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Archive for January, 2023

Martin and Katherine Luther

In 1527, the plague approached Wittenberg, Germany, home of Martin and Katherine Luther. Some say it was this looming calamity that prompted Luther to write one of the great hymns of the church: “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” [1]

In fact, our congregation sang the ancient lyrics this past Sunday, although we were accompanied by keyboard, guitar, and drum—not organ. I was struck by the second line of the third verse:

“We will not fear, for God hath willed

His truth to triumph thro’ us.”

My mind wandered a bit. I wonder how many scriptural truths promise the result of triumph through us—verses like “My God will meet all your needs.”[2] There must be hundreds!

A bit of research revealed that Luther based his hymn on these scriptural truths from Psalm 46:

  • God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble (v. 1)
  • We will not fear though the earth give way (v. 2)
  • The Lord Almighty is with us; God is our fortress (v. 7)

Even though Luther and his family stayed in Wittenberg to care for the sick and dying, he wouldn’t have expected God to spare him or family members from the plague. Luther knew God doesn’t always intervene; he never promised heaven on earth.

But Luther understood: with God as our spiritual refuge, we find the comfort, strength, and support we need through the darkest valleys (Psalm 23).

God will lead us to triumph and provide victory over fear.

Another confidence-building scripture is tucked into the book of Nahum: “The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him” (1:7).

If we put our minds to it, every one of us can attest to the truth of those statements, because the Lord is good to all. [3]

Consider a few ways God demonstrates goodness to his people, and see if examples from your own life don’t come to mind.

  • He draws us to himself, gifting us with eternal life as we believe in his Son Jesus [4]
  • He provides mentors and experiences that grow our faith as well as blessings that increase our joy [5]
  • He attentively cares for us and spares us from grave errors in judgment as we obey him [6]
  • He bestows comfort and security during difficult times and augments the delight of happy times [7]
  • His Word guides us in perfect wisdom day by day, year after year [8]
  • He empowers us to accomplish tasks we never could have completed on our own [9]

“It’s important to rehearse the lovely, rich truths and promises that remain when other things change. Keep telling these truths, in all their many-sided glory, and one day, walls already cracked will crumble and fall.”

Jim McGuiggan [10]

Picture your fears cracking, crumbling, and falling in a heap in response to the weight of God’s truths.

That’s a picture of triumph!

“We will not fear, for God hath willed

His truth to triumph thro’ us.”

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *    *     *

Thank you, Father, for Your gracious invitation to leave our concerns with you and free ourselves of anxiety. As I affirm your truth, you provide fortitude and peace.

One day, the father of lies who provokes all fears WILL be defeated. As Martin Luther wrote, “One little word shall fell him!”[11] We eagerly look forward to that day.

(1 Peter 5:7; Philippians 4:6-7; Romans 16:20; Philippians 3:20)

Addendum: Martin Luther and his family were all spared during the plague of 1527.


 

[1] No copies of this hymn have been found before this date, but a growing number after, leading various scholars to support this theory (https://www.challies.com/articles/hyms-stories-a-mighty-fortress-is-our-god/).

[2] Philippians 4:19

[3] Psalm 145:9

[4] John 6:44; 3:16

[5] Proverbs 12:15; 18:15; Psalm 4:7

[6] Psalm 27:10 HCSB; 37:23-24

[7] Isaiah 41:10; Psalm 16:11

[8] Psalm 32:8. However, I must confess to not always being receptive.

[9] Philippians 4:13

[10] Quoted by Beth Moore in Praying God’s Word, 138.

[11] From the last line of verse three, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”

Art & Photo Credits: http://www.worldhistory.org; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.canva.com.

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(An imaginary conversation between God and me)

ME:

O God, each time I come across a scripture that affirms Your delight in me, my heart responds with amazement. I fall far short of the excellence I’d like to present to You—even after all these years as Your child. How is it possible You could still delight in me?  

