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Reformed. Christianity. Evangelism. Modern Culture.
A remarkable sinner who became a remarkable convert, was an extraordinarily gifted man and fearless street preacher in the Edinburgh of the mid-1800’s. It is said Robert Flockhart (1778-1857) had sinned much, but he had been forgiven much, and so he loved much. Where Robert in Satan’s service had often exposed himself to disgrace, danger, and death itself, but after his conversion, “… If there had been need for it, I believe there was no man in Edinburgh who would have gone to the stake or scaffold for Jesus Christ with a firmer step or nobler bearing than this brave old soldier of the cross.”
Flockhart was converted in India, while a soldier, he became a fearless as a street preacher – often in the face of unruly crowds. In a tribute to Robert Flockhart, Charles Spurgeon said:
I must linger a moment over Robert Flockhart, of Edinburgh, who, though a lesser light, was a constant one, and a fit example to the bulk of Christ’s street witnesses. Every evening, in all weathers and amid many persecutions, did this brave man continue to speak in the street for forty-three years. Think of that, and never be discouraged. When he was tottering to the grave the old soldier was still at his post. “Compassion to the souls of men drove me,” said he, “to the streets and lanes of my native city, to plead with sinners and persuade them to come to Jesus. The love of Christ constrained me.”
Neither the hostility of the police, nor the insults of Papists, Unitarians, and the like could move him; he rebuked error in the plainest terms, and preached salvation by grace with all his might. So lately has he passed away that Edinburgh remembers him still. There is room for such in all our cities and towns, and need for hundreds of his noble order in this huge nation of London—can I call it less?
Lectures to my Students, Charles Spurgeon.
Charles H. Spurgeon was born at Essex, England, June 19, 1834; led his class at every examination in school at Colchester; converted December 15, 1850; preached first sermon 1851 at age 16; became a pastor in 1852; published more than 1900 sermons in his lifetime; died 1892, he was mourned by thousands.
In Spurgeon’s own words:
I had been about five years in the most fearful distress in mind, as a lad. If any human being felt more of the terror of God’s law, I can indeed pity and sympathize with him. Bunyan’s “Grace Abounding” contains, in the main, my history. Some abysses he went into I never trod; but some into which I plunged he seems to have never known. I thought the sun was blotted out of my sky–that I had sinned so against God that there was no hope for me. I prayed – the Lord knoweth how I prayed, but I never had a glimpse of an answer that I knew of. I searched the Word of God; the promises were more alarming than the threatenings. I read the privileges of the people of God, but with the fullest persuasions that they were not for me. The secret of my distress was this: I did not know the gospel. I was in a Christian land, I had Christian parents, but I did not fully understand the simplicity of the gospel.
The clarion call of the Reformation was to get back to the source of christian faith. A relentless and clear cry to go back to the scriptures, the principle now known as “Sola Scriptura” (by scripture alone). Additionally, another prominent doctrine which was then brought forth is often known as “the universal priesthood of the believer“. Well you see…
Many, many, people in the years since interpreted those two doctrines taken-together to mean that each person interprets the bible for himself (and by himself). Unfortunately, this has had the tendency to create novel doctrines over the years, and yes, a proliferation of cults.
I’m not saying that each individual cannot understand the Bible — and thus needs a professional clergy-person to do it for him. Rather, the point of those two doctrines was to emphasize the idea that one needn’t be part of the professional clergy to understand the Bible. …Read More!
In 2012 well, I went to Constance (Konstanz) in the South West corner of Germany to visit sites of historical importance to the Reformation. My plan was to of course visit the impeccable Constance munster (cathedral), John Huss (Jan Hus) museum and memorial stone. Or so I thought. As you may imagine the city of Constance always has its jaw dropping surprises and humorous detours. No wonder John Huss was short changed in that infamous Council of Constance by the Emperor Sigismund.
As I took in the nostalgic natural and ancient delights of this mesmerizing lake side University city guess who I stumbled upon again? Yup, that controversial Emperor Sigismund has had a statue of himself made. Well believe me it’s not a flattering one though. It is as controversial as it’s own colorful infamy.
Imagine walking down a peaceful foot path with park benches lining the sides of a clear lake harbor. A flower garden gives you a warm bear like hug from behind and thrusting you forward to catch the hue of the sun hidden behind the Spring time cloud line over the Lake Constance. There as you are intoxicated by the glory of the natural beauty of creation with no care in the world and just as you are about to take a nice cool sip of juice. There just before you can say “John Huss” There before you even can say “gesundheit”. There as you …Read More!
When it comes to missionaries to South East Asia or rather India in particular William Carey, a shoemaker by trade is the first name that springs up. Born in England in 1761 he spent an active forty-one years serving the Lord in India, including translating the Scriptures. This was after being heckled,”Young man, sit down: when God pleases to covert the heathen, He will do it without your aid or mine.”
To know what William believed I will let this excerpt unfold the story:
William Carey’s greatest contribution to the modern missions movement was his trust in the sovereignty of God in missions. This fueled his zeal to reach the heathen with the gospel. In his youth, he was told to sit down by an elder brother, a hyper-Calvinist, who told him that when God wanted to reach the heathen He would do it without him or Carey. Carey’s Calvinism however, his theological understanding of God’s sovereignty and the responsibility of man, would not allow him to either doubt God’s sovereignty or neglect his responsibility. Read More…
David Livingstone gave his life to serve Christ in the exploration of Africa for the sake of the access of the gospel.
