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“I Never Made a Sacrifice” : Hudson Taylor

Hudson Taylor in Early Years, The Growth of a Soul and Hudson Taylor and the China Inland Mission, The Growth of a Work of God

By Dr. and Mrs. Howard Taylor, OMF International Publishing, 1911, 2005800px-hudsontaylorin1893

James and Amelia Taylor loved their children and, like all doting parents, they enjoyed giving them little treats on occasion. But once in a while, when Amelia brought a dessert to the table for her family, James would say, “Who will see if they can do without today?” He explained it to the children this way:

By and by, you will have to say “No” to yourself when we are not there to help you, and very difficult you will find it when you want a thing tremendously. So let us try to practice now, for the sooner you begin, the stronger will be the habit.

The children were not punished if they chose not to give up the sweet, but if they were able to go the entire day without it they were rewarded with some other treat and most importantly, with the loving approval of their parents. Hudson Taylor took this lesson to heart and learned early how to say “no” to himself. He went on to live a life characterized by self-denial for the sake of the gospel, and yet, when he looked back over his long life he said, “I never made a sacrifice.” How could he honestly say such a thing?

From his conversion in his teens, Hudson Taylor had a deep passion for God and desire to serve him as a missionary in China. All through his young adulthood his focus on this goal never failed. Most of China’s inland cities had never seen a foreign missionary and a million Chinese each month were dying without having heard the gospel. Taylor could not understand how any believer could be unmoved in the face of such staggering need. He left his home in Barnsley in 1850 to study medicine in London, planning to go to China at the first opportunity as a medical missionary.

Taylor chose to live among the poor in the slums of London in order to devote as much of his small income as possible to medicines and tracts to alleviate both the physical and spiritual suffering of the community. The damp, smelly neighborhood (aptly named Drainside) in which he rented a room was a full four miles from the hospital, which meant Taylor had at least an hour’s brisk walk each way in every kind of weather. He willingly made that sacrifice to serve the poor.

During his studies at the hospital, Taylor was required to dissect a cadaver. While working on a particularly dangerous specimen, a small open wound on Taylor’s finger allowed contaminants from the cadaver to enter his own blood stream. He became ill almost immediately. As soon as the teacher on duty learned what had happened and diagnosed “malignant fever,” he urged Taylor to hurry home to get his affairs in order. “You are a dead man,” he said grimly, expecting Taylor to die within hours. And though Taylor did get very sick, he recovered fully. The physician who cared for him credited Taylor’s careful lifestyle and his long walks to and from the hospital as giving him the stamina to survive. Suddenly, his choice to live in Drainside didn’t seem like a sacrifice.

During this same period of Taylor’s life, the woman he loved refused to marry him unless he gave up his dream of serving in China. Taylor ended this relationship with tears. He trusted that God (like his parents at the dinner table) would have something better for him later if he denied himself for the sake of the gospel. And his faith proved true. God provided a wife in China—one who shared his passion for missionary work. Maria grew up in China, the daughter of English missionaries in Shanghai. She was as fluent in Mandarin as she was in English and became great help and comfort in Taylor’s work. “It never cooled, my love for her,” he said forty years later—”It has not cooled now.” The relationship he gave up in London no longer seemed like a sacrifice.

In China, Taylor found that to gain an audience with the people, he first needed to give up his European dress and customs. He adopted a pigtail and chopsticks and traveled from town to town, living in boats, in small shacks or in attic garrets, usually battling insects and vermin. Once, on a journey to an inland city, he was robbed of his traveling bed, spare clothes, surgical instruments, and a Bible given to him by his mother. Taylor decided not to prosecute the thief because of the harsh Chinese penal system, but wrote the culprit a letter instead, urging him to repent. He described his plea to the errant servant in a letter sent home to England. That letter somehow fell into the hands of George Mueller of Bristol. He was so impressed by the spirit of the writer that he became a supporter of the mission. Taylor’s sacrifice of the right to prosecute the man who stole his bed resulted in a supporter who would provide over $10,000 per year for the mission and would be a friend and advisor in times of trial. Looking back, giving up the right to justice did not seem like a sacrifice.

Taylor endured many hardships including arrests, insults, slander and poverty, but lived his life believing what Christ said in Mark 10:29 and 30—that if we give up anything for the sake of the gospel we will receive blessings one hundred times better in this life, and eternal life in the world to come. With that perspective, he could truly say, “I never made a sacrifice.”

