Why the Reformation Matters


500 years ago today Martin Luther nailed 95 Thesis to a church door in Wittenberg, Germany. And we might be thinking, “So what?” 

Luther himself probably did not realize the importance of this simple act. The church door in a German town was like a public bulletin board. Along with Luther’s document outlining the corruption of the church in his day, the church door might have also held an announcement for a lecture series at the university or a posting of the times for confession in the upcoming week.

But Luther’s act of nailing the 95 Thesis was the beginning of the Reformation of the church–a church that had added man’s rules and customs onto the Word of God. A church that had misled the people. A church that told the masses they needed more than faith, more than grace to get to heaven.

The three cornerstones of the Reformation were Sola Scriptura, Sola Gratia, and Sola Fide–Word Alone, Grace Alone, Faith Alone. These cornerstones are still important to us today.

Sola Scriptura–Word Alone

In the years leading up to the Reformation, the church had begun to add onto the Word of God. The edicts of the church and of the pope were considered equal to the Bible. Martin Luther and other reformers reminded the people that God’s Word has all the truth necessary for our salvation and that no words added by men–even important men–are on the same level as the Bible.

In our modern world, we are also tempted to look for the answers to our problems everywhere but the Bible. Certainly, Scripture does not tell us how to bake a red velvet cake or give directions to Minneapolis. But it does tell us how to have a relationship with God, how to obtain peace and joy,  how to love and live in a broken world.

Why theReformationMatters

Sola Gratia–Grace Alone

In Luther’s time, people were told that God’s grace was not enough to get to heaven. Good works were a prerequisite. Luther himself agonized over this teaching, totally despairing because he knew he could never be good enough. He could never be perfect.

But through Scripture, Luther realized that none of us can measure up to God’s standard of perfection and that the only way to heaven is by the Lord’s mercy and grace. None of us deserve God’s forgiveness, it is only available to us through Christ’s death and resurrection.

This truth matters today because we often try to fix our problems on our own. We rely on self-help books. We work hard to improve our financial situation. We live like it all depends on us.

Grace alone allows us to let go of the try-hard life and rest in God’s mercy. It is only through His love and acceptance that we can come to Him. His grace gives us the strength to live day by day.

The truth of Grace Alone allows us to let go of the try-hard life and rest in God's mercy. Click To Tweet

Sola Fide–Faith Alone

Another falsehood the church of Luther’s day promoted was that faith in Christ was not enough to get to heaven. A man named Johann Tetzel and others were selling indulgences–little pieces of paper that “guaranteed” a quicker path to heaven. Most of Luther’s 95 Thesis dealt with this practice.

Romans 1:16-17 tells us:

 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.

These verses were the turning point for Luther’s relationship with God. Once he realized that salvation was not dependent on good works or expensive little pieces of paper, but on faith in Christ, he felt the burden of his sin lift. Righteousness can only come from faith in what Jesus has already accomplished on the cross. I do good things out of gratitude for what He has done, but I do not have to be “good enough” to get to heaven. What a relief!

Even today, listening to preachers on radio and TV today may leave listeners with the feeling that there is so much they need to do to be a good person. So much to do to earn a ticket to heaven. But God’s message is faith alone–faith given to us through God’s grace. We accept this faith as a life-changing gift.

Faith alone in Christ’s death and resurrection gives us access to God and His power and love.

Faith alone in Christ's death and resurrection gives us access to God and His power and love. Click To Tweet

What happened 500 years ago in a little town in Germany changed the world. A list nailed to a church door still matters today.

Next step: Take a moment to contemplate the three tenets of the Reformation: Sola Scriptura, Sola Gratia, Sola Fide. Which of these truths is hardest for you to put into practice in your everyday life? Ask the Father to help you in this area.



The Key to Unlock the Chains of “Doing”

being a doer can in the way of

“What did you do today?”

It’s an innocent question. One I usually like to answer. One I often use to get a conversation going.

It’s even a question I often ask myself.

I’m a doer. You too? We doers like to accomplish things. We make massive to-do lists and find glee in placing little check marks next to completed jobs. (Sometimes we even write down tasks we’ve finished that weren’t on the list just so we can make that satisfying check mark.)