Here is what Livingstone said to the Cambridge students about his “leaving” the benefits of England:
For my own part, I have never ceased to rejoice that God has appointed me to such an office. People talk of the sacrifice I have made in spending so much of my life in Africa. . . . Is that a sacrifice which brings its own blest reward in healthful activity, the consciousness of doing good, peace of mind, and a bright hope of a glorious destiny hereafter? …Read More!
So, did Pastor Ulrich Zwingli (the Reformer) die hacking and water boarding enemy soldiers in battle as some snidely suggest? I will leave that bit of history for the urban myth busters to refute. However today we will go through the Heinrich Bullinger’s account of the day Zwingli died.
On the battlefield, not far from the line of attack, Mr. Ulrich Zwingli lay under the dead and wounded. While men were looting . . . he was still alive, lying on his back, with his hands together as if he was praying, and his eyes looking upwards to heaven. So some approached who did not know him and asked him, since he was so weak and close to death (for he had fallen in combat and was stricken with a mortal wound), whether a priest should be fetched to hear his confession. …Read More!
It’s Easter week….
In light of this, Reformation Trust is making the ebook edition of Anthony Carter’s Blood Work: How the Blood of Christ Accomplishes Our Salvation free to download until the end of the month. We encourage you to share this resource offer with your family, friends, and church community.
Evangelical Christians often sing and preach about the blessed blood of Christ and the wonderful things it accomplishes for believers. To the uninformed ear, such language can convey the idea that Jesus’ blood had semi-magical qualities. Actually, Jesus’ blood was normal human blood, but the Bible refers to it in metaphorical terms to portray the many benefits that come to Christians because of Jesus’ death.
Who is J. I. Packer?
He once described himself as “English by birth, Canadian by choice, Christian by conversion, and Calvinist by conviction, I speak as an evangelical who finds his home in the worldwide Anglican church family.”
Note in particular Dr. Packer’s moving closing words, when asked how he would like to be remembered: …Read More!
For some this may not be new but I just want to repost this bit of information. The website Monergism is a good site to get free ebooks of invaluable wealth especially if you would like books on evangelism, basic Christianity, biographies and Reformed Theology. Check the link Here!
The John Knox church history tour of Scotland begins on the 24th June to 4th July 2014. From what I hear its a 5 star tour for a 3 star price.
Don’t miss the JOHN KNOX @ 500 TOUR (1514-2014) of Scotland and northern England with author, Douglas Bond
ITINERARY. Register today. It will be a tour to remember! Join the folks who have already registered for this tour, but hurry…
Special Feature of the Knox @ 500 Tour: Along with memorable exploration of Knox sites… meet and share a meal with several Christian leaders in the UK (list subject to final revision) …Read More!
Today’s “successful gospel preacher” is measured by how much health, wealth and prosperity he pronounces upon or promises the congregation. But what would the Christian’s life be like without any challenges and trials? Did God promise a walk of blissful exsistence? How about the Apostle Paul and the church fathers or the Reformers for instance-did they have health, wealth and prosperity as we are promised by most televangelists? [In stark contrast] despite the incredible amount of work he produced, let alone sermons he prepared, its almost unthinkable to figure out how and when preachers like John Calvin had time to fall ill. But hold onto your socks! Calvin suffered from poor digestion, migraines, kidney stones, gout, tuberculosis, and lung hemorrhages, possibly brought on by too much preaching and teaching-oh and not to forget some good haemorrhoids too. In a letter to his friend Heinrich Bullinger he described an occasion of his health as thus:
At present, I am relieved from very acute suffering, having been delivered of a calculus [i.e a stone] about the size of the kernel of a filbert [i.e hazelnut]. As the retention of urine was very painful to me, by the advice of my physician, I got upon my horseback that the jolting might assist me in discharging the calculus. On my return home I was surprised to find that I emitted discolored blood instead of urine. The following day the calculus had forced its way from the bladder into the urethra. Hence still more excruciating tortures.
When it comes to gospel preachers, Lemuel Haynes stands out in the African-American Christian tradition as a powerful gospel preacher in the 19th century. As the first black in America to serve as pastor of a white congregation, Haynes ministered to Rutland’s West Parish for thirty years starting in 1783.
He was the illegitimate child of a black African man and the daughter of a socially prominent white family in Hartford, Connecticut, the five-month-old baby Lemuel was abandoned by his parents and indentured to a white family (Deacon Rose’s family) in Massachusetts. He was adopted as a very young child by solid Calvinist Congregationalists in Massachusetts. He was schooled a bit and self-taught for the most part. He served in the Continental Army until he became quite ill in 1776.
