Just a Common Soldier: A Moving Tribute for Memorial Day

Just a Common Soldier: A Moving Tribute for Memorial Day.

Today we post something special for Memorial Day – a powerful tribute to those who have served our country defending her existence and freedoms. As you enjoy this national holiday, I hope you also take time to remember the purpose of this day.

Here is a brief introduction to the video:

For many years, Stephen Clouse has made videos designed to inspire donations to worthy causes. Recently, he made a different kind of video. It’s not designed to solicit donations but to honor those who have given so much for our country.

In this video, …Tony Lo Bianco reads a poem called “Just a Common Soldier.” It’s a moving tribute to the soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen who have served our country. As Tony reads the poem, viewers are treated to emotional images of our honored vets. As they were on the battlefield; and as they are now.

And here is a little more about the poem itself:

“Just A Common Soldier”, also known as “A Soldier Died Today”, is one of the most popular poems on the Internet. Written and published in 1987 by Canadian veteran and columnist A. Lawrence Vaincourt, it now appears in numerous anthologies, on thousands of websites and on July 4, 2008 it was carved into a marble monument at West Point, New York. This year marks the poem’s 25th anniversary.

Rev.H.Hoeksema and the Flag Controversy during WWI

As promised – though later than I intended – I point you to the story of Rev.Herman Hoeksema and the U.S. “flag controversy” which occured during the WWI years and stirred up quite a public outcry in West Michigan and beyond. This controversy occured when Hoeksema was pastor of Fourteenth Street Christian Reformed Church in 1918.

I mention this because an article on this just reappeared in the latest issue of Leben magazine (German for “Life”, with the sub-title A Journal of Reformation Life), published quarterly by the City Seminary of Sacramento, CA (July 2014 issue, vol.10, #3). The article, “Herman Hoeksema and the ‘Flag in Church’ Controversy” is penned by Dr.Robert Swierenga, research professor of history at the A.C.Van Raalte Institute for Historical Studies at Hope College in Holland, MI.

I say this article “reappeared” in Leben because it is actually a reprint of an article which Swierenga wrote for Calvin College’s Origins magazine (CRC archives) back in 2007 (vol.25, No.2, pp.28-25). In its original publication the article was titled “Disloyal Dutch? Herman Hoeksema and the Flag in Church Controversy During World War I”. Below is an image of the title page.

Fall07_25_2_Page_28

You can actually find this full issue and the article at that page link above (scroll down to the issue #). It makes for fascinating reading, as I never fully understood the intense reaction in the congregation and in the community, nor the full reasons for Hoeksema’s position. Swierenga does an excellent job of laying out the case and Hoeksema’s reasons for not wanting the U.S. flag in his church during worship services – and that, by the way is what his position was – not opposition to the flag in the church per se. It was a principled matter with him and he stuck to his position, though the war had created a passionate patriotic atmosphere and it cost him reputation personally and ecclesiastically.

This is how Swierenga begins his description of the controversy:

In nearby Holland, Michigan Reverend Herman Hoeksema of the Fourteenth Stree CRC ‘stirred up a hornet’s nest’ in 1918 when he barred the American flag from his church sanctuary. The congregation was the first English-speaking body of that denomination in town and proud of its Americanizing ways. But, according to Hoeksema’s logical mind, unfurling the nation’s banner in church was conceding too much to Caesar’s realm.

Later he adds these details:

The growing practice of linking God and country and blessing the American flag was too much for a strict Calvinist like Rev.Hoeksema. To honor the nation more than God smacked of a civil religion, not Christianity. The issue was joined for Hoeksema on Sunday morning, 10 February 1918, when he entered his pulpit and saw a flag on a staff in the front corner of the sanctuary. He said nothing until after the service, when he asked the consistory to have it removed before the evening service. They complied and that evening in the course of his sermon Hoeksema explained to the congregation that the flag ‘had no place in a church and that the national anthem should not be sung there.’ Some congregants did not agree with their dominee and they broadcast his views far and wide. In the charged atmosphere of the war, this brought an immediate public outcry” (Leben, p.17).

If you wish to obtain the article as it appears in Leben magazine, contact them through their website.

