Reformation Day: Celebrate the Light

Since today marks the 500-year anniversary of the day Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the castle door in Wittenberg, I’m re-sharing this post from last year. Happy Reformation Day!

What’s the first word or image that comes to mind when someone says October 31?

Maybe it’s a costume hanging in your closet or your favorite candy or the fall festival your church is hosting. Maybe it’s the pumpkin carving contest that didn’t quite go as planned.

For me, I think of my college Bible professor dressed in a long robe and hammering parchment paper to his office door to reenact the start of the Protestant Reformation.

Most people celebrate October 31 as Halloween, but few realize this day marks a milestone of Christianity. On this day in 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses, or arguments, to the castle door in Wittenberg, Germany in defiance of the Roman Catholic Church’s sale of “indulgences.” The pope promised that buying indulgences for a deceased loved one would shorten the relative’s stay in purgatory, thus “buying” his or her way into heaven.

Those who sold indulgences created a clever ditty to drive home the sale: “As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs.”

Essentially, the organized church was robbing people to pay its debts and giving them false hope for forgiveness of sins.

Luther called the church out on this non-biblical teaching, and in doing so, sparked a flame that began the Protestant Reformation.

Many Reformers and those who held to Protestant beliefs were martyred for their faith and stand against the established church. Among them were John Huss and William Tyndale, both burned at the stake.

Their crimes? Both dared to share the Bible with ordinary people in their common English tongue, Huss through a chapel service and Tyndale through an English translation of the Bible. Many others suffered similar fates for spreading the light of the gospel.

A challenge for us today

Believers have different opinions about what is acceptable and not acceptable for Halloween. This post is not going to argue those questions of conscience.

However, I do think Luther’s actions those many years ago hold a challenge for modern believers.

#1: Share your faith, even if it’s unpopular.

The rebuttals and cold shoulders we may receive for sharing our faith are nothing compared to the persecution of the Reformation Era. However, rejection can make us want to wait on the sidelines or keep our mouths shut.

Romans 1:12 dares us to stand up for what we believe and not be ashamed to speak out:

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek (NKJV).

However, when we do feel prompted to speak, we should always speak the truth lovingly (Ephesians 4:15).

#2: Celebrate light, not darkness.

Halloween tends to glorify the macabre and the grotesque. Oftentimes, this holiday presents sin as “fun” and something in which to revel. Never give in to practices that celebrate darkness.

There are plenty of other alternatives available. Local churches host fall festivals and community outreaches where children can safely enjoy clean fun and even learn about the gospel in the process. Some of my friends plan to open their doors to generously share the best candy on the block and also give out information about their church’s children ministries. Even if you don’t give out candy, you can still be intentional about taking candy packets or other goodies to your close neighbors who have children, just to build into those relationships.

Whatever you do on October 31, be different, not dark. If you spread the light of the gospel, others will notice.

~ Kristen

Tweetable

Celebrate light, not darkness, on October 31 – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

Street Stewardship: Our Calling and God’s Commission

As some of you know, I moved at the end of last year. After the mad rush to pack, clean, shuffle, and then repeat, I’ve settled into a cozy little place. And a bit of complacency.

  • Do I really need to paint that room? Nope.
  • Can I live without a pull-down attic access? Yep.
  • Gutters? Maybe this summer.

There’s nothing wrong with catching a break from home improvement projects. There is, however, a problem with complacency in other aspects of stewardship.

Yes, stewardship. A home is a blessing, a burden, and an opportunity all wrapped in one. I’m not only responsible for my home itself but also for what surrounds it.

And I’m not talking about the fence that I may or may not get around to adding.

Beyond the survey flags and sidewalks are people. We call them our neighbors. But how many of us know them? How many of us care about them?

The Second Commandment

Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” – Matthew 22: 37-40

Jesus’ words to the lawyer in Matthew 22 aren’t just a metaphor for selfless living. They’re a mission for loving the people next door.

You mean the sweet ones, like the little girl and grandmother? Oh, the noisy ones, too? Yes, all of them.

My Bible study group is going through a five-week course on leading small groups in our homes, with the purpose of developing relationships with the people on our streets.

One of the resources we’re using is The Art of Neighboring by Dave Runyon and Jay Pathak. Through a simple exercise, the book opened my eyes to how many of us, myself included, have supported missionaries around the world but failed to take the great commission to our neighborhoods.

The exercise goes like this: Draw a grid, three squares high and three squares wide. Put your house address in the middle. Can you add the names of your eight closest neighbors to the surrounding boxes? Beyond that, do you know anything about them, beyond their names?

Not going to lie. I filled two squares, and six empty ones stared back at me. I’ve been in my house not even three months, but that’s still lame.

Who’s the man in the wheelchair with all the dogs? Why does he look so sad? Why does the lady down the street sit outside with an elderly gentleman? What are their names, their stories?

I don’t know, but I need to step outside my comfort zone and find out.

Conflicts

On this site, I focus on God’s calling—on my life and yours—and how we can think truthfully and live daringly to fulfill it. I talk a lot about books, simply because writing is one area I feel God’s hand on my life, and like many of you, I enjoy discovering quality books by other authors.

But what good is sharing books if we don’t put words into action?

We can’t fulfill our calling if we miss God’s commission. We can’t get so busy with our work that we forget the reason we’re doing it.

Closing Thought

Of all the homes I could have purchased (and tried to purchase), God led me to this one.

The reason has to be more than my own comfort and convenience. Who knows what hurting life I can reach? Who knows which lonely soul needs a friend? And who knows what blessing my neighbors will be to me if I just take the time to know them?

God, open my eyes to see—really see—the world just beyond my driveway and give me a heart to love my neighbors as myself.

Let’s start by praying for our neighbors. My Bible study is doing “prayer walks” in our neighborhoods where we simply pray for the people on our streets and opportunities for “open doors.” (It’s funny how often we use that expression but never in terms of our neighbors.)

Will you join me?

~ Kristen

 

Tweetables

Street Stewardship: Our Calling & God’s Commission – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

We can’t fulfill our calling if we miss God’s commission. – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)