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Archive for July, 2016

The Just Shall Live By Faith

By Stephen Ganschow

Depending on your translation of Romans 1:16-17, (I prefer the ESV, personally), specifically the latter part of verse 17, it will say something like, The just shall live by faith or The righteous shall live by faith. Who are these just and/or righteous people? Who is Paul talking about as he opens his letter to the church of Rome? I believe it is only fair to allow Paul to define who they are himself…and he does so in Romans 8:28-30 (ESV). As can be seen and understood from those passages of Scripture – Paul is speaking of God’s chosen people – those that He has sovereignly called to Himself – the Church. Those our Savior foreknew, He predestined (as in, called to these people and put the desire in their hearts to respond to Him in salvation and belief). It is these called, elect people which are justified. So circling back to chapter 1 (16-17) then – the righteous are the believing Church – and it is the truly repentant, believing church that will be positionally justified before Christ and thereby living by faith.

In Romans 1, Paul was making the point that the justified people of God, though sinners saved by His grace, only enjoy this position by faith alone. This is a pattern that can be clearly seen throughout the canon of Scripture. In (Romans 4:1-4, 11-16) Paul refers to Abraham, and how he was justified by faith alone, not by works. For if he had been justified by his works he would have something to boast about (Romans 4:2 – ESV). But that was not the case.  As verse 3 goes on to remind us, Abraham was a man of faith in God first, and a responder to that faith in action, secondarily. However, Romans is not the only book in which Paul asserts this notion of living by faith alone. In Galatians, Paul is discussing in chapter 3, the difference between living under law (legalism) and living by faith (works based theology vs. faith-based theology). He asserts here as well (Gal 3:11 – ESV), “Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for The righteous shall live by faith.’”

Friends, if you are reading this and think that your works alone will get you to Heaven, the Bible, God’s own words (2 Timothy 3:16-17 – ESV) clearly contradicts this notion. To think man can do anything worthwhile, separated from the Spirit of God, is a self-deceptive error, rooted in pride. It is by grace we are saved (from God), through faith – not at all of ourselves (Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 4:2-3 – ESV). Now, does this negate our works? Do we only need to believe and not respond in righteousness and action? Certainly not! This is what large sections of the book of James spend time elaborating on. We’re not to be a hearer of the Gospel and of God’s Word only but a doer of what it says as well (James 1:22 – ESV). And just as compassion without any follow-up action is fake, faith in Christ without the follow-up action of responding in obedience and living in a Christ-like manner is empty. It insinuates a lack of saving faith (James 2:17 – ESV). Our faith MUST be followed up by action. This is what it means when Romans 1:17 says, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’ – we will believe and respond! We will believe and obey in action. That is living by faith.

Are you living by faith? Do your actions reflect your position of justification before our Savior? And if not, what do you need to do to change? I encourage you to measure yourself against the Word of God. See what areas in which you can respond, based on your faith, in obedience. And if you need some guidance – go to church leadership, a biblical counselor, a trusted friend who is strong in the Word and faith, and / or accountability partner(s). Living the Christian life is important enough to invest time to get it right. It takes effort and commitment…desire. I pray that you will consider this in your own life and respond to Christ accordingly as I am striving to do in my own life.

Stephen Ganschow is a former FCC member, now serving as the Caring Ministries Pastor at Christ Community Church in St. Charles, Illinois.

Posted in: Biblical Counseling

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Jesus Gave His Two Cents About Money

By Matt Greco

Proverbs 23: 29 reminds us, “Do you see a man skilled in his work?  He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men.”  Scripture doesn’t qualify this statement and neither should we.  If you are skilled at whatever you do, you will stand, or you will have a place to stand, before kings.  We might not have the opportunity to actually stand in the presence of an earthly king, but someday we will all stand before THE KING. Scripture teaches us that the Lord is concerned with how well we do the work that He has given us to do.Jesus Gave His Two Cents

As I watch the World Cup, I’m impressed by the excellent condition of the pitches (the grass).  Pam and I visited South Africa in 2007 and saw the preparation the country was making to host the Cup in 2010. Those preparations are now stadiums with pitches that are among the most excellent in the entire world.  The best players from each country play on these fields and are watched by all manner of men and women, kings and queens included.

