Women in Black Too: The Untold Story of Women and the Reformation

CBMW » Women in Black Too: The Untold Story of Women and the Reformation.

At the website of The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW), Stephen J. Nichols has a fine essay on the role of women during the Reformation. It is a wonderful tribute to the many women God used during this great reforming of the church. Along the way he defends the position that the reformation did much to restore the true dignity and worth of women, even though it restricted their roles in the church to that which the Bible allows. I believe both men and women will benefit from this article, but I hope especially that the ladies will be encouraged by it. May God continue to use our wives, mothers, and daughters today to serve Him and to keep the church “reformed and always reforming”.

Here is an excerpt from the essay, as well as information about its publication on this site. Follow the link above to read the full article.

The home, cities, economic life, and government would virtually disappear. Men can’t do without women. Even if it were possible for men to beget and bear children, they still couldn’t do without women.

-Martin Luther

Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, John Calvin, Conrad Grebel, Menno Simons, Thomas Cranmer, John Bunyan, Jeremiah Burroughs-all of them have at least one thing in common. They’re all men. When the story of the Reformation gets told, it’s typically their story. There is another story to be told, however-the inspiring story of the courage and fortitude of the women of the Reformation. Their too often untold story needs to be heard.

The women of the Reformation fit into two categories: Reformers’ wives who made quite an impact themselves and women who made substantive contributions on their own. Among the first category, none is more well-known than Katherina von Bora, the former nun who married Martin Luther. In the latter category we find mostly nobility and even royalty-some risking great wealth and family honor for their commitment to the Reformation cause. All of them played significant roles.

…While Katherina von Bora might be the most famous of the Reformation wives, she didn’t quite compare with Wibrandis Rosenblatt, at least not when it came to the number of husbands. She was Wibrandis (Rosenblau) Keller-Oecolampadius-Capito-Bucer. Yes, she had four husbands, and all of them were significant Reformers, causing one writer to dub her “the Bride of the Reformation,” or as she is known in German, the Reformationfrau.

This essay originally appeared in Stephen J. Nichols, The Reformation: How a Monk and a Mallet Changed the World (Wheaton:Crossway, 2007), 115-28. Edited and reprinted with permission of Stephen J. Nichols and Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.org.

A Human Gardener and the Divine Gardener

My Garden June 2011

I am a human gardener. Last year I also blogged a bit about my gardening activities, for it is one of my favorite seasonal hobbies. There are fewer things in life that are so simple and yet give such pleasure and profit. I loved planting my new crop of potatoes, sugar peas, beans, peppers (4 varieties!), carrots, tomatoes (also 4 varieties!), cucumbers, and squash (2 varieties) this Spring. I am ever amazed at the sprouting of the seeds and the growth of the vegetable plants. And what delight when I can reap the fruits of my labors, as I am now – fresh sugar peas, and later this week my first sweet banana and bell peppers! You will see the photos of my garden as it stands at present. Yes, it is my pride and joy – especially now when I am motivated to stay on top of the weeds. You will note that I will not post pictures of my garden after August. Death and decay – and weeds will have taken over!


My roses

And I haven’t yet mentioned my flowers – another pleasure-filled hobby! I have spent the last few years planting perennials around the house, because they are easy to maintain and last so long. But I still plant a few annuals (petunias, snapdragons, dusty miller, and geraniums) in various places too, because, though more temporary, they also are so colorful and last well into the Fall. I have included a few pictures in this post of these as well. The flower landscape is constantly  changing, and I love to walk around the house every day when I get home from work to see what has changed and what is new (day lilies are coming on strong now!).


Asian Lilies

But for all this sprouting, growth, beauty, pleasure, and fruit I am completely dependent on the Divine Gardener, our almighty Creator and Lord of providence. I can plant, but only with the seeds He provides. I can water, but only with the water He gives, whether from the faucet or from my collected rain buckets. I can sow, but only He can make the seeds sprout. I can weed and fertilize and nurture the plants, but only He can make them grow and blossom and produce fruit. I, like any gardener or farmer, am a total debtor to the God of creation and the Lord of plants. The Divine Gardener is absolutely sovereign over my little plot, as well as over the garden of the whole world. But, I must confess, I do not pray like He is. I know this is the truth, but I do not depend on Him and praise Him as I should. Writing about my garden has reminded me and convicted me of this.

“Father, forgive me for neglecting Thy sovereignty and goodness in this part of my life too. Teach me to trust Thee for all things, even for the produce I pick out of my garden. Reveal to me Thy goodness and grace in every rose petal and in every pepper I enjoy.”


