Wednesday, February 29, 2012

February 29, 2012

On this leap day, I decided to leap into Scripture. Here are some of my favorite Bible verses.

"The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?" --- Psalm 27:1

"Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong." --- 1 Corinthians 16:13

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast." --- Ephesians 2:8

"When I am afraid, I put my trust in you." --- Psalm 56:3
---(I learned this as a child through the King James version, so what I really learned was "What time I am afraid, I will put my trust in Thee." I still prefer that particular version for that particular verse)

"For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword,
it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the
thoughts and attitudes of the heart." (Hebrew 4:12)

On September the 26th I made myself a vow to read the entire Bible in a year. My strong Protestant heritage and the sacrifices of my ancestors played a large part in this goal. I share their faith and love it just as they did. If they made reading Scripture a major part of their lives, I wanted to do that as well. I learned that I did not know certain books of the Bible nearly as well as I thought I did. Discovering them in depth was enjoyable, interesting, and edifying.

I currently use a  "Take Note" Bible in the New King James version. I do prefer the New International Version better, though. I love the original King James Version for its history, imagery, and poetic wording, but for everyday reading it's just too "Shakespearean" for me to wade through :-) So it's going slowly, but I feel an immense sense of gratitude that in this day and age I can practice my faith freely and read Scripture in my own capacity. My ancestors didn't have this luxury. Here's to the journey ahead!

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

February 28, 2012

Do you have Protestant heritage in your family? Consider this. It took great courage for those first “reformers” to do as they did, to swim against the current. In the first decades of the Protestant Reformation there were a thousand little acts of defiance, taking chances, standing firm in the faith, that could have ended disastrously. Yet the Spirit prevailed. One such breath-holding moment was the Diet of Augsburg on the 25th of June, 1530. Imagine the scene. The situation was critical. Protestantism was very new, struggling to hold on against the tide of tradition. Many of the princes of Germany (which was not the country we know now, but part of the Holy Roman Empire) had embraced Martin Luther’s vision of a new reformed church. They desired to offer a confession of faith that would clearly lay out exactly what they believed.

They were against the majority of the world, but they never flinched. They set forth their Augsburg Confession with confidence that was perhaps shown more than felt, knowing full well that the world would view such an act as heresy and dissention. The Augsburg Confession clearly outlined the Lutheran faith system (compatible in many places with the “Reformation faiths” of Calvinism and Anabaptism) and set down the basics: These new “Protestants” did indeed believe in the Holy Trinity, Christ’s identity as the Son of God, original sin, the virgin birth, and ministerial orders, but unlike the Catholic tenets of the day, they rejected the necessity of works for salvation, saying that a true Christian should desire to do good works as “fruit of the spirit.” The Augsburg Confession also laid down the idea of justification by faith, which became a timeless battle cry of the Protestant Reformation.

Time stopped. This very new faith might be crushed in its infancy. Who could tell? Few had any idea of the future bloodshed that would come about for the simple reason of uttering these words. But still, the princes and electors of Germany set forth their Confession. The world did a double take. What were these dissenters up to, anyway? (The term “Protestant” didn’t come into practice until about 1539, when German Lutherans “protested” their lack of rights in an edict that favored Catholicism). The authors of the Confession stood firm. As a result, we Lutherans still follow the terms put forth in the Augsburg Confession, which is part of the Lutheran sacred literature known as the Book of Concord.

I can just imagine those dignified gentlemen in their long scholarly robes, perspiring wildly as they waited to see if the articles of their new faith would be accepted. And Martin Luther himself, forced into hiding after gaining status as an outlaw, must have suffered through countless scenarios in his mind. Just before the Augsburg Confession was finished, he had read over it and had said “it pleases me right well, and I know not how to better or alter anything in it, and will not hazard the attempt; for I cannot tread so softly and gently.”

The Diet of Augsburg, 1530
The wars of religion were just over the horizon. England had a few years to go until the break with Rome. John Calvin had not yet begun to set forth the tenets of Calvinism. France had not yet become home to vast numbers of Huguenots, French Calvinist Protestants.  Europe --- and the world --- held its breath. And although they must have had an inkling of the bloodshed that would dog the Reformation, these German princes and electors and practitioners of the newfound “Lutheran” faith stood firm.

These men dared to be different. They gave me the chance to be different. Today I’m going to live my faith boldly. I will remember those men who prayed so faithfully; the echoes of their prayers changed the history of the world. As Martin Luther would say, “All who call on God in true faith, earnestly from the heart, will certainly be heard, and will receive what they have asked and desired, although not in the hour or in the measure, or the very thing which they ask. Yet they will obtain something greater and more glorious than they had dared to ask.”

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Monday, February 27, 2012

February 27, 2012

So lately, in my quest to understand the "Reformation faiths" more clearly, I've been comparing Martin Luther and John Calvin. I think many people might sort of lump them together, and that could not be more inaccurate. These men lived around the same time and both advocated "reformed" faith systems, but beyond there the similarities end. I've noted that Martin Luther was witty, open, and tongue-in-cheek, while John Calvin preferred a more mature, straightforward, and soul-searching approach. Of course, being a Lutheran, perhaps I have a bit of bias :-)

This isn't to say who's right and who's wrong (both had their ups and downs) but their differences *are* intriguing. For instance, Martin Luther understood that humans were enveloped in sin, but he chose to speak of how we might make our hearts light and rise above our failings, how we might find God. John Calvin had that same understanding of sin but chose to make very certain that Christians understood exactly where they stood as far as being corrupted. His views were presented in a no-nonsense scholarly manner and usually cut straight to the point. Granted, I haven't done that much comparative study between Calvin and Luther . . . I've studied the differences in the faiths they fathered, but not so much in the men themselves. Perhaps I'll find some contradictions to these rules.