The guys that are responsible for the grass, whether it is the dirt man, the fertilizer man, the grass man, the mower man, etc… they are all standing in front of kings!  I am sure as they watch these matches they feel a pride in the job that they have done.  But, I believe, they were “skilled in their work” before they were called on to have a hand in making these fields so very beautiful.

A question I asked myself and will ask you is, “How well are you doing the job that the Lord has given you to do?”  No matter if you are a butcher, a baker, a candlestick maker, etc… we are to work according to Colossians 3: 17, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.”   As men, we were created to honor God in our work!

Matt Greco is the Headmaster of Faith Christian Academy.

Posted in: Christian Living, Men's Ministry

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Book Review: Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther

Book by Roland H. Bainton, Abindon Press, 1950luther

Review by Susan Verstraete

It was the moment he had been waiting for. His father was in the audience watching, as were his fellow monks. It was time for Martin to offer his first mass, and he was overwhelmed with the solemnity of the event. He led the congregation, saying, “We offer unto Thee, the living, the true, the eternal God.” Suddenly Martin froze. He couldn’t go on. He later wrote:

At these words I was utterly stupefied and terror-stricken. I thought to myself, “With what tongue shall I address such majesty, seeing that all men ought to tremble in the presence of even an earthly prince. Who am I, that I should lift up my mine eyes or raise my hands to the Divine Majesty? . . . For I am dust and ashes and full of sin and I am speaking to the living, eternal and true God.”

This glimpse of truth about the holiness of God and the sinfulness of man changed Luther forever.

First, Luther began to look for antidotes for his own sinfulness. He was already a monk, and spent his days in prayer and service. Still, as he looked at his life closely, he found sins in thought, word and deed.  In the monastery, Luther spent up to six hours a day confessing his sins to a priest. But later, he would always remember sins he had forgotten to confess.  Questions nagged at him.  If only confessed sins were forgiven, what would happen if he forgot one? What about all the sins he might have committed in ignorance? Luther began to see that his sinful actions were like smallpox pustules – a nasty, external manifestation of the internal, systemic disease of sin.

He fasted for days and refused blankets at night, believing that he earned merit with God through these sufferings. One day he might proudly say, “I have done nothing wrong today.” But on reflection, he wondered if he had indeed fasted enough, prayed enough, suffered enough and served enough.  During a visit to Rome, he climbed a staircase on his knees, saying a prayer on each step. The Catholic Church promised that this was a means of grace. But when he got to the top, he wondered aloud, “Who knows whether it is so?”  Luther later described this time: “I was myself more than once driven to the very abyss of despair, so that I wished I had never been created.” He was in torment.

Luther threw himself into study, hoping to distract himself by preparing a series of lectures on the Psalms and Romans. And there, in the Word, he found the answer.

I greatly longed to understand Paul’s Epistle to the Romans and nothing stood in the way but that one expression, “The justice of God”… Night and day I pondered until I saw the connection between the justice of God and the statement that “the just shall live by faith.” Then I grasped that the justice of God is that righteousness by which through grace and sheer mercy God justifies us through faith. Thereupon I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise.

That was the missing piece, the reason sinful humans could love God—the doctrine of justification by faith. And this rediscovery led to a wildfire of revival across Europe called “The Reformation.” It changed the world forever.

Roland Bainton tells the rest of Luther’s story in his elegant and compelling biography, Here I Stand. This book is available on the FCC bookshelf, or may be read for free through Google Books.

I would also like to recommend the movie version of Luther’s life, Luther, starring Joseph Fiennes (2003), available through the Mid-Continent Public Library system or at Amazon.com.