He is said to have began to teach the Scriptures to his friends and family where they realized he had a gift of preaching the gospel. At the family home, Haynes benefited from the devout religious practice and instruction. One biographer described Haynes as “a determined, self-taught student who poured over Scripture until he could repeat from memory most of the texts dealing with the doctrines of grace….” Read More…
First, in LYDIA’S CONVERSION there are many points of interest. Observe that it was brought about by providential circumstances. She was a seller of purple, from the city of Thyatira. That city was famous for its dyeing trade, which had flourished there ever since the days of Homer. The mode of producing a peculiarly delicate and valuable purple seems to have been known to the women of Thyatira. It may be that Lydia had come to Philippi upon a journey, or that while her work was carried on at Thyatira, she resided during a part of the year at Philippi, to sell her goods. The communication between the two places was very easy, and she may have frequently made the journey; at any rate, providence brings her there when the hour of her conversion is come. You will remember that Thyatira was situated in that part of the country into which Paul was forbidden by the Spirit to go and preach; therefore, had Lydia been at home, she could not have heard the truth; and since “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God,” she must have remained unconverted. But providence brings her to Philippi at the right time. Here is the first link of the chain.
But how is Paul to be brought there? Read More
The true mark by which to discern the Church of Jesus Christ [is] to be where his holy Gospel is purely and faithfully preached, declared, listened to and heeded; where the Sacraments are rightly administered, even though there continue to be some imperfections and flaws, as they will always be among men. On the contrary, where the Gospel is not declared, heard and received, there we recognize by no means the Church. – John Calvin
HT Jim West.
The year 2012 was interesting and frustrating. This year I will not feature the 10 most popular posts like I did in 2011. However I will give you a running commentary and “warm your little Calvinist hearts” with some grace and hope you won’t end up swimming back to Rome in the end.
The year started with high expectations and has ended on a high note – well unless you are a Mayan apocalypse enthusiast then you might be just a tard deflated. But hey cheer up we have extra time now, don’t we?
In 2012 it was interesting to see that many people were interested in reading how Veggie Tales ended up being a failed experiment. Well to be honest it was a fad that went too far into teaching kids how to be “Christian” without knowing Christ. Ironic but frankly I have come to expect this from most Evangelical fads that it doesn’t surprise me any more. Speaking of fads the year kicked off with a fad…oops thud when Steven Furtick (yup the celebrity pastor who spontaneously baptised 2,000 people in two weeks) invited Matt Chandler into a room full of orange flood lights, orange walls and orange carpets. When Matt began to preach about celebrities and supposed pastors using church as a platform for personal ambition, you could hear a pin drop. The barn burning sermon was a good fire starter for the year it and it ended with a clear gospel presentation too. But nothing prepared us for pastor Jim Murphy’s stance when he decided to root out religious junk from his lukewarm church bookstore. Murphy lamented the disintegration of Christianity and its falling away from the truth of the gospel and into more and more error – he traced the roots of today’s error to the subtle attacks on the authority of Scripture. When he finally asked “How did we get where we are?” Many expected him to point the finger else where but the wise old pastor pointed to him self and said said he was responsible for allowing his church to become lukewarm and hence forth there would be changes. Talk about the perspicuity of scripture.
Don’t blink yet, that was just the beginning!
It’s a while now since we last saw Todd Bentley warn a bewildered chap that he was just about to leg drop him so that he could earn a “revival” in his church. Another time he supposedly gave another man a two minute head start before he broke his teeth and sternum. Bentley’s erratic behavorisms were outlandish but they drew crowds. People came to see and be subjected to mesmerising antics. No one seemed to question the biblical basis of his practices.
People actually will crown any one as king if he can create an illusion or pretend to conjure up one. A couple of years before Mr Bentley graced the Evangelical scene, there was a like minded charismatic man called Smith Wigglesworth. No, he didn’t knock people around with his coat like some famous televangelists do on television or huff and puff a glory cloud to make people drowsy “in the holy ghost”. Mr. Wigglesworth is said to have punched a man so hard during one of his “revivals” that the man died. He then went on and raised him back to life, or so the legend goes. Today we will look at the teachings of Mr. Smith Wigglesworth. So, to begin with – who was Wigglesworth? Was he orthodox or a heretic? I am glad you asked….
SMITH WIGGLESWORTH (1859-1947) was a famous Pentecostal evangelist and faith healer. Many books have been written about his unusual life. He was converted in a Methodist church, confirmed as an Anglican, and as a young man was associated with the Salvation Army and Plymouth Brethren. In 1907 he claimed that he was “baptised in the Holy Spirit” after hands were laid on him by Mary Boddy, who alleged to have had a Pentecostal experience only a month prior to that. Mrs. Boddy believed in the doctrine of healing in the atonement, but she spent the last sixteen years of her life as an invalid. Wigglesworth, too, believed that physical healing is guaranteed in the atonement of Christ. He taught against the use of all medicine. He believed that signs and wonders should always follow the preaching of the Gospel. He taught that a Christian can be justified and sanctified but still not have everything necessary from God. “People are never safe until they are baptized with the Holy Ghost” (Wigglesworth, “The Place of Power,” June 1916, reprinted in The Anointing of His Spirit, p. 151). He taught that handkerchiefs which are prayed over will bring life if carried in faith to the sick (The Anointing of His Spirit, p. 231).
There is a lot to learn especially when it comes to Church history and revivals and revivalisms.
