Luther- What’s all the Fuss About?

499 Years ago today the religious landscape changed...

Luther did not want to leave the Catholic church.  The 95 Theses were simply a way to start a dialogue with the church that he labored for and loved.  As he had his eyes opened up through self discovery of the word of God, his thinking (and others as well) began to change with what he was raised believing.  Thanks to the translations of the Bible and earlier writings, especially from Augustine (340-430) Luther’s life and beliefs began to change.  Two chasms began to form: Salvation by grace through faith rather than works and the gross emphasis on indulgences.  The Catholic Church’s practice of granting “indulgences” to provide absolution to sinners became increasingly corrupt. Indulgence-selling had been banned in Germany, but the practice continued unabated. In 1517, a friar named Johann Tetzel began to sell indulgences in Germany to raise funds to renovate St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.  Luther became concerned and wanted to have a dialogue:



The 95 Theses were written in a humble way.  His tone was was one asking questions rather than accusing or pointing fingers.  However the overall thrust was quite provocative and stirring. Although there were 95 points, the first two contained what Luther wanted to get across, namely that God intended believers to seek repentance and that faith alone, and not deeds, would lead to salvation. The other 93 theses, a number of them directly criticizing the practice of indulgences, supported these first two.

OCTOBER 31, 1517

Out of love for the truth and the desire to bring it to light, the following propositions will be discussed at Wittenberg, under the presidency of the Reverend Father Martin Luther, Master of Arts and of Sacred Theology, and Lecturer in Ordinary on the same at that place. Wherefore he requests that those who are unable to be present and debate orally with us, may do so by letter.

In the Name our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

1. When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, “Repent” ( Matthew 4:17 ), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.

2. This word cannot be understood as referring to the sacrament of penance, that is, confession and satisfaction, as administered by the clergy.

Here is a link to the 95 Theses.

Luther on trial before the Diet of Worms defending his views on faith and the authority of the Bible.


The greatest complaint Luther and other reformers had with the Catholic Church was its practice of selling indulgences.  An indulgence was a payment to the church that purchased one’s “forgiveness”.  Of course one could not buy an indulgence for murder but for “smaller” sins of course (lies, lustful thoughts, anger, etc.).  The customer would in fact be buying less time in purgatory and secure a spot in heaven.  These customers were Catholic believers who feared that if one of their sins went unnoticed or unconfessed, they would spend extra time in purgatory before reaching heaven or worse, wind up in hell for failing to repent.

In later years, the sale of indulgences spread to include forgiveness for the sins of people who were already dead. That is evident in this passage from a sermon by Johann Tetzel, the monk who sold indulgences in Germany and inspired Martin Luther’s protest in 1517.

Don’t you hear the voices of your dead parents and other relatives crying out, “Have mercy on us, for we suffer great punishment and pain. From this, you could release us with a few alms . . . We have created you, fed you, cared for you and left you our temporal goods. Why do you treat us so cruelly and leave us to suffer in the flames, when it takes only a little to save us? [Source: Die Reformation in Augenzeugen Berichten, edited by Helmar Junghaus (Dusseldorf: Karl Rauch Verlag, 1967), 44.]On October 31, 1517, he attempted to provoke a debate, that is all it was, by nailing a list of 95 questions to the door of the Wittenburg university cathedral. The debate became public when some unknown person reprinted his ideas in a pamphlet which was eventually distributed throughout Germany.  Elsewhere, Ulrich Zwingli, John Calvin, Menno Simons and others launched their own religious reform movements. As a result, by the end of the 16th century, perhaps as much as one third of western Europe’s population no longer believed in the supremacy of the pope. Catholic’s seeing an exodus from their churches developed reforms of their own.  Many of the reforms eliminated the practices that provoked the original reformation.

Leadership Battle Lines

Avoid These Three Pitfalls at all Costs!

Leadership is a battle.  Leaders fight battles every day.  The old adage is true, “You win some and you lose some.”  Sometimes in winning a battle we are actually losing in the end.  Here are Three Battle Lines that may make a leader feel like they are winning but they are actually losing.

Below are three Battles that leaders have chosen and will choose to take up.  Each of these may feel like a winning solution but in each case a leader will lose.  They may feel like they are winning but they are not.  Are you able to determine what a winning battle line is and a losing battle line?   To be sure it must not be based on feelings.  It is apparent that each of these battle lines exposes the level of insecurity that exists on the inside of the leader.