There are dozens of Hudson Taylor biographies on the market, but I recommend the two-volume set written by Taylor’s son, Hudson Taylor in Early Years, The Growth of a Soul and Hudson Taylor and the China Inland Mission, The Growth of a Work of God. Both volumes are available to read free through Google books, listen free at http://www.archive.org/details/HudsonTaylor-InEarlyYears-TheGrowthOfASoul-FreeChristianAudio , Amazon sells the
Kindle version for $1.99 per volume, or you can get both volumes from Taylor’s ministry at http://www.omfbooks.com/  for about $30.

 

Review by Susan Verstraete, church secretary at FCC.

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Give Me That Old Time(rs) Religion

By Matt Greco

During the time I was a Pastor in Argentina, the church was preparing to go on its 7th short term trip.  I was approached by some good friends who had an “elderly” friend from the States who wanted to be a part of the trip.  I wanted to be polite, but the last thing I needed on a trip was an elderly person who could not pull their own weight.  My friends assured me this lady would not be a problem.

The trip was during a very hot summer and in a slum.  When the elderly lady arrived, I will call her Marilyn, the first thing she said to me was that she was tired from the flight and from the heat and that she needed to do something where she could sit.  “GREAT!” I thought, “Just like I imagined.  Just stay out of my way,” I said to myself as I tried to smile and be the example of spiritual understanding.old-timers-religion

So what did she do?  She brought a chair over and sat down next to me!  “COME ON LORD, I DON’T NEED THIS, I HAVE A CHURCH TO PAINT,” I thought to myself.  Was this lady going to sit and watch me paint during the next 10 days?  Then she said, “I noticed that when you paint the wall that you do great on the higher parts, but it is harder for you from your knees down.  How about if I just come along after you and paint the lower parts?” What a blessing she was to me for the next ten days as I did not have to stoop over and paint where she could reach from sitting down!  But it doesn’t stop there.

She started to buy fruit for the slum children when they would come to our outreach services.  For pennies, she could get each child a piece of fruit.  Marilyn took this idea back to the States with her and started, “Pennies for Fruit” at her church.  Since then her idea has spread to other churches and she has sent hundreds and hundreds of dollars to that church in Argentina to help feed the children physically as the church feeds them spiritually.  All from a person who I didn’t think should come on our trip!!

These Scriptures came to mind:
(1 Samuel 16:7) – But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

(Romans 10:13–15) ….for “WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.”  How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed?  How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard?  And how will they hear without a preacher?  How will they preach unless they are sent?  Just as it is written, “HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS!”  If you cannot go, then be involved in sending!

Matt Greco is the headmaster of Faith Christian Academy.

Posted in: Christian Living

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Book Review: Issac Watts Remembered

Book by David Fountain, Joshua Press, Canada 1998 ISBN # 090355657x

Isaac had butterflies in his stomach as he paced nervously around the room. Today was the day he would meet Elizabeth Singer for the first time. Several months ago Elizabeth, a noted poet in her own right, wrote to tell Isaac how moved she was by his work. Isaac replied, and through the next several months of correspondence the two fell in love—there was even talk of marriage.

Isaac Watts was a natural poet. As a young child, his odd habit of conversing entirely in rhyme sometimes annoyed his parents. Rhyming had become so natural for him that when faced with a Isaac_Wattswhipping for his incessant verse, he said without thinking:

O Father, do some pity take,
And I will no more verses make.
His gift for language was as obvious in the pulpit as it was in his poetry. Isaac Watts preached his first sermon on his 24th birthday, July 17, 1698, in the Mark Lane Church (later called the Bury Street Church) in London. The church immediately realized his talent and devotion and hired Watts as a teacher, then later as their pastor. Even though he was often ill and unable to serve the congregation, they wisely and kindly continued to keep him on staff.

Isaac’s love of beauty in the written word caused him to cringe at the ugly and unpolished versions of the Psalms sung in the churches of his time. He complained to his father that they were not befitting the solemn dignity and beauty of the worship service and were an unfit offering to God. When his father charged him to either stop complaining or write something better, Watts accepted the challenge. Hymn writing became his passion. His congregation happily accepted the new songs, though some church leaders opposed his efforts to modify the existing clumsy church hymnody so that, as Samuel Johnson said, “elegance might consist with piety.”

