disappointed when the disappointments of life seem overwhelming.
So never forget that “the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
You might have noticed that I have a new picture at the top of my letter. This is not just a pretty picture it is a special place for your Nona and I. It is the town of Manarola which is one of the 5 towns that make up the area on the Italian Riviera known as Cinque Terra.
We would love to take you there one day. We had a chance to spend 3 days there a few years ago when we were traveling around Italy and would consider it one of our two most favorite places in the world. Here are a few reasons why – with a couple of lessons that are worth keeping in mind:
We enjoyed the incredible beauty – Breathtaking beauty in fact. The picture in no way comes close to depicting how beautiful this area is. Part of our time was spent just sitting and enjoying what our eyes could take in. Likewise, even here in the States we need to look for and enjoy the beauty around us. God has created a beautiful world. Yes, a world that in many ways has been marred by and smudged by The Fall – but there is still much beauty to behold if we will look for it. It may come in the form of a landscape, or a smile, or a sunrise. But take the time to enjoy and be captivated by beauty.
We enjoyed good food – We have a lot of food memories from our trip but a few of our favorites come from Cinque Terra. There was a little hole in the wall place in Manarola where we got a delicious Basil Pesto something that made our mouths water. And then there was a bakery at the top of the hill in Vernazza called the Pirate Caffe that had some awesome treats worth going back for. Needless to say, I like good food. In our spiritual lives we need to make sure that we are getting the food that is necessary to sustain us and help us grow. Don’t neglect to let the Word of God feed you daily so that you can serve Him vigorously.
We enjoyed good exercise – One of the fun things to do in Cinque Terra is to hike from town to town and enjoy the sights along the way. We took a hike from Riomaggiore to our town of Manarola which ’bout killed me. We had to climb over a mountain. It was indeed good exercise and after it was over I was thrilled that we had done it even though it hurt along the way. In our journey with God, often we need to push ourselves and allow our faith to be stretched in order to experience greater joy and to get to know the Lord better.
We enjoyed good rest – Our time in Cinque Terra was about half way through our trip. We had already spent a few weeks exploring Rome and Sorento and Florence and Tuscany and we were tired. CT was a great place to rest and be refreshed so we could enjoy the rest of the trip. Yes we got good exercise but we also got good rest. We need good rest. Which is exactly why the Lord instituted the Sabbath. As you grow up make sure that you take the time to rest and to allow your body and your soul to be refreshed.
Nona and I hope to do some traveling with you in the days to come. There is much to be learned and many memories yet to be made.
That’s how many steps my Fitbit recorded that I walked last week. My goal is to get in at least 70,000 steps each week. I probably average about 84,000 steps. And I haven’t missed getting to my goal since I started at the beginning of the year.
I have found that my Fitbit is very much a motivational tool to get me up and moving. And now that I am in my 60th year and given the heart history among the men in our family, I very much need to keep moving. So anything that keeps me motivated I am a fan of.
So here is what I have been pondering…. My Fitbit keeps me motivated to keep walking so that I stay in shape physically but what is it that motivates me to keep walking to stay in shape spiritually.
Here are a couple of verses that talk about “walking in the Lord…”
5 By THIS we may know that we are in Jesus:6 whoever says he abides in Him ought to walk in the same way in which He walked. (1 John 2:5-6)
4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. (3 John 4)
1 Blessed is the manwho walks not in the counsel of the wicked…. (Psalm 1:1)
15 …the prudent man gives thought to his steps. (Proverbs 14:15)
So where does my motivation come from to walk diligently with the Lord? There are several ways that I could answer that question but at least one of the answers would sound like this: It comes from you!
You motivate me. I don’t want to disappoint you. I don’t want to do anything that would make you ashamed that I was your granddad. After I have gone to be with the Lord, I want you to be proud of the legacy that I have left behind.
So I keep walking. And hopefully I keep “walking in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” (Colossians 1:10)
So thanks! Even at your young age you are already having a great influence. May it continue to be so as you grow up and may you also “walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)
Yesterday was a very difficult day for our nation. You will undoubtably hear about it as you grow up in connection with other such days that are yet to happen. 59 people lost their lives and over 500 people were injured in a random act of violence. And unfortunately, yes, it will happen again. Some other time. Some other place.
I wish that I could shield you from such things but I cannot. This is the world we live in. What I can do is share a few quick thoughts that might help you as you grow up in this crazy, messed up, increasingly more violent world. Hopefully we can talk about them more in depth in the days to come.
1) Fear not! – This is an often stated dictate in Scripture. Why? Because we are prone to fear. But it is easier said than done. The reason God can say this is because He usually accompanies the command with a promise: “I will be with you.” The presence of the Lord makes all the difference as we try to navigate our way through life.
2) Hold on to hope! – It would be very easy to give in to despair and hopelessness but by definition we Christians are a people of HOPE. Cling to the hope that the Scriptures give us that a better day is coming. Perhaps not in this world but in the world to come. And when that day does come, mortality will seem like a bad dream and we will forever find joy in Life as God intends for it to be.
3) Hold out hope to others! – People need the hope that we have to offer. Gun control is not the answer to our problems. Government is not the answer to our problems. The gospel is the answer because it is only in the gospel that the problems we face are sufficiently dealt with. People cannot live without hope and when they finally realize that the world cannot give them the hope they are looking for we can extend the hope of the gospel.
4) Pray! – The stuff that we hear about everyday, like Las Vegas, is not a surprise to God. Just read the Book of Revelation and you will see that things get worse before they get better. We are given a much neglected prayer in the last chapter of that book that goes like this… “Come, Lord Jesus.” Yes we should diligently pray for peace to reign in the hearts of men. Yes we should pray that God’s protection will be upon us. Yes we should pray that the joy of the Lord will be our strength in these difficult days. But let us not neglect to pray that the Lord will soon come and make all things right. Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus!