The Retreat

She stood there admiring the bright yellow mixed in with flaming orange and red leaves on the trees as they dotted the green landscape and stood proudly over the still water of the lake, seeming to admire their reflections.  It reminded her of a giant water color painting.  It was so peaceful there.  Coming to this retreat for a week was a blessing.

It was her friend Maura who suggested it.  She and her husband were there last year and absolutely loved it.  She had watched videos on the website, the acres of land with its natural beauty and the promise of refuge and renewal and peace and presence sold her.  And here she was, away from the hustle and bustle of the city and enjoying quiet time with the Lord and nature.

She got up early and came down here just before sunset.  After she finished praying, she glanced up and saw the sun rise.  It was the first time she had ever seen a sunrise.  For several moments, the sun appeared to be sitting on the water before it rose higher in the sky.  What a breathtaking scene and display of God’s power.  She lingered there for a while longer and then headed back to the lodge to have breakfast.

When she was leaving the dining room, a tall and very handsome man walked in.  He was alone.  He was wearing a blue sweater and jeans.  As she approached him, he turned and looked at her.  Their eyes met and held for several moments.  He smiled at her and she smiled back.  This close she saw that he had beautiful brown eyes.  “Good morning,” he said.

“Good morning,” she replied and then she walked past him and out of the dining-room.  She could feel him watching her.  He really was quite good-looking and seemed very nice.  Then, she chided herself.  You’re here to commune with God. Don’t get distracted.  She went to her room to freshen up and then to the bench facing the stream where she planned to spend the rest of the morning.

This time she took her Bible and a notebook.  The warm sunshine on her face felt good and a sigh of satisfaction, she sat down.    After she finished reading the first two chapters of the Gospel of Mark and taking notes, she set her Bible and notebook aside.  As she sat there, gazing at the lake, her thoughts drifted to the guy she saw in the dining-room.  Who was he?  Was he single?  Was he here alone?

He was the first man she was attracted to since Reuben.  It was strange but when she thought about Reuben, she didn’t feel anything.  He was like a distant memory now.  She could hardly remember what he looked like and when she tried, she saw the other guy’s face instead.  It was five years since Reuben broke up with her.  They had been dating and everyone thought they would have gotten married.  She did too and then, he shocked her by telling her that he was in love with someone else.

It turned out that while they had been dating, he had been giving Bible studies to a woman who lived in his building.  Feelings developed between them and he realized that she was the one he wanted to be with.  She was devastated but with the love and support of her church family, she was able to pick up the pieces and get on with her life.  Reuben transferred to another church and the last she heard of him, he and the woman were married and had two children.  She wished them well.   It was clear to her now that Reuben and she were not right for each other.  He was with the person he was meant to be with and one day, she would be with the person she was meant to be with.

“Do you mind if I join you?” a voice broke into her reverie and she looked around, her heart skipping a beat when she saw that it was the guy from the dining-room.

She shook her head.  “No, not at all.”  She moved her Bible and notebook closer to her, leaving enough room on the bench for him to sit down.  When he lowered his tall frame on to the seat beside her, she caught a whiff of his aftershave.  Her heart was pounding and her pulse was racing.  She realized then that Reuben never had such an effect on her.  Her hands were clasped tightly in her lap to stop them from trembling.  She could feel him watching her and she turned her head.  Their eyes met and held.  She wondered if she looked as nervous as she felt.

He held out his hand, “Brandon Lee.”

She took his hand and felt his firm clasp.  “Esther Richards.”

“Nice to meet you, Esther.  Is this your first time to the retreat?”

“Yes.  A friend of mine was here last year with her husband and she encouraged me to come.   I’m very happy I did.  It’s a beautiful place and it’s nice to get away from the city.  What about you?” She knew she sounded a little breathless but she couldn’t help it.  His closeness had that effect on her.  She couldn’t decide as yet if he was a Godsend or if he was a distraction.  She truly hoped that it was the former.

“I was here once with a group of people from my church.  It is a great place–so much to see and enjoy.  This is actually my favorite spot.  I could sit here for hours.”

“What church do you go to?” she asked.  He told her and she told him the name of her church.  “Are you involved in any ministries?”

“Yes, I am the leader of our Youth Ministry. ”

“I am involved in the Women’s Ministry and I sometimes lead out in our weekly Bible Study group meetings.  For our next Women’s Ministry retreat, I will recommend that we have it here.”

“Are you here alone?”