My little grandson and gardening assistant

Grace Gems had a devotional recently about the Divine Gardener, relating the natural realm to the spiritual (see the quote below). Here too there are many lessons for us to learn. Whether you garden or not, may we all know that the Master Gardener is at work in our lives – planting seeds, creating growth, pulling weeds, pruning away deadness, and producing fruit – all for His great glory as well as for our great good. Stop to praise Him today for this amazing work in our hearts and lives. Eternity will reveal the reward of His labors.


The divine Gardener

(J. R. Miller, “How to Live a Beautiful Christian Life” 1880)

We may think that our lot is especially hard–and may wish that it were otherwise. We may wish that we had a life of ease and luxury, amid softer scenes–with no briers or thorns, no worries or provocations. We think that then we would be always gentle, patient, serene, trustful, happy. How delightful it would be–never to have a care, an irritation, a trouble, a single vexing thing!

But the fact remains–that the place in which we find ourselves–is the very place in which the Master desires us to live our life! There is no haphazard in God’s world. God leads every one of His children by the right way. He knows where and under what influences, each particular life will ripen best.

One tree grows best in the sheltered valley, another by the water’s edge, another on the bleak mountain-top swept by storms. Every tree or plant is found in the precise locality to enhance its growth. And does God give more thought to trees and plants–than to His own children? No!

He places us amid the circumstances and experiences in which our life will grow and ripen the best. The peculiar trials to which we are each subjected–is the exact discipline we each need to bring out the beauties and graces of true spiritual character in us. We are in the right school. We may think that we would ripen more quickly–in a more easy and luxurious life. But God knows what is best for us–He makes no mistakes!

There is a little fable which says that a primrose growing by itself in a shady corner of the garden, became discontented as it saw the other flowers in their mirthful beds in the sunshine, and begged to be moved to a more conspicuous place. Its prayer was granted. The gardener transplanted it to a more showy and sunny spot. It was greatly pleased–but a change came over it immediately. Its blossoms lost much of their beauty, and became pale and sickly. The hot sun caused them to faint and wither. So it prayed again to be taken back to its old place in the shade. The wise gardener knows best, where to plant each flower.

Just so, God, The divine Gardener, knows where His people will best grow into what He would have them to be. Some require the fierce storms; some will only thrive in the shadow of worldly adversity; and some come to ripeness more sweetly under the soft and gentle influences of prosperity–whose beauty, rough experiences would mar. The divine Gardener knows what is best for each one!

There is no position in this world in the allotment of Providence, in which it is not possible to be a true Christian, exemplifying all the virtues of godliness. The grace of Christ has in it, potency enough to enable us to live godly–wherever we are called to dwell. When God chooses a home for us–He fits us for its peculiar trials.

God adapts His grace to the peculiarities of each one’s necessity. For rough, flinty paths–He provides shoes of iron. He never sends anyone to climb sharp, rugged mountain-sides, wearing silken slippers. He always gives sufficient grace. As the burdens grow heavier–the strength increases. As the difficulties thicken–He draws closer. As the trials become sorer–the trusting heart grows calmer.

Jesus always sees His disciples, when they are toiling in the waves–and at the right moment He comes to deliver them. Thus it becomes possible to live a true and victorious life–in any circumstances.

Christ can as easily enable Joseph to remain pure and true in heathen Egypt–as Benjamin in the shelter of his father’s love. The sharper the temptations–the more of divine grace is granted. There is, therefore, no environment of trial, or difficulty or hardship–in which we cannot live beautiful lives of Christian fidelity and holy conduct.

Instead, then, of yielding to discouragement when trials multiply and it becomes hard to live right, or of being satisfied with a very faulty life–it should be our settled purpose to live, through the grace of God–a patient, gentle and unspotted life–in the place, and amid the circumstances, He allots to us. The true victory is not found in escaping or evading trials–but in rightly meeting and enduring them.

The questions should not be, “How can I get out of these worries? How can I get into a place where there shall be no irritations, nothing to try my temper or put my patience to the test? How can I avoid the distractions that continually harass me?” There is nothing noble in such living.

The questions should rather be, “How can I pass through these trying experiences–and not fail as a Christian? How can I endure these struggles–and not suffer defeat? How can I live amid these provocations, these testings of my temper–and yet live sweetly, not speaking unadvisedly, bearing injuries meekly, returning gentle answers to insulting words?” This is the true problem of Christian living.

