November 1 News Letter

November 7, 2017 by  
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Under The Elmtree

In This Edition


* A History of Luther’s 95 Theses

* IUS Purpose – Inform-Encourage-Equip

* Scripture-God’s Word Living & Powerful

* Classic Christian Hymns – Holy Holy Holy

* Book Reviews-Some Pastors & Teachers

* Leadership Lessons – ID Dysfunction

* This Day In History – The Reformation

* Read My Blog – Reformation & Revival


A History of Luther’s 95 Theses

The following material is provided by a pastor friend of many years, Jack Williamson. This is from his book “Luther’s Hammer–a concise history of the Reformation.”. I trust this is challenging, informative, and enjoyable as we celebrate the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation. Praise God for his Sovereign Providence and his infinite Grace.


It is tradition that the Protestant Reformation began on October 31, 1517 when the obscure Augustinian monk, Martin Luther, nailed a list of 95 theses to the front door of the cathedral at Wittenberg, Germany.  Luther prepared his list that he wanted to discuss and debate with Catholic colleagues who were supportive of the status quo.  On that Wednesday afternoon, he walked down to the Cathedral and nailed his list to the church’s front door.  Such an act sounds very bold, defiant, and rash; but it actually wasn’t.  The front door of the Cathedral was the community bulletin board where common notices were routinely posted.  If a local farmer needed to buy a cow or wanted to sell a used plow, he would post a notice on the church’s door.  But history will demonstrate that Luther’s list was no routine posting.


Luther’s theses presented an invitation for a robust discussion or even a formal debate.  Such public debates and discussions were quite common.  These were the days long before newspapers, radio, television, or any electronic devices.  Watching a debate was one of the more popular forms of entertainment of the day.  Martin wanted to initiate a discussion on one, any, or all of these ninety-five points.  He believed that these were issues where the Catholic Church’s teachings departed from the teaching of the Bible.


The content of his theses was nothing short of startling, defiant, and revolutionary.  Among the points were several that denied a human priest, or his work, was necessary for salvation.  The Church believed and taught that salvation could be obtained through its sacraments, but only properly ordained priests could perform them, therefore, as they saw it, a regularly ordained Catholic priest was essential for salvation.  Luther insisted that repentance should always be accompanied by a visible change in lifestyle and a person’s salvation could be legitimately questioned if there was no visible or tangible evidence of repentance.  He severely criticized the pope for not following the laws, policies, and regulations of his own Church.  He specifically singled out the pope for threatening dying people with centuries of languishing in Purgatory.  He wrote that the forgiveness of sins came only from God, and while the pope may reassure people that God has forgiven them, no pontiff had the authority to forgive sins.  In his list of theses, Luther seemed to equate Purgatory with Hell and stated that Heaven could be assured to an individual, which were both sharp departures from Roman Catholic orthodoxy.  He wrote that the veneration of relics was an evil practice and most of the artifacts were probably phony anyway.  After all, there were thousands of antique, square, and rusty nails that were being venerated as one of the three authentic nails used on the Lord’s cross.  How could dispensations be granted for the veneration of all them when it was obvious that very few, if any, could be authentic?


The theses also presented a much different picture of human nature than did Catholic dogma.  Luther insisted that there was no biblical proof that a person is ever freed from sin while alive.  He took the view of Augustine that human sin had rendered man dead in trespasses and sins totally unable to contribute to his own salvation.


He saved his most caustic remarks for his prime irritation—the sale of indulgences—which he boldly stated deceived people.  He wrote that they cannot save anyone, and they had no effect upon the dead.  Luther even suggested that the price of indulgences purchased for the dead ought to be returned to the purchasers by the pope, and the notion that punishment in Purgatory could be removed or even lessened by giving money to the Church was utter nonsense.  A person who thinks he or she is saved by purchasing an indulgence is damned along with the cleric who sold it.  Martin pointed out that the whole concept of indulgences removed the need for contrition and humility.  It created the impression that salvation can be obtained by earthly riches, which he labeled as a thoroughly absurd and a conspicuously unscriptural teaching.  If one person could afford to purchase an indulgence and have his or her sins forgiven, and another person was too poor to afford such a certificate and could not afford to have his sins forgiven, the whole idea of grace was utterly destroyed.  It wasn’t grace that saved, but gold.  Such a concept, Luther wrote, contradicted real repentance.  Exercising Christian love may make one a better person, but buying an indulgence doesn’t improve a soul.  He flatly said that indulgences were a waste of money, and that money was being sucked out of the hands of people who couldn’t afford such needless expenditures.  Martin went so far as to label Indulgences as ecclesiastical intimidation.  Never one to mince words or hide his opinion, Luther also wrote that if the pope knew how much indulgences actually cost people, he would destroy St. Peter’s that was largely built on funds derived from indulgences.  He even suggested that the pope, instead of using tithes and gifts, should use his own vast wealth to build St. Peter’s and give it to the people as a gift of pontifical grace.  This fiery monk observed that in his day the Gospel of Christ was being preached less and indulgences were being preached more.


