The Amish way of life has captured the imaginations of TV viewers and novel readers for decades. The romantic ideal of simple living within one’s own community is attractive, but the one thing that’s often missing is grace.

In 2014, Charles Morris traveled to Lancaster County to host an event featuring current and former Amish people who discovered grace in a world too often dictated by stringent rule-following and legalism. There are many wonderful tenants of Amish life, but today’s episode focuses on a core aspect of faith that too often cultivates a sense that believers must earn their place in Heaven.

Ephraim and Amanda Stoltzfus, who were also featured in the BBC documentary “Leaving Amish Paradise,” discuss how they became excommunicated from their church and shunned by family and friends after joining a local Bible study and getting baptized outside of their community. Jacob Dienner and Manny Zook are current members of the Amish church and talk about how they came to an understanding of grace within their congregation.

More Amish Stories

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To be a follower of Christ, you must believe in grace — grace for yourself and grace for others. The problem is that we sometimes lose sight of this truth when it comes to people who have done despicable things. And yet no matter how far from Jesus some may seem, you never know how the Holy Spirit may be at work to transform their hearts.

On today’s episode of the Great Stories podcast, Charles Morris shares two fascinating stories of grace. First, you’ll meet Ken Cooper, a former bank robber who recommitted his life to Jesus. Second, Charles will discuss the turbulent life of John Newton and how he went from slave trader to the hymn-writing pastor who penned Amazing Grace.

 More Stories of Grace

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Modern Protestants and Catholics may not see eye-to-eye on the actions and legacy of Martin Luther, but there is one thing we can all agree on—the church of 1517 was in dire need of a wakeup call.

Popular legend asserts that on October 31, 1517, Martin Luther sparked the Protestant Reformation when he nailed a document to the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church in Germany. For him, this document was a much-needed criticism of corrupt preachers and their abusive practices of selling plenary indulgences (certificates which would supposedly reduce the punishment for the sin of loved ones in purgatory) to Christians.

Today, we know this as Martin Luther’s Ninety-five Theses, but it was originally titled the Disputation on the Power of Indulgences. Written first in Latin, it was quickly translated into German, distributed, and eventually led to Luther becoming a religious outlaw who could be killed on sight.

[Click here to learn about the stunning new documentary exploring the life and legacy of Martin Luther.]

But before you get into the nitty gritty of Luther’s arguments, here is a quick breakdown of some important highlights to look out for: theses 1-4 focuses on the need for repentance (not indulgences) in the Christian life, 5-13 concern the pope’s and priest’s power (or lack thereof) to influence someone’s status in purgatory, 14-16 challenges common beliefs about purgatory, 17-26 argue that no one can definitively say anything about the spiritual state of anyone in purgatory, 27-29 attacks the idea that payment of any kind can release the payer’s loved one from purgatory, 30-34 criticizes the false sense of certainty these indulgence preachers offered Christians, 35-80 gets into the meat of the argument against the role of indulgences in salvation and further problems with how they are being preached, 81-91 offers criticisms and objections from laypeople in Luther’s congregation, and 92-95 admonishes the reader to imitate Christ even if it brings pain and suffering.

Many of us have heard of this document, but few have read any of its contents. So, without further ado, here are the original words translated into English:

Out of love for the truth and from desire to elucidate it, the Reverend Father Martin Luther, Master of Arts and Sacred Theology, and ordinary lecturer therein at Wittenberg, intends to defend the following statements and to dispute on them in that place. Therefore he asks that those who cannot be present and dispute with him orally shall do so in their absence by letter. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.

1. When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, “Repent” (Mt 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.

3. Yet it does not mean solely inner repentance; such inner repentance is worthless unless it produces various outward mortification of the flesh.

4. The penalty of sin remains as long as the hatred of self (that is, true inner repentance), namely till our entrance into the kingdom of heaven.

5. The pope neither desires nor is able to remit any penalties except those imposed by his own authority or that of the canons.