Book Alert! RFPA Releases “1834: Hendrik De Cock’s Return to the True Church” by M.Kamps

1834-HdeCock-MKampsLast week the Reformed Free Publishing Association (RFPA) released its latest publication, and it is a unique and significant volume. 1834: Hendrik De Cock’s Return to the True Church by Marvin Kamps is the story of a godly Dutch Reformed churchman who seceded from the apostate state church in the Netherlands in the early 19th century to form the church anew according to the Word of God and the Reformed confessions.

It is a story that needs to be told, not only because it is not well-known (much of it being hidden behind the Dutch language and limited English resources), but also because it set the stage for subsequent reformation in the church in the Netherlands and beyond (America, e.g.). Much of the present Reformed church world with its roots in the Netherlands can trace its heritage back to Hendrik De Cock and the secession he led out of the Dutch state church. And of course, because many Reformed churches have long-departed from this heritage, the story of De Cock and his restoration of a truly Reformed church needs to be uttered as a call to return to the “old paths” of the gospel of sovereign grace and true worship.

Here is part of the author’s conviction as expressed in the “Preface”:

The Reformed churches today that are faithful to their name are the continuation of the reformation of 1517 and 1834. These reformations of the church were a return to the Bible. Often it is said that the significance of 1834 is that it constituted a return to the Canons of Dordt. Although this is true, it is an incomplete statement. My thesis is that in 1834 De Cock and his congregation returned to the Bible and therefore to the Reformed creeds. Many will disagree with this understanding of 1834. Let the reader judge.

And then he issues this challenge to us:

Do we share in the Secession fathers’ confession, witness, struggle, and walk before God? Do we today treasure De Cock’s spiritual legacy as our spiritual father? Are the Reformed creeds still our heartfelt confession? Or have we consciously rejected that confession of the fathers and returned to the apostate teachings and way of life championed by the false church?

This is a beautifully-produced book (490 pages), complete with pictures from the age as well as seven appendices containing significant translations of original documents relating to the 1834 reformation in the Netherlands.We take the opportunity to thank Mr.Kamps for his diligent work resulting in such an important book.

We hope this book is widely received and welcomed, not only by those of Dutch Reformed heritage but by all who have come to know and love the Reformed faith and by all who love and want to learn from the history of Christ’s church in the world.

Hobby Lobby at the Supreme Court: landmark case for religious liberty to be heard Tues. – Baptist Press

Baptist Press -Hobby Lobby at the Supreme Court: landmark case for religious liberty to be heard Tues. – News with a Christian Perspective.

Today, as the Supreme Court returns to its work, our justices will begin treating the cases of two companies owned by Christian families who are opposed to the unbiblical and unethical demands of the Affordable Healthcare Act (unaffectionately known as “Obamacare”). Baptist Press carried this report about the significance of these cases, and indeed, as Christians we ought to be informed and concerned about the outcome of these cases (Read the full report at the link above.).

Which means that we ought also be in prayer today for our SC and those defending these Christian businesses. The AFA (American Family Association) offered a sample prayer in its mailing yesterday, which I thought was appropriate to use as a guide (see below).

hobby_lobby_300x225WASHINGTON (BP) — The fate of religious freedom for Americans, especially business owners, could hang in the balance when the U.S. Supreme Court convenes March 25.

The justices will hear oral arguments that day in challenges by two family owned corporations to the Obama administration’s abortion/contraception mandate, which requires employers to provide abortion-causing drugs for their workers. Hobby Lobby, a nationwide retail chain based in Oklahoma City, and Conestoga Wood Specialties, a Pennsylvania business, contend the federal regulation violates their owners’ consciences and a 1993 law protecting religious liberty.

Religious freedom advocates predict the Supreme Court’s decision will be far-reaching.

The high court’s opinion “will determine the next 100 years of church/state jurisprudence,” said Russell D. Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

Joshua Hawley, a lawyer assisting Hobby Lobby, described it as “a landmark case.”

“It has major significance for religious liberty” and “for what constitutional rights business owners can claim,” said Hawley, a member of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty’s legal team and an associate professor at the University of Missouri School of Law.

Matt Bowman, senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, explained to Baptist Press the consequences for not only the Green family, the evangelicals who own Hobby Lobby, and the Hahns, the pro-life Mennonite family that owns Conestoga Wood, but other people who seek to exercise their religious beliefs.

