Persecution: What the Future Holds – Owen Strachan

What the Future Holds by Owen Strachan | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT-August-2015The fourth featured article in the August issue of Tabletalk on the theme of persecution is written by Dr. Owen Strachan, associate professor of Christian theology and church history at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY and president of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.

Dr. Strachan addresses “What the Future Holds” in his article, and he presents a very realistic picture of what Christians can expect in this country. He lays out four main points, all of which are worth reading and contemplating.

What I really appreciated, however, was the way in which Strachan closed out his thoughts. These words especially, it seems to me, are worth our careful pondering.

There will be no retreat of the church. We will never stop witnessing unto life. We will never cease to minister the gospel. We will not forget the holy Apostles. We remember how they welcomed the jail cell, the Roman prison ship, the hair-raising tribunal. In any and all settings, they preached Christ. They went so far as to believe that God had not only permitted such moments, but had appointed them for His glory (Acts 5:41). They saw suffering with Christ as a privilege, much as this challenges our material sensibilities. We must not forget that if the church is unsettled, it is not by accident. It is by divine design, and it will be used for divine purposes.

While we live, like the priests of old in fallen Jerusalem, we may weep (Ezra 3:11–13). We cannot forget the millions of babies driven into the afterlife at abortion clinics. We cannot erase the suffering felt in fatherless homes and families detonated by selfish sin and bitter divorce. We cannot help but think back to past days, happy days, that celebrated the good of religious people and did not seek their undoing. All these trends speak to fallenness. All of them deserve our tears.

We will weep. But we will also dry our eyes. We will rise to our feet. Whether in a gated community, a busy city, a tense workroom, a chilly playgroup, or a prison cell, we will never cease to speak and to minister the gospel. The gospel was not made for quiet days and easy questions. It was made for the toughest stuff, the worst of times, the hardest of circumstances.

What does the future hold? The future will bring suffering. The days will be evil, as they have been (Eph. 5:16). But the future is bright, because God is real. The church must take heart. We have a living Lord. When history concludes, we will reign with unbroken bodies in a world of love. We will worship the Lamb of God, slain from before the foundation of the earth. There is no life like this life. There is no hope like this hope. There is no God like our God.

“…There can be no true zeal for the church without spiritual warfare against sin.” – A.Kuyper

Fight we must, constantly, without rest. Every child of God is a soldier of Jesus Christ, called as were the Levites of old to war the warfare of the Lord. And every office bearer must know that as he takes office he enters into that warfare.

It is a warfare for God, against Satan. It is a participation in the war which God himself wages against Satan, and which God’s holy angels wage against Satan’s angel-hosts. The war of the world against the King of glory. The war of the spirit against the flesh.  War within us and without. War which emanates from God and is directed against the might of Satan, the world, death, sin, deceit, and the lusts of the flesh.

Therefore it is a war of every one who is anointed with the Holy Spirit. He must fight with Christ, for Christ, and under the leadership of Christ.

…It is evident, then, that there can be no true zeal for the church without spiritual warfare against sin.

Zeal for the church, however pious it may appear to be, is abominable hypocrisy if it goes hand in hand with neglect of spiritual warfare against such enemies of God as lying, uncleanness, self-righteousness, cold-heartedness.

Some there are who pretend to be faithful watchmen upon Zion’s walls but harbor such sins in their own hearts, or overlook them in their children and fellow-church members.

They are unfaithful.

For they allow the enemy free play within. They cry out against the danger of the wolf howling outside the walls, while a pack of wolves is busily devouring the sheep within!

This is not real devotion to the cause of Christ. Nor does it reveal true faith.

PracticeofGodliness-AKuyper-1948-2Dr. Abraham Kuyper in the chapter titled “The Church of Jesus Christ” (and the section headed by “Fighting the Good Fight”), found in The Practice of Godliness, (translated and edited by Marian M. Schoolland; Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1948), pp.57-58.

1984: A Significant Cubs Collapse – T.Boswell

Heart of the Order-BoswellThomas Boswell’s outstanding baseball storybook, The Heart of the Order (Doubleday, 1989) contains a heart-rending chapter for every Chicago Cubs fan – “1984: The Year the Cubbies Lost the Pennant.” If the memory of their close encounter with the World Series isn’t painful enough, there are videos on the Internet to bring the pain back.

But while the memory kills, Boswell’s description of the Cubs collapse in that final NL series with the San Diego Padres will at least make you smile – because he writes so well. Small consolation, I know, but still worth the read. Allow me to share his side of the story of that September Fall (Yes, there is a double meaning in that word “fall.”).

