Sola Publishing News and Feedback [Reflections series] http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/feed.html?series=8 News, devotions and feedback blog for Sola Publishing en-us Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a1672.html Mon, 23 Nov 20 00:00:00 -0600 Online jigsaw

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From the Word: 15 And they were also bringing their babies to him, that he might touch them. But when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. 16 Yet Jesus called them to him, saying, “Allow the little children to come to me, and do not prevent them, for to such belong the kingdom of God. 17 Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a young child will not enter it.” (Luke 18:15–17)

From the ConfessionsThe Large Catechism, The Ten Commandments

The Fourth Commandment

Honor your father and your mother, (that your days may be long in the land which the Lord your God is giving you.)

Therefore, you should wholeheartedly rejoice and thank God that he has chosen you and made you worthy to do a work that is so precious and pleasing to him. Although it might be regarded as humble and despised, see that you esteem it as great and precious, not on account of your worthiness, but because it is comprehended and contained in a jewel and sanctuary, namely, the Word and commandment of God.

Pulling It Together: Mothers and fathers are given a great honor; let them rise to the responsibility of that honor. Let them teach their children the commandments and the whole Word of God in such a way that those children consider his orders and promises as the finest things in life. Let them bring their children to Jesus in this way, and God will heap upon them even greater distinction; those children will regard their own parents’ directives and oaths as quite similar to those of God himself.

Prayer: May your kingdom come, Lord, into the lives of the children in my life. Amen.

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Alphabet Soup is a four-unit (seven lessons each) Sunday School series designed for young students in Preschool and Kindergarten. Lessons are based on storytelling, rhyme, and pictures, and are suitable for participation by non-readers. The flexible lesson plans introduce the youngest believers to the importance and truth of God’s Word. 

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a1603.html Thu, 20 Aug 20 00:00:00 -0500

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From the Word: And Deborah said to Barak, “Up! For this is the day in which the Lord has delivered Sisera into your hand. Has not the Lord gone out before you?” So Barak went down from Mount Tabor, and ten thousand men behind him. (Judges 4:14)

From the ConfessionsThe Large Catechism, The Ten Commandments

The First Commandment

You shall have no other gods before me.

Therefore, let everyone seriously take this to heart, not regarding it as though spoken by a man. For it is a question of either eternal blessing, happiness, and salvation, or of eternal wrath, misery, and woe. What more could you have or desire than God’s kind promises to be yours with every blessing, and to protect and help you in every need?

Pulling It Together

Just as Joshua exhorted the Israelites to choose whom they would serve (Josh 24:15), Deborah pressed Barak to trust the one God, fearing him more than Jaban, the Canaanite king, and his commander Sisera, with all his troops. Judas also had the option to fear, love, and trust God, but he feared the Romans more, wanting Jesus to be a military king instead of the Prince of Peace. We too, must take the matter seriously, choosing daily to “fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness” (Josh 24:14). Having no other Gods before the Lord, is to have the Lord go before us, imparting every needed blessing. These include, not only the benefits of this life, but forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life. If we do not honor the Lord as God above all, there is defeat and death, as Sisera, Jaban, and Judas knew too well. Therefore, choose life (Deut 30:15).

Prayer: Give me such faith, Lord, that I may arise and follow you today. Amen.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a1471.html Fri, 28 Feb 20 00:00:00 -0600 Click for larger image

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From the Word: 1 Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples 2 saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, 3 so do and observe whatever they order, but not the works they do. For they say, but do not act. 4 Yes, they bundle backbreaking burdens, and set them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with their finger. 5 For they do all their works to be seen by other people. They make their phylacteries broad, and lengthen their tassels, 6 and love the highest position at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, 7 and greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called Rabbi by the people. 8 But do not ye called Rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 And do not call anyone on earth your father, for you have one Father who is in heaven. 10 Neither be called teachers, for you have one Teacher, the Christ. (Matthew 23:1–10)

From the Confessions: The Chief Articles of Faith in the Augsburg Confession

What the Church Is

Although the Church properly is the congregation of saints and true believers, nevertheless, since in this life many hypocrites and evil persons are mingled therewith, it is lawful to use Sacraments administered by evil men, according to the saying of Christ: The Scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat, etc. (Matt 23:2). Both the Sacraments and Word are effectual by reason of the institution and commandment of Christ, notwithstanding they be administered by evil men.

They condemn the Donatists, and such like, who denied it to be lawful to use the ministry of evil men in the Church, and who thought the ministry of evil men to be unprofitable and of none effect.

Pulling It Together: Today's reading from the Confessions underscores both justification by the grace of God alone (Article IV), and the means of grace (Article VII) mentioned before. The Confessions make it clear that God offers his grace without the assistance of perfect people. He accomplishes this through the preaching of the gospel and his word of promise in water, wine, and bread. The Church is that assembly where God perfectly bestows his grace, not a place where holy men do it for him. Just as God does not need, nor does he use, a person's virtues to bring her to saving faith, he does not require so-called "good" people to deliver his grace or make it valid in a congregation. As grace does not depend upon perfect people to preach and administer the sacraments, imperfect and even evil men cannot nullify the promise of God.

The Donatist controversy mentioned in this article is a case in point. Followers of Bishop Donatus insisted that the sacraments, especially baptisms, administered by those who had bowed to persecution and had seemed to deny the faith were now invalid. This would mean that God's grace depended upon sinless humans. But we confess that it is the Spirit who is the administrator of God's grace. Though the church and its officers be ever so imperfect, as pastors are sinners along with the rest, God's grace is not restrained. Our eyes must be ever upon the giver of grace, not the pastor who speaks the words of God's promise. It is God who washed us, gave his body, and shed his blood—not a pastor. It is the Spirit who speaks the Word of Christ to human hearts—not the one in the pulpit. So, Lutherans confess that the holy, catholic Church is that assembly where the gospel and the sacraments are rightly handled, however imperfect the bishop or pastor be who preaches and presides.

Prayer: Thank you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, for baptizing me and keeping me in your grace. Amen. 

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The Sacraments is one of four books in the Sola Confirmation Series and serves as a simple and practical resource for teaching the biblical Word of God according to the traditional pattern of Martin Luther’s Small Catechism. Each book in the series may be used as the basis for a “come as you are” small group Bible study, as a student book for home school or independent study programs, or as a classroom tool and homework resource as part of an existing confirmation program. 

Leader's Guide

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Keeping the Commandments http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/keeping-the-commandments/a1473.html Fri, 28 Feb 20 00:00:00 -0600 Click for larger image

Original painting by Carl von Weinberg

John 14:8-17

From the Reformer

…a true Christian says: “I believe in Jesus Christ my Lord and Saviour,” who gave himself for my sins, and is at God’s right hand, and intercedes for me; fall I into sin, as, alas! oftentimes I do, I am sorry for it; I rise again, and am an enemy unto sin. … But human strength and nature are not able to accomplish this true Christian faith without the Holy Spirit. It can do no more than take refuge in its own deserts.

But he that can say: “I am a child of God through Christ, who is my righteousness,” and despairs not, though he be deficient in good works, which always fail us, he believes rightly. But grace is so great that it amazes a human creature, and is very difficult to be believed. Insomuch that faith gives the honor to God, that he can and will perform what he promised, namely, to make sinners righteous (Rom 4), though `tis an exceeding hard matter to believe that God is merciful unto us for the sake of Christ.

—Martin Luther, Table Talk

Pulling It Together

Jesus laid a heavy burden upon his followers when he said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). How can they do this? They fail and fail and fail to keep his commandments; this is the curse of the law. At the end of the day therefore, if you really love him, staying true to God means coming home to him, regardless of one’s performance. Like the Prodigal who has been willful, believers must embrace their new nature, having faith that God in Christ forgives “the old man” (Col 3:9 KJV) and empowers them to try again. Continuing faith is the truest indication of the changed heart—the heart that tries again because it believes in a loving Father, a faithful Son, an empowering Spirit.

