Through Him all things were made;

…without Him nothing was made that has been made. John 1:3

Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made.” (John 1:3) I remember almost 30 years ago, when God begin working in my life. It was the year before I received Christ as my Lord and Savior and as I was reading a Christian book, I remember pausing for a moment and saying “yes Jesus.”

This is a guest post by Beth Harris. She is a wife, mother, Bible study leader and volunteer editor for markalanwilliams.net.   

Then I stepped outside and I saw the trees in a whole new way. I noticed the leaves gently blowing in the breeze and I had this strong realization for the first time that they were alive. I suppose I had always thought of trees as one dimensional and inanimate objects.

But that day and moment, I remember thinking God is real and I am surrounded by life.

Why 500 Years of Catholic & Protestant Church Separation?

5 Solas of the Reformation and why they are essential.

Times of church separation can be awful, such as when the church I was raised in went through a split during my senior year of high school. It was devastating. But sometimes a separation is necessary to reform an unhealthy situation. Such was the case with the Reformation, which is often considered to have launched on October 31, 1517 when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses on the door of the Wittenberg Castle church. The theses were tenants of change needed to reform the Roman Catholic Church (RCC).

This is our son Danny in front of the building in downtown Copenhagen. Can you read the inscription: “Soli Deo Gloria?”

Luther was not the only reformer, nor necessarily the best. Other reformers included John Calvin, John Hus, Huldrych Zwingli, Peter Waldo, John Knox and John Wycliffe. In fact, later in life Luther himself made mistakes and said things that Christians must repudiate. However, in general, the Reformation of the church was necessary and included reforms that we need to learn from today.

The Roman Catholic Church has accomplished remarkable good, while at the same time has needed immense reform. Here are some of the things I admire about the Roman Catholic Church:

  1. Remarkable acts of charity over the centuries and continuing until today.
  2. The sense of history and tradition.
  3. An officially consistent pro-life
  4. Missionary outreaches over the centuries.

But there were and are some issues of great concern. These issues resulted in the Reformation and church separation into many denominations such as the Lutherans, Presbyterians, Reformed, Anglican, and so on.

I recently wrote about the importance of not majoring on minors. But the issues of the Reformation were definitely not minor and deserve a review on this 500th anniversary.

So, in this article I’d like to cover 5 of the most essential reforms, which have come to be known as the 5 solas.

Here are the five solas of the reformation and why they necessitated a church separation:

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.

How can we drive out darkness from this dark world we live in? Martin Luther King Jr. answers that question in this great quote. Darkness cannot drive out darkness and hate cannot drive out hate. Only the light can drive out darkness and only love can drive out hate.

This is a guest post by Beth Harris. She is a wife, mother, Bible study leader and volunteer editor for markalanwilliams.net.

On August 21, 2017, we had a solar eclipse that was visible here in the United States. This occurred because the moon came between the earth and the sun, blocking the sun’s light and causing the sky to darken for a few minutes. Then as the moon continued its orbit, the sun became visible again, driving out the darkness and revealing the light of day once more.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness because we need the light of the sun to do so. But, what if the sun had not reappeared and we were stuck in darkness? I realized how dependent we are on the sun for its light, heat and to grow the food that we eat. The sun is so powerful and essential for life.

Leave the broken, irreversible past in God’s hands…

…and step out into the invincible future with Him.

This quote by Oswald Chambers is a welcome invitation for us to leave the broken, irreversible past with God and step into the invincible future with Him.

This is a guest post by Beth Harris. She is a wife, mother, Bible study leader and volunteer editor for markalanwilliams.net.

On New Year’s Day, January 1, 1989, I attended a Presbyterian Church service that was refreshingly different. The music was upbeat and the band sang a song about saying goodbye to the past and moving forward in keeping with the theme of the day.

 

The Pastor spoke about how people look forward to a new year because they enjoy having a clean slate and a fresh start in life. He explained that in the same way, because of Jesus’ death on the cross, a person can be forgiven for all of their sins, have a fresh start and a new life in Him that lasts for all eternity.

 

The music and the message were medicine for my soul. I wanted forgiveness and a new life with Christ, so I went home and prayed asking Him to forgive my sins and become my Lord and Savior.

In trouble to be troubled…

…is to have your trouble doubled.

When we are in trouble, the last thing we need is to have it doubled. But, so often that can happen if we react to our problems with anxiety and worry. The unintended result is that we double our trouble and make things worse.

This is a guest post by Beth Harris. She is a wife, mother, Bible study leader and volunteer editor for markalanwilliams.net.

It is so natural and human to become troubled when we encounter trouble and I am certainly no exception. But, by the grace of God, I believe I have learned some helpful tools.

In addition to daily prayer and Bible reading, I use Google as a quick way to locate Bible verses. Recently, I have been searching for verses on hope. Biblegateway.com and other Bible websites have key word search options to locate verses and have Bible commentaries as well.

In addition, watching and listening to the news can cause me to feel troubled. So, I limit myself and only watch the local and world news once each day. Some days I only watch one or the other but I don’t re-watch the news. I pray as I watch and then change the channel or turn off the television when I am done for the day.

We will all experience trouble in varying degrees as a result of living in a sinful and fallen world. Sometimes we are victims of another person’s actions and other times we bring it on ourselves.

Regardless of the source, the Bible clearly tells us that we can expect trouble in this world and in life.