6. The pope cannot remit any guilt, except by declaring and showing that it has been remitted by God; or, to be sure, by remitting guilt in cases reserved to his judgment. If his right to grant remission in these cases were disregarded, the guilt would certainly remain unforgiven.

7. God remits guilt to no one unless at the same time he humbles him in all things and makes him submissive to the vicar, the priest.

8. The penitential canons are imposed only on the living, and, according to the canons themselves, nothing should be imposed on the dying.

9. Therefore the Holy Spirit through the pope is kind to us insofar as the pope in his decrees always makes exception of the article of death and of necessity.

10. Those priests act ignorantly and wickedly who, in the case of the dying, reserve canonical penalties for purgatory.

11. Those tares of changing the canonical penalty to the penalty of purgatory were evidently sown while the bishops slept (Mt 13:25).

12. In former times canonical penalties were imposed, not after, but before absolution, as tests of true contrition.

13. The dying are freed by death from all penalties, are already dead as far as the canon laws are concerned, and have a right to be released from them.

14. Imperfect piety or love on the part of the dying person necessarily brings with it great fear; and the smaller the love, the greater the fear.

15. This fear or horror is sufficient in itself, to say nothing of other things, to constitute the penalty of purgatory, since it is very near to the horror of despair.

16. Hell, purgatory, and heaven seem to differ the same as despair, fear, and assurance of salvation.

17. It seems as though for the souls in purgatory fear should necessarily decrease and love increase.

18. Furthermore, it does not seem proved, either by reason or by Scripture, that souls in purgatory are outside the state of merit, that is, unable to grow in love.

19. Nor does it seem proved that souls in purgatory, at least not all of them, are certain and assured of their own salvation, even if we ourselves may be entirely certain of it.

20. Therefore the pope, when he uses the words “plenary remission of all penalties,” does not actually mean “all penalties,” but only those imposed by himself.

21. Thus those indulgence preachers are in error who say that a man is absolved from every penalty and saved by papal indulgences.

22. As a matter of fact, the pope remits to souls in purgatory no penalty which, according to canon law, they should have paid in this life.

23. If remission of all penalties whatsoever could be granted to anyone at all, certainly it would be granted only to the most perfect, that is, to very few.

24. For this reason most people are necessarily deceived by that indiscriminate and high-sounding promise of release from penalty.

25. That power which the pope has in general over purgatory corresponds to the power which any bishop or curate has in a particular way in his own diocese and parish.

26. The pope does very well when he grants remission to souls in purgatory, not by the power of the keys, which he does not have, but by way of intercession for them.

27. They preach only human doctrines who say that as soon as the money clinks into the money chest, the soul flies out of purgatory.

28. It is certain that when money clinks in the money chest, greed and avarice can be increased; but when the church intercedes, the result is in the hands of God alone.

29. Who knows whether all souls in purgatory wish to be redeemed, since we have exceptions in St. Severinus and St. Paschal, as related in a legend.

30. No one is sure of the integrity of his own contrition, much less of having received plenary remission.

31. The man who actually buys indulgences is as rare as he who is really penitent; indeed, he is exceedingly rare.

32. Those who believe that they can be certain of their salvation because they have indulgence letters will be eternally damned, together with their teachers.

33. Men must especially be on guard against those who say that the pope’s pardons are that inestimable gift of God by which man is reconciled to him.

34. For the graces of indulgences are concerned only with the penalties of sacramental satisfaction established by man.

35. They who teach that contrition is not necessary on the part of those who intend to buy souls out of purgatory or to buy confessional privileges preach unchristian doctrine.

36. Any truly repentant Christian has a right to full remission of penalty and guilt, even without indulgence letters.

37. Any true Christian, whether living or dead, participates in all the blessings of Christ and the church; and this is granted him by God, even without indulgence letters.

38. Nevertheless, papal remission and blessing are by no means to be disregarded, for they are, as I have said (Thesis 6), the proclamation of the divine remission.