Insecurity is NEVER good in a leader.  An insecure leader rarely creates a strong community.  They instead create divisions through combativeness, complaining, and comfort.  Insecurity causes a leader to steer away from the mission at hand out of maintaining leadership.

The Team Exists for You (since you are the leader). 

This is so easy to actually believe.  The leader leads and expects and is even entitled to the status that comes with leadership.  Perks flow up.  Respect is demanded.  The rules don’t really apply to  you because of your position.  If you are really good at this the end will be loneliness.  NO ONE WANTS TO BE ON A TEAM WITH A LEADER WHO THINKS THIS WAY.

The result will be lack of morale and low ownership of the mission.  Churches are not exempt.  Many Pastors draw up this battle line quite often.  They say, “This is MY ministry, MY church!”  No wonder we are where we are with people sitting in a chair, listening nicely and then going home.  After all it is not their ministry.  They are not qualified.  They are not professional and smooth enough.

A Pastor can get away with this mindset and feel like they are winning but the church is losing.  This is not the heart of Biblical leadership (2 Corinthians 5:18-20; 1 Peter 2:9-10).

Leading Based on Getting Strokes from those you Lead.

Someone once said, “Never seek affirmation from the people you lead.”  It will erode you ability to lead unlike very few things can.  It goes like this, “I wonder if they liked my presentation? I wonder if they appreciate all of my sacrifices? I wonder if they will like the new rules we are setting up?”

Truth be known, a little self disclosure (I really struggle with this and have for many years).  I used to ask my wife if she thought my presentation was good enough.  It wasn’t out of the motive to get better but it was to get stroked.  It was for my EGO.  I still feel this sometimes, even after 25 years of speaking to all kinds of people.

I have reflected on this and have come to the conclusion that a leader should do their best and that is that.  Shut their briefcase and go home.  The results will come, God is good, and then the work of leadership also comes with all the needed changes as well.

Stroked based leadership is a myth.  I have, on occasions traveled to speak to a group that never met me.  I typically get more “strokes” on the road than at home.  If I expect strokes at home like on the road I am missing one important detail, “Those closest to you already know you.  They know all about you the good, the bad, and the ugly.”  One person said, “Those who know you more will always applaud you less than those who know you less.”  SO TRUE!

Keeping Strong People Away Because of Your Weakness

Business or church leaders do this all the time.  They hire people that show of their own strengths rather than the best for the organization.  Choosing this battle line will cause the organization to diminish.  A strong leader will always pick strong leaders and they will also be able to attract strong leaders.

If you think you are winning in this way ask yourself:

  • Can I invite someone to speak at my church that is better than me?
  • Can I hire someone that is better than me?
  • Will I let a volunteer pick the way they want to do something?
  • Do you think someone is disloyal if they don’t agree with you?
  • Do you see those who work for you as employees rather than teammates?

The Ground You Stand On

How Temptation Works and the Ground We Lose

I think the reason temptation is so powerful is that it blinds us to how we maybe getting deceived.  What you see is typically not what you get.  The hook looks really good until you swallow it.  We all have the potential to succumb to temptation over and over again.  We do have the ability to say, “NO!”  And what is the best news of all, our past choices never have to be the story on our future.


Temptations come in all shapes and sizes.  Since our enemy can’t defeat God he will do all he can to defeat us and get us into small thinking and selfish living.

1. Casual Contact (the small, seemingly insignificant things the enemy uses to get a foothold in our lives).  This is the daily barrage of small gnats that irritate the joy out of you.  Financial investors know that small amounts over long periods of time can make great wealth.  In the same way, great ground is lost by small erosion on a daily basis.

The best defense to Casual Contact temptation is to have solid accountability.  True friendships are a great way to keep your footing.  A friend that consistently asks how things are going in your life.  A true friend will wound you where it matters but the wound is exactly what you need.

2. Corrosive Conflict (the “misunderstandings” that happen with people in your workplace, church, neighborhood, and family that end up creating division).  Families and teams are the basic building blocks of our society.  When they crumble ground is lost.  The Bible encourages us to do everything we can to live at peace with everyone (Romans 12:18, Hebrews 12:14).

The best defense against losing ground to Corrosive Conflict is to take God at His word.  Proverbs 15:1 is a great place to start; gentle answers turn away wrath.

3. Crippling Emotions (the fear, insecurity, and jealousy that we all battle at one time or another).  It maybe true that everyone has some form of psychosis in them.  Every family and team is made up of differing personalities.  When we forget to enjoy the differences we lose ground.  If we believe the negative stuff and forget the truth, we lose ground.