In the absence of any ongoing drama, the doings of the Cubs became the game’s official summer saga. Perhaps a perennial losing team touches a far deeper chord in people than any mere winner cold. You learn wisdom in defeat, not victory. George Allen, with typical football myopia, said that losing is like dying. Cub fans know he had it wrong: losing isn’t like dying; it’s like living. So what? It ain’t so bad.

Maybe Chicago’s feelings about the Cubs were summoned up by a sign in a restaurant near Wrigley Field. ‘Any employee wishing to miss work because of death or serious illness,’, it read, ‘please notify the office by 11 A.M. on the day of the game.’

By the time the postseason began, the Cubs were practically the nation’s mascots. Perhaps those years of fantasy baseball had the whole country primed for an orgy of paeans to day baseball, old brick outfield walls and ‘Take Me Out to the Ball Game’ during the seventh-inning stretch.

Then, just in time, the Cubs came to the rescue. The ancient order remained intact. The Cubs proved they were still the Cubs. The ivied park with its cheerful message – you don’t have to go to the World Series every year, or even every lifetime, to be cherished – was safe (p.133).

There is more to this sad but well told story. The painful details we will leave for next time.

By the way, have you noticed where the Cubbies are in the standings this year? Dare I say, poised to make the playoffs?!

PRC Archives – Unidentified Photo with Rev.M. Schipper

Yes, indeed, it is time to try another mystery photo for our PRC archive feature. Only this time, I too am mystified by this mysterious photo out of the photo cabinet.

We have a folder in that cabinet marked “unidentified photos”, and this is one of them. Now, it seems to be of some PRC Consistory, and one of the men is clearly a minister (front and center) – and he is not mysterious. We can identify him as Rev. Marinus Schipper – in his younger years, perhaps even in his first congregation.

But I would love to have my readers help me identify the rest of the men. Two of them look quite familiar, so I am hoping you can identify them. And, along with that, of course, the church that is represented here. Through the link I gave you, which includes the churches Rev.Schipper pastored, we can at least narrow down the Consistory – must have been a smaller church (Grand Haven, MI?).

If you can provide me some names and a church, I would be most pleased. Thank you in advance!

MysteryPic-RevMSchipper

The Antithesis and the Theater – John J. Timmerman

Through a Glass Lightly-TimmermanIn the last few months we have been quoting from the fifth chapter of John J. Timmerman’s book Through a Glass Lightly (Eerdmans, 1987), where he describes the early years of education at Calvin College. We called special attention to his emphasis on the antithesis as it was taught and manifested at this Reformed institution.

Today I continue quoting from this section, as Timmerman relates the antithesis to movies and theater attendance on the part of the students at Calvin. He has some very frank and revealing comments about the breakdown of the antithesis at this point – and this is in the 1920s.

The antithesis failed in the matter of amusements. Many leaders of the church demanded abstinence from movies, card-playing, and dancing. These are dead chestnuts today; but in the 1920s these prohibitions, questionable in theory and unenforceable in practice, were on the books. I never saw either card-playing or dancing at Calvin, though I heard about the latter. Movie attendance was another matter. Often somebody in the dormitory would holler, ‘Who’s going to Wealthy [theater]?’ and a group would gather. The fact is that many Christian students saw no evil in attending a good motion picture. In 1928 there were movies you could take your mother to. The students broke the rule as a silly one; some faculty members felt the same way but observed it. This rule triggered more dissimulation than did anything else at Calvin.

The first movie I ever saw was Uncle Tom’s Cabin in 1928. I went to see it on the invitation of a preseminary student, a gentleman who has since served our church with devotion for a lifetime. The theater was a place some went to nonchalantly and some with guilt attenuating or intensifying their enjoyment; some sneaked in, and some bough their tickets defiantly. For some time, students had to sign pledges not to attend. Were it not for the profound convictions of the church leaders, rooted in their idea of loyalty to the Lord, the insistence on the rule would now seem to have been much ado about nothing. In the 1920s, the defense of movie attendance cost Prof. B. K. Kuiper his seminary post (p.30)

25 maps that explain the English language – Vox

25 maps that explain the English language – Vox.

englanguagemapsNotice of these wonderful English language maps came through the website Gizmo (whose newsletter is worth subscribing to for loads of information on software and freeware of all kinds).

Here is Gizmo’s summary of the maps, along with the link to the Vox website where you will find all 25 maps (or use the link above). Each one is unique, so browse a bit and discover things old and new about our amazing English language.

The web is a great place to find free software, but it’s also an incredible educational resource in its own right. My thanks yet again go to Lex Davidson for pointing me at a fascinating site which, in a series of 25 maps, explains the history of the English language that we are familiar with today. So if you’ve ever wondered why “steak” doesn’t rhyme with “streak”, for example, and whether it ever did in the past, this is the site for you.