39. It is very difficult, even for the most learned theologians, at one and the same time to commend to the people the bounty of indulgences and the need of true contrition.

40. A Christian who is truly contrite seeks and loves to pay penalties for his sins; the bounty of indulgences, however, relaxes penalties and causes men to hate them — at least it furnishes occasion for hating them.

41. Papal indulgences must be preached with caution, lest people erroneously think that they are preferable to other good works of love.

42. Christians are to be taught that the pope does not intend that the buying of indulgences should in any way be compared with works of mercy.

43. Christians are to be taught that he who gives to the poor or lends to the needy does a better deed than he who buys indulgences.

44. Because love grows by works of love, man thereby becomes better. Man does not, however, become better by means of indulgences but is merely freed from penalties.

45. Christians are to be taught that he who sees a needy man and passes him by, yet gives his money for indulgences, does not buy papal indulgences but God’s wrath.

46. Christians are to be taught that, unless they have more than they need, they must reserve enough for their family needs and by no means squander it on indulgences.

47. Christians are to be taught that they buying of indulgences is a matter of free choice, not commanded.

48. Christians are to be taught that the pope, in granting indulgences, needs and thus desires their devout prayer more than their money.

49. Christians are to be taught that papal indulgences are useful only if they do not put their trust in them, but very harmful if they lose their fear of God because of them.

50. Christians are to be taught that if the pope knew the exactions of the indulgence preachers, he would rather that the basilica of St. Peter were burned to ashes than built up with the skin, flesh, and bones of his sheep.

51. Christians are to be taught that the pope would and should wish to give of his own money, even though he had to sell the basilica of St. Peter, to many of those from whom certain hawkers of indulgences cajole money.

52. It is vain to trust in salvation by indulgence letters, even though the indulgence commissary, or even the pope, were to offer his soul as security.

53. They are the enemies of Christ and the pope who forbid altogether the preaching of the Word of God in some churches in order that indulgences may be preached in others.

54. Injury is done to the Word of God when, in the same sermon, an equal or larger amount of time is devoted to indulgences than to the Word.

55. It is certainly the pope’s sentiment that if indulgences, which are a very insignificant thing, are celebrated with one bell, one procession, and one ceremony, then the gospel, which is the very greatest thing, should be preached with a hundred bells, a hundred processions, a hundred ceremonies.

56. The true treasures of the church, out of which the pope distributes indulgences, are not sufficiently discussed or known among the people of Christ.

57. That indulgences are not temporal treasures is certainly clear, for many indulgence sellers do not distribute them freely but only gather them.

58. Nor are they the merits of Christ and the saints, for, even without the pope, the latter always work grace for the inner man, and the cross, death, and hell for the outer man.

59. St. Lawrence said that the poor of the church were the treasures of the church, but he spoke according to the usage of the word in his own time.

60. Without want of consideration we say that the keys of the church, given by the merits of Christ, are that treasure.

61. For it is clear that the pope’s power is of itself sufficient for the remission of penalties and cases reserved by himself.

62. The true treasure of the church is the most holy gospel of the glory and grace of God.

63. But this treasure is naturally most odious, for it makes the first to be last (Mt. 20:16).

64. On the other hand, the treasure of indulgences is naturally most acceptable, for it makes the last to be first.

65. Therefore the treasures of the gospel are nets with which one formerly fished for men of wealth.

66. The treasures of indulgences are nets with which one now fishes for the wealth of men.

67. The indulgences which the demagogues acclaim as the greatest graces are actually understood to be such only insofar as they promote gain.

68. They are nevertheless in truth the most insignificant graces when compared with the grace of God and the piety of the cross.

69. Bishops and curates are bound to admit the commissaries of papal indulgences with all reverence.

70. But they are much more bound to strain their eyes and ears lest these men preach their own dreams instead of what the pope has commissioned.

71. Let him who speaks against the truth concerning papal indulgences be anathema and accursed.

72. But let him who guards against the lust and license of the indulgence preachers be blessed.

73. Just as the pope justly thunders against those who by any means whatever contrive harm to the sale of indulgences.

74. Much more does he intend to thunder against those who use indulgences as a pretext to contrive harm to holy love and truth.