The best defense to our Crippling Emotions is to remind ourselves of the truth.  Our enemy is a liar, that is the language he uses.  Instead of believing lies believe the truth.  The truth will set you free from the negative thinking.  In order to believe the truth, one must know the truth, get a Bible and begin reading it and then get with other believers who are talking about the Bible and applying it to their lives.

4. Confused Identity (basing who we are on external accomplishments rather than what Christ has already accomplished for us through His death and resurrection).  Have you ever over inflated your achievements in order to make yourself look better than you really are?  If we do this we are losing ground inside of us.  Instead of getting bigger we get smaller.  We should remember who we are and who God is and have sober judgement about our abilities and giftedness.  Romans 12:3 is spot on, “Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.”

The best defense against Confused Identity is to remember who God is.  The Bible has hundreds of passages that declare how great God is (Exod 15:7; Jer 32:17, 19; 1 Chron 16:25, 29:11; 2 Chron 6:32; Psalms 47:2, 7, 48:2, 96:4, 136:4; Neh 1:5; Is 12:6, 40:26, 55:9; Ezek 36:23; Josh 7:9; Mal 1:14; Matt 5:35, Luke 1:49; Eph 3:20; 1 Tim 6:15).

Are You Rapture Ready?

Reflections from a Message on an End Times Overview

Why is God landing in this enemy-occupied world in disguise and starting a sort of secret society to undermine the devil? Why is He not landing in force, invading it? Is it that He is not strong enough? Well, Christians think He is going to land in force; we do not know when. But we can guess why He is delaying. He wants to give us the chance of joining His side freely. I do not suppose you and I would have thought much of a Frenchman who waited till the Allies were marching into Germany and then announced he was on our side. God will invade. But I wonder whether people who ask God to interfere openly and directly in our world quite realize what it will be like when He does. When that happens, it is the end of the world. When the author walks on to the stage the play is over. God is going to invade, all right: but what is the good of saying you are on His side then, when you see the whole natural universe melting away like a dream and something else -something it never entered your head to conceive- comes crashing in; something so beautiful to some of us and so terrible to others that none of us will have any choice left? For this time it will be God without disguise; something so overwhelming that it will strike either irresistible love or irresistible horror into every creature. It will be too late then to choose your side. There is no use saying you choose to lie down when it has become impossible to stand up. That will not be the time for choosing: it will be the time when we discover which side we really have chosen, whether we realized it before or not. Now, today, this moment, is our chance to choose the right side. God is holding back to give us that chance. It will not last forever. We must take it or leave it.” C.S. Lewis Mere Christianity

God is in control.  He will invade.  He has come one time as a baby and will come again as a warrior.  Interestingly, the very way that the Jewish people thought He would come the first time.

When My Life Was Changed

I made a personal decision to receive the Gift of God through Jesus as a sophomore in High School.  I began to read the Bible like every day was my last day with it.  I was hungry for as much of God as I could get.  Those first years were truly some amazing times.  My Bible became a playground of sorts.  I was throwing colors all over the pages of my Bible believing that a worn out and well read Bible meant that the person reading it was not worn out.  After a couple of years of reading the Bible and some bible studies on End Times stuff I wrote in the inside cover of my Bible this quote, “In case of Rapture read Revelation 13.  Trust Jesus as your savior, don’t get the mark (666)!  Don’t be deceived by evil men.  Realize that Jesus will win in the end (Philippians 2:11, Revelation 19-22).  He loves you so much!  After reading this you have to be able to make a decision live with Hell on earth for only a little while longer or live with Hell in Hell for Eternity.  Why Wait?  TRUST JESUS.”  This was before The Left Behind Series books.  I just sit back and am amused at this.  Here is the picture from my Bible.  I still believe this…although I probably would not have written it in my current Bible.




Grit to Great (New York City: Crown Business, 2015)

You have heard of the wonderful best seller Good to Great by Jim Collins.  Such a great book encouraging leaders with strategic principles:

  • First Who, Then What– Getting the right people on the bus and in the right seats.
  • Find your Hedgehog– Stick to the thing you do best.
  • Push your Flywheel– Stick to the work and watch what happens.


Books are great.  Leaders are readers.  Sometimes when time is short, reading is the first to be cut. It doesn’t have to be that way.  Leadership Book Summaries are a great way to learn the main meat of the book in a timely fashion.