Susan Verstraete is a member of FCC and serves as church secretary.

Posted in: Book Review

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The Violent Grace of God

BY STEPHEN GANSCHOW

Psalm 51:8: “Let the bones you have broken rejoice.”viol

As humans, we are all born with an inherent, evil called our “sin nature.” This is stated very clearly in Romans 5:12, which says “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” Because of our sin nature, we have wicked and self-righteous tendencies toward wrongdoing, as well as justifying that wrongdoing by excusing our sins. In order to change this, the Lord blesses us with what Paul David Tripp refers to as “violent grace” in his book, “Whiter Than Snow.” Violent grace is God’s way of crushing our sin out of us. It’s His way of refining us – as the potter does the clay, in molding it to the perfect shape. This perfect shape is that of Christ-likeness.

This is consistent with God’s overall character throughout the canon of Scripture. We must remember Deuteronomy 28:63a – which discusses God’s action and thoughts toward Israel when they too, chose to rebel in sin: “And as the LORD took delight in doing you good and multiplying you, so the LORD will take delight in bringing ruin upon you and destroying you.” God loves all His people enough to punish and chase us (Hebrews 12). He does this, not to cause us harm, but truly because He loves us dearly and desires to instill biblical character (Galatians 5:22-25) within us. This, in turn, conforms us to look more and more like the image of Christ – which is the calling of the Christian life!

Are you experiencing the violent grace of Jesus Christ? Do you see Him working in and around you? Do you see Him forming and reforming you – breaking down the walls of sin that we all build around us? Is He refining you in the Refiners fire? Let me encourage you – embrace this grace! Ask the Lord to give you the willingness and desire to conform and grow in the direction He’s taking you. Ask Him to instill this desire within you, and then choose to embrace a steadfast spirit as the Lord makes you more and more like Him.

I’d ask that you pray something similar to this, if you believe the Lord is moving within you, in this way: God – as we all struggle to embrace heart change, and not just behavior change, please instill in us the desire to embrace the growth You are causing. Please give us the desire to be more like You! Father…help us to embrace Your violent grace, and use it as a tool for Your service and Your glory.

Stephen Ganschow is a former FCC member, now serving as the Caring Ministries Pastor at Christ Community Church in St. Charles, Illinois.

Posted in: Biblical Counseling

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Partners for Life

By John Worley

Partners in marriageMarriage Retreat Ministry Web Banner

partners in life.

Partners prepared to handle

responsibility or strife.

Partners who learn together

to lean on the Lord.

Partners whose course through life

is based on His Word.

Partners together

through all the tough times.

Partners who trust each other

at all times.

Partners in whose love

each finds fulfillment.

Partners for Christ

in whose Lordship

both have contentment.

 

John Worley was an elder at FCC from 1996-2016. John went home to be with the Lord in 2016.

Posted in: Poetry

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Home Management 101

BY ANGELA SWAIN

Home Management. These two simple words can evoke a range of emotions and describe many different kinds of experiences—excitement, success, failure, and even stress! Whether single or married; with or without children; young or old; home-owner or home-renter; large bank account or small, most of us desire to manage the stuff-of-life well. We want to be good stewards and be found faithful with all the Lord has given to us or entrusted to our care. From health and home maintenance, monthly budgets, retirement savings, daily schedules and meal planning, to ministering to the needs of others and loving well the people in our lives, this ever-growing list of desires and responsibilities can leave us feeling overwhelmed and exhausted—especially during seasons of sacrifice. Knowing how best to steward over these areas requires wisdom and help, yet there are as many different definitions, opinions, and philosophies on the subject of home management as there is air time on talk radio or shelf space at the local bookstore.