“Yes.  And you?”  Do you have a girlfriend?

“Yes.”  I hope she doesn’t have a boyfriend.  “Do you have family here?”

“Yes, I have lots of aunts and uncles and cousins here but my parents live in Florida.  They moved there after I graduated from university.   I usually spend Christmas with them.”  I’m glad I didn’t move to Florida too or I wouldn’t have met you.

“No siblings?”  Thank You, God for keeping her here in London or I wouldn’t have met her.

“No, I’m an only child.  What about your family?”

“My parents live in Yorkshire and I visit them on the weekends.  I live in London and my sister and her family live in Manchester.  We spend the Christmas holidays in Yorkshire.  Speaking of Christmas, have you finished your shopping as yet?”

She laughed.  “I haven’t even started.   I have no clue what I will get everyone.”

“I’m done.  My advice to you is to get gift cards.  Once you know what people, like, you just get gift cards instead of trying to figure out what they would like.  For my nieces and nephew, though, I don’t mind spending hours browsing toy stores.”

“Gift card?  I never thought of that.  Thanks for the suggestion.”

Talking to him had relaxed her to some degree.  He was easy to talk to.  She enjoyed his company.  They sat there, chatting about other things and then it was time to go for lunch.  They sat next each other at a table and continued talking to each other and some of the people around them.  After lunch, he invited her to go for a walk with him.

From that day on, they spent time together, going for walks, praying, worshipping, studying the Bible and joined in fun activities with other singles such as Finish the Sentence, Bible Pictionary, True or False, Bible Telephone, Bible Hangman, Name Game, Who Am I, Bible Bingo, Bible Scavenger Hunt, Name That Hymn and Bible Scene.  Her favorite was Finish the Sentence and when it was her turn to finish the sentence, I am blessed, she said, “I am blessed because God has shown me favor.” and she looked at Brandon when she said this.  I’m blessed because God has brought us together.  His answer was, “I am blessed because God has brought new joy into my life.”  His eyes were on her when he said that.

They spent the evenings alone together–talking or going for walks.  On the last evening before they were to leave the retreat and return to London, Brandon stopped and turned to her as they strolled the grounds.  It was beautiful night.  The full moon cast a ghostly light on them and the still water of the lake.  He reached out and took her hands in his.

“Esther, these past few days with you have been the happiest of my life.  I had planned to come to the retreat next week but I felt a very strong impression to come this week and I am thankful that I did because I met you.  I don’t want to say goodbye to you.  I want to continue to see you.  I’m not in a relationship.  Am I safe to assume that you’re not in one either?”

She shook her head.  “I’m not in a relationship,” she confirmed.

“I want to be in a relationship with you, that is if, it’s what you want too.”

“I-I want to be in a relationship with you too.”

“Good.  Tomorrow, we drive back to London together.”  He raised her hands to his lips and kissed them before they continued their stroll.

She raised her head to the starry sky and silently mouthed a prayer of thanks.  Coming to he retreat had changed both of their lives.

 

Sources: Ashburnham Place; Christian Camp Pro

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A Surrendered Life

She knew what some of the girls were saying about her.   She was not the same person they knew and used to hang out with during her first two years at the university.   Then, she morphed into somebody totally different and they didn’t like it.  She had stopped wearing makeup and nail varnish and flashy clothes.They called her “Miss goody-two shoes” because she stopped socializing with them and kept to herself.  She led what some might consider to be a saintly life, spending her time studying her books, reading her Bible and going for walks.  Her favorite place to walk was along the Cheddar Gorge with its weathered crags and pinnacles, plants and wildlife.  It was spectacular and peaceful, a reminder of God’s splendor.

Since she started going back to church, her lifestyle changed.  She didn’t hang out in the shopping mall or go to the movies or to nightclubs or bars or go out on a school night.  She spent her weekends quietly.  An avid reader, she would curl up on the sofa and read a novel.  At other times she would spend some time on the computer, reading articles or blogging about things of interest.  She had quite a following and she kept in touch with family and old friends through Facebook.  Life for her was not boring.  It was fulfilling.

She still lived with her parents.  It made sense since she was going to university but as soon as she found a job after graduating, she was going to move out.  Right now, she was in her room on her laptop while the others, except her mother, were in the basement watching TV.  She heard the doorbell ring but didn’t pay much attention, until she heard her mother say, “Good evening, Caleb, how are you?”