You’ll find everything you need at http://www.vox.com/2015/3/3/8053521/25-maps-that-explain-english and all you require is a web browser. And give yourself an extra pedantry point if you notice that the site mentions “pronounciation” when in fact there’s no such word in the English language. At least not yet.

Published in: on August 19, 2015 at 7:03 AM  Leave a Comment  
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“It is what we believe about Scripture more than anything else that sets us apart.” – August 2015 “Standard Bearer” – Prof.R. Cammenga

SB-Aug-2015-coverThe latest issue of The Standard Bearer has been published and is now available. The August 2015 issue (the “SB” is published monthly in the months of June, July, and August; otherwise bi-monthly) contains a fine variety of articles once again – from a meditation on 1 Cor.12:3 to material on Reformed doctrine, world and life view, missions, and family matters (cf. cover image to the left; click on it to enlarge).

One of the featured articles is the latest installment on the Second Helvetic Confession from the pen of Prof.R. Cammenga (PRC Seminary). In this article he expounds Chapter I,B of this Reformed confession, “Of the Holy Scripture Being the True Word of God.”

Here are his opening lines as he introduces his conclusion to Chap.1:

Fundamental to everything that the Reformed Christian believes and confesses is the truth of sacred Scripture: “…in this Holy Scripture, the universal Church of Christ has the most complete exposition of all that pertains to a saving faith, and also to the framing of a life acceptable to God….” (SHC, 1.1). What we believe and confess is derived from Scripture, is taught in Scripture, and can be defended on the basis of Scripture. It is what we believe about Scripture more than anything else that sets us apart. It distinguishes us from those who are not Christians and who have no regard for the authority of Scripture. It sets us apart from those who have apostatized from the faith, who invariably regard Scripture as less than the divinely inspired book that it is and therefore undervalue its authority. For good reason, then, the very first article of the Second Helvetic Confession of Faith concerns the doctrine of Holy Scripture. In the opening paragraphs of Chapter 1, the SHC affirms the divine inspiration and authority of Scripture, as well as the sufficiency of Scripture. In addition, the creed relates Scripture and preaching, expressing the Reformed conviction that “the preaching of the Word of God is the Word of God.”

Part of Cammenga’s exposition is pointing out the errors of those who deny the Bible’s sole authority and sufficiency:

Either error, whether taking away from or adding to the canon of Scripture, is a fundamental denial of sola Scriptura—Scripture alone. Both fall under the condemnation of the apostle in Revelation 22:18, 19: “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.”

What arrogance, that puny man should presume to excise certain books of sacred Scripture—the Word of God! What arrogance, that puny man should presume to exalt his writings to the level of the Word of God! That same arrogance is on exhibition in our own day. It is evident in the cults and sects, who add to Holy Scripture either the writings of the founder of the cult, or additional sacred writings like the Book of Mormon or the Quran.

And so he concludes with this positive point:

The distinctive mark of the believer and of the true church of Jesus Christ in the world is the confession that Scripture alone is the authority for faith and for life. Nothing may be taken away from Scripture and nothing may be added to Scripture. Because Scripture is the Word of God nothing need be added to Scripture and nothing may be placed alongside Scripture. Scripture is sufficient for the individual believer and for the church as a whole. In the words of the opening paragraph of this first article of the SHC: “And in this Holy Scripture, the universal Church of Christ has the most complete exposition of all that pertains to a saving faith, and also to the framing of a life acceptable to God….”

To receive this Reformed magazine, contact the Reformed Free Publishing Association at the “SB” link above.

Persecution around the World – Dave Furman

Persecution around the World by Dave Furman | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT-August-2015The third featured article on persecution in the August Tabletalk is pastor Dave Furman’s. His article focuses on the worldwide persecution taking place currently, including in his own country of Dubai, where he is serving as pastor.

After describing a case very close to his church, Furman broadens his scope, pointing out concrete ways in which Christians are experiencing persecution throughout the world.

Part of his article is headed by the words “Our Hope in Persecution”, and it is from that section that I quote today. Referencing 1 Peter 4:13-14, Furman makes the following comforting comments:

There is blessing for the persecuted and there is cause for rejoicing.

We have hope in persecution because we are made for another place. We are “citizens” of heaven (Phil. 3:20). We are by nature strangers, foreigners, and even exiles in this world (1 Peter 1:1). Our eternal passport is not Kenyan, Indian, Filipino, or Canadian. In God’s kingdom, we no longer receive our identities from the place we were born, but from the place into which we were born again for all eternity. This is why the world doesn’t feel like home. This is why we face persecution: we’re of another place.