An Improvised Laundry - Princess Beatrice Camp Beaumarais, Calais by Beatrice Lithiby (OBE) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

An Improvised Laundry

I am certainly no expert on the subject.  Even now there exists a mountain-sized pile of unfolded clothes on my dining-room table.  Thanks to a disorganized and cluttered (again) back-door entry, along with another rousing game of “find-the-kid’s-missing-belts-and-shoes,” I lost my temper—en route to church! And despite our poignant efforts to eat healthier and watch our food budget, my children received yet another dose of the golden arches. After all, my overloaded calendar didn’t account for dinner on this week’s busiest night.

But no matter my royal mess-ups or continued failures, I have learned some valuable home-management lessons over the years. Thanks to the wisdom, counsel, humility, and transparency of some amazing women in my life, I have learned a key lesson which undergirds everything I do as I strive to be a good steward. While I do think it is critical to develop a gospel-focused philosophy of stewardship and also create and implement a practical plan for managing the home, the greatest lesson cuts to the heart of the matter: learning to be content.

Better a little with fear of the Lord than great treasure with turmoil.  Proverbs 15:16

Mary Cassatt [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Young Mother Sewing by Mary Cassatt

Stewardship describes our responsibility as believers. Webster’s dictionary defines it this way: “the conducting, supervising, or managing of something; especially the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care.” Stewarding over what we have been given involves more than mere oversight. When we consider how best we may care for the things God has graciously given to us, it is important to realize that we can only do so with humble hearts of thankfulness. Such hearts will recognize from whom these various gifts and resources came and on whom the spotlight will shine when they are cared for well and carry out their divine purpose. From food, clothing, and shelter to relationships, how we use our time, and seasons of testing or renewal—all that we have, all that we need, and all that we experience is a precious gift from a Sovereign and Gracious God. Even our act of obedience and worship through tithing echoes the same. “…who has ever first given to Him and has to be repaid? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 11:35-36).

The Apostle Paul also helps us connect a direct line between recognizing this sovereign rule in our lives and being content with what we have when, in Philippians 4:11-13, he states,

“I don’t say this out of need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know both how to have a little and…a lot.  In any and all circumstances, I have learned the secret of being content—whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. I am able to do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Contentment is often considered a state of being happy or satisfied. Certainly, Christ was Paul’s portion, and he was satisfied—never striving after vain things. In fact, any gain to him he considered loss “in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord . . . so that I may gain Christ and be found in Him” (Philippians 3:8-9).

But that’s not all Paul has to say about the subject. In 1 Timothy chapter 6, Paul teaches that if godliness is not promoted in either doctrine or in teaching, there runs the risk of believers becoming discontent. And discontent, he warns, leads to a whole host of potential sins—from ongoing envy to a form of godliness used as a means to gain material possession.  But the form of godliness with contentment, he says to us, is a great gain! To this, he admonishes us to “avoid the foolish and harmful desires and temptations which plunge people into ruin and destruction—that by doing so, we may be kept from wandering away from the faith or being pierced by many pains” (1 Timothy 6:9-10). Most importantly, He reminds us of our humble and needy status before a holy and sovereign God, “For we brought nothing into the world and we can take nothing out. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these” (1 Timothy 6:7-8).

Rembrandt [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Rembrandt, St Paul At His Writing Desk

Paul is not the only one who recognized God’s sovereignty over circumstance and possessions.  You may also recall that Job, after hearing the final bit of news regarding his profound and tragic loss of both material possessions and family members, “…stood up, tore his robe…fell to the ground and worshiped, saying: ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will leave this life. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Praise the name of Yaweh!’” (Job 1:21).

What about you, friend? Do you find yourself in a difficult season?  Do you have a physical need? A deep spiritual need? Perhaps you have plenty. Or, are you dealing with pride or sense of dissatisfaction—wanting more or struggling with your portion? For what are you waiting upon the Lord? Do you have a heart of thankfulness in any season?

I admonish you to remember that your ultimate act of stewardship is entrusting your soul to God’s sovereign watch-care.  To love Him. To serve Him. To obey Him. To trust Him completely. He is a good Father who longs for each of us, as believers, to look more and more like Christ. And it is Christ Himself who reminds us not to worry about our needs but to seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness. May we forever “…be content with what you have, for He Himself has said, ‘I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you’” (Hebrews 13:5).