75. To consider papal indulgences so great that they could absolve a man even if he had done the impossible and had violated the mother of God is madness.

76. We say on the contrary that papal indulgences cannot remove the very least of venial sins as far as guilt is concerned.

77. To say that even St. Peter if he were now pope, could not grant greater graces is blasphemy against St. Peter and the pope.

78. We say on the contrary that even the present pope, or any pope whatsoever, has greater graces at his disposal, that is, the gospel, spiritual powers, gifts of healing, etc., as it is written. (1 Cor 12:28)

79. To say that the cross emblazoned with the papal coat of arms, and set up by the indulgence preachers is equal in worth to the cross of Christ is blasphemy.

80. The bishops, curates, and theologians who permit such talk to be spread among the people will have to answer for this.

81. This unbridled preaching of indulgences makes it difficult even for learned men to rescue the reverence which is due the pope from slander or from the shrewd questions of the laity.

82. Such as: “Why does not the pope empty purgatory for the sake of holy love and the dire need of the souls that are there if he redeems an infinite number of souls for the sake of miserable money with which to build a church?” The former reason would be most just; the latter is most trivial.

83. Again, “Why are funeral and anniversary masses for the dead continued and why does he not return or permit the withdrawal of the endowments founded for them, since it is wrong to pray for the redeemed?”

84. Again, “What is this new piety of God and the pope that for a consideration of money they permit a man who is impious and their enemy to buy out of purgatory the pious soul of a friend of God and do not rather, beca use of the need of that pious and beloved soul, free it for pure love’s sake?”

85. Again, “Why are the penitential canons, long since abrogated and dead in actual fact and through disuse, now satisfied by the granting of indulgences as though they were still alive and in force?”

86. Again, “Why does not the pope, whose wealth is today greater than the wealth of the richest Crassus, build this one basilica of St. Peter with his own money rather than with the money of poor believers?”

87. Again, “What does the pope remit or grant to those who by perfect contrition already have a right to full remission and blessings?”

88. Again, “What greater blessing could come to the church than if the pope were to bestow these remissions and blessings on every believer a hundred times a day, as he now does but once?”

89. “Since the pope seeks the salvation of souls rather than money by his indulgences, why does he suspend the indulgences and pardons previously granted when they have equal efficacy?”

90. To repress these very sharp arguments of the laity by force alone, and not to resolve them by giving reasons, is to expose the church and the pope to the ridicule of their enemies and to make Christians unhappy.

91. If, therefore, indulgences were preached according to the spirit and intention of the pope, all these doubts would be readily resolved. Indeed, they would not exist.

92. Away, then, with all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, “Peace, peace,” and there is no peace! (Jer 6:14)

93. Blessed be all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, “Cross, cross,” and there is no cross!

94. Christians should be exhorted to be diligent in following Christ, their Head, through penalties, death and hell.

95. And thus be confident of entering into heaven through many tribulations rather than through the false security of peace (Acts 14:22).

Luther: The Life and Legacy of the German Reformer

Discover the story of the former monk who sparked the Reformation. Told through a seamless combination of live-action storytelling and artistic animation, Martin Luther’s daring life is presented in extensive detail while still making the film relevant, provocative, and accessible.
Produced and just released by Haven Ministry’s Stephen McCaskell, this highly acclaimed 90-minute documentary will transport you back to the definitive moments that impacted the Church today. It will challenge you to a bolder faith and a greater passion to see the saving truth of Christ go into the world. This documentary needs to be watched and shared with small groups and in churches.

Cheer up; you’re a lot worse off than you think you are,
but in Jesus you’re far more loved than you could have ever imagined.

– Jack Miller

“How can God love me when I continue to sin?”
“Is God angry with me?”
“How can I be sure that I’m forgiven?”