GOD:

Think about this: How do others know that you take delight in your children and grandchildren? You spend time with them, correct? You listen to them, praise their efforts, and encourage them. You give them gifts. You forgive them.

I do all these things for you and more, proving my delight through my actions. When you see Me clearly—my faithfulness, goodness, and love in action for you—you’ll see yourself more clearly–one who is cherished and brings me pleasure.

Keep reminding yourself, you don’t have to be perfect to be wonderful. [1]

Just this morning you took great delight at the get-together of moms at church. In fact, you smiled from ear to ear and laughed for joy over children you didn’t even know:

  • the baby who waved with gusto at everyone who passed by
  • the little boy who wanted you to play catch with him
  • the three-year-old conversationalist who explained how hourglass egg-timers work

Granted, not one of these little ones is perfect, but each is perfectly wonderful—and so is every other child of Mine, including you.

 I also take great pleasure in watching My children grow, just as you’ve delighted in the development of your children and grandchildren—even your students when you taught school.

ME:

It’s true—each milestone is celebrated with joy, especially those that required effort. It stands to reason that each marker of our spiritual growth makes You smile with joy—markers that include: establishing a quiet time (because You desire relationship with us), learning to be patient and self-controlled as well as manifesting the other fruit of the Spirit, practicing Your presence throughout the day, and turning to You in faith for the strength, guidance, and help we need.[2]

GOD:

Absolutely! I also delight to see:

  • The development and use of the talents I’ve given you, just as you celebrate the growing abilities of the children around you.
  • The joy you experience in the company of family or friends, just as you enjoy watching children play happily together. Their pleasure becomes your pleasure; the same is true for Me.
  • The expression of gratitude for My blessings and favors, just as gratitude from your children warms your hearts and makes you smile.
  • The perseverance to develop spiritual maturity, just as you’ve taken joy in the skills mastered by your children, grandchildren, and students through the years.

Many think of Me as far removed, gloomy and mightily displeased with everything. And while it’s true that I hate sin, because of My Son, Jesus Christ, all believing souls are objects of My delight.[3]

Take that to heart, precious child.

ME:

I pray, Heavenly Father, that my choices going forward might bring You increasing delight. And may I rest contentedly, even joyfully, in the pleasure You already take in me.


 

[1] ______, Values for Life, Walnut Grove Press, 2004, 131).

[2] Revelation 3:20; Galatians 5:22-23; Psalm 16:11; Hebrews 11:6

[3] A. W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy, Harper & Brothers, 1961, 107-108.

Photo credits: http://www.canva.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.stocksnap.io.

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“This is your last chance!” shouted the leader of Columbian guerillas. “Join us, convince the Motilone to join us, and you will live. Otherwise, you are a dead man.”

The surrounding group of rebels aimed their guns at American missionary Bruce Olson. He fully expected to see Jesus in the next moment.

Of course, this was not the first time Bruce faced death during his twenty-seven years with the fierce Motilone tribe.

No sooner had he arrived in 1961, than Bruce was surrounded by tribal warriors who shot him in the leg with an arrow and took him captive. The guides who had led him to their village fled.

Bruce was just nineteen years old and had received no backing from any mission organization, because of his age and lack of training. But he’d seen a picture of the remote Columbian tribe and felt drawn to share with them about Jesus.

His own life had been wonderfully transformed by Christ, and Bruce desired that for others—especially for this people-group who knew nothing about Jesus.

(The Motilone live in northeastern Columbia and western Venezuela.)

Some would say, “Bruce must have misunderstood God’s plan. Otherwise, why would he experience calamity the minute he arrived?”

But look what God did.

First, the Motilone chief forbade the warriors to kill Bruce. Later he and his men would admit there was no reason to spare him; they just did.

The next day the chief’s son, Bobarishora, brought worms for Bruce to eat, which thankfully tasted like liquified bacon and eggs. In spite of the language barrier, Bruce and Bobarishora began to build a friendship.

