Reformation 500 - The Anniversary of Martin Luther's 95 Thesis

To reform something is "to amend or improve by change of form or removal of faults or abuses." (Websters dictionary) October 31, 1517 is the day remembered when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Thesis - or reforms - to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. His desire for discussion and change of a few major issues in the Roman Catholic Church sparked a "fire" across Europe, and now the world, that has led many to faith in Christ alone. 

Today marks the 500th anniversary of that event. As I was reading this morning and thinking about what it means to us now; the song Boldly I Approach by Rend Collective came to my mind. We now have access to God's Word, the Bible, in a way unheard of ever before in history! We can approach God, through the Bible or prayer, on our own. We don't need anyone else to do it for us. Jesus broke those barriers when He died on the cross and rose again to life! I'm so grateful for the continued love Jesus has for us, His people. 

May we, today, remember the cost Christ paid so that we don't (because we can't) have to earn our way to salvation. God is the only one who "made an end to all our sin," as the song below states. I am so thankful to be Rescued from my sin and made righteous before God because of Jesus! 

Romans 4:25-5:6 "He was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have also obtained access through him by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. For while we were still helpless, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly." 

Sola Gratia! by Grace Alone! 

Nothing to Prove

There are days I've spent worrying and wondering if I have "done enough" homemaking or "been enough" of a friend, or "lived good enough" for Jesus to use me. And I always feel empty at the end of those days. I know you have felt this way too. All of us do. It's part of the curse that was brought on when sin entered the world. It is a hopeless way to live, always striving. Always wondering if you are enough. Deep in my soul, I know I'm not enough. I am a sinner and before I knew Jesus, even my "good deeds" were as filthy rags. (Is. 64:6) But God has given me a way to be enough! (Titus 3:5) Because of Jesus, I am enough through Him. He has paid for my sins (Rom. 5:8) and I have accepted His work on my behalf. Now, I can live free from the need to prove myself worthy because He alone is worthy and has given me His righteousness. (1 Cor. 1:30) The works I do now are His works in me and I desire to do them, not to prove anything, but to show others how great God is! (Rom. 1:1-6)

Even though I know the truth, I need to be reminded of it often. I do this mostly by filling my life with God's Word, the Bible, and good words written by people who love Him. Jennie Allen is one of those people. She loves the Lord, fiercely and unashamedly. Her desires are to make God known to this generation that we will see how truly wonderful God is. Jennie lives this out in her everyday life, but she also writes books and she just released a new book titled, "Nothing to Prove: Why We Can Stop Trying So Hard."

I have read all of Jennie Allen's books and "Nothing to Prove" is my favorite and made the biggest change in my everyday life. Striving, it's something we all do. Wanting to prove to others or ourselves, or even to God, that we are enough for this life. In this book, Jennie shares her story of striving and breaks down the areas in life where we all strive and she points us to a better way: Jesus.

Through various passages in the gospel of John, Jennie shows how Jesus is enough for everyone and we are enough because of his love and in spite of our sin. He saved us on the cross and now we don't have to live thirsty, lonely, tired, passive, afraid, ashamed, or empty lives! Because of this book and Jennie's courage to share her struggle, I have renewed hope and trust in Jesus that He is enough for me.

After reading this book, I want to read my Bible and know God more. It is geared toward women but people of all ages will benefit from reading. Each chapter from section two has applications at the end to help you use what you just read in your actual life right now. Encouragement and conviction flow through this book. The book itself isn't life changing, but the God it points us to is.

I needed this book, and I suspect you do too.

Jennie Allen will be doing a book club through her Facebook live starting February 21st if you want to follow along.

I was given an advanced copy of the book as part of the Launch Team but I would be recommending this book to anyone and everyone anyway. The link below is an affiliate link if you wish to buy the book directly from this post.

What I am reading this December and ideas you can use this Christmas season to refocus on Jesus

As a child, my idea of Advent or an advent calendar was the daily chocolate candy that you found behind door number 1 (or 4, or 23.) It helped us count the days until Christmas arrived but there wasn't much focus on the why and it left us with a gross chocolate to eat.

But, you know, we loved it! Just the process of having something to look forward to and celebrate was fun and exciting.

 I grew up in a home with parents who, themselves, grew up Mormon, turned Baptist, and landed in the "non-denominational" church that itself also "grew up baptist." Advent was not a regular part of our community's traditions. I can remember only one friend from church whose family celebrated Advent - colorful candles and all - so my knowledge on the subject was sparse.

Twenty years later, as an adult, I was introduced to Advent in a whole new way. I had a few friends who regularly read daily devotionals meant just for Advent. I followed Ann Voskamp's Blog before she had written her Advent books, and she mentioned their Advent wreath and family traditions. I also read a book by Noel Piper called Treasuring God in Our Traditions which she spends a chapter or two walking through their family's Advent practices. After a season of research, I was ready to dive into Advent the next year.