Have you ever asked yourself these questions? The idea of grace is one of the most beautiful aspects of our salvation, yet it’s also one of the hardest  ideas to grasp.

We have all felt the guilt that comes when we’ve done something wrong, and it can become a barrier between us and God. We often forget that we are not saved by how good of a Christian we are, but by the loving sacrifice of Christ who paid the ultimate price for our sin. There is nothing on earth more powerful and life-transforming than our salvation by grace through faith. And because of what Jesus did for us, we can enjoy the blessings that come from receiving the gospel.

But the gospel is more than just something we are supposed to believe. God wants us to experience it every day.

The gospel holds everything we need for a life of joy and fulfillment. In his book, A Gospel Primer for Christians, Milton Vincent explains how to preach the gospel to yourself and why all believers should do this on a daily basis.
Here are just 3 of the many reasons you should rehearse the gospel regularly:

1. Our Daily Need

Scripture itself tells us the gospel is so foolish, so scandalous, and so incredible, that it is a daily battle to believe the full scope of it as we should. There is simply no other way to silence our human forebodings and the lies of the world than to overwhelm our heart with daily rehearsings of the gospel.

2. A Heart for the Lost

The more we rehearse gospel truths, the more we develop a burden for non-Christians to receive the same blessings. In Romans 9, Paul is devastated by a burden for his fellow Jews to experience the saving power of the gospel. His burden existed long before he started writing, but it is undoubtedly intensified by his rehearsal of gospel truths in Romans 5-8. This rehearsal inevitably leads his thoughts toward the plight of those outside of Christ.

3. Hope of Heaven

The more we experience the riches of Christ in the gospel, the more there develops within us a yearning to be with Christ in heaven where we will experience His grace in unhindered fullness. It enables our hearts to thrive during the most difficult trials here on earth.  When we preach the gospel to ourselves every day, we keep ourselves established in “the hope of the gospel.” Such hope is intended to keep us looking forward while still on earth.

Don’t stop here. To rehearse the gospel regularly, you need to know how to preach the gospel to yourself. To learn more, we recommend listening the radio series Preach the Gospel to Yourself with Milton Vincent.

Grace. This is one of the words we hear most often, and it’s also one of the most important gifts we receive from Christ. To put it simply, grace has the power to change our lives from hopelessness to joy.

In this week leading up to Easter, Lee Strobel is on HAVEN Today telling stories of everyday people experiencing grace in powerful ways [Click HERE to listen to the interview]. Focusing on God’s transforming work in their lives, Lee shows us that grace truly does change everything about who we are and how we live. 


Perhaps you know someone whose heart toward God is so hard it seems they’ll never come to faith in Christ. We all know people like that. This is why Lee Strobel’s The Case For Graceis so important. In the book, Lee carefully looks at several case studies – stories of God’s incredible work in the lives of some very different kinds of people who were unlikely converts. All of them seemed to be without hope, yet all of them were brought to faith in Christ.

Through it all, The Case For Grace is an encouraging book for any of us to read as it helps us realize that God’s grace can revolutionize our eternity and relationships.


Ephraim Stoltzfus and his wife, Amanda, grew up in the Amish community. Soon after getting married, they realized there was something wrong with what they believed. They began looking closer at Scripture, started attending Bible studies, and were eventually baptized outside of the Amish church. Having broken several rules by doing this, they were excommunicated from their church and shunned by family and friends.

After this, Ephraim and Amanda decided to stay as close to the Amish culture as possible so that they could continue to minister to those who remained in the community they were forced to leave behind.

Watch as Ephraim tells how he came to know grace in Christ and why it allowed him to leave everything he knew in order to follow Jesus.

When a tornado hit a small town in Arkansas last week, one mother lost everything. Her house, her things—and her two, sweet little boys. While weeping in the hospital with broken legs, this mother was able to communicate to a friend how the grace of Christ transcends even the most unspeakable of tragedies. For you see, one son had told her the Sunday before the tornado that he was ready to go to heaven. “Will you miss me?” he asked. All moms know the fear of losing their children. They also know well the daily trials that can cause boredom and frustration. Gloria Furman, a pastor’s wife in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, shares with us about how Jesus loves us in the burnout and the heartbreak.