“If the Hahn and Green families lose, the door would be open to allow the government to force people of faith to pay massive fines threatening jobs and health coverage just simply because they are choosing not to violate their faith and conscience,” Bowman told BP in an email interview.

“If the Hahn and Green families win, it will protect religious liberty as promised in the Constitution and American law, and people of faith will not be subject to massive fines just because they don’t want to help destroy human life.”

P.S. You may also be interested in this infographic on the Hobby Lobby case.

The AFA offered this prayer as a guide for Christians today (You will want to adapt some of the wording to match your own convictions, but I hope you can appreciate its emphasis on the sovereignty of God.):

Lord God, Our Father, you are the Righteous Judge over all the earth. We pray that you will have mercy on the United States as the Supreme Court hears a case that will shape the balance between government power and freedom of religion.

Give words to the attorneys for Hobby Lobby as they argue that our free exercise of religion includes how Christians live and work, not just what we do when we gather for worship, so that whatever we do in word or deed, we may do it in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

God, enlighten the Justices of the Supreme Court to acknowledge that you alone are Lord of our consciences. Give the Court humility to recognize that you are the King of Kings and Lord of Lords and that you have instituted human government so that your people may serve the Lord without fear, in holiness and righteousness before you, all the days of our life.

And Lord, give us grace and boldness to use the religious liberty that we still have to make your truth and mercy known. Amen.

How the Scots Changed the World (including the Sabbath) – Aaron Denlinger

How the Scots Changed the World by Aaron Denlinger | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT-March2014The third main feature article in this month’s Tabletalk (Ligonier Ministries’ devotional magazine) is penned by Dr.Aaron C. Denlinger, professor of historical and systematic theology at Reformation Bible College in Sanford, FL.

You will recall that this month’s issue is devoted to “John Knox & the Scottish Reformation’, since this year is the 500th anniversary of Knox’s supposed birth. Denlinger’s subject is the above-linked article, “How the Scots Changed the World”, and it is another interesting and instructive piece.

Of particular interest to me was his last section where Denlinger treats the Scottish Reformers’ influence on the sabbath. I quote from that part of his article, encouraging you to read all of it. We Dutch Reformed folk can trace a similar influence on the sabbath to the Reformation in the Netherlands; but we are thankful for the Scottish Presbyterian impact on the Lord’s Day too.

The Sabbath

The early modern Kirk was notable for its emphasis upon keeping the Sabbath holy, coupled with a strong distaste for observing any other “holy days.” Insistence upon observing the Sabbath in fulfillment of the fourth commandment was, again, a characteristic of Reformed thought more broadly, though it may have had deeper roots in Scotland than elsewhere. For example, legislation passed under the eleventh-century Scottish Queen Margaret, intended to reform the church and nation, stressed the people’s obligation to keep the Sabbath.

Unique to the Kirk at the time of the Reformation, however, was the insistence that no other days be credited with religious significance. In fact, when asked in 1566 to review the Second Helvetic Confession, a respected document penned by the Reformer Heinrich Bullinger, the Scots felt compelled to offer qualified appreciation of the text, calling attention to their disapproval of the confession’s tolerance for the celebration of Christmas, Pentecost, and Easter, “feast days” with no warrant in Scripture.

The Kirk, to be sure, never entirely succeeded in discouraging Christmas festivities in Scotland, and rarely have churches or Christians elsewhere in the world embraced the Kirk’s argument for the complete eradication of a Christian calendar, and thus the refusal to attribute religious significance to any day beyond Sunday.

Nevertheless, the Kirk’s general privileging of a weekly rhythm for work and Sabbath rest over a liturgical calendar year orienting believers toward various seasons and days defined by Christ’s earthly ministry has affected attitudes toward both worship and work throughout the world. Fewer holy days translates, not only linguistically but also socially and historically, into fewer holidays. What sociologists have called “the Protestant work ethic”—an orientation in historically Protestant countries toward good, honest, hard work—is arguably the fruit of not only a general emphasis in Reformation thought on the godliness of every vocation but also a peculiar insistence in Scotland that believers should pause every Sunday for worship and respite, and more or less work the rest of the time.