Ironically, though Isaac had great love for beauty, his personal appearance was anything but lovely. He was only about five feet tall, with yellowish skin. His head was disproportionately large for his frail body, and boasted a large, hooked nose and small gray eyes.

Indeed, when he did meet Elizabeth Singer in person, she could not get past his looks. And when he offered marriage, she turned him down. “If only,” she lamented, “I could say that I admire the casket as much as I admire the jewel it contains.” Disappointed, Watts contented himself to be her friend and remained unmarried for the rest of his life. He accepted that the Divine Hand of Providence worked even in this rejection. Later, in writing to a friend he said:

I am persuaded, that in a future state we shall take a sweet review of those scenes of providence, which have been involved in the thickest darkness, and trace those footsteps of God when he walked with us through deepest waters. This will be a surprising delight . . . to have those perplexing riddles laid open to the eyes of our souls, and read the full meaning of them in set characters of wisdom and grace.

And so, through this Divine Providence, Elizabeth Singer missed the chance to marry the man some call the most influential of his generation. For certainly God and the church did not reject Isaac Watts for his lack of physical beauty. Open any hymnbook in the English-speaking world and you will nearly always find one, if not a score, of the 600 hymns written by Isaac Watts during his lifetime. Some of the more popular include “Joy to the World,” “O God Our Help in Ages Past,” “I Sing the Mighty Power of God,” and “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.” His hymns became anthems for the Great Awakening and are still popular over 300 years later. As George MacDonald said, “Some of his hymns will be sung, I fancy, so long as men praise God together.”

In addition to his work as the “Father of English Hymnody,” Isaac Watts published 52 items on diverse subjects including astronomy, psychology, grammar, and logic. He held a long correspondence with Jonathan Edwards during the Great Awakening in the colonial United States and commissioned Edwards’ detailed description of those events. Watts’ friends included such notable figures as John and Charles Wesley, George Whitefield, Lady Huntingdon and Cotton Mather. Benjamin Franklin published a book of Watts’ hymns. C. H. Spurgeon grew up learning Watts’ catechism and hymns and recommended both to his congregation.

Isaac Watts said, “The mind’s the measure of the man.” If this is true, the diminutive pastor Isaac Watts was a giant.

David Fountain’s small book (111 pages) is a fascinating introduction to Watts’ life. He includes correspondence, poetry, glimpses into Watts’ personal life and examples of his continuing legacy. This book is available from Amazon.com.

Susan Verstraete is the church secretary at Faith Community Church.

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COULD I WRITE ABOUT IT IN A COUNTRY AND WESTERN SONG?

By Matt Greco

Most of you know who Tim McGraw is but until I returned from Argentina, I was not sure who he was.  Tim McGraw is a MEGA SUPERSTAR in the entertainment world.  He dominates the Country & Western music scene (over 40,000,000 sold), has had several crossover musical successes, has had critical acclaim in the movies (he was the dad in both Friday Night Lights and The Blind Side), and has his star on the Hollywood walk of fame.  To use a sports example, he has hit over 500 home runs in pro baseball, he is a stand out for the special teams in pro football, and he has made the team in pro basketball!mcgraw

I had a chance to meet Mr. McGraw when he was in town giving a concert.  His tour manager is the sister of my wife’s best friend (no kidding), so we got backstage passes and free barbeque! My family and I had about three minutes with the guy.  I asked him how he managed to be a performer and a family man. He told me that he and his wife (superstar Faith Hill) never tour at the same time.  He said that way he can focus on work on the road and focus on the family at home.

Then he asks me what I did and I told him I worked for a Christian school and a church. For about 30 seconds he lost the aura of Country & Western / Hollywood superstar and he asks, “Do you have any advice for dealing with a 13-year-old daughter?”  I looked at him and said, “Prayer!” He smiled and nodded and it was about then he had to leave and go do his show.

In those moments I realized that Tim McGraw and I were exactly alike.  Well, he is younger, better looking, world famous, rich, can sing, and can act, but other than that we are alike.  He worries about things that money, fame, and a great singing voice can’t solve.  Both of us are concerned about how to raise our children, how to do our jobs, and how to lead our families.  If we had had more time we might have talked about other things.

Now I may never get another chance to talk to Tim McGraw or anybody else famous, but I will interact and talk to hundreds of people every year and so will you.  You can bet that they worry about their children, their marriages, their jobs, what happens when they die, etc…!  We can help them find the answer because we have a relationship with the answer and the answer is Jesus!