Why Grit Matters — How do you catch up in the game of life when you aren’t blessed with perfect scores on your SAT, an Ivy League education, or a family fortune to give you a head start? Passion and perseverance matter more than intelligence when it comes to being successful. The endgame belongs to the truly diligent, not the merely talented. It
belongs to those who have grit.

The Talent Myth — Achievement in any field takes a huge degree of effort and hard work. Talent alone is overrated.

Ditch the Dream — While the dreamers are still sleeping, the doers are taking victory laps because they had the sense to wake up and get to work.

Lose the Safety Net — The great Nik Wallenda showed us all how to meet your fears head on.  If you wait to act in a situation until it’s risk-free, what you’re really risking is a lifetime frozen at the starting line.

Get into Wait Training — Why do some reach for Cheetos rather than their running shoes?  Hard work is the secret.  Those who have grit are willing to wait and see how hard work can make a difference.

Bend like Bamboo — The ability to turn enormous obstacles around is less about having the strength of a sturdy oak
and more about having the flexibility of a slim stalk of bamboo that will sway even in the gentlest breeze.

No Expiration Date — The brain is like a muscle that, with exercise, becomes stronger. And its plasticity and growth are fueled by learning new tasks and taking on new challenges. It’s only when we don’t use our intellect that it begins to waste away.

Grit for Good — What it takes to make the world a better place requires a great deal of hard work—long hours, little or
no pay, sometimes toiling in harsh environments at great risk with little measurable success in sight.

You Asked For It?

A New Series at 290 Community Church

Earthquakes. Famine. Wars. Lawlessness. The world is getting crazier the longer I’m alive. Just today a Priest in France was beheaded by ISIS and the President of France has said officially or not, “We are at WAR with ISIS.”  These days are pregnant with fear and anticipation.


Many are simply curious about what the future holds. Some have some good ideas on what the Bible calls “The Signs of the Times” and “The Last Days.” NEWSFLASH- these are it; we are living in the last days. Just about every generation since the New Testament was written has thought the same. Some Christians are fascinated by the mysteries and symbols found in Revelation and love to unravel their secrets. When will the Rapture take place? What is the Tribulation? And Armageddon, wow, what is that? Still others look at the clues in Revelation not from a future perspective because that might lead us away from our main calling.

What’s the proper approach? What should we know about the end times, and what, if anything, should we do to live out our faith in the midst of these turbulent times? We are starting a series at 290 Community Church this Saturday night called, “You Asked For It.” It is a six-week series. The first three weeks deal with the End Times and the last three weeks deal with the Biblical truths surrounding Sin, Salvation, and Heaven.

Prayer is the Work- July 20, 2016

Join us in Praying for the Ministry in NYC.

He who finds a wife, finds a good gift.  A Chinese proverb said, “To love someone deeply gives you strength. Being loved by someone deeply gives you courage.”  Thornton Wilder shares how THE PROMISE trumps LOVE in marriage:

I didn’t marry you because you were perfect. I didn’t even marry you because I loved you. I married you because you gave me a promise. That promise made up for your faults. And the promise I gave you made up for mine. Two imperfect people got married and it was the promise that made the marriage. And when our children were growing up, it wasn’t a house that protected them; and it wasn’t our love that protected them – it was that promise.”

Pray for ____________’s  marriage.  Pray that husbands love their wives as Christ loved he Church and gave himself up for her (Ephesians 5:25).  In Jesus Name, Amen.

Prayer is the Work- July 19, 2016

Join us in Praying for the Ministry in NYC

Respect is important.  The apostle Peter summarizes the Bible’s teaching on respect in 1 Pet 2:17: “Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.” This passage encompasses four major areas of our lives, teaching us that, as followers of Christ, we should respect all men, other Christians, God, and governmental authorities. The word respect is a translation of the Greek word timēsate, meaning “honor or value.” It literally means “to place a great value or high price on something.” Interestingly, today we tend to place our values on our personal rights and the equality of man. However, biblical respect is far different, more about a perceived inequality in that we recognize that some things and some people are more important than ourselves.

I truly don’t think it is natural for a person that has no respect of God to be able to respect others.  For today’s prayer focus, we are praying for a holy respect of God first that flows into respect of others.

Lord give ____________ a holy fear of you in all ways (Ps. 34:11). In Jesus name. Amen.

More Ministry…Great Videos.

Jose Matos and Scott Bronstad

Confidence comes from knowing the path and knowing the content.  Inadequacy comes from not knowing what to say or when to say it.  We are all growing in confidence.

Jose Matos discusses the Training times

Scott Bronstad gives a TOUR of our room