Polycarp’s Dying Testimony

Martyrdom of PolycarpBelonging to my Lord’s day reading was a few more chapters in the fine church history survey, All the Saints Adore Thee: Insights from Christian Classics by Bruce Shelley (Baker, 1994). I am in the early section of the book, where the early church fathers are being treated. One of the early chapters covers “The Martyrdom of Polycarp” (c.155 A.D.) and includes a description from an eyewitness of his dying words. It is a powerful testimony to the power of God’s grace working in His people, even when they are about to die for their faith in Christ. And it ought to encourage our hearts and strengthen our resolve to suffer for righteousness’ sake.

We also heard a sermon on the fifth commandment yesterday, about honoring those in authority over us. Prof.R.Dykstra mentioned in his sermon our calling always to submit to God’s authorities, even when we must disobey earthly rulers who charge us to do something contrary to the Word of God and our faith in Christ. The early martyrs, including Polycarp, are models in this respect too, as you will see when you read his testimony.

I take my quotes from this website and work.

Chap.9 – Polycarp’s examination:
1 Now when Polycarp entered into the arena there came a voice from heaven: “Be strong, Polycarp, and play the man.” And no one saw the speaker, but our friends who were there heard the voice. And next he was brought forward, and there was a great uproar of those who heard that Polycarp had been arrested. 2 Therefore when he was brought forward the Pro-Consul asked him if he were Polycarp, and when he admitted it he tried to persuade him to deny, saying: “Respect your age,” and so forth, as they are accustomed to say: “Swear by the genius of Caesar, repent, say: `Away with the Atheists'”; but Polycarp, with a stern countenance looked on all the crowd of lawless heathen in the arena, and waving his hand at them, he groaned and looked up to heaven and said: “Away with the Atheists.” 3 But when the Pro-Consul pressed him and said: “Take the oath and I let you go, revile Christ,” Polycarp said: “For eighty and six years have I been his servant, and he has done me no wrong, and how can I blaspheme my King who saved me?”

Chap.10 – His examination continued:
1 But when he persisted again, and said: “Swear by the genius of Caesar,” he answered him: “If you vainly suppose that I will swear by the genius of Caesar, as you say, and pretend that you are ignorant who I am, listen plainly: I am a Christian. And if you wish to learn the doctrine of Christianity fix a day and listen.” 2 The Pro-Consul said: “Persuade the people.” And Polycarp said: “You I should have held worthy of discussion, for we have been taught to render honour, as is meet, if it hurt us not, to princes and authorities appointed by God. But as for those, I do not count them worthy that a defence should be made to them.”

Chap.11 – The Pro-consul’s threats:
1 And the Pro-Consul said: “I have wild beasts. I will deliver you to them, unless you repent.” And he said: “Call for them, for repentance from better to worse is not allowed us; but it is good to change from evil to righteousness.” 2 And he said again to him: “I will cause you to be consumed by fire, if you despise the beasts, unless you repent.” But Polycarp said: “You threaten with the fire that burns for a time, and is quickly quenched, for you do not know the fire which awaits the wicked in the judgment to come and in everlasting punishment. But why are you waiting? Come, do what you will.”

Chap.13 – The preparations for burning him:
1 These things then happened with so great speed, quicker than it takes to tell, and the crowd came together immediately, and prepared wood and faggots from the work-shops and baths and the Jews were extremely zealous, as is their custom, in assisting at this. 2 Now when the fire was ready he put off all his clothes, and loosened his girdle and tried also to take off his shoes, though he did not do this before, because each of the faithful was always zealous, which of them might the more quickly touch his flesh. For he had been treated with all respect because of his noble life, even before his martyrdom. 3 Immediately therefore, he was fastened to the instruments which had been prepared for the fire, but when they were going to nail him as well he said: “Leave me thus, for He who gives me power to endure the fire, will grant me to remain in the flames unmoved even without the security you will give by the nails.”