Unusual outward manifestations attended the revivals of
[The Great Awakening of the 18th century]. At times there were audible sighs and sobs throughout assemblies under the preached Word. Sometimes convicted sinners cried out, ‘What must I do to be saved?’, as scripture was brought home to their consciences. In a few instances men fell prostrate on the floor, even becoming physically rigid for a time. What was the attitude of the pastors to these unusual happenings?
Cowper became close friends with the Evangelical clergyman John Newton; together they co-authored the Olney Hymns, which was first published in 1779 and included Newton’s famous hymn “Amazing Grace.” Of the 68 hymns Cowper wrote, “Oh for a closer walk with God” and “God moves in a mysterious way” are the most well known. Today I draw immense encouragement from the words of two of his Hymns below:
Cometh the hour, cometh the man. Constantine entered into the annals of Church History at a time when Christianity seemed to have undergone a bit of persecution. Well “a bit” may just be the understatement of the millennium. It has been calculated that between the first persecution under Nero in 64 to the Edict of Milan in 313, Christians experienced 129 years of persecution and 120 years of toleration and peace. The total number of Christians martyred in the early church is actually still unknown.
During the rule of Roman Emperor Constantine the Great (reigned 306–337), Christianity became a dominant religion of the Roman Empire.So what do we learn from the triumphs and errors of this eccentric Emperor? This is an excerpt from a Church History lecture (transcript here) by Pastor Michael Phillips…
Having consolidated his civil power, Constantine was quick to legalize Christianity and began endowing the church with many royal favors, only a few of which I can presently mention:
1.Sunday was declared the “Christian Sabbath”, as a result of which work was forbidden and church attendance encouraged.
2.Pagans were generally removed from their government posts and replaced with Christians.
3.Pastors were relieved of military obligation and given a tax-exempt status.
4.Pastors became the salaried employees of the state, paid by the taxes levied on Christian and Pagan alike.
5.Church buildings were erected, enlarged, and richly furnished throughout the Empire.
As might be expected, the Church was deeply grateful to the Emperor. Indeed, too grateful. For in accepting his favors, they were inadvertantly submitting to his sovereignty. After all, “whoever pays the piper calls the tune”. The evils produced by this illicit union cannot be exaggerrated, no matter how well-intentioned Constantine or the church leaders of the time may have been. The latter in particular acted with inexcusable stupidity and pride. The immediate effects were disastrous.
Smyrna 155 A.D-The night is cold and damp. There’s great anticipation that something is going to happen. It is the Asia minor city of Smyrna. There’s feasting around the corner. The proconsul Statius Quadratus is present, and the asiarch Philip of Tralles is presiding over the games. Eleven Christians have been brought, mostly from Philadelphia, to be put to death. This is pattern of life in the first century –Anno Dommini.
October is a month when we remember many events in Church history. Jim West has just reminded us to have a happy Tyndale Day and so be it! William Tyndale died in October…
We do not know who planned and financed the plot that ended his life (whether English or continental authorities), but we do know it was carried out by Henry Phillips, a man who had been accused of robbing his father and of gambling himself into poverty. Phillips became Tyndale’s guest at meals and soon was one of the few privileged to look at Tyndale’s books and papers.
In May 1535, Phillips lured Tyndale away from the safety of his quarters and into the arms of soldiers. Tyndale was immediately taken to the Castle of Vilvorde, the great state prison of the Low Countries, and accused of heresy.
Trials for heresy in the Netherlands were in the hands of special commissioners of the Holy Roman Empire. It took months for the law to take its course. During this time, Tyndale had many hours to reflect on his own teachings, such as this passage from one of his tracts:
“Let it not make thee despair, neither yet discourage thee, O reader, that it is forbidden thee in pain of life and goods, or that it is made breaking of the king’s peace, or treason unto his highness, to read the Word of thy soul’s health—for if God be on our side, what matter maketh it who be against us, be they bishops, cardinals, popes.” …Read More!
If you go back through the long history of the Church, you will find that it has often counted most, and has been most used by God, when there have been just a handful of people who were agreed in spirit and in doctrine. God took hold of them and used them and did mighty things through them. But when there was only one Church in the whole of western Europe, what did she lead to? The Dark Ages. …Read More!
So what really happened between Michael Servetus and Calvin?
In the year 1553 an event occurred which would forever blacken the reputation of Calvin in the eyes of an ungodly world. In that year a heretic named Michael Servetus entered Geneva after fleeing from France after being condemned for his heresy there and escaping from prison in Vienna. He was seen in the streets of Geneva and arrested on August 13. This trouble he had brought upon himself by his book which denied the existence of the Trinity as well as the practice of infant baptism. Though the former is clearly a more serious error than the latter, the latter position identified Servetus with the hated Anabaptists who had spread the revolutionary ideas of socialism and communism. Why Servetus came to Geneva is not clear though the Reformer Wolfgang Musculus wrote that he apparently thought that Geneva might be favorable to him since there was so much opposition to Calvin.
On August 21, the authorities in Geneva wrote to Vienna asking further information on Servetus. The authorities in Vienna immediately demanded his extradition to face charges there. At this the Genevan city council offered Servetus a choice: he could either be returned to Vienna or stay in Geneva and face the charges against him. Servetus, significantly, chose to remain in Geneva. Read More
Quoting J. C Ryle:
That a great change for the better came over England during the 18th century is a fact that I suppose no well-informed person would ever attempt to deny. You might as well attempt to deny that there was a Protestant Reformation in the days of Luther, a Long Parliament in the time of Cromwell, or a French Republic at the end of the 18th century. There was a vast change for the better. Both in religion and in morality, the country gradually went through a complete revolution. This is a great fact that even the irreligious cannot deny, however they may attempt to explain it.
