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Blog Archives: January 2017 — December 2017

Surprised by Joy in the New Year

December 28, 2017
Chris Castaldo
My phone bonged while driving to the office today. Evidently, when there is an important national news story, my phone departs from the normal vibrate mode and lets out a big bong. In this case, it was a new study showing that 2017 has created anxiety at alarming proportions for many Americans, such that they are entering the new year with a palpable sense of dread. Against this backdrop, I proceeded to the office to study 2 Corinthians 4 and 5 where Paul explains why Christians can rejoice with good courage in the face of anxiety. Chained ...

The Hope of Advent

December 20, 2017
Chris Castaldo
As a teenager working in the mall during Christmas, I was the guy who ran products from the warehouse to the store clerks. This cavernous stockroom was 6,000 square feet and filled wall-to-wall with boxes. On one occasion, I found myself at the rear side of the windowless warehouse opposite the door when someone turned off the lights. There I was, alone in the dark with 15,000 boxes between the light switch and me. I couldn’t see an inch before my face. I know what you’re thinking: just find an aisle and walk toward the door! Yeah, if only ...

Unexpected Joy of Advent

December 12, 2017
Chris Castaldo
Joy emerges often when it’s least expected: When a soldier returns from active duty, surprising his children in the first light of morning; when an unexpected fragrance greets our senses, an aroma of happier years; or when we read Scripture and find a divine promise leaps from the page, exclaiming, “joy inexpressible, filled with glory.” Joy is observed, for example, in Christmas cards. We see the holy family as icons stamped in gold foil, radiant with wonder. We also see a serene and tranquil Mary greeting the angel Gabriel. This, however, ...

Biblical Perspective Of Work

December 07, 2017
Chris Castaldo
Over a 50-year span, the average American spends about 100,000 hours working. A major part of adults’ lives is involved in work, but often with the job comes some degree of dissatisfaction. Perhaps no statistic demonstrates dissatisfaction more than job-hopping tendencies. A recent survey discovered that the average American man changes jobs every four and one-half years, the average woman every three years. To find satisfaction in our work and to be placed in a position where God can prosper our work, we first need to understand what ...

Stewarding Our Time, Not Just Our Money

November 30, 2017
Chris Castaldo
“Time is money.” How true this is! Time is also a gift. In fact, it’s the most valuable resource you and I will ever have. The way we use it will influence our earning potential, the way we spend our money, the quality of our relationships, and our overall health. Time is also the ultimate equalizer – no matter who you are or where you were born, you have the exact same 24 hours each day and the freedom to decide how you’re going to use them. I was recently listening to a podcast featuring best-selling author and speaker, Rory Vaden ...

Good News Advent Devotional

November 21, 2017
Chris Castaldo
When you’ve stepped into 2018 and looked back upon this Advent season, what will you see? Were you gripped by the wonder of the incarnation? Did the glory of this holy season shine into your rhythms of mundane life? How will you have elevated your sites and that of your family members to see the reality of Immanuel, God with us? In an effort to promote devotion to Christ between now and the New Year, NCC is offering to you and your family Good News of Great Joy: Daily Readings for Advent. It contains 25 short devotional readings beginning ...

How Christianity Conquered Rome

November 14, 2017
Chris Castaldo
Famine and war had recently afflicted Caesarea, so when the plague hit in the early fourth century, the populace was already weakened and unable to withstand this additional blow. Men and women began fleeing the city, one of the larger ones of the Roman Empire, for safety in the countryside.1 However, in the midst of the fleeing inhabitants, at least one group was staying behind, the Christians. Bishop of the city and historian of the early church, Eusebius, recorded that during the plague, “All day long some of them [the Christians] tended ...

Faith: Living, Busy, Active, Mighty

November 09, 2017
Chris Castaldo
In our day it is fashionable to portray Martin Luther as one who was strictly concerned with faith as a momentary event involving the transfer of one’s trust, apart from a subsequent lifetime of obedient works. I would like to suggest that this caricature is not only unfair; it is also inaccurate. This week’s post is written in honor of my friend, the most venerable Lutheran Theologian Paul Szobody, in an effort to set the record straight. Reformer Martin Luther’s “Preface to the Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans” was written in 1522 for ...

Reforming Music—Martin Luther and Worship

October 26, 2017
Greg Wheatley
Situated on the River Elbe, approximately midway between modern day Leipzig and Berlin, sits the town of Wittenberg. If you visit this town of 50,000 people today, your tour guide will doubtless want to take you to Market Square and show you the Stadtkirche (Town Church). This church, which dates to the 13th century, could hardly be more pivotal in what we now call the Protestant Reformation, and in some of the worship reforms it brought. Imagine yourself seated in this church on a Sunday morning in 1517. As a faithful member of the Church, ...

Recognizing Sexual Abuse

October 19, 2017
Chris Castaldo
A national conversation has emerged. It's long overdue given the massive numbers of people to whom it pertains. It is the subject of sexual abuse. I was driving the other day and caught part of a Chris Fabry program on the topic. In particular, it was about the "#me too" movement and how it has exposed the pervasive problem of sexual abuse. Part of the program addressed the need for churches to recognize the issue and provide resources for those whose lives have been affected. That's what this blog post is about. For starters, I want to ...