Grace can turn burnout into a blessing.

I know it sounds goofy and backwards to say this, but when we feel burned out, we’re in one of the most tender times when we can have communion with Jesus. When I’m in the middle of an exhausting day or someone has just sincerely complimented me that the dark circles under my eyes don’t look too bad, I have to remind myself: I don’t really want to look back over the day and think, “I totally nailed it! Gimme a high five, Jesus, because we’re a great team with you on the sidelines cheering me on.” That’s not what I want at all.

What I really want is to have child-like faith in my loving Father who ordains the good work I’m walking in (Eph. 2:10), consciously give my burdens to Jesus (Matt. 11:28), and to walk by the Spirit as I resist the temptation to give up (Gal. 5:16). I don’t want to forget the Lord because my heart has become proud (Deut. 8:14). I don’t want to be so preoccupied with my own strength that I forget the Lord and all his benefits (Psalm 103).

The middle of burnout mode is actually an opportunity to say and believe with all the strength God supplies: “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen” (Rom. 11:36).

Here’s a short clip from Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full that elaborates on this idea:

It’s common knowledge that the work of mothering is demanding and difficult, but sometimes we don’t live as though we need any help. Spoken as a testimony to a woman’s strength, we hear that “motherhood is not for the faint of heart.”

However, a case can be made that motherhood is only for the faint of heart. When the first child was born, Eve said, “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord” (Gen. 4:10). On occasion in my doula work, a woman will admit to me that she doesn’t think she can do it—endure to the end of her pregnancy, give birth to her baby, or raise her child. When we acknowledge our inability to mother our children apart from the Lord’s provision and strength, we honor God. Of course we are not able to do this work of raising children and training them in the instruction of the Lord. That’s why we desperately need the Lord! We are to “be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might” (Eph. 6:10).

This kind of absolute dependency on God insults our pride. We’re so quick to embrace other solutions for our emotional, physical, and mental fatigue. “I can figure this out on my own,” we tell ourselves. More often than not in our trials we pretend everything is okay, and we dive headlong into self-sufficiency. Faith, rather, acknowledges the fierceness of the storm and throws us into the sea, and we swim as fast as we can to where we see Jesus walking on the water (John 6:16–21).

Physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, we need the Lord’s strength to honor him in our motherhood.

Sometimes the pitter-patter of little feet means that your child is running a marker along the wall in the hallway while he toddles away from you. The sweet, bleating cries of a newborn can turn into sassy comebacks and spite­ful words. In every occasion, moms must rely on God’s strength. If we think we can do “this motherhood thing” in our own strength, then we are fooling ourselves. …

In the English Standard Version of the Bible the subtitle for Psalm 71 is this: “Forsake Me Not When My Strength Is Spent.” This is profoundly descriptive of a psalm that lauds the Lord as the one who saves us in his righteous­ness and is to us a rock of refuge. Whether you feel that you just can’t endure or that you don’t “have it in you” anymore, or if you feel that you’ve “got what it takes,” the gospel triumphs over all. Only God’s grace in the gospel can strengthen our faith to let Jesus carry our burdens in parenting.

Listen to Charles interview Gloria on Haven Today:
When Your Hands Are Full, Part 1
When Your Hands Are Full, Part 2
When Your Hands Are Full, Part 3
When Your Hands Are Full, Part 4

Gloria Furman is a wife, mother of four young childen, doula, and blogger. Her first book, Glimpses of Grace: Treasuring the Gospel in Your Home, helped moms see the reality of grace in all of life. Out now, her second book, Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full: Gospel Meditations for Busy Moms, which helps moms pursue the giver of grace: Jesus. Furman lives in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, where her husband is pastor of Redeemer Church of Dubai. 

Content taken from Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full by Gloria Furman, ©2014. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, Il 60187,