This posting became the single act that ultimately pried the Catholic fingers off of the neck of Europe and ushered in freedom of religion throughout the region.  There is no question that this act was responsible for the popularity of America, the New World, as a safe refuge from the religious and civil turmoil of Europe.  It also catapulted religious freedom into the foundational documents of the United States of America, making it an essential value in American society.



* IUS Purpose – Inform-Encourage- Equip



The ministry of IgniteUS was founded for the purpose of equipping pastors and other church leaders to lead with competence and excellence in every aspect of local church ministry. The purpose of every church is to Make Disciples fully formed in the Image of Christ in character and conduct. The persistent decline of the church in America is an undeniable fact. The vast majority of churches fail to measure ministry effectiveness with the proper Metric -Transformation. The evidence of regeneration is continuous transformation. No transformation should alert pastors to the probability that there has been no regeneration. Where you serve the Metric is?????



* Scripture – God’s Word is Living & Powerful



Luther, Calvin, and others greatly used of God in bringing Reformation to the church were unanimous in the conviction that it is the Word of God itself, the Special Revelation of our God to us, and not the messenger that produces Reformation. Each edition will present a portion of God’s Word for meditation and edification.



Daniel 4:34-35 At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?”


* Classic Christian Hymns – Holy Holy Holy


One of the primary teaching resources of the church is Hymnology – what we sing. The following hymn has been a favorite of mine. It was sung many Sundays as the opening hymn in the worship service of the church I attended. It presents a glorious and accurate portrait of the God we worship


Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee.
Holy, Holy, Holy! Merciful and mighty!
God in three persons, blessed Trinity!.




Book Reviews – Some Pastors & Teachers by Sinclair Ferguson 

Effective Leaders are readers. A recent survey of effective leaders revealed that they read 60 books each year. The only way you will accomplish this important element in your leadership is to establish a plan and faithfully do what you set out to do. You may begin with a modest goal, 12 books a year, and then incrementally increase that number. Note – the issue is NOT the number of books you read. The issue is do you glean valuable insights as you read and apply them in your ministry? We provide a Learning Covenant that facilitates this objective.


Some Pastors and Teachers is a volume for every minister’s study and indeed for the bookshelves and bedside tables of everyone who has a concern for the ministry of the gospel and the well-being of the church in the twenty-first century. In many ways, it reflects the biblical vision of what every minister is called to be: pastor, teacher, counsellor, and example—but also a man who is growing spiritually, both in understanding and in character, before the eyes of his congregation.


In five sections and thirty-nine chapters, Sinclair B Ferguson writes on pastor-teachers whose life and work have left an indelible mark on his own life, and then leads us in a series of chapters on the teaching of John Calvin, John Owen and the seventeenth century Puritans. This is followed by studies of Scripture, the ministry of the Spirit, the nature of Biblical Theology, the work of Christ, adoption, the nature of the Christian life and other important doctrines. The final section discusses various aspects of preaching, including preaching Christ from the Old Testament, the importance of theology, reaching the heart, and concludes with a decalogue for preachers. All this, as the epilogue makes clear, is set within the context and goal of doxology.


Here is a book to return to again and again, for instruction, for challenge, and also for enjoyment. While written particularly with ministers in view its style makes it accessible to all. Dr Ferguson describes Some Pastors and Teachers as a series of small gifts for fellow-ministers and others, written as an expression of the love of Christ. It is calculated to help both ministers of the gospel and entire congregations to realize Paul’s vision of churches growing up into Christ as they are nourished and taught by their pastors and teachers.


Leadership Lessons – Identify Dysfunctions


Every church has some level of dysfunction. It is crucial that the leadership team identifies and corrects these areas of dysfunction. Failure to do so renders that ministry less capable of maximum effectiveness. If you do not know how to do this, call 803 413 3509. We will be happy to provide resources that produce an objective and accurate profile of the dusfunctions and a means to correct these ministry killers.


This Date in History

1517 Martin Luther posts 95 theses on Wittenberg church – that action launched the Protestant Reformation


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