She couldn’t hear his response but heard her mother urge him to come in from the cold and to warm himself in front of the fire in the living-room.  Caleb was there.  He was her Avery’s friend but lately, she noticed that he was visiting even when her brother wasn’t at home.  She closed her laptop and got up from the desk.

Stepping in front of the mirror, she checked to make sure she looked fine.  She couldn’t deny that she liked Caleb.  He was a really nice guy–very warm, friendly and smart.  He was five years older than her.  As far as she knew, he didn’t have a girlfriend although Avery and he had gone on double dates a couple of times.  Caleb was reserved, the opposite of Avery who was very outgoing but they got along very well.

As she was fixing her hair which seemed to have a mind of its own sometimes, the door to her room opened and her mother poked her head in.  “Caleb is downstairs,” she said.  “He’s here to see you.”

She stared at her mother.  “Me?”

“Well, Avery’s not here and he’s asked for you.”

“He’s asked for me?”

“Stop repeating everything I say and just go downstairs.  I’ll be down in the basement, taking care of the laundry and ironing.  If he’s hungry, he can have some of the Stew.”  She withdrew her head and closed the door.

She fixed her hair as best as she could and then quickly left the room, her heart racing.  She took her time and went down the stairs.  Caleb was sitting on the sofa with his back to the door but when he heard her, he got up and turned around.  He was wearing a tan colored sweater and grey pants.  He stood there with one hand in his pocket, looking a bit awkward as he watched her approach him.  He was really quite good-looking and adorable at the same time.  She smiled at him.  “Hello, Caleb.”

“Hello Donna,” he said quietly.  He seemed a bit nervous.  Removing his hand from his pocket, he ran his fingers through his thick dark hair.  He waited until she was seated on the sofa before he settled his tall frame next to her.  “I hope you don’t mind stopping by like this to see you,” he said, sounding apologetic.  “Your mother assured me that you wouldn’t mind.”

“No, I don’t mind at all,” she assured him.  “I’m always happy to see you.”

He looked pleased and relieved.  “My church is having a Christmas concert on Saturday and I was wondering if you would like to go with me.  And afterwards, we can go somewhere and have a bite to eat.”

She smiled.  “Yes, I’d like that,” she replied.  “Have you had dinner as yet?”

He shook his head.  “I was going to grab something on my way home.”

“No way,” she said.  “Mom made some of her delicious Stew.  You and I are going to have some now.”  She ushered him into the kitchen and while he sat at the table, she shared out two generous portions of the mouthwatering Beef Stew and after setting his plate in front of him, she sat opposite him.  She said Grace and then they tucked in.  As they ate, they talked about all sorts of things and then she asked him about his faith.  “Have you always been in church?  Was there ever a time when you left and then returned?”

He shook his head.  “I have been going to church since I was a child and always loved it.  I was in the choir, in the youth ministry and went on a couple of mission trips.  I’ve had friends, however, who have left the church and many of them haven’t returned.”

“I left the church because I found people to be judgmental and hypocritical.  I didn’t feel connected to anyone.  Besides, my non-Christian friends seemed more caring and accepting–at least that’s what I thought.  They showed their true colors when I decided to return to church.”

“What made you decide to return to church?”

“One of my cousins started inviting me to different events rather than to church services.  One weekend, we went to a Singles’ Ministry retreat and I felt so connected to the people there.  The theme was Facing Your Giants.  It forced me to reevaluate my life and my decisions.  During the anointing ceremony, my cousin prayed for me and I cried like a baby.  Then, I felt a change come over me.  I could feel a peace that I had never felt before and I knew right then and there that God still loved me.  He loved me unconditionally and wanted to have relationship with me.  Even though I had walked away from Him, He never left me.  He was always there, waiting for me to come back to Him.  That was a powerful realization for me and I know now that we can’t sink so low that God can’t reach us.”

“What a powerful testimony you just shared,” he said.  “I’m hoping that one day, if you’re up for it, that you would share with others.

“It’s funny you should mention that.  My cousin has asked me to share my testimony just before the worship service this Saturday.  I’ve been going to her church for a while now and I’m used to the people so I don’t feel nervous about standing up there and giving my testimony.”

“Do you mind if I come to your cousin’s church on Saturday to hear your testimony.”

“I was hoping that you would,” she said.  “I wanted to ask but thought you might not want to miss going to your church.”

“Do you have a ride?”

“Well, I was going to get a ride with my family but if I can go with you instead…”  In fact, she would like nothing better.