But this week while I was reading and meditating on the psalms, God spoke to me about all my “doing.”

The Key to Unlock the Chains of -Doing-I was reading Psalm 118:5:

In my anguish I cried to the Lord, and he answered by setting me free.

And the Holy Spirit highlighted the phrase “setting me free.” The phrase unsettled my soul. But I couldn’t figure out why.

The phrase conjured up images of chains falling off swollen wrists. Of bursting out of a dark dungeon into blinding sunshine. Of running through a swaying field of flowers.

I asked God why my heart needed to hear that particular phrase.

And the answer was that I have been bound to the chains of “doing.” Being a doer is not a bad thing. But it can get in the way of being a child of God if I am basing my value on my accomplishments. If I’m focusing on what I can do. If I view myself as worthless when my efforts don’t get the results I would like.

In that simple little phrase, “setting me free,” the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart: What if instead of focusing on what you have done, instead of staring at what you haven’t done (ahem where I’ve failed), you began to concentrate on what God has done?

Later in Psalm 118 there is another phrase that grabbed my heart: “proclaim what the Lord has done” (verse 17).

In fact, Psalm 118 is full of things the Lord has done: He has

  • loved me forever (verse 1)
  • set me free (verse 5)
  • helped me (verse 7)
  • protected me (verse 8)
  • done mighty things (verse 16)

And when I look back on the past few weeks of my life, I see that He has:

  • given my husband a good health report–no cancer!
  • helped me recover from a bad cold
  • given me time with my daughter and her family
  • granted me a new book contract

When I focus on “what the Lord has done” the chains of doing and the pressure of accomplishing fall away. 

I am set free.

Next step: What has the Lord done for you this week? Make a list. And as you focus on what God has done, feel the pressure of accomplishment fall away. 


150 Places To Find Grace


Pain and illness lay us flat on our backs. Disappointment and discouragement seem to be lurking at every turn. Grief and loss are frequent interruptions to everyday life.

We need grace. We need God’s touch to get us through both painful catastrophes and numbing ordinariness.

One of the places I often turn to when I’m in need of God’s grace is the book of Psalms.

I love how the psalmists aren’t afraid to express their raw emotions to God. How they spill out their fears, their doubts, their petty jealousies. How when they bring their aching hearts to the Father, He heals their souls. They start complaining and griping, but end in praise.

And that’s why I’ve decided to take a journey through the book of Psalms during this coming Lenten season–all 150 of them. Each day I plan to read three or four of the psalms and journal what God is teaching me about His grace.

150 PLACESTO FINDI invite you to join me. I have prepared a Lenten reading plan for you so that we can all read together. Click here to download 150 Places to Find Grace: Reading Through the Psalms During Lent.

While we read through this wonderful book we will read;

  • psalms of thanksgiving
  • psalms of lament
  • psalms as hymns
  • imprecatory psalms

All of the psalms draw us closer to God and teach us how to pray.

During Lent, check back here for more about the psalms as each week I will explore the different kinds of psalms and meditate on one of my favorites.

Read through the psalms this Lent!

Download the reading guide here.

Next step: Discover God’s grace in the book of Psalms. Each day read 3-4 psalms and write what you learned about God’s power, mercy, and grace.



How to Craft a 2015 Ta-Dah List


At the end of each year one of my writer friends shares a Ta-Dah list–a list of writing goals she has accomplished. It’s a way of sharing both the big milestones and little steps of success that have happened during the previous 365 days.

I like this idea. For two reasons.

First, if you know you are going to share a “Ta-Dah” list at the end of the year, you will probably work a little harder to accomplish your goals during the year.

Secondly, it helps you focus on the positive. As a Type-A person, I too often look at what didn’t work and what I still need to do. Making a Ta-Dah list helps me realize that some pretty amazing things happened during the year.

