Archive for January, 2010

the sequence

I have always considered spritual “fruitfulness” to be works, the things I do, accomplish, virtues I express maybe.


I am becoming convinced that I need to rethink this idea. Fruitfulness comes from the knowledge of Jesus Christ.

I think the sequence of Christian development is perhaps this:

  1. Belief (Gospel of John). Believe that Jesus is the Savior, the Son of God.
  2. Knowledge(II Peter 1:8): who Christ is, who I am united to Him, etc.
  3. Transformation: As a person grows in knowledge, they are transformed. God transforms him or her.

This is the theory right now. I need to explore this further.


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[This post is a continuation of my “take” or elaboration on Martin Luther’s tract Concerning Christian Liberty. The content of this tract is going to be Vitaliy and my “sermons” for the rest of our lives, when counseling when speaking, etc.]

Martin Luther wrote this tract in the context of salvation and justification. That was the crux issue of his time. That certainly is still the crucial issue–justification by faith alone, not our works. However, perhaps today we still wrestle with issues concerning our sanctification. And that is one topic where this tract by Luther speaks to me. My sanctification is accomplished by faith in Christ alone, not a drop of my work.

The first care of every Christian ought to be to lay aside all reliance on works, and strengthen his faith alone more and more, and by it grow in the knowledge, not of works, but of Christ Jesus, who has suffered and risen again for him.

A right faith in Christ is an incomparable treasure, carrying with it universal salvation and preserving from all evil.

A right faith. This is a key point, for there are all kinds of faith, and Christians need to be grounded in a “right faith.”

Luther goes on to explain this right faith, but let’s stop first and think about wrong faiths we may be encouraged to believe or may simply rise up in our hearts. First is a faith in ourselves, in our own works. This kind of faith is extremely pervasive in our nature. I’m not saying that we are incapable of “good;” but the point is that our “good” is not what gains us any type of favor with God after we are His children.

Another example of a wrong faith is positive thinking. If I believe everything will be OK, it will. For the thinking person, it’s easy to see why this is a misplaced faith. It assumes that events or people I have no control over will do what I consider to be right . . . if I just believe in this. Or that in the end, it will all come out in some way I consider acceptably good.

Luther defines three qualities (“virtues”) of right faith. They really are life-changing and worthy of digging into for a lifetime. I will summarize them here.

  1. The promises of God (the new covenant in Christ) fulfill His laws. God both made the laws and fulfilled them. By believing in Christ, the fulfillment of the Law is mine.
  2. Believe God to be worthy of trust; this means believing that He really is true, righteous, good, etc. This is critical because this belief  then shows my soul “prepared to do His whole will . . . gives itself up to be dealt with as it may please God. For it cleaves to His promises, and never doubts that He is true, just, and wise, and will do, dispose, and provide for all things in the best way.” **In counseling people (and myself), this point is critical: do we really believe that God’s ways and His personal leading are best for us? This is one point where we all need our faith strengthened.
  3. Faith unites my soul to Christ; my soul and Christ become one flesh. “Whatsoever Christ possesses, that the believing soul may take to itself and boast of as its own, and whatever belongs to the soul, that Christ claims as His. If we compare these possessions, we shall see how inestimable is the gain. Christ is full of grace, life, and salvation; the soul is full of sin, death, and condemnation.”
  • Christ is Priest and King. As Priest, He prays and preaches. As King, He rules over all. In our union with Him, we have these two states communicated to us. In Christ, we also are worthy to come to God and pray, we also preach (the priestly rights and functions). As King, all things are subject to Him.  In Christ by faith, “all things . . . are compelled to be subservient to his salvation.” (Again, one of my favorite points, useful with myself and others I counsel.) By faith in Christ I rule over every circumstance in my life (NO victimization!)— it ALL works for my good! It all serves me, to lead me to God.

So, in conclusion:

Preaching ought to have the object of promoting faith in Him. . . . And this faith is produced and is maintained by preaching why Christ came, what He has brought us and given to us, and to what profit and advantage He is to be received.

Yes, teaching the “right faith” and its qualities more and more is the work of a lifetime! And it’s the only faith worth that.

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[This post is my “take” or elaboration on Martin Luther’s tract Concerning Christian Liberty. The content of this tract is going to be my “sermon” for the rest of my life, when counseling women, when speaking, etc.]

Introduction: When we are having a hard time in life, we ask ourselves questions like: How can I be happy?. . .  How can I escape this? . . . Where is the exit? . . . How can I have a good marriage? . . . How can I get married? . . . How can I get more money? . . . Why can’t I get more money? . . . Why can’t I get a better job? get promoted? . . . Why aren’t my plans working out?