“Roman But Not Catholic”– An Interview with the Authors

October 18, 2017
Chris Castaldo
I remember my First Communion in the Roman Catholic Church—white suit, white tie, white shoes. There I was, in the groovy 1970’s, walking through the parish like a little John Travolta. I also remember a question that crossed my mind for the first time: Am I a Christian or am I Roman Catholic? The question created some confusion. How do terms such as “Christian,” “Roman,” and “Catholic’ relate to one another? Perhaps you’ve wondered. This 500-year anniversary of the Protestant Reformation is concerned with the above question, or ...

Pew’s Reformation Research, and what the church can learn from it

October 11, 2017
Chris Castaldo
Five centuries after Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses — the start of the Protestant Reformation by traditional reckoning — majorities of U.S. Protestants reportedly reject the Reformation doctrines of sola fide (the belief that justifying righteousness comes by faith alone) and sola scriptura (the belief that Scripture is the supreme authority for Christian faith and practice). This is what a recent Pew Research Center study has found. Pew also reported that theological differences between Protestants and Roman Catholics appear to be narrowing ...

16th Century Renewal Today

October 05, 2017
Chris Castaldo
In 1512 the Italian General of the Augustinian Order, Giles of Viterbo, asserted, “Men must be changed by religion, not religion by men.” To get a sense of the ecclesial malignancy of this period, we only have to consider some of its popes. Here are a few examples. Julius II (pont. 1503-1513) is often called the Warrior-Pope. He dressed like a Roman emperor, donning a yellow cape, and preferred the fragrance of gunpowder to incense. Absorbed by the secular role of the papacy, he especially enjoyed battle, personally riding into combat with ...

Preaching Gospel in Sixteenth Century Italy (and Today)

September 28, 2017
Chris Castaldo
Humans are naturally anxious. We feel abandoned and vulnerable in a world where we are destined to die. This was true in the sixteenth century as it is today. Indeed, for all our differences it’s remarkable how we share this basic human experience. To be sure, some anxieties are easily recognized. Others are more difficult to decipher. In both cases, however, we depend on God for the remedy. This too has not changed. In the face of anxiety, our ears are more keenly attuned to the voice of God, a voice that comes in a particular way: by the ...

Luther on Faith and Works

September 19, 2017
Chris Castaldo
Martin Luther is commonly portrayed as one who was strictly concerned with faith as a momentary event involving the transfer of trust, apart from a subsequent lifetime of obedient works. I would like to suggest that this caricature is inaccurate. Luther’s “Preface to the Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans” was written in 1522 for inclusion in his German translation of the Bible. The preface summarizes key words in Romans, such as “justification,” “faith,” “sin,” and “law.” It then outlines the meaning of each chapter of the epistle....

The Cross and Christian Friendship

September 14, 2017
Chris Castaldo
How does Calvary shape our friendships? Augustine of Hippo (354 – 430) was among the first Christian thinkers to reflect on the meaning of friendship. For example, toward the end of City of God he writes, “There is no greater consolation than the unfeigned loyalty and mutual love of good men who are true friends” (19.8). But the gift of friendship, according to Augustine, also gives reason for anxiety. He proceeded to assert, “We become apprehensive… [that these friends] may fail us in faithfulness, turn to hate us and work us harm.” It’s ...

The Necessity of Divine Blessing

September 07, 2017
Chris Castaldo
This Sunday initiates our new preaching series on Exodus, The God Who Delivers. From the opening verses of this great book, we are reminded that divine blessing is an essential component of life. More than sentiment, such blessing is a theological act that delivers men and women from slavery and leads them into life. Think about the way we talk about divine blessing. When we say “God bless you,” the subject is always God. He is the source of blessing and its primal speaker. Divine speech caused the original creation to teem with creatures; ...

A First Step to Reading Calvin

August 31, 2017
Chris Castaldo
Let’s face it, John Calvin’s Institutes is intimidating to many people, certainly to the uninitiated layperson. I suspect that there are also many of us in ministry who find it easier to quote Calvin than it is to actually read him. For instance, here is a little test: How many books are there in the Institutes? Can you summarize the gist of each one? What’s the big deal that Calvin puts justification after sanctification in book three?  It’s remarkable how easy it is for us to talk about a book for successive years without truly ...

The Reformation’s Legacy of Small Groups

August 24, 2017
Chris Castaldo
It may come as a surprise to learn that small groups, that is, men and women gathering to study Scripture and fellowship together, were a significant part of the Reformation. This was true in places like Italy, as it was for nations north of the Alps. Most people are unaware that southern Europe witnessed such a movement of gospel renewal (at least until the Inquisition in 1542). This was stimulated by numerous factors, including an abysmal standard of morality by Pope Alexander VI and his Borgia family, the Medici papacies which had made ...

Was Luther Guilty?

August 17, 2017
Chris Castaldo
It is common to hear Martin Luther pegged as the man who divided Western Christianity. For example, in speaking to this question, Bishop Bob Barron recently asserted, “I think Luther was too polemical, and I think he fell into opposition [too] quickly with the Catholic Church.”[1] Barron proceeded to say that if Luther were only more patient and cooperative, his Reformation might have been avoided and a Lutheran order of monks may have found a place in the Roman Church. Say what? A Coin in the Coffer Rings In late 1517, Albert of ...

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