Augustine’s “Confessions” – Kindle Style

I’ve had a week now on my new hand-held Kindle (Amazon’s e-reader), and I am enjoying it immensely. Mostly I am learning how to use it (navigation and tools), as well as looking to add some quality content to it for my reading pleasure and edification. So I have been browsing quite a bit at the Kindle store through old classics and new books. Needless to say, there is a wealth of material available, all at good prices. One of the first things I wanted to find was a decent KJV Study Bible. A search revealed lots of options, all with reviews, which were very helpful. Finally I decided on the OSNOVA Study Bible (just the fancy name of the developer), which has the R.A. Torrey “Treasury of Scripture Knowledge”, a special cross-reference tool. While I am just getting started with it, it does seem to be a very good Kindle Bible. I have also downloaded a sample of OSNOVA’s Greek Interlinear Bible on my PC; they seem to be a leader in Kindle Bible products at this point, but I imagine there will be a lot of competition in this area in years to come.


But I am also reading my first book on Kindle, and that is Augustine’s Confessions. It has been a long time since I first read this Christian classic (college, I believe), and I wanted to refresh my mind and soul with this great church father’s personal confession of God’s greatness, his own sin, and his desire to grow in grace. I am only in Book I, but already I have found several masterful quotes. Below I quote one of the first I found. Look for more to come.


What art Thou then, my God? what, but the Lord God? For who is Lord but the Lord? or who is God save our God? Most highest, most good, most potent, most omnipotent; most merciful, yet most just; most hidden, yet most present; most beautiful, yet most strong, stable, yet incomprehensible; unchangeable, yet all-changing; never new, never old; all-renewing, and bringing age upon the proud, and they know it not; ever working, ever at rest; still gathering, yet nothing lacking; supporting, filling, and overspreading; creating, nourishing, and maturing; seeking, yet having all things. Thou lovest, without passion; art jealous, without anxiety; repentest, yet grievest not; art angry, yet serene; changest Thy works, Thy purpose unchanged; receivest again what Thou findest, yet didst never lose; never in need, yet rejoicing in gains; never covetous, yet exacting usury. Thou receivest over and above, that Thou mayest owe; and who hath aught that is not Thine? Thou payest debts, owing nothing; remittest debts, losing nothing. And what had I now said, my God, my life, my holy joy? or what saith any man when he speaks of Thee? Yet woe to him that speaketh not, since mute are even the most eloquent. Oh! that I might repose on Thee!

Augustine, Saint (2006). The Confessions of Saint Augustine (Optimized for Kindle) (Kindle Locations 66-74). Unknown. Kindle Edition.

Johann Hari: In The Age of Distraction, We Need One Thing More Than Ever: Books

Johann Hari: In The Age of Distraction, We Need One Thing More Than Ever: Books.


This weekend I was linked through another blog to this great article on the need for reading regular printed books –  just because of our age of “mass distraction”, to use the author’s catchy phrase. Johann Hari is a columnist on the London Independent and his article appeared in the June 23, 2011 edition of “Huffpost Books”. His article is not only well-written, but it also presents compelling reasons why this is the need for our age. As one who has started down the road of e-readers and e-books, while also continuing to praise the traditional forms of reading, I appreciated his thoughts. I hope you do as well. We could all use a little “philosophy” (wisdom-loving reasons for) and “apology” (defense) of reading :).


The book — the physical paper book — is being circled by a shoal of sharks, with sales down 9 percent this year alone. It’s being chewed by the e-book. It’s being gored by the death of the bookshop and the library. And most importantly, the mental space it occupied is being eroded by the thousand Weapons of Mass Distraction that surround us all. It’s hard to admit, but we all sense it: it is becoming almost physically harder to read books. I think we should start there — because it shows why we need the physical book to survive, and hints at what we need to do to make sure it does.

In his gorgeous little book The Lost Art of Reading — Why Books Matter in a Distracted Time, the critic David Ulin admits to a strange feeling. All his life, he had taken reading as for granted as eating — but then, a few years ago, he “became aware, in an apartment full of books, that I could no longer find within myself the quiet necessary to read.” He would sit down to do it at night, as he always had, and read a few paragraphs, then find his mind was wandering, imploring him to check his email, or Twitter, or Facebook. “What I’m struggling with,” he writes, “is the encroachment of the buzz, the sense that there’s something out there that merits my attention, when in fact it’s mostly a series of disconnected riffs, quick takes and fragments, that add up to the anxiety of the age.”

I think most of us have this sense today, if we are honest. If you read a book with your laptop thrumming at the other side of the room, it can feel like trying to read with a heavy metal band shrieking in front of you. To read, you need to slow down. You need mental silence except for the words. That’s getting harder to find.

No, don’t misunderstand me. I adore the web, and they will have to wrench my Twitter feed from my cold dead hands. This isn’t going to turn into an antedeluvian rant against the glories of our wired world. But there’s a reason why that word — ‘wired’ — means both ‘connected to the internet’ and ‘high, frantic, unable to concentrate.’