Fellow Christian, a day is coming when there will be no more sickness and death. No more imprisonments and slander. We will not suffer the anxiety of car bombs or kidnappings. The downtrodden and depressed will sing of their never-ending gladness in Jesus. God will dwell among us forever.

The gospel is good news for the persecuted because there is nothing we can do to lose God’s grip on our lives. Peter says, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit” (1 Peter 3:18). The gospel is not about getting you to heaven—it’s about getting you to God. The good news of the gospel is that we get God. I’ve often heard R.C. Sproul say that a better way to describe the doctrine of perseverance of the saints is to say the “preservation of the saints.” God won’t stop short of bringing us home. Even though our bodies might be destroyed on this earth, God will keep us to the end. We can entrust our souls to the living God of the universe (1 Peter 4:19). Our inheritance is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for us by God Himself. It is guarded through God’s power (1:3–4).

As persecution increases – including here in the U.S., it is good for us to remember these truths.

Prayers of the Reformers (3) – Calvin and Coverdale

prayersofreformers-manschreckThe following two prayers I came across today while browsing further through the wonderful collection of prayers titled, Prayers of the Reformers, compiled by Clyde Manschreck and published by Muhlenberg Press in 1958 (for the previous post on this, visit this page).

I was looking for some that would tie in with the quote from Abraham Kuyper in my previous post. You will be able to see how the following two prayers relate to Kuyper’s comments about working and waiting in connection with the return of our Lord.

The first is a prayer of John Calvin, and given the title “For the growth of the church” by the editor:

Grant, almighty God, since thou dost try the faith of thy people by many tests, that they may obtain strength from the unconquered fortitude of thy Holy Spirit. May we constantly march under thy standard, even to the end, and never succumb to any temptation. May we join intelligence with zeal in building up thy church. As each of us is endowed with superior gifts, so may he strive for the edification of his brethren with greater boldness, manliness, and fervor, while he endeavors to add numbers to the cause. And should the number diminish, yet may some seed always remain, until abundant produce shall flow forth from it, and such fruitfulness arise as shall cause thy name to be glorified throughout the world, in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The second is a prayer of Miles Coverdale, and headed by the words “For steadfastness in vocation”:

O Lord Jesus Christ, our Shield and Protector, grant us grace steadfastly to continue in our holy vocation, and to abide in thy service; that through no tediousness or sloth may we shrink or cease from the fervency of good works and holy exercises; that we, being always ready with watching and prayer, may steadfastly stand, and with a constant mind despise all bodily provocations, showing patience in adversity, not fearing the slanderers and despiteful words of the world; that in the only eternal wealth we may set all our trust, and never go back from the cross for wealth or woe; but that under the same banner, through true patience, meekness, and obedience, we may finish our life with a blessed end. Amen.

“A deep and living faith in God’s Covenant is the foundation of our quiet, watchful, patient waiting and working.” – A.Kuyper

If the Lord is to come as a thief in the night, the church should go about its daily duties in quiet devotion, until He suddenly appears. We are not to keep looking out the window, or climbing to the housetops to gaze eagerly into the distance, while neglecting our work and giving our household duties but scant attention.

Indeed we must watch. We must so live that we are ready to welcome Him at any moment. Like a Christian family that, having commended home and children to God’s care for the night, quietly goes to bed and to sleep, and awakens in the morning to resume the daily task, so the church of Christ upon earth must go on quietly, prayerfully, with its common daily tasks, until He comes, in His own time, to break off this round of daily duties.

A deep and living faith in God’s Covenant is the foundation of our quiet, watchful, patient waiting and working. For included in God’s covenant are also all the chosen who are yet to be brought into the fold, though they may now be drunkards, or thieves, or self-righteous rejectors of the truth. They are destined to be saved; and it is through the ministration of the church that they must be brought to the light and taught in the truth.

This one confession, that God is God, and that He will bring in His own, makes us patient to bear with the imperfections and weaknesses of the church, since He has seen fit to place that cross upon us. And it also keeps us humble before Him, as we must confess our own guilt. ‘The sin of the church is also my sin. I, yea even especially I, am at fault.’

…Being keenly aware of his own sins, and knowing full well that he has fanned the flames of sin perhaps more than others, the true Christian fights against sin the more earnestly and zealously.

PracticeofGodliness-AKuyper-1948-2Dr. Abraham Kuyper in the chapter titled “The Church of Jesus Christ”, found in The Practice of Godliness, (translated and edited by Marian M. Schoolland; Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1948), pp.56-57.

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