For a year or two, I read a daily devotional in the month of December. It really did help me prepare my heart for Christmas and focus on the reality of Christ leaving heaven to come down to earth as an infant born to save the world. For a few years, we focused on the "Jesse Tree" aspect of Advent which uses the Old Testament stories of Jesus' family tree to point to His birth.

Over the past eight years or so, I've tried many different Advent traditions. Some worked well and I loved it and some were too much work or I simply couldn't keep up. This year I combined my favorites and added one new idea.

A book I am reading for the third time is by John Piper, offered as a free PDF from desiring God website:  The Dawning of Indestructible Joy  or the kindle version is on sale today! (there are a few affiliate links to amazon throughout this post if you want to buy there directly)

I am also reading a new devotional this year by She Reads Truth. It can be found online for free: She Reads Truth: Advent Plan 2016 They also have a men's version at He Reads Truth Advent 2016. The theme of their advent plans is "Christ was born for this." Focusing on His role as Prophet, Priest, and King. I am learning a lot about the role of Prophets and Priests in the Bible and how Jesus is the perfect Prophet, Priest, and King.

The last book I'm using this year has a version for adults and one meant for families. The version I am reading is on the kindle. They also have printable ornaments available to use for the Jesse Tree. Click on the picture for the link to amazon:

This is an ornament I printed and have used more than one year and this year the Jesse Tree is right in our dining room in my "Christmas decor zone." The Greatest Christmas printables

I am also reading Ann Voskamp's family Advent book: Unwrapping the Greatest Gift

It's out of stock on amazon till Dec. 14th but you can find it online other places. It has been our go-to book for the kids every night during advent. There are also ornaments you can print for that book that the kids can color and hang on the tree. This year I wasn't going to do that book with the kids but my five-year-old son asked me, "Mom when are we going to do the reading and coloring stories like last year?" So I started reading the stories at night - but we're not coloring the ornaments this year.

I have a new display for the Christmas cards we receive this year and we are trying a new Advent prayer calendar that I found through Mercy House Global. I love the simplicity of it but also my geography-loving heart is thrilled that my children can learn a little bit about a new country each day.

Each of the featured countries works with Mercy House in some way. The cards have a prompt with the country to give guidance for what to pray. Day nine, for today, is Ethiopia and pray for Abundance. So we use our Smart Globe to learn about the country and then we pray for them as we walk to the bus or drive to school. The website doesn't list the cards for sale anymore but they have other Christmas ideas and presents: Mercy House collections: Christmas.

Advent is a time to prepare our hearts for the coming of Jesus both looking back to the past of his birth in Bethlehem and looking forward to His coming again as King of Kings. As Christians, it is important to be reading the Bible and learning about our Lord who came to save us from sin. So whatever you do for Bible study and prayer, think about shifting the focus for Advent season and focusing on God sending His Son to earth for us!

Let me know what Advent traditions you have enjoyed, I'm always looking for great ideas or books. And, because I grew up with the daily chocolate treat. During Advent we also have a calendar box with a Hershey candy cane kiss for each of us to enjoy after dinner.

"And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." Luke 2:10-11

Sometimes getting a song stuck in your head isn't all bad

I attend church pretty much every Sunday. It's not because we have to, but we enjoy church and the people God brings through the doors each week. I also lead a worship team at our church once a month. I choose the songs and lead the congregation in singing. I really enjoy it as a ministry and also as one of my favorite parts of the church service.

Sometimes there are songs from the church service that follow me into my week. I'm usually glad about it but I know there are people who don't like having songs stuck in their head. All you want to do is move on and think about something else but that campy worship song from the 1960s is right there with you when dropping the kids off at school or as you type or put the dishes away. So you turn on some other music and for a time the song is replaced by your current tunes. But, later that night as you try to fall asleep, or maybe in your morning shower, there it is again! It's back and often it's only two or three lines of the song because you don't have all four verses memorized, just bits and pieces. I get it. It happens to me all the time. But, I've learned that the song I am remembering is often the song that helped better tie in the message of the sermon. Or it's the song that tugged a bit too tightly at my "heart strings" and I need to work on that area of my life. So now, when that song just won't go away, I try to embrace what the lyrics are saying and apply it to my life.