We also bolster our questions by reviewing our motives: I was going to tithe 20% when my business was successful. . . . I devoted so much of my time to youth ministry hoping that God see my work and bless my business. . . . I have been submitting and submitting, and my husband still hasn’t changed–he’s even worse than before! . . . I went to a Christian college so God could give me a Christian husband, but I’m still not married . . . or my husband has turned away from the Lord anyway. . . I took my kids to church every week so they would trust in God, but they still haven’t and are living reckless lives. . . . I’ve been reading my Bible and praying every day, but I still can’t control how I eat!

In the first case, when we ask why I can’t have what I want or how can I escape the problems I have, we are asking the wrong questions. We’re revolving our thoughts around issues that aren’t in our power to answer, issues or people that we really have no control over.

In the second case, concerning our motives, we reveal that we wanted to earn certain favors from God by our works. Think about it: As Christians, we have come to the point where we agree with God that only by Christ’s work on the cross can we be saved from judgment and have eternal life. Yet, when we start our new life in God, we go right back to trusting in our works for our sanctification. Greek myths have such plainly human-like gods–they are jealous, steal, demand favors, etc. They are gods made by men in man’s image. Yet, even we as believers are guilty of doing this with God when we, for example,  1) feel ourselves more holy and more pleasing to God than other Christians because of our standards, 2) expect God to bless or help us in a certain way because of our “good” works, 3) think that we could be more holy if we worked harder, spent more time in prayer and Bible reading, or sinned less (at least the sins we know about), 4) categorize Christians by their perceived godliness or lack thereof.

Though we may admit to being unable to be good enough to earn or deserve eternal life, we sure want to be able to earn a “rank” in this life, in our sanctification, in our place among other Christians. We often teach that salvation is God’s work, but  sanctification is my work with God, it’s not just God’s work. . . . Is it possible? Will God share the glory of my sanctification with me? with anyone? Our human nature runs to be under law; we want to have a measuring stick; we want to be able to earn favors; we want to be able to think ourselves better than others.  We seek self-approval or the approval of others. And we think we get God’s approval the same way we get it with others or with ourselves. Without consciously thinking, this is how we operate. And that is why we desperately need to consciously think about this.

It was for freedom that Christ set us free [from the Law]; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery [being under the Law]. Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision [a requriement of the Law], Christ will be of no benefit to you. And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision [submits to being under the Law], that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law. You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified [in this life and the next] by law; you have fallen from grace. Galatians 5:1-4

Another concept we need to consider carefully is our division of earthly life and eternal life. I used to think, yes, when God considers my acceptance before Himself, He sees Christ’s righteousness. But I never really applied that to how God sees me now and every day of this earthly life.

The truth is, every moment and day of this earthly life, God sees me in Christ. Christ’s perfect life is accounted to me. God sees me as perfect in this life, and He alone will lead me into actually living that; I can’t lead myself into living it.

OK, time to put Vika to sleep. So far, this was mostly me. When we get to Luther, it gets better!

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morning routine

I’ve started a new morning routine with the girls. We have breakfast together, they clear their plates, and they color a Bible story page while I tell them the story.

There are many great, free printable Bible coloring pages online. DLTK and Christianbook and Calvary Chapel Children’s Ministry has their whole curriculum online.

I’m wanting to start adding a letter of the alphabet, since my kids L.U.V. starfall.com (thank you, Kelly), and I found this beautiful site by Jan Brett (children’s author) with free alphabet flashcards, coloring pages, etc. They are so beautifully done!

Skyla and Vika are memorizing the 10 commandments with me right now. So far, they know 1. Worship only God, 2. Make no idols, and today was 3. Don’t misuse God’s name. So tomorrow we’re starting letter A and a picture of Moses with the 10 commandments.

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1 Peter 3:3 calls women out plainly:  Reject the trendy, sultry hair styles, attention-grabbing jewelry and clothes designed to arouse male passion.   Adorn yourself with a strong faith and hope in God and you will be clothed with a quiet and gentle spirit that is winsomely attractive to men. Here.

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a very 8th-grade word for me: grody. Went right along with sky-high bangs, hairspray, gel, etc.

I am posting this so you will feel better or at least normal about your housekeeping skills. I recently cleaned out my frig of all the science projects, and here’s what I found.

First, my favorite:

This was a dish that Vitaliy made (and mostly ate) from his first fishing expedition of the winter season.

Every year  we recieve jars of homemade pickles, but they are so big, we usually don’t finish them in time after we open them, and they spoil.

OK, I have no idea what this was, but it’s mold-coated.

Grody . . .

Grody, grody, grody.

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These are photos of our pastors talking with unbelievers who came to our Christmas day (January 7) service.

Vsevelod Ivanovich, elder pastor, talking to a lady

pastor Vitaliy Fomin (black) talking to a guy

this is Alberto, Vitaliy Sokol talked to him and gave him this tract to read

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