TaDahListFor instance, here is a bit of my 2015 Ta-Dah list:

  • I read 34 books (9,092 pages in all!) (The website Goodreads lets you enter the books you have read and counts up the pages for you.)
  • I finally cleaned out my basement and organized my closets.
  • I launched a new book in June–Soul Spa: 40 Days of Spiritual Renewal (a Bible study of spiritual habits that help us connect to God so He can heal our harried souls).
  • I met hundreds of amazing women when I spoke at nine different events.
  • I launched on online course on living a more focused life. (Find out more about it here.)

What would you write on your Ta-Dah list? I encourage you to write one–it’s fun to remember all the little successes of the year.

But, an even more important list would be God’s Ta-Dah list–things God accomplished in your life in 2015.

King David reminded his soul to write this list:

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
    who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
    who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Psalm 103:2-5

As I read David’s version of God’s Ta-Dah list, I thought of all the things I would add. Here a few entries I would include on the list:

What God Has Accomplished For Me In 2015:

  • God blessed my husband, John, with healing–after 6 months of chemotherapy, his lymphoma is in remission.
  • God blessed our marriage–making it even stronger during the months of sickness.
  • God helped me learn to live more focused on Him–instead of my problems, my ambitions, my worries.
  • God gave the precious blessing of having all my kids and their families home for Christmas–since my daughter and her family live in China this had not happened in five years.
  • God blessed me with friends who support and encourage me.

Looking at this list I am filled with gratitude! God is continually working in my heart and life, but I often forget or simply take His blessings for granted.

What did God accomplish in your life in 2015? Take time to “forget not all his benefits” (Psalm 103:2). The Father loves you, redeems you, forgives you, and heals you.

Next step: Write a Ta-Dah list of your own. What did you accomplish this year? Even more importantly, what did God do for you in 2015?

The Antidote for a Distracted Heart


My heart has been distracted this past week.

I have three–no, four–no, five major projects I am working on. Planning meetings and emails with colleagues have crowded my day. My own seemingly endless to-do list threatens to choke out any sanity I have left.

And because of these distractions, my heart experienced symptoms of anxiety: the fever of too much to do and the cold sweat of not being able to get everything done. 

You have probably felt symptoms like these. Has the strain of endless work at home or the stress of the workplace have left your heart shaky and weak?

What is the antidote for a distracted heart? Simply to bring it to Jesus. 

Francis de Sales, a priest in Switzerland in the 1500’s, wrote:

If the heart wanders or is distracted, bring it back to the point quite gently and replace it tenderly in its Master’s presence. And even if you did nothing during the whole of your hour but bring your heart back and place it again in Our Lord’s presence, though it went away every time you brought it back, your hour would be very well employed.

Jesus promised His disciples–and us–“I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).  But in the rush of all my life crises, I tend to forget–He’s here. In the preoccupation of my jumbled mind, I grasp at the tangled cords of my thoughts and let go of the Savior’s hands. In fixing my eyes on the problems, the hassles, the deadlines, I take my gaze off the Lord’s hands–the hands that continually beckon me to come.

distractedheartpinThis week I still have a hundred things to complete. But the most important thing on my task list is to continually bring my heart back to Christ and His peace. Whenever my heart has wandered away from God’s tranquil presence, I will gently bring it back to His loving hands.

That is the antidote to a distracted soul.

So whenever you notice the symptoms of anxiety and stress, recognize your distracted heart. Bring it back to Jesus.


Next step: This week notice the symptoms of a distracted heart: anxiety and stress. Whenever you experience these symptoms, stop for a moment. Whisper the Savior’s name. Sing a song of praise in your heart. Remind yourself with Jesus’ own words, “I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Bring your distracted heart back to the presence of God.

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If you would like to learn more about avoiding distractions and living a focused life, check out a FREE lesson that shares the one habit that changed my life more than any other. 

This five-page lesson will help you:

  • Discover the one Faith-Focus Habit that can immediately make a difference in your daily peace and clarity.


  • Take the first step toward living out God’s plan for your life and ignoring all the trivial paths that side-track you from your true purpose.

Click on the button below to get this FREE lesson:

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Learning to Delight in the Gift




delight in the gift
A while back I met a friend for lunch that I hadn’t seen in months. She met me with a hug and a beautiful bunch of pale pink tulips.

My first thought was: They are so lovely!