There is a song recently that we sang at church about two months ago and it has been off and on in my brain ever since. I can remember singing it at the previous church we attended when I was a kid and I also remember singing it - maybe once a year - since I've attended our current church. The song is named "They'll know we are Christians by our love." It was written by Peter Scholtes in 1966 or '68 (and yes, it sounds exactly how I imagine Christianity in the 60s to sound.) Admit it, you are probably humming it right now after reading the title. Well, I chose this song for our church service today because I think the words are so powerful. As I was reading the words and preparing to lead worship this week, I realized that the words are exactly how we, if you are a Christian, should treat others. However, it is written in such a way that by the second or third verse it is so easy to get lost in the sound of the song and miss the lyrics. Now, I'm not sure if that happened to some people at our church this morning; but, hopefully, they will have it stuck in their head this week and God will use those words in spite of the "swaying melody" of the song. 

Pastor Terry is preaching a sermon series on the book of Philippians. Today he spoke on chapter 1:27-30. I chose most of the worship songs based on verse twenty-seven. 

"Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel," Philippians 1:27 

Unity of the believers and one mind is what Paul prayed the church in Philippi would have. He wanted to see it with his own eyes, or at least hear about their unity from others who visited him in prison. I pray the same for our church in Ogden Valley and the greater Church in the world. I desire to be a people who walk with each other and guard each other's dignity. I want us to praise the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And I want other people - inside the church and outside - to know that we are Christians because of our love. The way we love is important!

In the sermon today, Pastor Terry used an illustration of a waiter's relationship to a restaurant. If you have a waiter at a restaurant that gives you terrible service, you don't say, "I'm never having that waiter again!" Some people would say, "We are never coming to this restaurant again!" It is important how believers in Christ behave because it could lead to people being "turned off" to Christ and the church by one single person. Now, honestly, you cannot control how other people feel. And their actions as a result of an encounter with you may not be justified. I am not saying we should be perfect because that is impossible for us to do because of sin. (Romans 3:23) Plus, it is Christ who draws a person to His love. I am a part of their story but I'm not the one who saves them. Christ has (atoned) paid for our sins and we are a new creation in Him. Because of His death on the cross, all the work has been done and we are able to give out His love to others. We are also able to apologize when we've wronged someone and hopefully reconcile the relationship. The gospel truly is good news! 

Look at the lyrics of the song with the main message stated more as a poem or verse. It helps me to see the lyrics and not the "campy 60s feel" of the song. May we strive for unity this week and may we be known by our love and may the praises be given to God alone. 

"We are one in the Spirit. We are one in the Lord. And we pray that all unity may one day be restored.
 And they'll know we are Christians by our love. 
We will walk with each other. We will walk hand in hand. And together we'll spread the news that God is in our land. 
And they'll know we are Christians by our love. 
We will work with each other. We will work side by side. And we'll guard each man's dignity and save each man's pride. 
And they'll know we are Christians by our love. 
All praise to the Father from whom all things come, and all praise to Christ Jesus his only son, and all praise to the Spirit who makes us one. 
And they'll know we are Christians by our love. Yes, they'll know we are Christians by our love."

Ogden Valley Community Church

I am thrilled to report, a few weeks ago, we finally held our first worship service in our new church building! The process has been long (over two years of actively going through the building process) and filled with many unknowns and waiting but the Lord has provided a wonderful place for us to gather as a church and worship His name! 

"The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps."

I have so many pictures of the building as it was being built and someday I'll make a link to an album instead of a blog post for those. These pictures are from our first Sunday service. I was able to sing on the worship team the first week and it was so amazing to see the many faces I know as well as the many who were visiting and curious. Whatever reason they chose to join us that morning, I pray they saw our desire to make God known and experienced His love and left our church encouraged. We serve a God of grace and truth and we want to give His grace and truth to others. 

  "Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood."

So, let me take you on a tour - it's not of the whole building, simply the places of which I took pictures. There are also some unfinished areas of the church that you may notice - we're still working on some things. 

Chairs and stage set; ready to start the service
View from the stage. 
My dad, in the sound booth - a place he enjoys and has been serving for most of my life. 
Attempted panorama of people getting ready to worship
During the welcoming by Jen. Photo credit: Zach Campbell
So many cars! It let us know we need to be better prepared for winter snow. 
More cars and the beautiful benches that James made for his Eagle Scout project!
Nursery Room for our kids that are two years old and under
Preschool Class
Elementary Class
More elementary kids and helper

Not pictured: A photo of the youth group class. They meet at 9:30 am (while I was in music practice) 

Pastor Terry, I am so thankful that God brought his family to Utah and to our community. 

My prayer for our church, as we continue ministry in this valley where we are established, is that we will seek the Lord and His ways. May our hearts desire to follow His leading and seek out ways to show His glory to those inside our church and out. That we will be known for our love and desire to show God's greatness. I want to be used for God's kingdom and to be seen as a peaceful help in the body of Christ. I am praying that God brings us the lost and hurting and they can find rest and peace for their souls. May our light that comes from the Holy Spirit shine in the communities around us and may our gentleness be evident to all

"Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good  for his steadfast love endures forever!"

Ogden Valley Community Church  for address and additional information