The sum of the commandments is to love God with one’s whole heart. Luther said this was impossible—that no one does this—and that is true, up to a point. Yet, when one fails to keep all the rest of the commandments, and then, returns to God, brokenhearted for his sin, he has kept the commandments. He has declared the love of a whole heart. “Here I am, Lord, a poor sinner. I have sinned but I dare to love you anyway. I can do no other because of your grace at work in my sick heart. I believe and will continue to believe and love you, despite my failings.” If you return to God in faith, you have kept the commandments.

More Reflections

The Sacraments is one of four books in the Sola Confirmation Series and serves as a simple and practical resource for teaching the biblical Word of God according to the traditional pattern of Martin Luther’s Small Catechism. Each book in the series may be used as the basis for a “come as you are” small group Bible study, as a student book for home school or independent study programs, or as a classroom tool and homework resource as part of an existing confirmation program. 

Leader's Guide

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Recovery http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/recovery/a1470.html Thu, 27 Feb 20 00:00:00 -0600 Click for larger image

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John 14:3–6

From the Reformer

This Gospel text teaches exclusively of the Christian faith, and awakens that faith in us; just as John, throughout his whole Gospel, simply instructs us how to trust in Christ the Lord. This faith alone, when based upon the sure promises of God, must save us; as our text clearly explains. And in the light of it all, they must become fools who have taught us other ways to become godly. All that human ingenuity can devise, be it as holy and as luminous as it may, must tumble to the ground if man be saved in God’s way—in a way different from that which man himself plans. Man may forever do as he will, he can never enter heaven unless God takes the first step with his Word, which offers him divine grace and enlightens his heart so as to get upon the right way.

This right way, however, is the Lord Jesus Christ. Whoever desires to seek another way, as the great multitudes venture to do by means of their own works, has already missed the right way; for Paul says to the Galatians: “If righteousness is through the Law,” that is, through the works of the Law, “then Christ died for naught” (Gal 2:21). Therefore I say man must fall upon this Gospel and be broken to pieces and in deep consciousness lie prostrate, like a man that is powerless, unable to move hand or foot. He must only lie motionless and cry: Almighty God, merciful Father, now help me! I cannot help myself. Christ, my Lord, do help now, for with only my own effort all is lost! Thus, in the light of this cornerstone, which is Christ, everyone becomes as nothing; as Christ says of himself in Luke 20:17-18, when he asks the Pharisees and scribes: “What then is this that is written. The stone which the builders rejected, the same was made the head of the corner? Every one that falleth on that stone shall be ‘broken to pieces; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will scatter him as dust” (Psa 118:22). Therefore, we must either fall upon this stone, Christ, in all our inability and helplessness, rejecting our own merits, and be broken to pieces, or he will forever crush us by his severe sentence and judgment. It is better that we fall upon him than that he should fall upon us. For this reason the Lord says in this Gospel: “No man can come to me, except the Father that sent me draw him: and I will raise him up in the last day.”

—Martin Luther, Assorted Sermons, “On Faith, And Coming To Christ”

Pulling It Together

At first he would not admit he had a problem but then, he went to his father for help. He told him that he would have to do this on his own and that all he had to do was white-knuckle it. Then, after years of struggling to control his abuse of alcohol, the man hit bottom, breaking into emotional, financial, physical, and spiritual pieces. No matter how much he had tried, alcohol was a part of his life that controlled him as often as otherwise. He needed help outside himself.

It is a similar condition that plagues humanity. It is also addicted; its addiction is to sin. No matter how it tries to be good, it is bad. Like the alcoholic who is not always drunk, the “good” person’s life is touched by bouts and even binges of sin. Try as they might to be otherwise, all are sinners (Rom 3:23) and controlled by sin unless they seek assistance. The Father has a Way where you do not have to do it on your own, try harder, or just use more willpower. When the alcoholic walked through the door of his local AA meeting, he was on the road to recovery. When you walk through the Gate of God, the Father recovers you by his will—not yours, by his effort—not yours, by his grace—not by your goodness.

More Reflections

Pastor Kent Groethe's study of the Book of Acts, Acts - Old Places, New Facesfocuses on the life of the early church as a model for church life today. The message and power of the church today needs to be revitalized and renewed by the power of God's Spirit, just as it was in the early church.

Other books in the "Old Place, New Faces" series

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Providential Pasture http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/providential-pasture/a1459.html Tue, 11 Feb 20 00:00:00 -0600 Click for larger image

Psalm 23:1–6

From the Reformer

This psalm is neither intermingled with prayers, nor does it complain of miseries for the purpose of obtaining relief; but it contains simply a thanksgiving, from which it appears that it was composed when David had obtained peaceable possession of the kingdom, and lived in prosperity, and in the enjoyment of all he could desire. That he might not, therefore, in the time of his great prosperity, be like worldly men, who, when they seem to themselves to be fortunate, bury God in forgetfulness, and luxuriously plunge themselves into their pleasures, he delights himself in God, the author of all the blessings which he enjoyed. And he not only acknowledges that the state of tranquility in which he now lives, and his exemption from all inconveniences and troubles, is owing to the goodness of God; but he also trusts that through his providence he will continue happy even to the close of his life, and for this end that he may employ himself in his pure worship.

—John Calvin, Commentary on the Psalms

Pulling It Together

It made no difference to David the condition in which he found himself. Certainly he wished for comfort and gave God thanks for ease. Yet he seems to have learned to give God thanks regardless. With Paul, he could say that he had learned to be content in whatever state he found himself (Phil 4:11). God had so tempered his character that he could lie down in providential pastures; whether they were green or brown, God was there. If enemies were present, so was the Good Shepherd. If death was near, so was the Lord of eternity and so, his cup ran over with the blessing of God’s presence.

More Reflections

Reading and Discussion of Luther's Catechisms is a more challenging study series based on assigned readings from the Book of Concord and related Scripture texts. Each study is comprised of eight sessions, plus an optional introductory session, each presented in a question and discussion format. 

Leader's Guide

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Hearing Christ Alone http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/hearing-christ-alone/a1448.html Thu, 30 Jan 20 00:00:00 -0600 Click for larger image

Original photo by David Berkowitz

Luke 9:28-36

From the Reformer

After Christ complains that they have not received him [Jn 5:37], he speaks even more bitterly of their blindness. When he says that they have not heard or seen God, he speaks in a metaphor and means that they are utterly turned aside from the knowledge of God. For as men make themselves known by face and speech, so God speaks by the voice of his prophets, and puts on a visible form in the sacraments, so that he may be known by us according to our own measure. Anyone who does not know God through the living image he himself has given us shows that he only worships a God of his own fabrication. Therefore Paul says that they do not see the glory of God in the face of Christ, because a veil is thrown over their eyes (2Co 3:14).

—John Calvin, Commentaries

Pulling It Together

“When they became fully awake” must speak to a physical reality though it may hint at a spiritual one. It is clear that the three disciples had yet to full awaken spiritually since they seemed to credit all three who appeared in glory as equal. Peter gives the impression that he is about to create some sort of new religion: “Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” There is an almost sideshow air to the suggestion. Peter did not know what he was talking about and the Father was about to straighten him out. He meant for Peter and us all to understand that we are to listen to his Son. The lawgiver and the prophet departed and Jesus alone remained.

At the end of the day, we are meant to see Jesus and him alone. By “seeing” him alone, our Father means that we are to listen to and follow his Son, the Christ who has fulfilled the law and the prophets.