My second thought was: I didn’t get her anything!

Somehow how I couldn’t fully delight in the gift because now I felt the balance of friendship was upset.

As I contemplated this I realized that my delight in God’s gift of grace is also somewhat diminished by the fact that I didn’t give Him something of value in return. I feel I have to do something for God 

In one way this is perfectly sane because it is a good thing to want to give back to God.

But in another way this is ridiculous because what could I give God that could equal the incomparable gift of His Son?

The real problem lies in the fact that sometimes my doing gets in the way of enjoying God. The nagging feeling that I should be busy in His service sometimes prevents me from simply delighting in Him.

Psalm 37:4 says:

Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

When we learn to delight in the Lord, He becomes the desire of our hearts. We rest, contented with who He is and what He has given. The pressure to do is diminished. The weight of the my inadequacy is lifted.

Just for today, let’s put aside our doing and simply sit at Jesus’ feet enjoying His presence, reveling in His grace, marveling in His love.

Delight in the gift.

Next Step: Take five minutes today to sit quietly with God. Delight in His love, care, and protection. Thank Him for His many gifts to you.
revel in His grace

Book Review: Living a Chocolate Life



Living a Chocolate Life Bible Study cover

I am a confirmed chocoholic. So is it any wonder that I couldn’t wait to read this book?

Living a chocolate life certainly sounds delicious.

But this book is more than an ode to my favorite sweet. It is a Bible study on the sweet grace of Jesus Christ.

According to author Deb Burma:

Living a chocolate life means sampling everything from bitter nuggets of pain to sweet morsels of joy. Some days are dark and lumpy, others are light and smooth. Whatever the shape, flavor, and texture of our days and however our lives are packaged, we can savor God’s rich and endless supply of grace in Christ! Wrapping us in forgiveness, the Holy Spirit fills us with sweet faith in our Savior.

One of my favorite stories in the book is about one of the author’s own baking disasters. When Deb was preparing a triple layer cake for dinner guests, she didn’t shave off the mounded center of each layer before frosting and stacking. The chocolate treat looked magnificent for a minute, but then the top two layers split in half. Crumbs and frosting landed everywhere. She managed to salvage the dessert by shaving off the rounded tops and piecing it all back together with more frosting. When she was finished, no one could tell that it had been a near disaster. Deb tells us that is how God’s grace is: “When we fail, when we make mistakes, when we crumble under the weight of our sins, our heavenly Father lavishes His thick, indulgent grace upon us. He covers our sins and forgives us through Christ’s atonement on the cross.”

Deb explores rich Scriptures about God’s endless supply of grace to us and how we can share that grace with others. The study talks about our cravings and finding satisfaction in Christ. It explores the bitter bites of life and the sweet surrender of our hearts to God’s plan. Throughout the book readers are encouraged to dig into the Bible and memorize meaningful bites of it. Discussion and reflection questions are present throughout.

While this study would certainly be meaningful to complete on my own, I can’t wait to do it with my small group because it is also filled with scrumptious recipes for decadent chocolate treats like her Extravagant Chocolate Three-Layer Cake, Best Ever Chocolate Chip Cookies, and Triple Chocolate Rocky Road Brownie Pizza. It would be so much fun to make one of these treats each week to share with the women in my group as we share encouragement and hope.

About Deb Burma:

debburmaDeb Burma has a passion for sharing Christ’s love through the study of God’s Word. Whether she’s speaking, leading women’s ministry groups, or writing, her creative and engaging style touches the hearts of women and meets them in the moments of their everyday lives. Deb travels across the country and internationally as a leader and guest speaker for women’s ministry retreats, conferences, and special events. She is also the author of Bible studies and retreat kits, devotion books and the Christian-living/Bible study book “Stepping Out: To a Life on the Edge”, all published by Concordia Publishing House. Currently, Deb is also a women’s Bible study leader and a Youth Ministry leader at Peace Lutheran Church in Columbus, Nebraska, where her husband, Cory, serves as pastor. They are blessed with three beautiful children: Chris, Courtney, and Cameron. Learn more about Deb on her blog Fragrant Offerings