“I’m really looking forward to Saturday,” he said.

“Me too.”

After they finished eating, she cleared the table and while she washed up, he dried the plates and he told her about the mission trips he had been on.  There were a couple coming up in the New Year and he encouraged her to consider going on one of them.  “You and I can go together,” he said, his eyes brightening at the thought.  “I hope that by then you and I will be inseparable.”

She looked up at him.  “I hope so too,” she said.  And at that very moment, she had an uncanny feeling that she staring up into the face of the man she was going to marry.  In her mind, she heard God say to her, My plans for your life are always for your good. 

On Saturday, she stood there in front of the congregation, sharing her testimony, her eyes on Caleb who was sitting next to her sister.  Afterwards, parents and young people flocked to her, telling her how encouraging her words were.   “You were terrific,” Caleb said to her when they were alone.  They were sitting in his car.

She smiled up at him.  “Thank you,” she said.  “It meant a lot to me that you were there.  I was nervous but when I looked at you, the butterflies in my stomach went away.”

“I wanted to be there for you,” he said quietly, his eyes serious as they met hers.  “Donna, I know you’re not dating anyone and I was wondering, actually, I was hoping that you would date me.  I really, really like you and I hope you feel the same way.”

“I really like you too, Caleb,” she said.  “And I would like to date you.”

He smiled.  “I was so nervous just now but when I heard the words, have faith, I found the courage to ask you something I’ve wanted to ask you for a long time.”

She didn’t say anything as he started the engine and they pulled out of the parking lot but in her heart, she was thanking God.  Two years later, as she stood, watching the sun set in the crimson sky of Lima, Peru, she thanked God for fulfilling His plans for her life.  After she graduated from university, Caleb and she got married.  And here they were on their first mission trip together.  Yes, God had been very good to her.  Her life changed the day when she surrendered to Him at that anointing ceremony.  Just then she felt Caleb come up behind her and she smiled as he wrapped his arms around her shoulders.  Yes, God had been very good to them.

 

Source:  Events For Christians

Bundles of Joy

For with God nothing will be impossible – Luke 1:37

As she sat by the window, looking out, she recalled those turbulent years when Mark and she were trying in vain to have children.  They have been married for twelve years.  They met through a mutual friend and it was love at first sight.  They dated for a year and the following year they got engaged.  It was a small Spring wedding and after returning from their honeymoon in Montego Bay, they decided that they would buy a town house at Bayview Village.

After settling into their new home and adjusting to married life, they decided that it was time to try having a child.  She was late twenties when they got married and was hoping to have at least two children before she turned thirty.  A teacher at a Christian daycare, she loved children and longed for the day when she would have her own.  She knew that Mark would be a wonderful father.  She had seen him with his nieces and nephews.  They adored him.  Her friends were having children so she attended many baby showers.  As she had shopped for onesies and other gifts for their babies, she dreamed of one day buying for her own children.

Her heart yearned to hold her own baby when she held her friends’ babies.  At first, she was excited as she and Mark tried to conceive but as time went by and she wasn’t able to get pregnant, hope turned to despair.  Her faith began to waver and she questioned why God would deny Mark and her children.  Mark was her rock during those tough times, encouraging her not to give up and that God had a plan.

At night when he was asleep, she would lie awake and think about other women who had trouble conceiving.  She thought of Sarah, Hannah and Elizabeth who were barren but were blessed with sons.  Was it possible for the same thing to happen to her?  As she lay there one night, she was impressed to pray as Hannah did.  Sliding quietly out of the bed so as not to disturb Mark, she knelt at the side of the bed and prayed.

Like Hannah, she poured her heart out.  She ended the prayer by saying, “Lord, I know that nothing is impossible for you.  Thank you for hearing my prayer and for answering it.”  A peace that she had never felt before came over her and she climbed back into bed, believing that God had finally come through for her.

She was in very high spirits after that and waited patiently for God to do His part.  When she missed her period, she went to the drugstore and bought a home pregnancy test.  While Mark waited anxiously in the living-room, she went into the bathroom and took it.  Minutes, later, she emerged.  She showed him the results and he hugged her.   She made an appointment with their doctor who was happy to give her tests just to make sure.  And when the results confirmed that she was pregnant, she couldn’t prevent the tears of joy from falling.  She raised her eyes heavenward and gave thanks to God.