Chap.14 – His last prayers:
1 So they did not nail him, but bound him, and he put his hands behind him and was bound, as a noble ram out of a great flock, for an oblation, a whole burnt offering made ready and acceptable to God; and he looked up to heaven and said: “O Lord God Almighty, Father of thy beloved and blessed Child, Jesus Christ, through Whom we have received full knowledge of thee, the God of Angels and powers, and of all creation, and of the whole family of the righteous, who live before thee! 2 I bless thee, that Thou hast granted me this day and hour, that I may share, among the number of the martyrs, in the cup of thy Christ, for the Resurrection to everlasting life, both of soul and body in the immortality of the Holy Spirit. And may I, to-day, be received among them before Thee, as a rich and acceptable sacrifice, as Thou, the God who lies not and is truth, hast prepared beforehand, and shown forth, and fulfilled. 3 For this reason I also praise Thee for all things, I bless Thee, I glorify Thee through the everlasting and heavenly high Priest, Jesus Christ, thy beloved Child, through whom be glory to Thee with him and the Holy Spirit, both now and for the ages that are to come, Amen.”

J.G.Machen on the Mission of the Church in the World – Old Life Theological Society

Transforming History | Old Life Theological Society.

Back in August of this year a bit of a firestorm erupted on the blogosphere when certain prominent Reformed and Presbyterian men opened up some solid criticism of the neo-Calvinists and their transformationalist philiosophy (that Christians and the church ought to be in the business of transforming culture). Carl Trueman was one of those who swung the machete against this new Kuyperianism (in “honor” of the noted Dutch churchman Abraham Kuyper and his theory of “common” grace which gave and still gives much impetus to this neo-Calvinist philiosophy), and he was in turn taken to task by many, including a certain Bill Evans. Darryl G.Hart came to Trueman’s defense, quoting J.Gresham Machen’s statements on the true mission of the church in this world.

JGMachenInterestingly, the calling of the church toward social/moral issues of the day also came up in our Bible study this past Wednesday. I found Machen’s comments to be helpful in guiding us with regard to these matters. I hope you do too.

Here first is Hart’s comment and then his quote from Machen:

For one, he (i.e., B.Evans -cjt) does not seem to recall that WTS’ chief founder was J. Gresham Machen, a man whom neo-Calvinists will contort into a transformationalist but who better than anyone else in the first half of the twentieth century articulated the spirituality of the church over against the transformationalism that dominated the PCUSA:

But when I say that a true Christian church is radically intolerant, I mean simply that the church must maintain the high exclusiveness and universality of its message. It presents the gospel of Jesus Christ not merely as one way of salvation, but as the only way. It cannot make common cause with other faiths. It cannot agree not to proselytize. Its appeal is universal, and admits of no exceptions. All are lost in sin; none may be saved except by the way set forth in the gospel. Therein lies the offense of the Christian religion, but therein lies also it glory and its power. A Christianity tolerant of other religions is just no Christianity at all. . . .

There are certain things which you cannot expect from such a true Christian church. In the first place, you cannot expect from it any cooperation with non-Christian religion or with a non-Christian program of ethical culture. There are those who tell us that the Bible ought to be put into the public schools, and that the public schools should seek to build character by showing the children that honesty is the best policy and that good Americans do not lie nor steal. With such programs a true Christian church will have nothing to do. . . .

In the second place, you cannot expect from a true Christian church any official pronouncements upon the political or social questions of the day, and you cannot expect cooperation with the state in anything involving the use of force. Important are the functions of the police, and members of the church, either individually or in such special associations as they may choose to form, should aid the police in every lawful way in the exercise of those functions. But the function of the church in its corporate capacity is of an entirely different kind. Its weapons against evil are spiritual, not carnal; and by becoming a political lobby, through the advocacy of political measures whether good or bad, the church is turning aside from its proper mission. . . .

The responsibility of the church in the new age is the same as its responsibility in every age. It is to testify that this world is lost in sin; that the span of human life — nay, all the length of human history — is an infinitesimal island in the awful depths of eternity; that there a mysterious, holy, living God, Creator of all, Upholder of all, infinitely beyond all; that He has revealed Himself to us in His Word and offered us communion with Himself through Jesus Christ the Lord; that there is no other salvation, for individuals or for nations, save this, but that this salvation is full and free, and that whosever possesses it has for himself and for all others to whom he may be the instrument of bringing it a treasure compared with which all the kingdoms of the earth — nay, all the wonders of the starry heavens — are as the dust of the street. ( “The Responsibility of the Church in the New Age,” 1933)

 

ObamaCare’s marriage penalty: Cohabitating couples will pay less for healthcare than married couples – LifeSiteNews.com

ObamaCare’s marriage penalty: Cohabitating couples will pay less for healthcare than married couples | LifeSiteNews.com.