But, by what means was this great change effected? To whom are we indebted for the immense improvement in religion and morality that undoubtedly came over the land? Who, in a word, were the instruments whom God employed in bringing about the great English reformation of the 18th century?
The government of the country can lay no claim to the credit for the change. Morality cannot be called into being by laws and statutes. People have never yet been made religious by acts of government. In fact, the parliaments and administrations of the 18th century did as little for religion and morality as any that ever existed in England. Nor did the change come from the Church of England as a body. The leaders of that venerable institution were utterly unequal to the times. Left to herself, the Church of England would probably have died of pride and inactivity.
Nor did the change come from the independent churches of the dissenters. Content with their recently won freedoms, that worthy body of men seemed to rest upon their oars. In the general enjoyment of their new rights of conscience, they forgot the vital principles of their forefathers as well as their own duties and responsibilities. …Read More!
Largely forgotten today, George Whitefield was probably the most famous religious figure of the eighteenth century. Newspapers called him the “marvel of the age.” He preached with clarity and with tenacity. When George Whitefield, a Calvinist studied the Bible…
“There he is at five in the morning . . . . on his knees with his English Bible, his Greek New Testament and Henry’s Commentary spread out before him. He reads a portion in the English, gains a fuller insight into it as he studies words and tenses in the Greek and then considers Matthew Henry’s explanation of it all. Finally, there comes the unique practice that he has developed: that of ‘praying over every line and word’ of both the English and the Greek till the passage, in its essential message, has veritably become part of his own soul.” ~Arnold Dallimore, George Whitefield, I:82-83.
Are there still any preachers …Read More!
William Tyndale had an unequaled mastery of English phrasing, rhythm and style as an individual translator. He dedicated his life in the service of bringing the Bible to the English-speaking people. Tyndale, the translator of our English Bible in 1524, was arrested by the Roman Catholic authorities and put in prison to await his martyrdom. He was incarcerated to an inhospitable dark and damp small 7 feet by 6 feet prison cell dug under and next to the river with no facilities and the interior without windows for 16 months which encompassed a full winter. While there he wrote the following letter to the Governor or a Noble man, the Marquis of Bergen :
“Wherefore I beg of your lordship, and that by the Lord Jesus, that if I am to remain here through the winter you will request the commissary to have the kindness to send me from the goods of mine which he has a warmer cap, for I suffer greatly from the cold in the head and am afflicted by a perpetual catarrh, which is much increased in this cell. A warmer coat also, for this which I have is very thin. A piece of cloth, too, to patch my leggings. My overcoat is worn out. My shirts are also worn out. He has a woolen shirt, if he will be good enough to send it. I have with him also leggings of thicker cloth to put on above. He also has warmer night caps. And I ask to be allowed to have a lamp in the evening. It is indeed a wearisome to sit alone in the dark. But most of all I beg and beseech your clemency to be with the commissary that he will kindly permit me to have the Hebrew Bible, Hebrew grammar, and Hebrew dictionary, that I may pass the time in that study. Read More
As the 2012 London Olympics are underway, there are a couple of Christian mission groups traversing the landscapes of the beautiful City of London preaching the gospel. I am greatly encouraged by their zeal and passion. I am also encouraged by the stories of those coming to embrace Jesus Christ from all walks of life. Looking at the history of Christianity, England was instrumental in being the first place through which the Reformation came to the English speaking world. Many lost their lives for believing in the Authority of Scripture over the authority of the Papacy.
Nicholas Ridley and Hugh Latimer are some of the examples of Reformers in England. Hugh was a British clergyman, Bishop of Worcester, and Protestant martyr during the reign of the Catholic Queen Mary I of England. He was burnt at the stake as a “heretic” in Oxford (1555). Hugh’s memorable last words to his friend Nicholas as they were burnt were:
Play the man, Master Ridley; we shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out. ~ Hugh Latimer
Times and seasons come and go. Olympics are here in London today but will be gone tomorrow. How I pray that God will indeed raise up a people with a zeal for the Authority of Scripture in our days too. For the time is soon coming and may probably be here now when men will not adhere to sound doctrine even in the church. A time is coming and is already here when holding Christian beliefs will be tantamount to being “intolerant” and “bigotted”. …Read More!
Early this week an Evangelical Christian young man who has always appeared to profess faith in Christ alone (and had preached that salvation is by Faith alone, in Christ alone, by Grace alone and by Scripture alone to the Glory of God alone) dropped a note to his local congregation and fellowship of believers. The message said he was no longer going to walk with them and he had come to a place where he wanted to go back to Roman Catholicism. It is always a sad thing when we see a falling away of supposed believers. It’s sadder when we see apostasy. I may have covered Apostasy in some earlier posts but today we will look at Roman Catholicism. What are the errors of Roman Catholicism? Why should one be extremely cautious of her allure?