More Reflections

The kind of church we see in the New Testament is different from what most modern people imagine when they think of “going to church.” Experiencing Life Together is a 15-week house-church curriculum designed for pastors, lay leaders, and churches interested in getting a taste for what church in the home is really like. Whether referred to as a house-church, organic church, alternative church, or cell church, this material applies well to any group that wants to experience Christian worship in the context of a small group meeting within the homes of the participants.

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The Struggle http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/the-struggle/a1444.html Tue, 28 Jan 20 00:00:00 -0600 Click for larger image

John Wyclif (or Wycliffe) sending out his followers with hand-lettered New Testaments (original image)

Acts 10:34-43

From the Reformer

Be not youre herte afraied, ne drede it; ye bileuen in God, and bileue ye in me. In the hous of my fadir ben many dwellyngis; if ony thing lesse, Y hadde seid to you, for Y go to make redi to you a place. And if Y go, and make redi to you a place, eftsoones Y come, and Y schal take you to my silf, that where Y am, ye be. And whidur Y go, ye witen, and ye witen the weie. Thomas seith to hym, Lord, we witen not whidur thou goist, and hou moun we wite the weie? Jhesus seith to hym, Y am weie, treuthe, and lijf; no man cometh to the fadir, but bi me. If ye hadden knowe me, sotheli ye hadden knowe also my fadir; and aftirward ye schulen knowe hym, and ye han seyn hym. Filip seith to hym, Lord, schewe to vs the fadir, and it suffisith to vs.

—John Wyclif’s 14th century translation of John 14:1-8

Pulling It Together

Go ahead; try to read it again. Do not skim over it; read it aloud; struggle to pronounce the words and their meaning will come to you (especially of you have spent much time in the King James Bible, for it owes much to Wyclif’s text). Your struggle to understand the Medieval English of this 600-year old document is nothing compared to the struggle of Wyclif and his followers (the Lollards) to translate and publish it. It was a monumental effort in its day and met with disdain and reproach at nearly every turn. Wyclif and his followers must have known that not many of their hand-lettered copies of the New Testament would make it into the hands of the English people. Why? There were no machines, presses, duplicators, or copiers in the 14th century. Any copy had to be painstakingly reproduced by hand. So why did they work so hard and with such little thanks?

It may seem strange to modern churchgoers but, other than some history and moral lessons, the Bible was largely not taught in the churches of the 14th Century. The church was telling the people that salvation came through the church. John Wyclif, a post-medieval proto-reformer, read in the Bible that salvation comes through Christ alone. That Jesus is the way to God was kept from the eyes of the people, as though, if they did have one of Wyclif’s New Testaments, the John passage above had been smeared while the ink was still wet. Still, the passage was clear to those early proponents of reform in the church. They saw that salvation was not through the church and they wanted as many as could read to know (and share with others) that the gateway to God was through his Son alone.

More Reflections

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Of One Mind and Purpose is a six-session study examines the unique way in which the Bible describes being united in Christ. It explains how God’s Word can either divide people or bring them together in faith, showing how the relationship we have with one another in the Church comes through Christ alone.

Leader's Guide

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Peace Restored http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/peace-restored/a1445.html Tue, 28 Jan 20 00:00:00 -0600 Click for online jigsaw.

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John 20:19-31

From the Reformer

The apostles themselves did not know every thing, even after they had received the Holy Ghost; yea, and sometimes they were weak in faith. When all Asia turned from St Paul, and some of his own disciples had departed from him, and many false spirits that were in high esteem set themselves against him, then with sorrow of heart he said: “I was with you in weakness, fear, and in much trembling.” And “We were troubled on every side; without were fightings, and within were fears.” Hereby it is evident that he was fain to comfort him, saying: “My grace is sufficient for thee, for my power is strong in weakness.”

This is to me, and to all true Christians, a comfortable doctrine; for I persuade myself also that I have faith, though it is but so so, and might well be better; yet I teach the faith to others, and know, that my teaching is right. Sometimes I commune thus with myself: Thou preachest indeed God’s Word; this office is committed to thee, and thou art called thereunto without thy seeking, which is not fruitless, for many thereby are reformed; but when I consider and behold my own weakness, that I eat, drink, sometimes am merry, yea, also, now and then am overtaken, being off my guard, then I begin to doubt and say: Ah! that we could but only believe.

Therefore, confident professors are troublesome and dangerous people; who, when they have but only looked on the outside of the Bible, or heard a few sermons, presently think they have the Holy Ghost, and understand and know all. But good and godly hearts are of another mind, and pray daily: “Lord, strengthen our faith.”

—Martin Luther, Table Talk, “Of Jesus Christ”

Pulling It Together: “I don’t believe it!” This is a common enough saying but in connection with the Lord’s promises, one is aghast that someone would doubt—especially one of the apostles. Yet Thomas doubted and is famous for it—and so do you. You sometimes think, How could God continue to forgive a sinner such as me?—one who accepted his forgiveness and yet, does that which requires it again. And again. You do doubt. Ah; you think there is a difference between Thomas and yourself; he doubted the very presence of the resurrected Master. So do you. You doubt the presence of One who would forgive the likes of you. Yet every time you believe, he is present to forgive. You see clearly enough in that moment to understand that he does indeed forgive, and not just that: he restores his peace in you.

More Reflections

The Small Cat series is a comprehensive way to teach the Catechism to all of your children. There is a workbook and leader's guide for each of grades one through six, along with other complimentary resources. 

Teacher's Guide

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a1443.html Tue, 28 Jan 20 00:00:00 -0600 Click for larger image

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From the Word: And [Abram] believed in the Lord, and he accounted it to him as righteousness. (Genesis 15:6)

From the Confessions: The Small Catechism

The Conclusion

For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.

What does this mean?

It means that I should be certain that such petitions are acceptable to our heavenly Father and are heard by him, for he himself has commanded us to pray in this manner and has promised to hear us. So we pray with confidence: “Amen,” meaning, “Yes, it shall be so.”

Pulling It Together: Do we give up in our praying? Or do we persist and see the Lord’s will displayed in power and glory? Abram prayed and prayed, his petitions buttressed by Sarai’s pleas to the Lord for a child. In Abram’s and Sarai’s old age, God would finally answer their prayers, but now the answer seems unbelievable. How would two very elderly people have a child? This is often the moment of God’s glory: the time when he does the impossible in our lives. Will we believe? Will we add the “Amen” with confidence?

Prayer: Help me to pray to you, Lord, with faith. Amen.

Receive these daily Sola Devotions by email. Write mryman@solapublishing.com with "Subscribe" as your subject. To unsubscribe, send an email to the same address with "Unsubscribe" as your subject.

Click for larger image

Of One Mind and Purpose is a six-session study examines the unique way in which the Bible describes being united in Christ. It explains how God’s Word can either divide people or bring them together in faith, showing how the relationship we have with one another in the Church comes through Christ alone.

Leader's Guide

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The Gate of God http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/the-gate-of-god/a1441.html Fri, 24 Jan 20 00:00:00 -0600 Click for larger image

Original photo by James Emery  

John 20:1–18

From the Reformer

For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead. They had often heard from the mouth of Christ what they now saw with their eyes, but this flowed from their hearts. Being now warned by the sight of a strange spectacle, they begin to think of Christ as having something Divine, though they are still far from having a clear and accurate knowledge of him. John, therefore, accuses himself, when he acknowledges that the first time that he believed was, when he beheld the proofs of Christ’s resurrection.

Besides, he represents more strongly his own guilt and that of his brethren, by adding, that they not only had forgotten the words of Christ, but that they did not believe the Scriptures; for to this ignorance lie ascribes the deficiency of their faith. Hence, too, we may draw a useful instruction, that we ought, to ascribe it to our carelessness, when we are ignorant of what we ought to know about Christ, because we have not profited as we ought to have done by the Scriptures, which clearly reveal the excellence of Christ.

