Reformed and Always Reforming

Today is the 500th anniversary of the start of the Protestant Reformation.  On this day, in 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses on the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany.  He did not intend to start a reformation, but God used Luther’s writing to start a fire that would spread over all of Europe.

After 500 years I believe it is helpful and wise to ask where we go from here.  Is the Reformation only a past event that we look back on as reformed Christians with nostalgia?  Or, should we be continuing the reformation today?

One key phrase that reformed people have used may help us.  The phrase is “Reformed and always reforming.”  At its best, the phrase reminds us that being reformed means always seeking to be faithful to the Word of God in our theology and practice.  At its worse, it has been used by some to argue for radical changes in our theology and practice, apart from the foundation of Scripture.


How Much Do You Need?

The Practice of Contentment

Bel-Air Home

Are you tired of your current house?  Are you ready to upgrade?  A newly built home has come on the market in Bel-Air.  It is truly impressive.  It is 38,000 square feet and includes a $30 million dollar exotic car collection, two wine cellars (who wants to walk to the other side of the house to get a bottle of wine?) a four-lane bowling alley and its own helicopter (for when driving your exotic car gets boring).  All this can be yours for a mere $250 million.

Now, some of you are already thinking, “Who needs a house that big?”  “That is a waste.”  I agree with you, but what is needful and what is extravagant is often in the eye of the beholder.  Someone may think that your house, or your car, or your whatever, is unnecessary and therefore extravagant.  Knowing what is appropriate, especially when your budget allows for many things, is a matter of wisdom.  It is easy to point out extravagantness in other people’s lives, but hard in our own.


Do You Have Heart Rot?

One of the joys of living in California – besides near perfect weather year round – is its sheer beauty.  Within just a few hours drive of my home I can see the glory of the seacoast, the beauty of the mountains, and the majesty of great redwood groves.

Redwood TreesGiant Sequoias and Redwoods are some of the largest trees in the world.  Some are so large that a car can be driven through their trunk.  They are also some of the oldest.  A giant sequoia tree can live to be over 2,000 years old.  They are a towering and majestic revelation of the glory and power of God who created them.  It is breathtaking to stand at the base of one of these giants and strain your neck to look up.

But there is a condition that can bring down such a towering giant.  It’s called “Rotten Heart.”  Heart rot in a tree is caused by a fungus that enters the tree from an opening in the bark and begins to eat away at the heart of the tree. 


I Am the Lord

26794085236_3a8e2145fc_bIt is clear in Scripture that God’s glory is paramount.  Everything that the Lord does is with the goal of revealing the greatness of His glory.  All that He does in history is a revelation of who He is.

At Covenant we are in the midst of reading through the Bible in chronological order.  Today we start Ezekiel 20.  There is one phrase that has come up twenty two times in the first twenty chapters of the book.  It will come up many more times in the remaining chapters.  The phrase is “shall know that I am the LORD.”

Ezekiel was a priest and was one of the  first exiles deported in the Babylonian captivity.  His prophetic ministry started in 593 BC – seven years before the fall of Jerusalm.  His ministry from Babylon was to prophesy about the fall of Jerualem and then interpret the meaning of God’s work.


Salvation’s Many Perspectives

5661613189_65be533432_nBe careful that your view of salvation is not too narrow.  When God speaks of salvation, He does so in diverse language that reveals the richness of His grace.

This past Sunday at Covenant, I preached on 1 Corinthians 6:9-11.  In that text the apostle Paul refers to the old lifestyle of the mainly Gentile congregation.  He then goes on to remind them of the work God  had done in their lives – “But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified.”

Some think that Paul is giving an edited Ordo Solutis (Order of Salvation).  But that is not his point.  Rather, Paul is looking at three different perspectives on their salvation.  In their salvation, the triune God has cleansed them from their sins, set them apart for Himself, and declared them to be righteous.  Each perspective speaks of a different aspect of salvation.


Is It Almost Over?

5348057660_5210940458_zThe Casting Crowns’ song, Praise You in the Storm, begins –

“I was sure by now that you would have reached down and wiped our tears away, stepped in and saved the day.  But once again, I say ‘Amen,’ and it’s still raining.”

In the middle of trials and disappointments it often seems like the Lord is slow.  That must have been the thinking of those who were the first of the exiles taken to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar. They had been told by false prophets that their exile would be short.  Soon they would be going back home.

Jeremiah the prophet was still in Jerusalem and the Lord directed him to write the exiles a letter.  This letter is found in Jeremiah 29.  Many today have taken hold of Jeremiah 29:11 as a great promise from God.  That verse is featured on many plaques in Christian’s homes and pics on Facebook.  It was a great promise of God for those in exile.  But to miss the context is to misapply the point of the promise.


Remember St. Valentine

Valentines DayALERT – It’s Valentines Day today.  Are you ready?

If that alert caught you off guard, you are likely in for a long day, unless you take action quickly.  You can still write a romantic note and promise dinner tomorrow night – Yes it is almost always the guy who forgets.

Valentines Day is the day we give cards, flowers, candy, and other gifts as an expression of the love we have for spouses, girlfriends, boyfriends, and others in our lives.  But why on February 14?  Did Hallmark come up with this idea?  Valentines Day originated as a day to commemorate the life and death of a priest who lived in the third century in Rome – St. Valentine.

There is not a lot of information about St. Valentine.  We know he was a priest who lived in Rome in the late third century when Claudius II was emperor.  Rome was engaged in wars at the time and Claudius wanted to be sure he had the best army he could muster.  However, there were too many Romans who were not interested in military service and Claudius suspected it was due to the young men getting married and wanting to be with their families.  In response, Claudius outlawed marriages for young men in Rome.

Valentine, as a Christian priest, understood the importance of marriage, especially for a young man in a licentious culture.  He continued to encourage his parishioners to get married and secretly performed weddings.  Eventually word got out about his illegal activity and he was arrested.  At his trial he was convicted and ordered to be put to death.  His death penalty was carried out in three stages.  First he was beaten.  Then he was stoned.  Finally, he was beheaded.  His martyrdom took place on February 14, probably in the year 270.

Today, as you celebrate the gift of love and give valentines to each other, remember St. Valentine.  Today we do not have laws outlawing marriage.  But we do live in a culture, like Rome, that devalues marriage as the commitment of one man to one woman for life.  You have an opportunity with your relationship to not only enjoy the fruit of true love but to also set an example of what enduring love looks like – an example our world desperately needs.

St. Valentine reminded us that marriage is a gift from God to be cherished and enjoyed.  Today, be sure your valentine knows how much you love them.