A key distinction between Catholics and Christians is the view of the Bible. Catholics view the Bible as having equal authority with the Church and tradition. Christians view the Bible as the supreme authority for faith and practice. The question is, how does the Bible present itself? 2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” Scripture, of itself, is sufficient for the Christian to be thoroughly equipped for every good work. This text tells us that Scripture is not “just the beginning,” or “just the basics,” or the “foundation for a more complete church tradition.” On the contrary, Scripture is perfectly and fully sufficient for everything in the Christian life. Scripture can teach us, rebuke us, correct us, train us, and equip us. Bible Christians do not deny the value of church tradition. Rather, Christians uphold that for a church tradition to be valid, it must be based on the clear teaching of Scripture, and must be in full agreement with Scripture. Catholic friend, study the Word of God for yourself. In God’s Word you will find God’s description of, and intention for, His Church. 2 Timothy 2:15 declares, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.”
In loving memory of Jim Bublitz who went to be with the Lord not more than two days ago, I will feature this post from his blog – The Old Truth.
In the 19th century, R.L. Dabney wrote –
“All the leading Reformers, whether in Germany, Switzerland, England or Scotland were constant preachers, and their sermons were prevalently expository”; the purpose was to explain the meaning of Scripture. So he says, “We can assume with safety that the instrumentality to which the spiritual power of the great revolution of the Reformation – was mainly due to the restoration of scriptural preaching”.
Martin Luther in 1533 said, “The Word of God is the greatest most necessary, most important thing in Christendom.” And it is. I’ll tell you what, you turn away from the Book and you have endless problems. You turn away from the Book and Jesus becomes a clay toy, you can shape Him any way you want. Truth becomes a clay toy, you can shape it any way you want…
See, people want to reinvent Jesus, shape Him any way they want.
When did Christian martyrdom really begin? Well, the bible does record the death of Stephen (the first martyr) in the book of Acts. But it was not till the summer of 64 A.D, that Christians would see something unheard of under one man. You see, Rome had suffered a terrible fire that burned for six days and seven nights consuming almost three quarters of the city. The people accused the Emperor Nero for the devastation claiming he set the fire for his own amusement. In order to deflect these accusations and placate the people, the vile emperor laid blame for the fire on ….(wait for it) the Christians!
Tacitus was a young boy living in Rome during the time of the persecutions. This is what he later recorded:
“Therefore, to stop the rumor [that he had set Rome on fire], he [Emperor Nero] falsely charged with guilt, and punished with the most fearful tortures, the persons commonly called Christians, who were [generally] hated for their enormities. Christus, the founder of that name, was put to death as a criminal by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea, in the reign of Tiberius, but the pernicious superstition – repressed for a time, broke out yet again, not only through Judea, – where the mischief originated, but through the city of Rome also, whither all things horrible and disgraceful flow from all quarters, as to a common receptacle, and where they are encouraged. Accordingly first those were arrested who confessed they were Christians; next on their information, a vast multitude were convicted, not so much on the charge of burning the city, as of “hating the human race.”
In their very deaths they were made the subjects of sport: for they were covered with the hides of wild beasts, and worried to death by dogs, or nailed to crosses, or set fire to, and when the day waned, burned to serve for the evening lights. Nero offered his own garden players for the spectacle, and exhibited a Circensian game, indiscriminately mingling with the common people in the dress of a charioteer, or else standing in his chariot. For this cause a feeling of compassion arose towards the sufferers, though guilty and deserving of exemplary capital punishment, because they seemed not to be cut off for the public good, but were victims of the ferocity of one man.”
I have wanted to read Michael Horton’s Christless Christianity for a long while. Glad to find some one who has read it and made a book review. Thad Bergmeier (Changed by The Gospel) explains….
In summary, Horton provides a scathing rebuke of the American gospel presentation. And this gospel message, which is summarized by Christian Smith’s–Moralistic, Therapeutic Deism–has only been successful because hundreds of thousands of people accept it. It is a gospel about them. It is a gospel to meet their comforts. But it is a gospel without Christ. His main argument in this book is “not that evangelicalism is becoming theologically liberal but that it is becoming theologically vacuous” (23). In case you do not know, vacuous means empty or without content; put in the context of this book, it means that evangelicalism has become without the content of Jesus Christ. In the book, even before he states that purpose, he has a statement that I think adequately represents the book.
“My concern is that we are getting dangerously close to the place in everyday American church life where the bible is mined for ‘relevant’ quotes but is largely irrelevant on its own terms; God is used as a personal source rather than known, worshiped, and trusted; Jesus Christ is a coach with a good game plan for our victory rather than a Savior who has already achieved it for us; salvation is more a matter of having our best life now than being saved from God’s judgment by God himself; and the Holy Spirit is an electrical outlet we can plug into for the power we need to be all that we can be” …Read More!
Not every body goes to church to worship God or to have fellowship with believers. Some have heard of what they can get from some churches especially motivational pep talk, self esteem rhetoric and religious junk. Conrad Mbewe a local pastor in Kabwata, Zambia knows this only too well because sadly it’s happening more often in his backyard….
Last Sunday, a young man came to see me after our church service. He is the kind of guy who shows up at church once in a while and then disappears for a season. My guess is that he goes around churches sampling sermons and looking for answers. On this visit, he asked that I help him to overcome a failure in his life, and it was a failure to progress. He said that his greatest problem is that he does not believe in himself. Could I help him believe in himself so that he could become successful?