—John Calvin, Commentary on John

Pulling It Together

Anyone who has read this gospel would not be surprised that the Son is the Gate of God. Jesus is the way to his Father. In the tenth chapter he said, “I am the door. If anyone enters in by me, he will be saved, and will go in and go out, and will find pasture” (John 10:9). In the fourteenth chapter, he said that he is the only way to God (John 14:6).

When you find yourself, having run to the tomb, empty of breath and life, do not be surprised to find the door wide open. The certainty of this blessed event are discovered when you avail yourself of the Word of God—the key to the Gate of God. Faith comes when you believe what Jesus says; it is then that the Gate of God is open to you.

More Reflections

Connections Magazine features articles that connect Lutherans to the Word. Luther's Small Catechism provides inspiration for confessional, biblical content, delivered in a stylish, readable design.

 

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Momentous Trivialities http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/momentous-trivialities/a1408.html Thu, 12 Dec 19 00:00:00 -0600 Click for larger image

Original image by edouardo 

Philippians 2:2-8

From the Reformer

The tractarian literature of the fourteenth century set forth the rights of man and the principles of common law in opposition to the pretensions of the papacy and the dogmatism of the scholastic systems. Lay writers made themselves heard as pioneers of thought, and a practical outlook upon the mission of the Church was cultivated. With unexampled audacity Dante assailed the lives of popes, putting some of St. Peter’s successors into the lowest rooms of hell.

The Reformatory councils of Pisa, Constance, and Basel turned Europe for nearly fifty years, 1409-1450, into a platform of ecclesiastical and religious discussion. Though they failed to provide a remedy for the disorders prevailing in the Church, they set an example of free debate, and gave the weight of their eminent constituency to the principle that not in a select group of hierarchs does supreme authority in the Church rest, but in the body of the Church.

The hopelessness of expecting any permanent reform from the papacy and the hierarchy was demonstrated in the last years of the period, 1460-1517, when ecclesiastical Rome offered a spectacle of moral corruption and spiritual fall which has been compared to the corrupt age of the Roman Empire.

The religious unrest and the passion for a better state of affairs found expression in Wyclif, Huss, and other leaders who, by their clear apprehension of truth and readiness to stand by their public utterances, even unto death, stood far above their own age and have shone in all the ages since.

—Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church

Pulling It Together

A video was aired on a popular television program, showing a pastor baptizing a young boy. The pastor’s style was to scoop a small amount of water into his hand and as with a shell to pour water three times onto the child’s head. When finished, as the pastor was saying a few words to the family and congregation, the boy stuck his hand into the bowl and with one hard shove, splashed water back onto the pastor. The pastor, taking it all in good humor, smiled and handed the child back to his family.

In the big picture of history, we may consider the faithful, little things we do today as trivial. Indeed, one may wonder if Wyclif, Huss, and Dante ever suspected that they would shine through the ages. What they did in their time is what we must do in our own: be faithful. It may not seem like much, to baptize a child, or pen a tiny tract, or put the needs of another ahead of your own. The Roman soldiers and Pilate likely thought that crucifying a rabbi was of no consequence. Yet, Jesus was faithful to his Father and “humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” And the world was forever changed.

God may greatly impact the world by your faithfulness to him today—even if that faithfulness seems small to you.

More Reflections

The biblical focus in the five-session Moses and the Great Escape VBS book is found in the Old Testament book of Exodus. God has a grand plan for humankind—a plan he enacts through the Hebrew people. He created Moses to be instrumental in this plan.

Sola’s Versatile Budget Series is a simple and flexible educational Vacation Bible School curriculum designed especially for small churches, house churches, and mission congregations. The flexible format works well for groups with limited budgets, or in situations where the ages and number of students may vary from session to session. Unlike more elaborate and expensive VBS kits, this book is meant to serve as an “all-in-one” teacher’s resource. The worksheets and handouts it contains can be reproduced according to local needs. Each book in the Versatile Budget Series focuses on a particular character from the Bible, bringing together several stories on a common theme. Resources and ideas are provided for gathering time, music, activities, games, and refreshments — allowing just a few adult leaders to host a week of Vacation Bible School.

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Convocation http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/convocation/a1393.html Fri, 22 Nov 19 00:00:00 -0600 Click for larger image

Ezekiel 37:1–14

From the Reformer

In 1 Thessalonians 4:16, he connects together the voice of the archangel and the trump of God: As therefore a commander, with the sound of a trumpet, summons his army to battle, so Christ, by his far sounding proclamation, which will be heard throughout the whole world, will summon all the dead. Moses tells us, (Exo 19:16) what loud and terrible sounds were uttered on occasion of the promulgation of the law. Far different will be the commotion then, when not one people merely, but the whole world will be summoned to the tribunal of God. Nor will the living only be convoked, but even the dead will be called forth from their graves. Nay more, a commandment must be given to dry bones and dust that, resuming their former appearance and reunited to the spirit, they come forth straightway as living men into the presence of Christ.

—John Calvin, Commentary on Corinthians

Pulling It Together

C. S. Lewis reminds us, “The Church will outlive the universe” (The Weight of Glory). One day, when days are no longer counted, every member of the Body will be called together and joined with the Head of the Body who is Christ. “Everything that is joined to the immortal head will share his immortality.” People of the Spirit believe it to be so because the voice of God has said so and will perform it. Yet there is a coming together that should already be occurring for the Body of Christ. Therefore, people of the Spirit must already be willing to be called together. Why should they wait until eternity?

More Reflections

The Cross and the Crown is an eight session study in Lutheran Basics, using the word "sola" to get the big picture right: that salvation is all God's doing.

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Everything You Need http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/everything-you-need/a1390.html Thu, 21 Nov 19 00:00:00 -0600

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Romans 5:1-5

From the Reformer

JOHN THE STEADFAST: Elector of Saxony 1525-32, brother of Frederick the Wise (q.v.); b. at Meissen (15 m. n.w. of Dresden) June 30, 1468; d. at Schweinitz (54 m. n.e. of Merseburg) Aug. 16, 1532. He received a scholarly education, was trained in the arts of knighthood, and is said to have distinguished himself in the struggle against the Turks. Luther’s writings soon won his heart, and he followed the development of the reformatory movement with ever increasing interest. It was he who, in the absence of the elector, omitted to publish the bull directed against Luther. In his letters to his brother he warmly recommended Luther and admonished the cautious elector to adopt more decidedly the reformer’s cause and to influence other princes in the same direction. His influence decided Frederick to protect Luther in the Wartburg. During the printing of his New Testament, Luther sent John the single sheets, and thenceforth he read the Bible daily.

—Philip Schaff, The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge

Pulling It Together: God does not leave you alone in your struggles to live up to being created in his image. He gave you his example, his Spirit, and his Word. Beyond this, he lends you friends who stand with you in the struggle. God does everything but stand for you. And where it counts most, he has done even that, standing as substitute for the life you owed him.

More Reflections

The Spiritual Realms is a nine-session Bible Study series on Heaven and Hell and places beyond this world. Specifically, the study looks at the many “place names” that are found throughout Scripture, referring to spiritual realms of existence that underlie and comprise the universe God created. This Bible Study series is a challenging one, in that it explores realities of existence beyond what we know and experience everyday.

The study not only addresses matters of life, death, heaven and hell, it steadfastly affirms that Jesus Christ is at the center of all these things. Our ultimate faith and hope rest in Christ’s death and resurrection for our sake. We live in faith by the biblical promise that: “God raised the Lord, and will also raise us up by his power” (1 Cor 6:14).