So in the age of the internet, physical paper books are a technology we need more, not less. In the 1950s, the novelist Herman Hesse wrote: “The more the need for entertainment and mainstream education can be met by new inventions, the more the book will recover its dignity and authority. We have not yet quite reached the point where young competitors, such as radio, cinema, etc, have taken over the functions from the book it can’t afford to lose.”

We have now reached that point. And here’s the function that the book — the paper book that doesn’t beep or flash or link or let you watch a thousand videos all at once — does for you that nothing else will. It gives you the capacity for deep, linear concentration. As Ulin puts it: “Reading is an act of resistance in a landscape of distraction… It requires us to pace ourselves. It returns us to a reckoning with time. In the midst of a book, we have no choice but to be patient, to take each thing in its moment, to let the narrative prevail. We regain the world by withdrawing from it just a little, by stepping back from the noise.”

Published in: on June 27, 2011 at 4:26 AM  Leave a Comment  

The Discipline of Serving

Today (as I write on Sunday evening) I read a few more articles in the June Tabletalk, Ligonier Ministries monthly devotional. One of them was the weekend article written by Donald S. Whitney, who is professor of Biblical spirituality at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has been writing a series for the magazine on spiritual disciplines in the Christian life (prayer, Scripture reading and meditation, etc.). This time he wrote on the discipline of serving, and he has some excellent things to say. I will quote a few relevant paragraphs to show you how he develops this idea of serving as a Christian discipline. After laying the foundation in the person and work of Christ (Matt.20:28), he writes:


So one of the clearest indications that a person has believed the gospel of Jesus is that his selfish desire to be served begins to be overcome by a Christlike desire to serve. He starts looking for ways to do something for Christ’s church, especially in ways that will serve the gospel.

The transformation in a person’s nature that God effects through the gospel also turns selfish people – interested only in serving themselves and being served by others – into people who, in the words of the apostle Peter, want to ‘serve one another’ (I Peter 4:10). The gospel opens believers’ eyes to see needs they never saw before and changes their hearts to have a new compassion and willingness to meet those needs.

As the Holy Spirit permeates people’s character with the effects of the gospel, they increasingly develop a mindset of serving in every part of life. They begin to consider their daily occupation in terms of how useful it should be in the service of others instead of simply how it enlarges their wealth or reputation. They give more thought to serving the members of their families. They want to know that their churches are stronger because of their service.

It has been said that everyone wants to be a servant, but no one wants to be treated like one. Through the gospel, however, the Spirit of Christ enables believers to endure ill treatment and to continue serving, because ultimately they serve others not for human recognition but out of love for God and a desire to glorify Him with their service.

….Has the gospel you believed given you a servant’s heart? Is your service rooted in the gospel?

Published in: on June 27, 2011 at 4:06 AM  Leave a Comment  

Westminster Abbey Choir – “This is the Day” (John Rutter)

YouTube – Westminster Abbey Choir – This is the day (John Rutter).


From one of my favorite contemporary choral music composers – John Rutter – comes this beautiful song composed for the royal wedding of Prince William and Princess Kate, April 29, 2011. Based on Ps.118:24 as well as many other psalms, it is appropriate not only for weddings but also for worship. As indicated above, it is sung by the Westminster Abbey Choir.

Published in: on June 26, 2011 at 1:00 PM  Leave a Comment  

Spurgeon: Meditate on God’s Mercy

“Grace Gems” carried this devotional from Charles Spurgeon this past Wednesday (June 22, 2011). This too is good food for our souls as we enter God’s house of praise and prayer. May our meditation on God’s mercy be sweet this day and throughout this week:


The mercy of God

“I trust in the mercy of God forever and ever!” Psalm 52:8

Meditate a little on the mercy of God.

It is tender mercy. With gentle, loving touch, He heals the broken in heart, and binds up their wounds. He is as gracious in the manner of His mercy–as in the matter of it.

It is great mercy. There is nothing little in God; His mercy is like Himself–infinite. You cannot measure it. His mercy is so great–that it forgives great sins of great sinners, after great lengths of time; and then gives great favors and great privileges, and raises us up to great enjoyments in the great Heaven of the great God!

It is undeserved mercy, as indeed all true mercy must be, for deserved mercy is only a misnomer for justice. There was no right on the sinner’s part, to the saving mercy of the Most High God. Had the rebel been doomed at once to eternal fire–he would have justly merited the doom; and if delivered from wrath, sovereign love alone has found a cause, for there was none in the sinner himself.