That night, Mark and she hugged and held each other for a while.  They were finally going to be parents.  Family, friends and church members were delighted for them and the next baby shower she attended was her own.  At the age of forty, exactly ten years after she had planned to have children, she gave birth to twins–a boy and a girl.  They named the boy, Jaden (Jehovah has heard) and the girl, Eliana (My God has answered).

And as she held the girl and Mark held the boy, she mouthed the words, “I love you.”

“I love you too,” he said, before he leaned over and kissed her.

 

The Little Star

The sparkle in a grandmother’s eyes

the first time she sees and holds

her first and only grandchild.

 

He is nine years old now and

the sparkle is still there in her eyes

when he visits her in the  nursing

home.

 

The Parkinson’s  has her confined her

to a wheelchair  now but it cannot take

away the joy she feels every time she sees

the little boy she had once held in her arms,

silently thanking and praising God

for blessing her with a grandchild.

 

The Christian Faith

Then Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men” – Mark 1:17

The Christian faith has mushroomed into what it is today thanks to men and women who were willing to let the Holy Spirit work in and through them to share the Gospel with others.  It all started with two men–one was Andrew and the other was Philip.  After each man encountered Jesus, they went and told others about him.  When Andrew found his brother, Peter he said to him, “We have found the Messiah.” And Philip declared to his friend, Nathanael,“We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph” (John 1:41, 45).

Then, Peter and Nathanael were taken to meet Jesus.  How do we follow the example of what Andrew and Philip?  We tell our families, friends and co-workers about Jesus and share the Bible with them.  It is through reading the Bible that they meet Jesus.  We introduce them to Him but they have to get to know Him for themselves.

One of my favorite stories is the encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman.  She went to the well to draw water at a time of the day when she wouldn’t run into other people.  Married five times and living with a man who wasn’t her husband, she wasn’t exactly the pillar of society.   She didn’t expect to see Jesus there.  She could tell that He was a Jew and was surprised when He asked her for a drink of water as Jews didn’t have any dealings with Samaritans.  And she was a woman.

Jesus spoke to her, telling her what true worship was and salvation.  When He told her things about herself that a stranger could not have possibly known, she thought He was Prophet.  Jesus revealed that He was the Messiah and excited, she left her water-pot and ran into the city to tell the people there, “Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?”  Like Andrew and Philip, the woman met Jesus, went and told others about Him before bringing them to Him.  Many of the people believed in Jesus because of her testimony.   The woman discovered that despite the fact that Jesus knew everything about her, He loved her.

Does your neighbor know that there is a Savior who loves him or her and wants to reach out in love and forgiveness to him or her?  This encounter between Jesus and the woman was an example of how the Gospel should transcend racial and gender barriers.  The Gospel is for everyone.  Salvation is for everyone.  We must not allow our prejudices to get in the way of spreading the love of Christ to those who need it.

So, we see a progression here.  The mission field begins at home, with our relatives and then spreads to our friends and then our neighbors.  It follows what Jesus said to His disciples when He sent them out to preach and minister to others.  “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans.  But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 10:5, 6).  The Jews were to receive the Gospel first and then the Gentiles and Samaritans.  It makes sense that we witness to those closest to us first and then to others.

Once we are willing and open to His leading, God will find opportunities for us to share the Gospel.  He did so with Peter on the Day of Pentecost and Paul when he was in Athens.  After the Holy Spirit filled the disciples, they began to speak in tongues.  The crowd marveled when they heard them speak in their own language.  Some, however, mocked them, accusing them of being drunk.  Peter used their remarks as an opportunity to give a sermon.  He spoke of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection.  The people were convicted and they asked Peter and the other disciples what they should do and Peter’s answer was, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” Many were baptized and about three thousand people became Christians on that day.

We may encounter skeptics but, instead of becoming discouraged, we can do what Peter did and use their unbelief as an opportunity to share our faith.  As Paul said, we are to “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:2).  When Paul was in Athens, he saw that the city was given over to idols.  Provoked, he reasoned with the Jews in the synagogue and the Gentiles in the marketplace.  He spoke to them about the resurrection of Jesus.  They took him to the Areopagus, curious to hear his doctrine.

Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and addressed the people, acknowledging that they were religious because of the objects of worship and the altar they had built to the Unknown God.  He revealed to them who the true God was.  He was the “God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands.  Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things.  And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings,  so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us;  for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’  

Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising.  Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”

When some of them heard the word “resurrection”, they began to mock him while others wanted to hear him speak further on the matter.  And others believed in what he said and joined him, among them a woman named Damaris (Acts 17:23-34).