The leg wound became infected. Bruce escaped and returned to civilization for treatment. But upon regaining strength, the young missionary went back to the tribe—only to contract dysentery and have to seek medical help again. He almost died in the effort.

For his third attempt to settle with the Motilone, Bruce brought medical supplies. The witch doctor took great interest in their healing powers and learned from Bruce how to use them. With Bobarishora and the witch doctor as allies, Bruce began to achieve acceptance in the tribe.

Over the next four years he learned the Motilone language and set about translating the New Testament into their language, putting to use his knowledge of Hebrew, Greek, and Latin.

Bobarishora, or “Bobby,” became the first to accept Jesus into his life. At a festival not long after, Bobby sang about the jungle trail of life, a metaphor familiar to the Motilone. Bobby explained he’d seen the footprints of God.

“There are many trails in the jungles,” he said. “But there is one trail that goes to the horizon.” (Bobby was referring to heaven.)  “Christ came to walk that trail so we can walk in his footsteps.”[1]

It wasn’t long before many tribespeople had become Jesus-followers. They began sending their own missionaries to neighboring tribes to tell them about Christ.

The Motilone wanted to learn how to read and write, so Bruce started a school. He also set up a medical clinic, and led the effort to grow cacao, to help support the tribe.

(Cutting a cacao pod from the tree.)

Over time the proceeds helped finance 48 schools, more than 20 health clinics, 12 farming cooperatives, and numerous scholarships for Motilone students to attend high school and university.[2]

Then came the day in 1988 when 15 Communist guerillas kidnapped Bruce with the plan of forcing his cooperation, and convincing the Motilone to do so also. Bruce spent several months chained to a palm tree and became very ill. Somehow he survived.

One of the leaders asked Bruce to teach them how to read and write. They brought a book to Bruce, not knowing it was a New Testament. Bruce used it to teach the men to read, and many became Jesus followers.

Bruce’s health continued to deteriorate. The guerillas decided to give him a blood transfusion.

“I will give him some of my blood,” one rebel announced.

The next day he told Bruce that when he was a young child, the Motilone had given food to his widowed mother for three years, never asking for anything in return. “You saved my life,” he said, “Now, I save your life.”[3]

Months passed. No amount of mistreatment had convinced Bruce to help their cause.

One day a group stood him against a tree, announced his execution, and aimed their guns at him. But when they fired, Bruce remained unharmed. They’d shot blanks at him, expecting this final test to break him.

Sometime later one of the leaders told Bruce that capturing him had been a mistake. He hoped that Bruce could forgive them.

He promised the rebels would leave the Motilone alone, and Bruce could continue his work. After nine months of captivity, they released him.

As a result of Bruce’s long devotion to the tribe, more than 400 Motilone have graduated from high school, and over 30 from university, trained as physicians, accountants, translators, forest rangers, agriculturalists, and more. Still others have received technical training.

All have returned to their jungle communities to share their expertise within the tribe.

As of 2018, more than 70% of the Motilone tribe are following in Christ’s footsteps to the horizon.[4]

As for Bruce Olson, now 80, you’ll find him still working with the people of 18 different tribes and languages of the jungles.[5]


 Notes:

[1] https://missionexus.org/an-interview-with-bruce-olson/

[2] https://www.tms-global.org/story-details/bruchko

[3] Ibid

[4] Ibid

[5] https://www.godreports.com/2021/02/legendary-american-missionary-ate-maggots-wore-a-flea-collar-to-survive/ 

Additional Sources:

https://www.bruceolson.com/en/index.html

https://www.theopedia.com/bruce-olson

Photo credits: http://www.picryl.com; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.commons.wikipedia.org (2).

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“As followers of Jesus we have the opportunity

to live each day in wild amazement of God.”

–Margaret Feinberg[1]

Doesn’t that sound like a glorious way to live? Amazement can be a doorway to joy.