I asked him whether he was a Christian. His answer was, “Do I really need to be a Christian in order to be successful? Are you telling me that all those successful people out there are Christians?
Apparently England is on a brink of a constitution crisis. All papers today are highlighting the likely consequences to the Church of England, if the Government’s plans to redefine the institution of marriage to include same-sex unions, contrary to the official teaching of Church, as established by Act of Parliament. Archbishop Cranimer believes that the legislation for same-sex marriage is the shallow proposal of a disingenuous government intent on an unsatisfactory and ill-considered reform . Furthermore Cranimer believes that such changes will undermine the integrity of church -which is exactly what people behind the gay agenda really want.
This is likely (Cranimer adds) to result in a constitutional crisis: as human rights legislation forces the Church of England to treat homosexual couples in the same way as heterosexual couples, we are on the path to disestablishment as the Supreme Governor becomes embroiled in the mightiest church-state battle in centuries. In a well written post he expounds:
At her Coronation [the Queen] swore the Oath:
Archbishop: Will you to the utmost of your power maintain the Laws of God and the true profession of the Gospel? Will you to the utmost of your power maintain in the United Kingdom the Protestant Reformed Religion established by law? Will you maintain and preserve inviolably the settlement of the Church of England, and the doctrine, worship, discipline, and government thereof, as by law established in England? And will you preserve unto the Bishops and Clergy of England, and to the Churches there committed to their charge, all such rights and privileges, as by law do or shall appertain to them or any of them?
Queen: All this I promise to do.
According to the Laws of God and the Protestant Reformed Religion, marriage is a union between a man and a woman. …Read more!
Today as I visited central London (entirely for a different purpose), I was acutely reminded of
John Calvin was born in 1509. He died in 1564. This year on the 27th of May we will read what Philip Schaff wrote about John’s death. Before he died his last wish was to be buried in an unmarked grave with no witnesses and no ceremony. Schaff writes:
… Calvin spent his last days in almost continual prayer, and in ejaculating comforting sentences of Scripture, mostly from the Psalms. He suffered at times excruciating pains. He was often heard to exclaim: “I mourn as a dove” (Isa. 38:14); “I was dumb, I opened not my mouth; because thou didst it” (Ps. 39:9); “Thou bruisest me, O Lord, but it is enough for me that it is thy hand.” His voice was broken by asthma, but his eyes remained bright, and his mind clear and strong to the last. He admitted all who wished to see him, but requested that they should rather pray for him than speak to him.
On the day of his death he spoke with less difficulty. He fell peacefully asleep with the setting sun towards eight o’clock, and entered into the rest of his Lord. “I had just left him,” says Beza, “a little before, and on receiving intimation from the servants, immediately hastened to him with one of the brethren. We found that he had already died, and so very calmly, without any convulsion of his feet or hands, that he did not even fetch a deeper sigh. He had remained perfectly sensible, and was not entirely deprived of utterance to his very last breath. Indeed, he looked much more like one sleeping than dead.”
He had lived fifty-four years, ten months, and seventeen days.
Pieter Stok has travelled far and wide with his camera. He has been to several places and gathered interesting photographs along the way. Some times he takes his muppet friend Grover along. At the moment I believe he is travelling from Ur but you will love his collection of Stave churches that have survived for centuries:
The Uvdal Stavkirke (Stave Church) in Numedal district in central southern Norway. It dates from the end of the 1100s and was remodelled into a cruciform shape in 1720. It is one of about 30 that remain in Norway today. Below is the more ornate Gol Stavkirke now found in the Norsk Folkemuseum in Oslo on the island of Bygdoy. This was built in about 1200 and moved to the present site in 1885. …See More!
The next highlight of the Reformation week conference was the visit to Basel. ( see Haus Barnabas report here; Constance report here and Zurich report here). The town of Basel was called Basilea or Basilia in Latin and this name is documented from 374 AD. Basel like most Swiss cities is calm and sedate. Beautifully located where the Swiss, French and German borders meet, Basel is Switzerland’s second-largest urban area. the River Rhine runs through Basel and provides such a romantic backdrop to maul up this city’s turbulent and engaging history.
My trip to Basel to trace places of historical importance to the Reformation period started by a cordial visit to a local Swiss Reformed church in Riehen (a municipal of Basel).
The Reformed branch of Protestantism in Switzerland was started in Zürich by Huldrych Zwingli and spread within a few years to Basel (Johannes Oecolampadius), Bern (Berchtold Haller and Niklaus Manuel), St. Gall (Joachim Vadian), to cities in southern Germany and via Alsace (Martin Bucer) to France.
In the Swiss Reformed church in Riehen one can still see the long standing traditional architectural structure of the church set up. The pews and wall designs tell of the tensions as you look at the different designs of art of a time gone past. …Read More!
I had a very interesting trip recently to Germany and Switzerland as I followed a few of the Reformers. One of them stuck out. No he didn’t nail theses on walls but he knew how to get his point across. I must add here that the Reformation actually was not a one man crusade as some would want you to believe. God in his providence harnessed events in tandem to bring about one of the greatest revivals since Pentecost and the visible effects were actually out workings and fruits of birth pangs that had began with people going back to reading the scriptures.