ObamacareWe already know that the Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare) is bad in terms of finances (increasing costs) and healthcare (loss of good care). We also know it is bad morally, with its forced mandate for employers to provide birth control to employees, even if it violates their religious principles. Now we are also finding out that this law is bad morally in terms of its attacks on marriage and family. But should this surprise us?

In this online article, LifeSiteNews reports on how traditional marriage is being punished under ACA (posted Nov.11, 2013). Let us hope that this sinister law is soon undone and our freedoms restored. But if not, let us also be prepared to suffer for righteousness’ sake.

Below is a clip from the LSN article; read all of it at the link above.

Would you pay $10,000 a year to stay married to your spouse? Some American couples are being faced with exactly that decision as they consider their health insurance options under ObamaCare.

…In 2010, the Heritage Foundation warned of this hidden marriage penalty in a report criticizing the ObamaCare bill for its “profound anti-marriage bias.” They also pointed out that focusing on the yearly penalty misses the bigger picture: the penalty is assessed over and over again throughout the couple’s life, meaning the real cost of marriage is much, much higher.

According to the group’s calculations, a married couple who remained married throughout their lives might pay more than $200,000 in penalties under ObamaCare.

“Most people feel that marriage is a healthful institution that society should encourage and strengthen,” wrote Robert Rector, the report’s author. “Inexplicably, [ObamaCare] takes the opposite approach. At nearly all age and income levels, the bill profoundly discriminates against married couples, providing far less support to a husband and wife than to a cohabiting couple with the same income.”

Rector said that ObamaCare’s passage means that “married couples across America will be taxed to provide discriminatory benefits to couples who cohabit, divorce, or never marry.”

Leanna Baumer, a senior legislative assistant for the Family Research Council, told LifeSiteNews.com that ObamaCare’s marriage penalty is a giant step in the wrong direction, one that could negate years of hard-won tax reforms aimed at encouraging marital stability.

“Not only do these penalties discourage couples from marrying, they ignore the bipartisan work that has occurred in the past decade to decrease marriage penalties in the tax code,” Baumer told LifeSiteNews.

J.Calvin on Psalm 119:161 – Bridling ourselves by the Word of God

Also for our meditation on the twenty-first section of Psalm 119 today (vss.161-168) we include these comments of John Calvin on v.161. I believe we will find them most appropriate and necessary given the current direction of state and church in this country.

JCalvinBible161 Princes have persecuted me without a cause.

Here the Psalmist, informs us that sore and grievous as his temptation had been, he was restrained by the fear of God from desiring to attempt anything unworthy of the character of a godly man. We are prone to fall into despair when princes who are armed with power to overwhelm us are hostile to and molest us. The evil is also aggravated from the consideration that it is the very persons who ought to be as bucklers to defend us, who employ their strength in hurting us. Yea, when the afflicted are stricken by those in high places, they in a manner think that the hand of God is against them. There was also this peculiarity in the case of the Prophet, that he had to encounter the grandees of the chosen people — men whom God had placed in such honorable stations, to the end they might be the pillars of the Church.

…In like manner the Prophet, in the passage before us, affirms that although being oppressed by the wrongful violence of princes, he presented a sad spectacle, yet he did not succumb, but considered what was lawful for him to do, and did not attempt to rival their wicked practices, by repelling craft with craft and violence with violence. In this text, as is evident from the connection, to be afraid at God’s word, is to restrain one’s self and to attempt nothing which is unlawful. I have already said that the adverb חנם, hinnam, without a cause, is added for the sake of amplification; for the temptation was so much the harder from the fact, that the tyrants, without cause and merely to gratify their own wicked inclination, assaulted an innocent individual. Men of a good disposition and of a noble mind, it is well known, are more easily excited to anger when the object assaulted is one who has done wrong to nobody.

It was therefore a signal proof of self-control for the Prophet to bridle himself by the word of God, that he might not vie with others in evil doing, or, overcome with temptation, go out of the place which had been assigned him in the social body. Let us then learn to remain peaceable, although princes tyrannically abuse the power which God has committed to them, lest by creating insurrection we break in upon the peace and order of society.