Leader's Guide

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Let Us Confess http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/let-us-confess/a1391.html Thu, 21 Nov 19 00:00:00 -0600 Click for larger image

Genesis 30:1-24; 1 John 1:1-10; John 9:1-17

From the Reformer

Moreover, the evil which remains in our flesh is like a spur which urges us on, with the result that we are angry with ourselves, condemn ourselves, and cry out with Paul (Rom. 7:24): “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from the body of this sin?” Lord, take away and crucify our flesh! Thus faith grows by reason of our failings, the seeds of which remain in our flesh.

—Martin Luther, Lectures on Genesis

Pulling It Together

When reading the story of Jacob and his wives, one would have to conclude that they were not quite walking in full light. Yet, God answered these sinners’ prayers, as we see with Leah and the mandrakes, in order to accomplish his own purposes. Later, we see Dan and his brothers enter into acts of awful darkness. It is no wonder the disciples asked Jesus, “Who sinned, this man or his parents?”

Let us confess our own proclivity for sin. For, if we lie about our sinfulness, we are darker still. Though we sometimes stumble into the darkness of sin, it does not mean we do not walk in the light. If you walk in the broad sunlight today but sometimes step into shadow, it does not mean you walk in darkness, for in the next step, you emerge into the sunlight again. Walking in the light includes confessing to the darkness in you and being cleansed from sin.

Get back in step with your Savior and keep walking with him. In doing so, the mightiest work of God is displayed in you; his ultimate purpose is accomplished: you walk with him, in the fullness of his light.

Prayer: Forgive me, O Light of the World, for I am a poor sinner who wants to walk with you. Amen.

More Reflections

Retirement: The Good, the Bad, the Blessings is a nine-session study takes a look at the good, the bad, and the blessings of retirement, reflecting on biblical themes that speak to this season of life. For those who are in retirement, as well as those who are moving toward it, God continues to open up new possibilities and challenges, as we continue to follow Christ into the future. As in all things, God walks with us, promising that he will never forsake us.

Leader's Guide

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The Heresy of the Modern Spirit http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/the-heresy-of-the-modern-spirit/a1389.html Thu, 21 Nov 19 00:00:00 -0600 Click for larger image

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Romans 4:13-25

From the Reformer

The verse in the 115th Psalm is masterly: “He shall bless them that fear the Lord, both small and great.” Here the Holy Spirit is a fierce thunderclap against the proud, boasting Jews and papists, who brag that they alone are God’s people, and will allow of none but of those that are of their church. But the Holy Ghost says: The poor condemned people are also God’s people, for God saved many of the Gentiles without the law and circumcision, as without popedom.

The Jews see not that Abraham was declared justified only through faith: Abraham believed God, and that was imputed unto him for righteousness. God with circumcision confirmed his covenant with this nation, but only for a certain time. True, the circumcision of the Jews, before Christ’s coming, had great majesty; but that they should affirm that without it none are God’s people, is utterly untenable. The Jews themselves, in their circumcision, were rejected of God.

—Martin Luther, Table Talk, “Of the Jews”

Pulling It Together

The great heresy today is one shared long ago by Pelagius. That Celtic theologian, fueled perhaps by an excessively strong Irish individualism, relied not on the sacrifice or resurrection of Jesus but, like those who still hold to the old law or newly penned “laws,” on his own ability to choose to be a good man. This is the heresy of the modern spirit. Those interested in spiritual things today are intrigued by what they can do to be good or powerful or wise. The Christian does not boast in such things. Followers of Christ put no hope in laws, rites, secret knowledge, or their own devotion. Their hope is not in what they do but in what has been done for them. This is precisely what the modern (or if you must, the post-modern—or the post-postmodern) spirit condemns. It is also this very thing that condemns the modern spirit. The hope of the Christian is not in the Christian; the hope of the Christian is in Christ.

More Reflections

Connections magazine is an emerging voice for confessional Lutheranism in North America, that features ministries and mission efforts, reliable, Biblically based content, stories of faith, and inspirational messages—all in a “coffee table quality” package.

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Curses http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/curses/a1387.html Wed, 20 Nov 19 00:00:00 -0600 Click for larger image

Original photo by mzsu

Genesis 3:14-21

From the Reformer

…only unbelief is called sin by Christ, as he says in John, chapter 16, “The Spirit will punish the world because of sin, because it does not believe in me.” Furthermore, before good or bad works happen, which are the good or bad fruits of the heart, there has to be present in the heart either faith or unbelief, the root, sap and chief power of all sin. That is why, in the Scriptures, unbelief is called the head of the serpent and of the ancient dragon which the offspring of the woman, i.e. Christ, must crush, as was promised to Adam (cf. Ge 3). Grace and gift differ in that grace actually denotes God’s kindness or favor which he has toward us and by which he is disposed to pour Christ and the Spirit with his gifts into us, as becomes clear from chapter 5, where Paul says, “Grace and gift are in Christ, etc.” The gifts and the Spirit increase daily in us, yet they are not complete, since evil desires and sins remain in us which war against the Spirit, as Paul says in chapter 7, and in Galatians, chapter 5. And Genesis, chapter 3, proclaims the enmity between the offspring of the woman and that of the serpent. But grace does do this much: that we are accounted completely just before God. God’s grace is not divided into bits and pieces, as are the gifts, but grace takes us up completely into God’s favor for the sake of Christ, our intercessor and mediator, so that the gifts may begin their work in us.

—Martin Luther, Preface to Romans

Pulling It Together

“I can’t stop sinning!” he complained to the pastor. “I keep asking God to help me but he doesn’t.” But God has indeed helped; his heel has crushed what we see as a still-powerful enemy. Long after the snake is dead the effects of his bite linger. One is delirious, doing things beyond their control, but slowly the poisonous effects wear off and some control of body and mind comes to the one bitten. Be reminded in your delirium that the serpent has been crushed. Sin has been destroyed.

More Reflections

The Basics of the Christian Faith is an edition of the catechism that is aimed at seekers, visitors, and those that may not come from a Lutheran background. It is recommended for use in outreach, as a visitor welcome gift, or in new member packets.

Use the Small Catechism as an outreach tool with a Customized 100-pack.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a1346.html Wed, 18 Sep 19 00:00:00 -0500

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From the Word: 24 What a wretched person I am. Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:24–25)

From the Confessions: The Small Catechism 

What does God declare concerning all these commandments?

He says: “I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.” (Exodus 20:5b-6)

What does this mean?

God threatens to punish all who violate these commandments. We should, therefore, fear his anger and in no way disobey them. But God promises grace and every blessing to all who keep these commandments. We should, therefore, love him, trust in him, and gladly keep his commandments.

Pulling It Together: We are saved from sin and death through faith in Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, sin is not a thing of the past; it is a present reality. Though we pray, “thy will be done,” and we know, even have memorized, the commandments, we cannot keep them. So, one may ask, what is the point?

On one level, the law provides discipline, a restraint against sin. Still, we do not keep the commandments perfectly. At this point, the law of God makes us aware of our sins, so that we may ask the Father to forgive us for Christ’s sake. Most importantly, the law makes us look beyond ourselves. Realizing our condition—that our very nature is corrupt and incapable of being good (Isa 64:6) or being justified with God by our own merits (Psa 143:2)—the sad awareness that the law brings, makes us look for help elsewhere. Thanks be to God that there is indeed help: in Jesus Christ alone.

Prayer: Help me to look to you, Lord Jesus, for forgiveness and peace. Amen.

Click here for resources to learn the Ten Commandments.

Receive these daily Sola Devotions by email. Write mryman@solapublishing.com with "Subscribe" as your subject. To unsubscribe, send an email to the same address with "Unsubscribe" as your subject.