Jesus said in John 16:33, “In this world you will have trouble.” (NIV)

And Job 14:1 says, 

Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;

His greatness no one can fathom.

The Lord is great and most worthy of praise. We bless the Lord when we praise Him and He always deserves and merits the highest honor, reverence and admiration that we can give to Him. Indeed, His greatness is beyond our understanding.

This is a guest post by Beth Harris. She is a wife, mother, Bible study leader and volunteer editor for markalanwilliams.net

Did you know that praise is a gift from the Lord because it honors Him and it blesses us as well? Praise is so powerful. It is a tool, a weapon, an atmosphere changer and an attitude adjuster. It really is!

Whenever I feel discouraged or downcast I usually need an attitude adjustment and so I begin to praise the Lord. This helps me to take my mind off my problems and direct my thoughts toward Him and as a result my outlook improves.

I enjoy praising the Lord with music particularly on my morning walks and when I’m in my car. I find that singing along with the Gospel station songs is always so uplifting. Why? Because praising the Lord reminds me of His goodness and faithfulness. As a result, I feel more hopeful.

The Lord is worthy of praise because of who He is and all that He does for us. He is worthy of praise because He is worthy of glory.

Let’s Stop Majoring on Minors in the Christian Life

The difference between biblical essentials and nonessentials.

Recently a friend related how he was nearly kicked out of his friend’s house for apparently majoring on minors of the Christian life. It seems that he was insisting on what seem to be relatively minor theological points. Later when relating the encounter, he explained that this was a fairly normal experience for him. He said that he has a “prophetic” gifting that compels him to confront.

(this is not the friend referred to in this article)

The issue, it seems to me, is not a prophetic gifting, so much as it is majoring on minors and doing so insistently and ungraciously. But my friend isn’t the only Christian doing this. Many Christians bicker and sometimes separate over minor issues of difference, majoring on minors in the Christian life.

So, what’s the answer? The best way I’ve heard the solution expressed is in the maxim:

“In essentials, unity, in nonessentials, liberty, in all things, charity.”

This guideline is biblical and can be quite helpful to guide us to keep from majoring on minors and yet stand firm on what is vital.

Let’s consider the three parts of this statement about majoring on minors:

1. In essentials, unity…

This means that when there are beliefs integral to the Christian faith, Christians should affirm their agreement with Scripture.

Why Scripture? Because it is our only unshifting, reliable source of God’s Truth.

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV)

In the Bible, we find two kinds of essentials:

  • Beliefs that are central to the Gospel.

Have an appointment with the Lord and keep it.

A man is powerful on his knees

Do you wait to pray until you feel like it or do you have an appointment with the Lord and keep it? Now more than ever there are many ways to keep track of every event, meeting and appointment in our lives. But, the most important appointment with the Lord is often neglected.

This is a guest post by Beth Harris. She is a wife, mother, Bible study leader and volunteer editor for markalanwilliams.net.

This quote reminded me of a powerful little book that made quite an impression on me as a new believer almost 30 years ago called, My Heart – Christ’s Home by Robert Boyd Munger.

The book is based on Revelation 3:20 which says, Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. (NKJV)

The author compares the human heart to a home and explains the transformation that takes place in the life of a new Christian. The Lord moves in and patiently though persistently waits for the believer to surrender each room. Ultimately, He wants access to the entire home or life including the rooms that are undesirable.

How to Balance Content and Discontent in the Christian Life

We need some of both.

Recently I woke up feeling discontent. It didn’t take me long to figure out why. Interestingly, last week my good friend and DJJ Board member Steve Foster recommended a book titled The Magic of Thinking BigIt’s a classic about how so many people are content with small things because they don’t think big. A great message, but the problem is it can have some unintended consequences, at least for people like me.

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

I started reading the book not long before I went to bed. Consequently, I’m sure that the book and its theme was the root of my discontent:

  • Have I settled for less than the best?
  • Could I have done more if I’d just have thought bigger?
  • What can I do to shift my thinking to create bigger outcomes?
  • I’d better hurry up and get going or I’ll miss the bus!

So, after wakening with discontent, all this got me to thinking about what the Bible says: Is thinking big God honoring? Can discontent be godly, or does God want us to be perpetually content, no matter what?

Here’s my answer to these questions:

1. Discontent is godly when…

  • …we want to see God’s Kingdom expand and all people to hear the Gospel.

3 Wonderful Ways to Read the Bible

2 Helpful and 1 Remarkable.

Do you read the Bible regularly? According to a study done in 2014 by Pew Research, in the USA 35% of Americans say they read the Bible at least once a week. 45% seldom or never read it.

For me, reading the Bible is essential as a daily practice of my Christian life. How can I not read it since it is the primary way that God reveals Himself to us?

But it is not enough to simply read the Bible. We must read it in the right way. And in the end, there are a couple of helpful ways to read the Bible, but only one remarkable and appropriate way to read it.

Here are 3 wonderful ways to read the Bible, 2 of them helpful and 1 of them absolutely remarkable:

1. Reading for Information

Knowing the stories, references and teachings of the Bible is vital to a proper education. The Washington Times reported:

Almost without exception, English professors, we surveyed at major American colleges and universities see knowledge of the Bible as a deeply important part of a good education. The virtual unanimity and depth of their responses on this question are striking. The Bible is not only a sacred scripture to millions of Americans, it is also arguably (as one Northwestern professor stated), the “most influential text of all of Western culture.”