Bread Crumbs

For several years now a verse of Scripture has kept coming up as Candy and I have been seeking to follow God’s leading and direction for our lives.  The verse is Romans 15:13 (NIV)  “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.”

I have come to see each encounter with this verse as a bread crumb, placed in our lives by God to encourage us that we are still on the right path or to guide us back if we are straying off of it.  When we left our previous church last year, we were given a “Blessing Jar” filled with notes from the members telling us how we had been used in their lives.

Just the other day, as we began reading a book entitled “Praying the Scriptures for Your Adult Children” by Jodie Berndt (https://goo.gl/MyKdyX), the very first prayer in the first chapter was “You are the God of hope.  Fill my heart with joy and peace as I trust in you, so that I may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  Romans 15:13.

This verse seems especially relevant during this season of Advent as it contains 3 of the 4 themes of Advent: hope, joy and peace as well as implicitly the love of our Heavenly Father who gave us His greatest gift in the person of that baby in the manger.  So this time of year, no matter the circumstances we find ourselves in, may the God of hope fill us with all joy and peace as we trust in Him so that we may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Amen

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Blessings Jar

A New Reformation?

This week we celebrate 500th anniversary of the beginning of the protestant reformation.  Among the rallying cries of the reformation were “sola fide” (faith alone) and “sola scriptura” (scripture alone).

In proclaiming sola fide, the reformers were affirming the truth of Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV)  8  For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– 9  not by works, so that no one can boast.  The church in Rome was teaching that both faith and works were needed for salvation.  The works included participation in the sacraments and the buying of indulgences.  Even today, the Catholic church proclaims: “salvation is a process that begins with our baptism and continues throughout our lifetimes” (https://www.catholicscomehome.org/your-questions/church-teachings/salvation/#answer1).  The classic protestant view is that salvation is by faith alone in Christ alone, that baptism is to be an outward sign of the inward change that faith in Jesus brings and that good works are the evidence of faith, not a necessary element for salvation.

As for sola scripture, protestants have believed that the Word of God, as preserved for us in the Bible, is the sole rule of faith and practice as Christians.  Roman Catholics, however, believe that both the Bible and the extra-biblical traditions of the church constitute the whole Word of God and together compose the rule of faith (https://www.catholicscomehome.org/your-questions/church-teachings/scripture-and-tradition/#answer1).

In light of this, I find it disturbing that a recent Pew Research pole of American protestants found that “About half of U.S. Protestants (52%) say both good deeds and faith in God are needed to get into heaven, a historically Catholic position. The other half (46%) say that faith alone is needed to attain salvation.” (http://www.pewforum.org/2017/08/31/after-500-years-reformation-era-divisions-have-lost-much-of-their-potency/).

Similarly, according to the results of the survey:  “U.S. Protestants also are split on another issue that played a key role in the Reformation: 46% say the Bible provides all the religious guidance Christians need, a traditionally Protestant belief known as sola scriptura. But 52% say Christians should look for guidance from church teachings and traditions as well as from the Bible, the position held by the Catholic Church.”

When combined, only 30% of protestants hold to the reformation doctrines of sola fide and sola scriptura.  This percentage was slightly higher for white evangelicals (44%) and was 59% for those who said they attended church at least once a week.

One wonders if the continuing decline of the protestant churches in America is due largely to decline in teaching and preaching of the fundamentals of our faith.  It appears that the foundations of the original reformation have been seriously eroded and we are in need of a new reformation which will light a fire of renewal within the church and revival throughout our land.

The Morning Fog

Morning Fog2 Corinthians 4:4 (NIV) The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

Now that nights are becoming cooler, we awake every morning to see a layer of fog hanging over the valley. The relative warmth of the air and water down in the hollow rises up to meet the cooler air and the result is a layer of fog, sometimes low to the ground as this morning, but sometimes rising up and enveloping the whole valley.  As the sun rises and warms the air, the fog dissipates and all is clear and bright.

Paul tells us that Satan, the (little g) god of this age has blinded the minds of millions around the world so they cannot see the light of the gospel, the good news of salvation, that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.  That obscuring fog is fueled by scientists who deny God’s role in creation (or even the very existence of God) and philosophers and teachers who insist that man is in control of his own destiny and must save himself, or worse, that all our thoughts and actions are predetermined by our environment so that free will is only an illusion.  Then there are those within the church who either deny the diety of Christ and that man is born sinful and needs a Savior, to those who say you must work your way to salvation, that faith alone is not enough.  Others proclaim that all religions and philosophies are just different pathways to God, inspite of Jesus’ simple declaration that “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6).

My prayer today is that the fog would lift as the Son shines the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ into the hearts and minds of all who have yet to believe.  May God make us in the church more like Jesus so that His radiance would shine in and through us, burning away the fog blinding those around us.  Amen.

Bloom Where You Are Planted

I looked out our window this morning and saw a curious sight.  A single white flower had bloomed on the top of an otherwise plain bush.  It’s brilliant white contrasted with the green surrounding it.  In Matthew 5:16, Jesus tells us to let your light shine before others so that they will see your good works and glorify not us, but our Father in heaven as we give Him all the honor and credit.  Bloom where you are planted.Wild Morning Glory

How We Got Here

Two weeks ago we moved from a small village in upstate New York to this rural valley just north of Williamsport, PA.  This move was the the culmination of 9 months of discovery and seeking God’s leading on our part and on the part of the Search Committee of Hepburn Baptist Church.  This journey of discovery took several twists and turns but in the end, God clearly showed that we were to be here.  My purpose in beginning this blog is to share whatever thoughts and insights He brings to mind.