Learning the Lord's Prayer teaches the Lord's Prayer according to the pattern of Luther's Small Catechism, and is recommended for the Second Grade Level. Each week focuses on a specific Bible story which illustrates the theme, with additional references from Scripture and Luther's Small Catechism – Children's Version

Teacher's Guide

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a1343.html Fri, 13 Sep 19 00:00:00 -0500

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From the Word: 5b I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the ancestors upon the children, upon the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing lovingkindness to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. (Exodus 20:5b-6)

From the Confessions: The Small Catechism 

What does God declare concerning all these commandments?

He says: “I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.” (Exodus 20:5b-6)

What does this mean?

God threatens to punish all who violate these commandments. We should, therefore, fear his anger and in no way disobey them. But God promises grace and every blessing to all who keep these commandments. We should, therefore, love him, trust in him, and gladly keep his commandments.

Pulling It Together: Verse five from the Word today can be a troubling verse, especially if you read the NIV. In that version, it reads: “punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me.” God does not punish children for the sins of their ancestors. However, the effects of murder, theft, adultery, divorce, lies, dishonoring parents, and generally hating God, can linger for generations.

Nonetheless, those who have faith in God and his Christ, discover that God loves them in spite of their lineage, often breaking the chains of their ancestors. He gives believers a new and noble ancestry, becoming for them the Father of all good things.

Prayer: Help me believe in your love, Father, and keep your commandments. Amen.

Click here for resources to learn the Ten Commandments.

Receive these daily Sola Devotions by email. Write mryman@solapublishing.com with "Subscribe" as your subject. To unsubscribe, send an email to the same address with "Unsubscribe" as your subject.

Sola’s Confirmation workbook, The Lord's Prayer, is designed to be a small group Bible study, student book for home school or independent study programs, or as a classroom tool and homework resource as part of an existing confirmation program.

Leader's Guide

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a1340.html Tue, 10 Sep 19 00:00:00 -0500

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  Click to listen to today's devotion.

From the Word: And this is his commandment: that we have faith in the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as he has commanded us. (1 John 3:23)

From the Confessions: The Small Catechism 

What does God declare concerning all these commandments?

He says: “I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.” (Exodus 20:5b-6)

What does this mean?

God threatens to punish all who violate these commandments. We should, therefore, fear his anger and in no way disobey them. But God promises grace and every blessing to all who keep these commandments. We should, therefore, love him, trust in him, and gladly keep his commandments.

Pulling It Together: All the Commandments are rooted in the First, or as it quickly came to be understood: the greatest or most important commandment (Matt 22:36–40). This greatest commandment sums up all of the commands. So, what does God command us other than what Jesus says: to love him in a manner that depends upon him, that trusts in his name, his character, his reputation? To believe in Christ Jesus is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30–31).

You say that this is impossible, that you do not love the Lord with your whole heart. Luther would agree with you, at least in a legal reading of the Commandments. But consider this the next time you confess that you have not loved him with your whole heart. In that confession, you are wholly trusting him. You are not depending upon yourself, your ability to do better, to cease sinning. At that moment, you are trusting the Father’s forgiveness; you are indeed trusting and loving him with your whole heart.

And so, the impossible becomes possible because of God (Matt 19:26). You are able to trust God completely because of Christ’s reputation. You have faith in that great name, and no other. You see that his is the saving nature, not yours, and so, you have faith in Christ alone. This faith is keeping the Commandments.

Prayer: I believe in you, Lord Jesus. Amen.

Click here for resources to learn the Ten Commandments.

Receive these daily Sola Devotions by email. Write mryman@solapublishing.com with "Subscribe" as your subject. To unsubscribe, send an email to the same address with "Unsubscribe" as your subject.

In Harmony with the Word is an eight-session Bible Study focusing on Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, from Matthew 5-7. It is written at an introductory level, to be led by a lay leader or pastor in a small-group question and discussion format. The study would serve as an excellent resource for monthly women's group meetings, or in an informal small-group setting.

Leader's Guide

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Our All and Everything http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/our-all-and-everything/a1338.html Fri, 06 Sep 19 00:00:00 -0500 Click for larger image

Psalm 111:1-10

From the Reformer

On Redemption:

And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried, descended to Hell, on the third day rose again from the dead, ascended to Heaven and sat down at the right hand of God the Almighty Father. From there He will come to judge the living and the dead.

Q: What does this mean?

A: I believe that Jesus Christ is truly God, born of the Father in eternity and also truly man, born of the Virgin Mary. He is my Lord! He redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, bought and won me from all sins, death and the authority of the Devil. It did not cost Him gold or silver, but His holy, precious blood, His innocent body—His death! Because of this, I am His very own, will live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him righteously, innocently and blessedly forever, just as He is risen from death, lives and reigns forever. Yes, this is true.

—Martin Luther, The Small Catechism

Pulling It Together

You await nothing to be added to your life so that you might be saved. You owe nothing. You must do nothing. Nothing needs to be added to faith because nothing needs to be added to the one in whom we have faith. Good works? No. Penance? No. Get baptized again? No. Stop drinking, smoking, chewing, cussing, dancing, going to movies, reading popular fiction? No to all of these and more. 

There is no greater cause to come, no finer moment, no more wondrous event, no fuller teaching. Jesus is the One. He is the Only One. He has given you someone to live for, joy in the living, the wonder of history to remember, and the assurance of your hope in him. He has done all this in himself—and for you.

Not My Will, But Yours is a six-week study that explores the topic of the “free will” from a biblical perspective, looking at what Scripture has to say about the bondage of the human will, and how Jesus Christ has come to deliver us from ourselves.

Leader's Guide

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Longsuffering http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/longsuffering/a1288.html Tue, 11 Jun 19 00:00:00 -0500 Click for larger image

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Galatians 5:22-23

From the Reformer

Longsuffering is that quality which enables a person to bear adversity, injury, reproach, and makes them patient to wait for the improvement of those who have done him wrong. When the devil finds that he cannot overcome certain persons by force he tries to overcome them in the long run. He knows that we are weak and cannot stand anything long. Therefore he repeats his temptation time and again until he succeeds. To withstand his continued assaults we must be longsuffering and patiently wait for the devil to get tired of his game.

—Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians

Pulling It Together

He was sitting in line at the drive-through of a local hamburger restaurant, waiting three cars back. Suddenly, he backed up a few feet, almost hitting the car behind him, pulled out of the line, and roared out of the parking lot, blowing his horn and shouting inaudibly from behind his rolled-up windows.

You won’t find “shortsuffering” in the dictionary. Though you readily enough comprehend its meaning, it is not worth defining. This trait, which all possess, is without quality worth definition, perhaps because it is such an easy thing. Anyone can suffer for the short term. The Christian’s task, however, is to suffer long, to be patient, to wait through the night for the rising sun, to content oneself with the Lord’s thousand years as though it were but a day. This can be done easily enough when the long night and the longer life is spent with God.

More Reflections

Connections Magazine is a voice for confessional Lutheranism in North America, featuring ministries and mission efforts of the movement. It provides reliable, Biblically based content, stories of faith, and inspirational messages all in a “coffee table quality” package that delights its subscribers. Connections has a deep commitment to the evangelical nature of Lutheranism that responds with vigor to Christ’s great commission to go and make disciples. It also gives a public center to the effort to renew Lutheranism in North America in concert with Biblical authority and the teachings of the Lutheran Confessions.

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Drawing a Crowd http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/drawing-a-crowd/a1286.html Sat, 25 May 19 00:00:00 -0500 Click for larger image

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Acts 2:1-21

From the Reformer

…the Holy Ghost is sent forth into the hearts of the believers, as here stated, “God sent the Spirit of his Son into your hearts.” This sending is accomplished by the preaching of the Gospel through which the Holy Spirit inspires us with fervor and light, with new judgment, new desires, and new motives. This happy innovation is not a derivative of reason or personal development, but solely the gift and operation of the Holy Ghost.

—Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians (4:6)

Pulling It Together

It is curious that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit happened quite suddenly, even surprisingly, but at a point when the little Church was in one accord. This should not be viewed as a formula by which to control the Holy Spirit. Yet it is worth noticing that God chose to pour out his Spirit on the congregation when they were already acting like his people. It is also worth noticing that the outpouring drew even more souls to this commonality, this communion of saints. When the Holy Spirit falls upon us, he lifts up Christ and draws all manner of people (John 12:32)—seekers and mockers alike.

More Reflections

Connections Magazine is a voice for confessional Lutheranism in North America, featuring ministries and mission efforts of the movement. It provides reliable, Biblically based content, stories of faith, and inspirational messages all in a “coffee table quality” package that delights its subscribers. Connections has a deep commitment to the evangelical nature of Lutheranism that responds with vigor to Christ’s great commission to go and make disciples. It also gives a public center to the effort to renew Lutheranism in North America in concert with Biblical authority and the teachings of the Lutheran Confessions.

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Credo http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/credo/a1278.html Mon, 20 May 19 00:00:00 -0500 Click for larger image

Acts 16:4b-15

From the Reformer

The Third Article: On Becoming Holy

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian Church, the community of the saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and an everlasting life. Amen.

Q. What does this mean?

A. I believe that I cannot come to my Lord Jesus Christ by my own intelligence or power. But the Holy Spirit called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, made me holy and kept me in the true faith, just as He calls, gathers together, enlightens and makes holy the whole Church on earth and keeps it with Jesus in the one, true faith. In this Church, He generously forgives each day every sin committed by me and by every believer. On the last day, He will raise me and all the dead from the grave. He will give eternal life to me and to all who believe in Christ.

—Martin Luther, The Small Catechism

Pulling It Together

Too often the Spirit is viewed as a tool or power. In fact, many believers refer to the Holy Spirit as an “it.” This is far from the truth. The Spirit is God. God is not to be manipulated nor can he be used. The Spirit dictates and you respond—not the other way round. He calls you, keeps you, comforts you, and completes you. People of the Spirit are only too happy to positively respond to him when he urges in whatever direction. This is nowhere more so than when he leads you to absolution, causing you to remember the words of Jesus: “Your sins are forgiven” (Luke 7:48).

More Reflections

Connections Magazine is a voice for confessional Lutheranism in North America, featuring ministries and mission efforts of the movement. It provides reliable, Biblically based content, stories of faith, and inspirational messages all in a “coffee table quality” package that delights its subscribers. Connections has a deep commitment to the evangelical nature of Lutheranism that responds with vigor to Christ’s great commission to go and make disciples. It also gives a public center to the effort to renew Lutheranism in North America in concert with Biblical authority and the teachings of the Lutheran Confessions.

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Knock, Knock http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/knock-knock/a1266.html Thu, 02 May 19 00:00:00 -0500

Acts 11:1-18

From the Reformer

Heaven and earth, all the emperors, kings, and princes of the world, could not raise a fit dwelling-place for God; yet, in a weak human soul, that keeps his Word, he willingly resides. Isaiah calls heaven the Lord’s seat, and earth his footstool; he does not call them his dwelling-place; when we seek after God, we shall find him with them that keep his Word. Christ says: “If a man love me, he will keep my words, and my father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” Nothing could be simpler or clearer than these words of the Saviour… (Martin Luther, Table Talk)

Pulling It Together

“But I have always done it this way!” Nevertheless, now it is time to listen to how the Lord wants things done. The person who responds to his will is the one who answers the knock (Rev 3:20). God comes in to the heart-home of the person who listens, hears the knock, and opens the door to God’s way instead of keeping the door of his mind and heart locked.

Sometimes the knock is heard in a dream; very often it resounds when reading the Scripture, or even in hearing a sermon or from conversation during a Bible study. However it comes, when you hear the knock, open your door.

More Reflections

Connections Magazine is a voice for confessional Lutheranism in North America, featuring ministries and mission efforts of the movement. It provides reliable, biblically based content, stories of faith, and inspirational messages all in a “coffee table quality” package that delights its subscribers. Connections has a deep commitment to the evangelical nature of Lutheranism that responds with vigor to Christ’s great commission to go and make disciples. It also gives a public center to the effort to renew Lutheranism in North America in concert with Biblical authority and the teachings of the Lutheran Confessions.

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Glimpsing God http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/glimpsing-god/a1208.html Thu, 21 Feb 19 00:00:00 -0600

Original photo by Keoni Cabral

Psalm 99:1-9

From the Reformer

We must think of no other God than Christ; that God which speaks not out of Christ’s mouth, is not God. God, in the Old Testament, bound himself to the throne of grace; there was the place where he would hear, so long as the policy and government of Moses stood and flourished. In like manner, he will still hear no man or human creature, but only through Christ. A number of the Jews ran to and fro burning incense, and offerings here and there, and seeking God in various places, not regarding the tabernacle, so it goes now; we seek God everywhere; but not seeking him in Christ, we find him nowhere.

—Martin Luther, Table Talk

Pulling It Together

You may worship him in Zion or by the pillar of the camp or at his footstool or on the holy mountain or on the Mercy Seat itself! Where one worships, God is worshiped for two reasons: firstly, because adoration is due him, but secondly, because worship causes one to glimpse God in his glory. Seeing God as he truly is, draws one closer to God. That has, after all, always been his goal—to have you at his side.

This is why we are disciples and followers of Christ. We to be always by his side, beholding his holy glory.

Does the way you worship and therefore see God draw you close or distance you from the side of God?

Learning About Confession - Teacher's Guide guides leaders in teaching the meaning of Confession and Forgiveness according Luther's guidance in the Small Catechism. The student book, Learning About Confession is recommended for the Sixth Grade Level. Each week focuses on a specific Bible story that illustrates the theme, with additional references from Scripture and Luther's Small Catechism - Children's Version. With a healthy balance of Law and Gospel, lessons emphasize the connection between repentance and forgiveness, and how the promise of God’s forgiveness changes our lives.

 

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The Right Focus http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/the-right-focus/a1211.html Thu, 21 Feb 19 00:00:00 -0600

 Psalm 85:8-13

From the Reformer

13. The result of faith is that for such a great blessing, the forgiveness of sins because of Christ, we love God in return. Therefore, love for God is a fruit of faith.
14. This same faith causes us to be ashamed of having offended such a kind and generous father.
15. Therefore, it cause us to abhor our flesh with its evil desires.

—Philip Melancthon, Loci Communes Theologici

Pulling It Together

He was convinced that he was no good because he could not keep the commandments of God perfectly. He did well most days but then fell down sometimes. His mistake was that he focused on the falling. Focus on the Father instead of the fault and you will find you have his strength again and the fruits to match.

Holy Families! is an initiative of the North American Lutheran Church provided through a generous grant from the Thrivent Foundation, in honor of the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation (1517 AD to 2017 AD). Produced by Sola Publishing, this free, special initiative includes a number of Lutheran discipleship resources for families and congregations.

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Prudence http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/prudence/a1212.html Thu, 21 Feb 19 00:00:00 -0600

Psalm 32:1-11

From the Reformer

David, after enduring long and dreadful torments, when God was severely trying him, by showing him the tokens of his wrath, having at length obtained favor, applies this evidence of the divine goodness for his own benefit, and the benefit of the whole Church, that from it he may teach himself and them what constitutes the chief point of salvation. All men must necessarily be either in miserable torment, or, which is worse, forgetting themselves and God, must continue in deadly lethargy, until they are persuaded that God is reconciled towards them. Hence David here teaches us that the happiness of men consists only in the free forgiveness of sins, for nothing can be more terrible than to have God for our enemy; nor can he be gracious to us in any other way than by pardoning our transgressions.