Even secular research has discovered positive effects for those who report feeling awe on a regular basis:

  • Lower markers of inflammation
  • Refreshed energy
  • Less anxiety
  • Enhanced sense of well being[2]

Now we know why God inspired King David to write: “Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles” (Psalm 105:5a). God doesn’t need our adulation; we need the recalibration that wild amazement provides.

What follows are categories of wonder and personal examples for each month of 2023. Perhaps this list will trigger memories of your own moments of wild amazement.

January—the wonder of nature

We woke up to a light snowfall that continued all day. At sundown Steve and I stood at the back window to enjoy one last time the white landscape and frosted trees when a fox trotted by, his plush tail extended gracefully behind him. Dark motion against pale stillness.

February—the wonder of friendship

Old friends since college visited for three heavenly days. The reminiscing, heart-to-heart conversation and much laughter strengthened the long-held connection between us.

March—the wonder of kindness

My cousin sent a package of family heirlooms she discovered while spring cleaning, items she thought I’d like to have. Imagine my delight to receive several handkerchiefs with tatted trim, created by our grandmother, and a needle case stitched by our great-grandmother. Such precious things to pass on to my granddaughters.

(I should have ironed them before snapping a pic!)

April—the wonder of family

When all thirteen of us gather, the house is filled with multiple, simultaneous conversations and much laughter. Beautiful noise!

May—the wonder of participation

What a happy privilege to speak hope and encouragement into the lives of others—sometimes to a group in a formal setting, sometimes to individuals over coffee-shop lattës, sometimes to a stranger.

June—the wonder of life

The daughter-in-law of dear friends posted the ultrasound image of their son, due in December. “He’s perfect,” the doctor assured them. Such glorious news after they’ve endured three miscarriages. I can only imagine their pain and sorrow, yet their faith has remained strong. (Perfect little Cam was born December first.)

July—the wonder of giving

My husband frequently blesses delivery people, wait staff, etc. with generous tips. One waitress puddled up with gratitude. After heart surgery she was behind on her bills; we had the joyful privilege of assisting her.

August—the wonder of imagination

Our five-year old granddaughter drew a picture of herself getting scratched on the leg while hiking a trail with her parents. However, the illustration didn’t depict a bush causing injury; it was an ogre.

September—the wonder of rest

Quiet time on our deck provides supreme restoration, especially when a light breeze keeps me cool and cheerful cardinals add a soundtrack. Beginning this time of year, our black walnut tree provides flashing, golden leaf showers. Mesmerizing.

(These are maple leaves, but they reflect the same golden glow as our black walnut.)

October—the wonder of miracles

Our pastor-son and his wife have served their current church for four and a half years. When they arrived, the church faced financial difficulty. But God began his good work among the people, giving increased, and they even established a savings account. Recently a dire need developed and $85,000 was required. Guess how much was in that account?!

November—the wonder of gratitude

Just this month alone, I celebrated God’s goodness for tasks completed in spite of little time, prayers answered, blessings not asked for, numerous moments of delight, laughter (especially that of our grandchildren), thoughtfulness of others, and memories of years past. “Joy doesn’t cause us to be grateful,” wrote Brother David Steindl-Rast, “joy is born out of our gratitude.”

December—the wonder of Jesus

He is our Savior and King, our Wonderful Counselor and Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace. These titles only begin to express his identity and attributes.

God is infinite, his marvelous works are infinite. What moments of wonder have come to your mind? Or perhaps you’ve thought of a whole new category. Please share in the comment section below.

Let’s begin this new year by celebrating our wild amazement of God!      


 Notes:

[1] Wonderstruck, Worthy Publishing Group, 2012, 173.

[2] https://guideposts.org/angels-and-miracles/miracles/gods-grace/why-a-sense-of-wonder-is-important/ and https://hbr.org/2021/08/why-you-need-to-protect-your-sense-of-wonder-especially-now

Photo credits: http://www.pxhere; http://www.commons.wikimedia.org; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.commons wikimedia.org; http://www.pxhere; http://www.canva.com.

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