Angela Swain is a member of FCC.

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Posted in: Women's Ministry

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Screwtape On Patriotism

By John Philip Sousa (Library of Congress[1]) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

LOVE me some Sousa!

Happy Independence Day. It’s certainly been an interesting year so far, hasn’t it? Some of us are totally stoked about our country, some of us are reevaluating our entire political philosophies, and some of us wish for simpler times where sparklers and watermelon and the Star Spangled Banner were easier to enjoy.

Wherever you are this Independence Day, remember that there’s always more happening than what you can see.

In case the work is unknown to you, C.S. Lewis wrote a book called The Screwtape Letters, a fictional collection of correspondence between a demon named Screwtape to his understudy and nephew Wormwood. The whole book is available for free, here: The Screwtape Letters

 

Screwtape has some advice for Wormwood regarding patriotism. He refers to a “patient,” a man to whom Wormwood has been assigned, to keep him from Christ. The “Enemy,” from the demon’s perspective, is Christ. “Down here” refers to Hell.

MY DEAR WORMWOOD…
I had not forgotten my promise to consider whether we should make the patient an extreme patriot or an extreme pacifist. All extremes, except extreme devotion to the Enemy, are to be encouraged. Not always, of course, but at this period. Some ages are lukewarm and complacent, and then it is our business to soothe them yet faster asleep. Other ages, of which the present is one, are unbalanced and prone to faction, and it is our business to inflame them. Any small coterie, bound together by some interest which other men dislike or ignore, tends to develop inside itself a hothouse mutual admiration, and towards the outer world, a great deal of pride and hatred which is entertained without shame because the “Cause” is its sponsor and it is thought to be impersonal. Even when the little group exists originally for the Enemy’s own purposes, this remains true. We want the Church to be small not only that fewer men may know the Enemy but also that those who do may acquire the uneasy intensity and the defensive self-rightousness of a secret society or a clique. The Church herself is, of course, heavily defended and we have never yet quite succeeded in giving her all the characteristics of a faction; but subordinate factions within her have often produced admirable results, from the parties of Paul and of Apollos at Corinth down to the High and Low parties in the Church of England.

If your patient can be induced to become a conscientious objector he will automatically find himself one of a small, vocal, organised, unpopular society, and the effects of this, on one so new to Christianity, will almost certainly be good. But only almost certainly. Has he had serious doubts about the lawfulness serving in a just war before this present war of serving began? Is he a man of great physical courage—so great that he will have no half-conscious misgivings about the real motives of his pacifism? Can he, when nearest to honesty (no human is ever very near), feel fully convinced that he actuated wholly by the desire to obey the Enemy? If he is that sort of man, his pacifism will probably not do us much good, and the Enemy will probably protect him from the usual consequences of belonging to a sect. Your best plan, in that case, would be to attempt a sudden, confused, emotional crisis from which he might emerge as an uneasy convert to patriotism. Such things can often be managed. But if he is the man I take him to be, try Pacifism.

Whichever he adopts, your main task will be the same. Let him begin by treating the Patriotism or the Pacifism as a part of his religion. Then let him, under the influence of partisan spirit, come to regard it as the most important part. Then quietly and gradually nurse him on to the stage at which the religion becomes merely part of the “cause”, in which Christianity is valued chiefly because of the excellent arguments it can produce in favour of the British war-effort or of Pacifism. The attitude which you want to guard against is that in which temporal affairs are treated primarily as material for obedience. Once you have made the World an end, and faith a means, you have almost won your man, and it makes very little difference what kind of worldly end he is pursuing. Provided that meetings, pamphlets, policies, movements, causes, and crusades, matter more to him than prayers and sacraments and charity, he is ours—and the more “religious” (on those terms) the more securely ours. I could show you a pretty cageful down here.

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