Tuesday, October 31, 2006
Justified by Faith in Christ
Happy Reformation Day! I hadn't heard of this holiday until recently, but I have learned that it has been celebrated by parts of the Lutheran and Reformed church for generations. It was on October 31st 1517 that Martin Luther, an Augustinian monk, is said to have nailed his 95 theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg, Germany.

Luther never intended to split or even to leave his church. He was however angered about the use of indulgences, certificates sold by the church that claimed to release people from punishment in both this life and purgatory. He saw it as a money-making scheme and wanted to provoke debate on the real Biblical message on forgiveness.

Luther wrote in the thirty-sixth thesis, "Any truly repentant Christian has a right to full remission of penalty and guilt, even without indulgence letters." The Bible teaches that a sinner is saved by grace, not by works. Paul writes to the Ephesians that "by grace you have been saved through faith."

In a way, we would sometimes prefer if it was the other way round. It somehow seems fairer that way. Good people do more and get more. I have one Muslim friend whose biggest objection to Christianity is that it doesn't depend on what you do and that it doesn't seem fair that "all you need to do is believe in Jesus." Of course, we forget the great gulf that exists between us and God for "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:21-28). Thankfully however, we as Christians worship a God who offers grace to us, restitution through Christ's sacrifice in bearing our sins on the cross.

Luther's actions set off what we now know as the Reformation, as a new movement came about, returning to the Bible to see what God's word said, testing the church traditions and doctrines and the papal decrees against it. The church split, forming slightly different Protestant groups across Europe, but there were five main doctrines, known as the Five Solas, common to them.

Sola Gratia - Salvation only comes by God's grace and not through any righteousness of our own. Ephesians 2:8-9

Sola Fide - Salvation comes from faith alone and not from good works. Galations 2:15-16

Sola Scriptura - The Bible is the inspired and inerrant Word of God, and the only authoritative revelation of God. 2 Timothy 3:16-17

Solus Christus - Christ is the only mediator between man and God, and the only way to salvation. John 14:6

Soli Deo Gloria - All of salvation is solely as a result of God, so all glory should be due to him. In the same way, everything we do as believers should all be the glory of God. Revelation 5:13

The Reformation also led to the Bible being translated from the Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic into local languages, rather than just the Latin of the educated elite. Luther is known to have been influenced by the lives of John Wycliffe and Jan Hus many years before. Wycliffe translated the Bible into English, and was excommunicated from the church for it. His name is continued today by an organisation that seeks to translate the Bible into every known language. Jan Hus, influenced by Wycliffe, preached in and translated parts of the Bible into Bohemian (Czech), and because of this was condemned as a heretic by the church and burned on a stake.

The Westminster Confession of Faith went on to state that "because these original tongues are not known to all the people of God, who have right unto, and interest in the Scriptures, and are commanded, in the fear of God, to read and search them, therefore they are to be translated into the vulgar language of every nation unto which they come, that, the Word of God dwelling plentifully in all, they may worship him in an acceptable manner; and, through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, may have hope." We look forward to the day when every nation can read God's saving word in their own language, and, more so, we look forward to the day when we are in heaven and see "a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb" (Revelation 7:9).

Yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified...I do not nullify the grace of God, for if justification were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.
Galations 2:16,21

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  posted at 06:51  

Monday, October 30, 2006
Consider Your Ways: Question 16
What is your most important financial goal this year, and what is the most important step you can take toward achieving it?

Now that the exam is over, I have to return to normal life and to the great list entitled, "Things to sort after Exam". It is a very long list! It ranges from "Write to E", "Paint kitchen", to "Sort out mortgage".

My original mortgage came to the end of its term a few months ago, so I really need to sort out a new one! Along with that, I need to look at my bank accounts in general, so I think it will mean a trip to the financial adviser for me.

Of course, I try to do this remembering that my true treasure is in heaven. I brought nothing into the world and will bring nothing out of it. I do not want (and pray that I will not fall into this temptation) to be rich with material wealth, but rather rich in good works, generous and ready to share, being content in both times of poverty and plenty, and trying to act wisely with the gifts with which God has entrusted me. I have been meditating on I Timothy 6 as I consider all these things.

Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs...As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.
1 Timothy 6:6-10,17-19

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  posted at 16:13  

Tuesday, October 24, 2006
Be Strong and Courageous!
The blog has been very quiet lately as I have lived the life of a hermit, only emerging from my study to work, practise on patients and eat! The big exam is tomorrow, and the panic is beginning to set in!

There is just SO much to learn, so many diseases to know about, yet I will only get tested on 10 of these! It's a clinical exam, so I'll be going round different patients with examiners watching me as I examine and diagnose the patients, before grilling me...

If you are passing by here, please take just a moment to pray that I will do my best tomorrow, not letting the panic get the better of me, that I will answer the questions correctly (self-doubt and lack of confidence that I am answering correctly (even when I am right) seems to be a big problem for me) and that, whether I pass or fail, I will do it all to the glory of God.

Thanks so much for that! I'll be back to resume normal service on Thursday.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.
Joshua 1:9

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  posted at 15:10  

Tuesday, October 10, 2006
The Beauty of Fire: You Shall Not be Burned
I don't have much to say today - I just want to share a few pieces of Scripture that I was reminded of reading the title. At first, I tried to think of anything to do with the beauty of fire: its warmth, its protection, its light. Then I remembered all the times that God spoke through and of fire, reminding us of his warmth, light, and protection.

God used fire to seal his covenant with Abram that although his "offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years", they would inherit the promised land.(Genesis 15).

When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, "To your offspring I give this land."

God spoke to Moses through the fire at Horeb (Exodus 3:2-6).

And the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush...When the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, "Moses, Moses!" And he said, "Here I am." Then he said, "Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground." And he said, "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

He then guided them out of Egypt in a pillar of fire (Exodus 13:21-22).

And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people.

God spoke to his people through the fire from Mount Sinai when he gave them the 10 Commandments (Deut 4-5).

And you said, 'Behold, the LORD our God has shown us his glory and greatness, and we have heard his voice out of the midst of the fire. This day we have seen God speak with man and man still live. Now therefore why should we die? For this great fire will consume us. If we hear the voice of the LORD our God any more, we shall die. For who is there of all flesh, that has heard the voice of the living God speaking out of the midst of fire as we have, and has still lived?

Finally, I have been feeling a bit overwhelmed recently. I started a new job a few months ago and, while I love it, it is so very busy. I have an exam in a few weeks that I can't see myself passing. My shifts mean I work every second Sunday so I feel at church as if everyone else is sailing past in a big ship but I am just struggling to keep up, furiously rowing in my little boat, trailing behind.

When I feel like this, I return to these pieces of Scripture, Zechariah 13:9 and Isaiah 43, to remind myself of who God is and his mighty power. Please take the time to slowly savour this, reminding yourself, as I continually have to do, that God is speaking to YOU here!

And I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested.They will call upon my name, and I will answer them.I will say, 'They are my people'; and they will say, 'The LORD is my God.'"

But now thus says the LORD,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
"Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.

For I am the LORD your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
I give Egypt as your ransom,
Cush and Seba in exchange for you.
Because you are precious in my eyes,
and honored, and I love you,
I give men in return for you,
peoples in exchange for your life.

Fear not, for I am with you;
I will bring your offspring from the east,
and from the west I will gather you.
I will say to the north, Give up,
and to the south, Do not withhold;
bring my sons from afar
and my daughters from the end of the earth,
everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made.

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  posted at 06:18  

Monday, October 09, 2006
What If? Thought Experiments
While trying to avoid studying, I remembered this article on the BBC website and thought I would share it with you all. "What If..." presents four classic "thought experiments" for its readers to consider. I'll be interested in your own thoughts before I tell you my own!

So to kick things off, I present Thomson's Violinist...

You wake up in hospital, next to a world famous violinist connected to you with various tubes. You've been kidnapped by the Music Appreciation Society. Aware of the maestro's impending death, they hooked you up to the violinist. If you stay connected, he will be totally cured in nine months. You are unlikely to suffer harm. No one else can save him. Do you have an obligation to stay connected?


  posted at 19:48  

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