I do think it's fascinating that their differing personalities show in their quotes. Today I've showcased some of my favorite John Calvin quotes:

"Without the fear of God, men do not even observe justice and charity among themselves."

"There is no knowing that does not begin with knowing God."

"In forming an estimate of sins, we are often imposed upon by imagining that the more hidden the less heinous they are."

"There is not one blade of grass, there is no color in this world that is not intended to make us rejoice."

"We should ask God to increase our hope when it is small, awaken it when it is dormant, confirm it when it is wavering, strengthen it when it is weak, and raise it up when it is overthrown."

Though Calvin might not have dispensed his humor quite so freely as Luther, there is one quote of his that shows his witty side, a quote I have always found particularly amusing:

"I consider looseness with words no less of a defect than looseness of the bowels."

Martin Luther would be proud! :-)

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Sunday, February 26, 2012

February 26, 2012

Protestant history is full of tragedy. A poignant example is the story of the French Huguenots killed in Florida in September and October 1565. There are differing opinions on this event. I’ve heard it said that politics were involved, or that the Huguenots would have wreaked havoc on the very new Spanish settlement of St. Augustine if they only had the chance. I personally don’t feel that it matters what all the reasons were. Faith was definitely involved, and it is completely right and fair to call these men martyrs. Nearly 250 Frenchmen lost their lives.

Matanzas Inlet, near the site of the French massacre

Both French and Spanish accounts state the bare and ugly facts. Men who just days before had survived a hurricane and shipwreck were captured on the beach. They offered to surrender, and in return had their weapons confiscated and their hands tied behind their backs. They were asked if any might be willing to give up their faith. They chose to die instead of abandoning their beliefs. They are the country’s first Protestant martyrs, and I have been continually hoping and praying that more honor and attention will be given them. They certainly deserve it.

I can’t imagine being in that position. A few simple words would have saved them. Yet they chose to stay true to the faith that had succored them during the most difficult time of their lives. The dream of leaving Europe for a “New World” of religious freedom had been quickly trampled. The story of the Matanzas Huguenots has always been very close to my heart, and when I wear my beloved Huguenot cross, I always think of these men and the sacrifice they made.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Saturday, February 25, 2012

February 25, 2012

It's impossible to talk about the Protestant Reformation without mentioning Martin Luther. People seem to have strong opinions about him, for good and for bad, and while he wasn't perfect, I admire him immensely for his steadfast, direct nature and his engaging quotes. He was a great lover of words. Here are some of my favorite Martin Luther quotes:

“I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.”
 “True humility does not know that it is humble. If it did, it would be proud from the contemplation of so fine a virtue.”

“I know not the way God leads me, but well do I know my Guide.”

“The fewer the words, the better the prayer.”

“This grace of God is a very great, strong, mighty and active thing. It does not lie asleep in the soul. Grace hears, leads, drives, draws, changes, works all in man, and lets itself be distinctly felt and experienced. It is hidden, but its works are evident.”

My spiritual journey has often been brightened by Martin Luther's unfailing wit and uncanny ability to pick out what is truly important.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Friday, February 24, 2012

February 24, 2012

I’m a proud Protestant. I realize there are many different denominations that may or may not use that name as an "umbrella" term, but I’m referring to the first faiths of the Reformation, the Lutheran faith in particular. I stand in awe of the sacrifices our ancestors underwent just to practice their beliefs. I admire the men and women who were martyred for their faith, who dared to be different, who went without basic necessities rather than conform.

In my first post I wanted to give a shout-out to a group of people I really admire. I am daily inspired by the courage and faith of the French Huguenots who adhered to another of the "Reformation faiths," that of Calvinism. The Huguenots rarely had an "easy" existence. From their beginning in the 1530s or so to their "exile" from French society in the 1680s and beyond, they were persecuted, demeaned, and belittled. First they died a civil death. Then, in many cases, a literal one.

The Huguenots are shining examples of the Protestant heritage, men and women who would never give in. They held firm to the principle that salvation was "by grace, through faith," and they are known just as much in death as they were in life. This next photo is of my favorite piece of religious jewelry.

A symbol of enduring faith and persecution

Last Christmas I received a Huguenot cross. It is indeed a stunning symbol of spiritual pride and a nod to the religious heritage and traditions that my ancestors so proudly upheld. The Huguenot cross is more than just a pretty and unique cross, however. Each part has a meaning. The cross in the center represents Christ’s sacrifice. The points at the ends of each section add up to eight for the Eight Beatitudes. The four fleur de lis represent the four Gospels and are also a nod to the French heritage of those persecuted. The three tips on each of the fleur de lis add up to twelve and represent the Twelve Apostles. The dove has long been a popular symbol of the Holy Spirit.

I feel blessed to wear my Huguenot cross. It reminds me of my Protestant forebears’ sacrifice, and it gives me the courage to be strong in my faith.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

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