It is rich mercy. Some things are large–but have little efficacy in them–but this mercy is:
a cordial to your drooping spirits;
a golden ointment to your bleeding wounds;
a heavenly bandage to your broken bones;
a royal chariot for your weary feet;
a bosom of love for your trembling heart!

It is manifold mercy. As Bunyan says, “All the flowers in God’s garden are double.” There is no single mercy. You may think you have but one mercy–but you shall find it to be a whole cluster of mercies.

It is abounding mercy. Millions have received it–yet far from its being exhausted, it is as fresh, as full, and as free as ever!

It is unfailing mercy. It will never leave you. If saved by sovereign mercy–mercy will be . . .
with you in temptation–to keep you from yielding;
with you in trouble–to prevent you from sinking;
with you in living–to be the light and life of your countenance; and
with you in dying–to be the joy of your soul when earthly comfort is ebbing fast!

“I will sing of the mercies of the Lord for ever!” Psalm 89:1


Luther on Crying “Abba, Father”

The “Desiring God” blog (June 24, 2011) carried this powerful quote from M.Luther about the need to cry “Abba, Father” in the face of our sin-loaded conscience and Satan’s temptations to distrust God and His love for us. The quote is part of Luther’s commentary on Galatians 4:6. Good thoughts for us as we prepare to worship our Father in heaven, unworthy sinners that we are.


The lips say nothing, but the heart says something like this: ‘Although I am oppressed with anguish and fear on every side and seem to be forsaken and utterly cast away from your presence, I am still your child, and you are my Father, and for Christ’s sake. I am loved because of the Beloved.’

In serious temptations, when the conscience is wrestling with the judgment of God, it is inclined to call God not a Father but an unjust, angry, cruel tyrant and judge. And this crying, which Satan stirs up in our hearts, is felt strongly, for it seems then that God has forsaken us and will throw us down into hell. (See Psalm 31:12, 22.)

This is not the groaning that cries ‘Abba, Father’ but the roaring of God’s wrath. This is the time to turn your eyes away from the law and from the sense of your own conscience and to instead lay hold by faith on the promise, the word of grace and life that raises the conscience up again so that it begins to groan and say, ‘Although the law accuses me, and sin and death make me ever so afraid, yet, O my God, you promise grace, righteousness, and everlasting life through Jesus Christ.’ And so the promise brings a sighing, and groaning, which cries, ‘Abba, Father.’

Alister McGrath and J. I. Packer, eds., Galatians by Martin Luther (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1998), 209.

“Behind a Frowning Providence”

In light of the tragedy that has struck three of our Loveland, CO families (the Kooienga’s, Bertsch’s, and Griess’), as well as many extended families and friends, we post this comforting poem/hymn of William Cowper (1731-1800). May God provide the grace, peace, and mercy they need in these hours of grief and anxious waiting.


God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never-failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs,
And works His sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take,
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err,
And scan his work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

CJT’s (Actual) Kindle!

Yes, the headline is correct. I am now the proud owner of my very own, real, hand-held Amazon Kindle! Thanks to my generous wife and children, I received this gift Sunday for Father’s Day. And I am so impressed with this e-reader! Not only did it find the books I had already downloaded onto my PC Kindle, but it allows me to do amazing things right from my living room chair! Like shop for books, magazines, newspapers, and blogs. Search for any title I am interested in. Download books and book samples in a jiffy through our home wi-fi connection (my tech-savvy boys got this set up last year), or anywhere else I may take my Kindle. And, of course, read books – thousands of books, all on one device! I am excited to say the least! Will it revolutionize the way I read? Time will tell. I do not see myself abandoning the traditional methods. You have heard me defend the time-honored printed page here many times. But I also plan to take advantage of this new method of reading. It is amazing technology – and the reader’s screen sure looks like a real printed page! I have a lot to learn as far as usage is concerned, but I will master the Kindle! And it will go with me to the beach and the cottage and to work this summer! Stay tuned for further reports. I will keep you up-to-date on my progress – and on those good Dutch e-book deals!

One thing I would like to get on it right away is a good Bible, preferably a study Bible. I did some browsing last night on it, but nothing jumped out at me. If any of my readers has a suggestion, please let me know. And, remember, whatever your method of reading, keep reading!

“He that loves a book will never want a faithful friend, a wholesome counselor, a cheerful companion, an effectual comforter. By study, by reading, by thinking, one may innocently divert and pleasantly entertain himself, as in all weathers, as in all fortunes.”

– Barrow

“Reading without reflecting is like eating without digesting.”

– Edmund Burke

“You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.”

– Ray Bradbury

“I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.”

– Groucho Marx