—John Calvin, Commentary on Psalms

Pulling It Together

This Psalm is a maskil of David. Maskil is a Hebrew word meaning someone who is sensible or prudent. In other words, a maskil is a teachable person. When the word maskil introduces a Psalm, it is typically considered a song that teaches a particular lesson.

This Psalm then, calls people to be sensible by acknowledging their sin. God’s hand will be heavy upon them until they do. Therefore, prudence dictates repentance because the one who stubbornly clings to his wrong ways will never be happy. The only way to be truly happy is to confess and trust in God’s mercy and forgiveness.

Personalities of Faith is a ten-session Bible study for youth. The goal of the series is to encourage young people to commit themselves to follow Jesus in discipleship by becoming "personalities of faith." By showing biblical examples of people who have followed—or failed to follow—God's call, participants will be prepared to better follow the Lord in their own lives.

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A Fortune of Joy http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/a-fortune-of-joy/a1213.html Thu, 21 Feb 19 00:00:00 -0600

Original photo by Yousef T. Omar 

Psalm 126:1-6

From the Reformer

When he adds that they were glad, there is an implied antithesis between this fresh joy and the long continued sorrow with which they were afflicted in their captivity. He expressly declares that joy was restored to them, to enable them the better to estimate the dismal condition from which they had been extricated.

—John Calvin, Commentary on Psalms

Pulling It Together

The local bank began offering 5% interest on checking accounts. Many certificates of deposit do not offer that much. You would have to be crazy not to switch to a bank that offered such earning potential on a checking account. But God goes further still. He does far more than restore fortunes. At the bank you have a minimum deposit and monthly requirements. God starts with your nothing and makes it a fortune. Just so, like a stream through a desert, God gives you a fortune of joy.

The Sola Online Worship Resource (SOWeR) also includes bulletin templates. There are word processing templates for both communion and non-communion services. There are also templates for Sola, LBW, and Reclaim service settings. SOWeR is a lectionary-based web resource for Scripture lessons, lectionary inserts, children's bulletins, devotionals, text studies, prayers, hymn-planning, and much more! Join the hundreds of congregations who have discovered how simple, flexible, and useful SOWeR is for worship planning and sermon preparation. This brochure will answer more questions about SOWeR. Call 1-888-887-9840 to order a yearly subscription. 

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Let Go http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/let-go/a1214.html Thu, 21 Feb 19 00:00:00 -0600

Original photo by seriousfun 

Isaiah 43:16-21

From the Reformer

God delights in our temptations, and yet hates them; he delights in them when they drive us to prayer; he hates them when they drive us to despair. The Psalm says: “An humble and contrite heart is an acceptable sacrifice to God,” etc. Therefore, when it goes well with you, sing and praise God with a hymn: goes it evil, that is, does temptation come, then pray: “For the Lord has pleasure in those that fear him;” and that which follows is better: “and in them that hope in his goodness,” for God helps the lowly and humble, seeing he says: “Thinkest thou my hand is shortened that I cannot help?” He that feels himself weak in faith, let him always have a desire to be strong therein, for that is a nourishment which God relishes in us.

—Martin Luther, Table Talk

Pulling It Together

You are a sinner, besieged with temptation. The weight of it worries you. Perhaps, you wonder, it is not well with your soul. Let go of it; give it to God. Take a breath; calm down and pray. “Be still and know” that God is God. (Psa 46:10) “Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him”…”In just a little while” you will see that he has carried the load all the while. (Psa 37:7, 10a) Have a little faith and the mountain will be lifted and thrown far away. God makes a way for you even in the most difficult situation. Even in the midst of what might cause despair, the person of faith may confidently proclaim that all is well; God is in control.

Come, Lord Jesus answers the many questions that arise when modern readers look into the book of Revelation. In this book readers will come to understand the first-century context in which Revelation was written—and readers will join the holy choir in looking forward to the fulfillment of God's plan, offering our own invitation: "Come, Lord Jesus."

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The Further Shore http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/the-further-shore/a1209.html Thu, 21 Feb 19 00:00:00 -0600

Original photo by Chelle

Psalm 51:1–12

From the Reformer

…vindicating them from the hand of Pharaoh and from cruel bondage, [our Lord] paved a way for them through the Red Sea, and drowned Pharaoh himself and their Egyptian foes, who were pressing close behind, and threatening them with destruction. For in this way also he promises us in baptism, and shows by a given sign that we are led by his might, and delivered from the captivity of Egypt, that is, from the bondage of sin, that our Pharaoh is drowned; in other words, the devil, although he ceases not to try and harass us. But as that Egyptian was not plunged into the depth of the sea, but cast out upon the shore, still alarmed the Israelites by the terror of his look, though he could not hurt them, so our enemy still threatens, shows his arms and is felt, but cannot conquer.

—John Calvin, Institutes

Pulling It Together

It is God himself who provides that further shore of salvation. Indeed, he is the shore. You must rise up and go! The way is perilous and frightening and you will be told many times you cannot do it and that you will certainly drown in the difficulties. Yet, if in your journey, you have already taken hold of that Shore, and rest in his peace and the fullness of his joy, the harassment seems diminished, the threats hollow, and defeat impossible.

The course is plotted and behold! The Captain himself is in the boat with you, steering you to himself—always present yet bringing you toward a fuller presence.

Connections Magazine is a voice for confessional Lutheranism in North America, featuring ministries and mission efforts of the movement. It provides reliable, Biblically based content, stories of faith, and inspirational messages all in a “coffee table quality” package that delights its subscribers. Connections has a deep commitment to the evangelical nature of Lutheranism that responds with vigor to Christ’s great commission to go and make disciples. It also gives a public center to the effort to renew Lutheranism in North America in concert with Biblical authority and the teachings of the Lutheran Confessions.

 

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On the Run http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/on-the-run/a1210.html Thu, 21 Feb 19 00:00:00 -0600

Original photo from Wikipedia of a cave at Qumran similar to what David may have hidden within when hiding from Saul

Psalm 4:1–8

From the Reformer

It is uncertain at what time this psalm was composed. But from the tenor of it, it is conjectured, with probability, that David was then a fugitive and an exile. I therefore refer it to the time when he was persecuted by Saul. If, however, any person is disposed rather to understand it as referring to the time when he was compelled by the conspiracy of Absalom to secure his safety by flight, I will not greatly contend about the matter. But as, a little after, he uses an expression, namely, “How long?” (verse 3) which indicates that he had a lengthened struggle, the opinion which I have already brought forward is the more probable. For we know with what varied trials he was harassed, before he obtained complete deliverance, from the time when Saul began to be his enemy.

—John Calvin, Commentary on Psalms

Pulling It Together

David was called to be the king of Israel yet was consigned to the wilderness instead of a palace, running from the present king and the whole army. “But God promised!” It is a familiar lament in modern times. One wants what he cannot as yet have and is expected to find her contentment in God. If David, in his distress, was expected to find, and was able to know peace and safety in God alone, what is you struggle meant to accomplish? Let God put gladness in your heart despite your suffering. He intends to give you more than you imagine in spite of the struggle—and perhaps because of that struggle. “Put your trust in the LORD.”

Sola Publishing offers Liturgical Calendars that chart the Scripture readings for each Sunday in the Church Year, with each Sunday printed in the proper liturgical color for easy reference. Sola Publishing recommends the use of the Revised Common Lectionary as found in the Lutheran Service Book (LSB) published by Concordia Publishing House, and makes use of this lectionary in its own Sola Online Worship eResource (SOWeR) website. Order one for pastor, secretary,and sacristy. 

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