In Zürich (Switzerland) stands a statue that has braved mischievous and militant Swiss pigeons to the hilt. It stands in the church yard of one of the biggest cathedrals in Zürich, the Grossmünster. The statue is of the man who was called “the people’s priest” Ulrich (Huldrych) Zwingli. Zwingli was born January 1, 1484 in Wildhaus, Switzerland. Early scholarly gifts caused him to be sent to school, especially at Basel, and he learned to love the classics.
When Zwingli became a priest he arrived in Zürich town with the announcement that he would begin to preach right through the Gospel of Matthew. This was a departure from the fragmentary reading of Scripture that had prevailed in the medieval Church. After Matthew he preached through Acts and then turned his attention to Paul’s epistles. There is a lot that the contemporary church movement would learn from this simple man who led to spiritual reform from just beginning to preach verse by verse (expository preaching) at the Grossmünster. (Click here for Zwingli resources online)
The Grossmünster (“great minster”) is a Romanesque-style Protestant church in Zürich, Switzerland. It is near the banks of the Limmat River. Construction of the present structure commenced around 1100 and it was inaugurated around 1220. Huldrych Zwingli initiated the Swiss-German Reformation in Switzerland from his pastoral office at the Grossmünster, starting in 1520. Zwingli won a series of debates …Read More!
This year’s conference began with evening dinner on Thursday 3rd May followed by sessions led by Dr. Bernhard Kaiser. Dr Kaiser is founder and director of the Institute of Reformational theology in Reiskirchen near Giessen, Germany and is a lecturer in Systematic theology at the Selye-Janos University in Komamo, Slovakia. His passion is teaching the relevance of reformation Theology for today’s generation.
This year’s programme delved in to Reformation Theology (the Solas) …Read More!
[Adapted from an article by Steven Lawson]: Other than Martin Luther, Heinrich Bullinger, and John Calvin, the most important early Reformer was Ulrich Zwingli. A first-generation Reformer, he is regarded as the founder of Swiss Protestantism. Furthermore, history remembers him as the first Reformed theologian. Though Calvin would later surpass Zwingli as a theologian, he would stand squarely on Zwingli’s broad shoulders.
Less than two months after Luther came into the world, Zwingli was born on January 1, 1484, in Wildhaus, a small village in the eastern part of modern-day Switzerland, forty miles from Zurich. His father, Ulrich Sr., had risen from peasant stock to become an upper-middle-class man of means, a successful farmer and shepherd, as well as the chief magistrate for the district. This prosperity allowed him to provide his son with an excellent education. He presided over a home where typical Swiss values were inculcated in young Ulrich: sturdy independence, strong patriotism, zeal for religion, and real interest in scholarship. …Read More!
“Give me yourself, O my God, give yourself back to me. Lo, I love you, but if my love is too mean, let me love more passionately. I cannot gauge my love, nor know how far it fails, how much more love I need for my life to set its course straight into your arms, never swerving until hidden in the covert of your face. This alone I know, that without you all to me is misery, woe outside myself and woe within, and all wealth but penury, if it is not my God.” ~St. Augustine of Hippo
I have come to appreciate the value of good vigilant clinical scholarship after reading history of the bible and how we have the texts that make up our Old and New Testaments. The Jewish Masorete scribes made copies of the Old Testament with precision and profound accuracy. They set down detailed rules to govern the copying of the Scriptures. It was considered unacceptable to do such work with half a mind. The Masoretes counted the number of words and letters of each book of the Old Testament and fixed the middle letter of each line. Everything countable was counted. The manuscript was then submitted for checking and if it was in error at any point then it was ordered to be destroyed; and the scribe would start all over again.
My good friend Jim on the other hand recently realised that a good bulk of the students today are lazy and do not read their bibles enough. Take this excerpt from a recent paper for example:
“After killing a Hebrew slave, Moses fleas Egypt to live in the Sinai dessert.”
Obviously you can imagine how bewildered my friend Jim became. He actually turned purple! Well, okay almost. You see:
1- Moses didn’t kill a Hebrew slave, he killed an Egyptian.
2- He didn’t ‘fleas’ he ‘fled’.
3- The Sinai isn’t a ‘dessert’, it’s a desert.
4- Moses fled to Midian, the text says nothing about his fleeing to Sinai. …Read More!
If you thought indulgences for the dead ended in the 16th Century with Johann Tetzel think again. Tetzel is remembered for making a lot of money off from naive congregants for the ongoing reconstruction of St. Peter’s Basilica by using the draw string “as soon as a coin in the coffer rings; a soul from purgatory springs”. Well guess what, the Roman Catholic church just made an announcement with a door to absolution…
The announcement in church bulletins and on Web sites has been greeted with enthusiasm by some and wariness by others. But mainly, it has gone over the heads of a vast generation of Roman Catholics who have no idea what it means: “Bishop Announces Plenary Indulgences.”
In recent months, dioceses around the world have been offering Catholics a spiritual benefit that fell out of favor decades ago — the indulgence, a sort of amnesty from punishment in the afterlife — and reminding them of the church’s clout in mitigating the wages of sin. …Read More!