Faith Alone (Romans 3:21-26), Solas of the Reformation, Part 2

Faith Alone

Romans 3:21-26

On July 2, 1505 a young student was traveling from his home town of Mansfield in Germany back to law school in Erfurt. The skies opened, and a violent thunderstorm encircled him. Legend has it, he was almost literally struck by lightning. Continue reading

Scripture Alone (2 Timothy 3:14-17), The Solas of the Reformation, Part 1

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2 Timothy 3:14-17

How can we say anything meaningful about God? If God is transcendent, defying our cognitive abilities to fully comprehend him, how can we say anything of certainty about God? This is a critical question. How we answer it determines who we know God to be. If our primary source for knowing God is nature, we can infer a variety of conceptions about God, some of which will be categorically different from one another. If our primary source is human reason or our own experience, still other gods could be fabricated.

The Apostle Paul’s Second Letter to Timothy were among the apostle’s final written words. Paul was intimately aware of external and internal threats against the church. During such trials and tribulations, Paul turned to his dear friend and protege Timothy and said, “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have come to trust, knowing from whom you learned it. And that from infancy, you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed… (2 Timothy 3:14-16).”

The word translated “God-breathed” is a unique combination of two Greek words: “Theos” meaning God and another word meaning breath. God breathed out his word into human authors, who wrote them down. He did not suppress the author’s personality. He did something more marvelous. He raised the author up to a higher wisdom. He enabled each author to express what he wanted them to say in words that were not only understandable to each of them and those they wrote to, but were true to their personality and adapted to their culture.

How can we say anything meaningful about God? Because, God has spoken to us in the Holy Scriptures.

When the Augustinian monk, named Martin Luther, went back to the Holy Scriptures in the sixteenth century and compared them to the practices of the church of his time, he realized the church had departed from God’s Word. It was following teachings that contradicted that Word. He would later reportedly say, “I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God.” The reformation and a movement to return to God’s Word began.

There are many teachings that have the appearance of being from God, but our primary source for knowing God comes from his self-revelation in Scripture. “Speak, O Lord, as we come to you to receive the food of your holy Word,” is how one modern hymn writer said it.

 

For further study:

2 Peter 1:20-21

Grace in an Unexpected Place (Joshua 2:1-21), Part 5 of “Get Ready”

Faith of Rahab

Joshua 2:1-21

It was the strangest of sights. Bird enthusiast from places as far as Wisconsin and Indiana flocked to see it. On a wood piling sticking up from the water of Nessmuk Lake perched a white-winged tern. One might have expected to see this bird in Europe, Africa, Asia, or Australia; not in America, let alone Wellsboro, Pennsylvania. People have theorized how this bird got here. Some said a storm pushed the bird from its migration path, forcing it to traverse the Atlantic, and somehow make its way here. The exact cause remains a mystery.

My partner in ministry Pastor Rich Hanlon was the first to spot this rare sight. I asked him if he found a sermon illustration in it. He exclaimed, “Grace.” He took the theme in a different direction, but I thought to myself, “just as this bird was found in an unexpected place, so too is God’s grace.” That’s what happened in the ancient city of Jericho, thousands of years ago.

Before leading the Israelites into the land God promised them, Joshua sent two spies to scout out the land, especially the city of Jericho. In Jericho, the spies found refuge in the house of a prostitute named Rahab. Fearfully, the spies were discovered. The King of Jericho sent messengers to Rahab to apprehend them.

We know today that the prostitution business preys on society’s most vulnerable. One would have expected Rahab to have submissively handed over the spies, rather than risk her life to protect them. But, Rahab showed incredible bravery. She hides the spies on her roof and tells the king’s messengers that the spies were no longer there.

Why did she do this? Because she had heard about the LORD, how he mightily delivered them from slavery in Egypt. Because of things like these, she decided to trust in the LORD. “Swear to me by the LORD,” she said, “that you will show kindness to my family, because I have shown kindness to you (Joshua 2).” The word translated as “kindness” is the Hebrew word hesed. It is frequently used of the LORD’s gracious dealings with his people (Exodus 34:6-7). Rahab is essentially asking for the spies to reciprocate the LORD’s kindness that she has shown to them. Rahab becomes one of the most significant people in God’s redemptive story (Joshua 6:25; Matthew 1:5; Hebrews 11:31; James 2:25).

As we engage God’s mission, let us open our eyes to see God’s grace in places we may never have expected. Where might you find God’s grace today?

For further study:

Bird enthusiasts flock to Nessmuk Lake to catch sight of wayward tern

Get Ready (Joshua 1:1-6)

Keep this Book of the Law (Joshua 1:7-8), Part 2 of “Get Ready”

Prepare Provisions (Joshua 1:10-11), Part 3 of “Get Ready”

Be Strong and Courageous (Joshua 1:16-18), Part 4 of “Get Ready”

 

 

 

 

Be Strong and Courageous (Joshua 1:16-18), Part 4 of “Get Ready”

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Joshua 1:16-18

As a federal prosecutor for Brazil’s public ministry, Delton Dellagnol wanted to make his home country a better place. The Brazilian justice system was broken and ineffective. The most powerful were immune to criminal prosecution. Continue reading