Paul was prepared to share the truth about the God he worshipped and he used what he saw around him to do so.  He wanted the people to turn from their idols and worship the true God who wanted them to seek Him while He could still be found.  We can use whatever is at our disposal to share the truth about God with others.  Many people still have a negative opinion of God but we can change that by reaching out to them in love, compassion and sharing our testimonies of His goodness.

As in Jesus’ day, the Christian faith is growing and will continue to grow.  Although it is under attack and many believers are facing persecution, imprisonment and even death, it will continue to spread and transform lives until Jesus returns.  We can do our part by reaching out to those around us.  Each one can reach one.  We can do it through handing out literature, through social media, blogging, websites or witnessing in person.  God will give us the means and the opportunities to further His ministry.  All we have to do is to be ready and willing like Andrew, Philip, the Samaritan woman and Paul.

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Sources:  Biblegateway; Blue Letter Bible

Saved by Grace

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God – Ephesians 2:8

holy-step-chapel-climbing

Scala Sancta (Pilate’s Staircase) in Rome

Years ago I stood watching people ascend what is commonly known as Pilate’s Staircase.  Just today my family and I were talking about it and I got emotional as I thought of the people I saw going up the stairs on their knees just as Martin Luther did in 1510, probably repeating as he did the Our Father on each step.  It was said that by doing this work one could “redeem a soul from purgatory.”  It is believed that this staircase, Scala Sancta, that was used by Jesus in Pilate’s Judgment Hall in Jerusalem was, according to legend, supernaturally transported from Palestine to Rome.

Pontius

Figures of Pilate and Jesus at base of Scala Sancta

At the base of the staircase are the statues of Jesus and Pilate.  Pilate is introducing the King of the Jews to the people and saying, “Behold the Man!”  This reminded of what Jesus said to Nicodemus.  “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up,  that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:14, 15).  By beholding the serpent, the people were saved by faith.  Likewise by beholding Jesus and believing in Him, we are saved.  

martin luther.jpg

Joseph Fiennes as Martin Luther in the movie, Luther

It was here on the Scala Sancta that the unexpected happened for Martin Luther.  It was where his eyes were opened to the truth that salvation comes by the grace of God and not by works.  One day, “he was devoutly climbing these steps, when suddenly a voice like thunder seemed to say to him:  ‘The just shall live by faith.’  Romans 1:17.  He sprang to his feet and hastened from the place in shame and horror.  The text never lost its power upon his soul.  From that time he saw more clearly than ever before the fallacy in trusting to human works for salvation, and the necessity of constant faith in the merits of Christ.  His eyes had been opened, and were never again to be closed, to the delusions of the papacy.  When he turned his face from Rome, he had turned away also in heart, and from that time the separation grew wider, until he severed all connection with the papal church.” 

Before his revelation, “Luther was still a true son of the papal church and had no thought that he would ever be anything else. In the providence of God he was led to visit Rome.”  However, once he received the unvarnished truth, Luther could no longer remain loyal to the church which promised indulgences to those climbing the staircase on their knees or whose clergy he found profanation instead of sanctity.  His disillusionment with the church led to his part in the Protestant Reformation.  He was declared a heretic and excommunicated from the church.

In Jesus’ time, the religious leaders trusted in the traditions of men instead of the Word of God.  Today, where are you placing your faith?  In the teachings of men or in the teachings of God?

Sources:  Bible Gateway; Great Controversy; Wikipedia

No Coincidence

We are not here by coincidence.

All around us is evidence that we

are here by design.

We were fearfully and wonderfully

made in the image of our Creator.

In tender love He fashioned us

and gave us the breath of life.

 

We are not here by chance

but for a purpose.  We were

created for God’s glory.

 

We were made a little lower

than the angels yet we are

crowned with glory and honor.

The Lord is mindful of us and

He cares for us.  His eye is on

us as it is on the sparrow.

He can number the very hairs

on our heads.

 

No, we are not here by

coincidence.  We are here

by choice–God’s choice.

Nature is not an accident.

It is intentional.

 

From the unsightly caterpillar

that transforms into a beautiful

and colorful butterfly to the

mighty eagle which soars across

the sky, all of nature reflect and

declare the glory of our Creator.

 

8-an-american-bald-eagle-in-flight-klaus-nigge

An American Bald Eagle In Flight by Klaus Nigge

 

Source:  Blue Letter Bible