JOHN14: 6JESUS IS THE WAY, AND THE TRUTH AND THE LIFE.   Jesus sets the standard when He said that He is the way, the truth, and the life.  There is no problem that Jesus cannot handle.  Whatever the circumstance, large or small, Jesus is the answer.  Do you know this?  Do you understand this?  Do you live this?  Could you explain it to someone who asked you?

1 PETER 3:15 – BE PREPARE TO GIVE AN ANSWER. As believers, we have a personal and intimate relationship with Jesus and through that relationship we have hope.  Peter instructs us to be prepared to give an answer to those who ask about the hope we have, but to answer in a respectful and gentle way.  Whether we are talking to the famous or the infamous, the rich or the poor or anyone in between, we can and should share the wonderful answer that Jesus Christ is for all who believe.

Matt Greco is a member of FCC and the headmaster of Faith Christian Academy.

Posted in: Christian Living, Men's Ministry

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The Most Depressing Day of the Year

By Dr. Timothy Juhnke

Recently, a psychologist from the UK made headlines when he announced that Monday, January 24, was the most depressing day of the year. Dr. Cliff Arnall devised a formula that was used to determine people’s lowest point. He used the Formula:

[W + (D-d)] x TO
M x NA

A Reporter explained the formula like this: “The equation is broken down into seven variables:

  • (W) weather
  • (D) debt
  • (d) monthly salary
  • (T) time since Christmas
  • (Q) time since failed quit attempt [i.e. failed New Year’s resolutions]
  • (M) low motivational levels
  • (NA) the need to take action”

According to the article, Arnall devised the formula for a travel company that wanted to know the peak times that people book vacation getaways. Wow, nothing like adding an exotic vacation that you can’t afford to help you feel better when you are depressed!

I don’t mean to make fun of people’s depression and anxiety. It is a serious problem, especially if you suffer from it. But the truth is that the world has little hope of finding a lasting solution. Compiling debt to treat the blues only compounds the problem. Similarly, medicating depression and anxiety with pharmaceutical drugs or other substances only treats the symptoms, not  the cause.

Christians are not immune from depression, especially if they engage in the same destructive financial and emotional behaviors as unbelievers. But the believer possesses a solution; we have a prescription from God Himself. When believers focus their attention on the Lord (and repent of sinful behaviors when necessary) they have this promise:

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you because he trusts in You. (Isaiah 26:3)

This is the only lasting prescription for peace. I have used it in heavy doses. I am thankful for that the law of diminishing returns doesn’t apply to Scripture and that we could never overdose on it. I am a living testimony that the promise of this verse works better than any drug the world could offer. I have literally experienced physical relief from anxiety as I clung to that verse. And the beauty of it is that there are no side effects. Stay your mind on Jehovah and He will keep you in perfect peace.

Dr. Timothy Juhnke is the Senior Pastor of Faith Community Church

Posted in: Biblical Counseling, Christian Living, Pastor Tim

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Book Review: Righteous Sinners

Review by Susan Verstraete

Righteous Sinners: The Believer’s Struggle with Faith, Grace and Works

Ron Julian, Navpress, 1998righteoussinners

Ron Julian freely admits that, like Martin Luther, he was driven to understand the Bible out of knowledge of his own sinfulness and moral weakness.  As a young believer, his teachers encouraged that if he “let go and let God” he could have complete victory over sins like selfishness and lust.  But though Julian had faith in God, believed the truth of the Gospel and wanted nothing more than to be free from sin, it didn’t work. He still struggled with sin, just as you and I do.  The teachers questioned his salvation, and Julian began to question their teaching.  He spent the next 25 years searching the Bible for the answer to his dilemma. How can God call sinful human beings—those of us who fail over and over— “righteous”? Righteous Sinners is the result.

It’s easy to fall into an unbiblical ditch either on one side or another of this issue. On the one hand, we might be tempted to constantly doubt our salvation because of remaining sin in our lives. On the other hand, we might believe that because God declares us righteous by grace and apart from works, intense struggle with habitual sin is unnecessary. Julian navigates safely between these two ditches, and gives us a balanced, biblical understanding of the role of trials, works, grace and the sovereignty of God in the lives of believers.

Ron Julian is a teacher at the McKenzie Study Center in Eugene, Oregon.  Incidentally, he has a direct tie to FCC, since he’s the father-in-law to Matt Greco’s son, Gil. His book is available through Amazon.com.

 

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

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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.

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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.

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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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