Monthly Archives: October 2016

Steven J. Lawson on John Knox

Reformation Day Recap

9781781915394

John Knox is one of the most colourful figures in church history and his impact is still felt around the world. The real story of Knox surpasses the best fiction novels. Five hundred years after his death, Steven Lawson seeks in this book to ignite our faith for Jesus through Knox’s story. If you think of Knox as the dull Presbyterian, prepare to think again. Let this seminal figure in the history of the Scottish Reformation inspire you to stand firm in your faith and let God impact your spiritual life.

John Knox by Steven J. Lawson Reviewed:

“…Take a deep breath as you turn the first page; this story may leave you breathless; but you will almost certainly feel spiritually fitter by the end!”

Sinclair B. Ferguson, Associate Preacher, St Peter’s Free Church, Dundee, Scotland

“Steven Lawson, himself a bold preacher, has given us a biography of Knox that inspires similar courage. In this day of jellyfish, may God use this book to raise up more Christians like Knox!”

Joel R. Beeke, President, Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids, Michigan

“… Lawson has captured the essence and main contours of Knox’s vital ministry-no easy task. Read and ponder, and then pray that God would raise up again such thunderers of the Bible as Knox-yes, in Scotland, and to the ends of the earth.”

Michael A. G. Haykin, Professor of Church History and Biblical Spirituality, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky

About the Author:

Steven J. Lawson is president of OnePassion Ministries, a ministry designed to bring about biblical reformation in the church today, as well as the Professor of Preaching in the masters and doctoral programs at The Master’s Seminary, Sun Valley, California and Teaching Fellow for Ligonier Ministries. We look forward to his latest title in early 2017 titled, The Cost: What it takes to follow Jesus. Here is a sneak preview of the cover, keep an eye out for more information:

9781781919552

Where to Buy:
John Knox: Fearless Faith is available at any good Christian bookstore. If you don’t have a Christian bookstore near you, you may want to consider purchasing a copy from one of the online book retailers listed below:

Buy Now:

 

Leave a Comment

Filed under Author Profiles, Christian Focus, Reformation Day, Uncategorized

Reformation Day – The Trailblazers Series

Trail-Blazers

October 31st is an important day for lots of people, where candy and all things scary are the focus. But this date should be remembered by Christians for a much more significant event – Reformation Day. On the 31st October, 1517, Martin Luther’s nailing of his ninety-five theses to the door, provoked a debate that culminated in what we now call the Reformation.

The Trailblazers series, aimed at teens and tweens, features a number of Christian figures who were to play a significant role in this historic period in history. These inspiring biographies are perfect introductions to young and old alike to these vital characters.

“An excellent series, great reading for kids and adults alike.”

Tim Challies, Blogger at www.challies.com

9781781918036

 

9781781915219

 

9781781915509

 

9781845505905v2

Where to Buy:

Books in the ever growing Trailblazers series are available at any good Christian bookstore. If you don’t have a Christian bookstore near you, you may want to consider purchasing a copy from one of the online book retailers listed below:

Buy Now:

 

Leave a Comment

Filed under CF4K, Reformation Day, Trailblazers, Uncategorized

Job Alert – Christian Focus Publications

Office Administrator/Secretary

Christian Focus Publications, a Christian publishing company based near Tain in the Highlands of Scotland, are looking for an Office Administrator/Secretary to be part of our friendly team.

You should have a working knowledge of Microsoft Office, be well organised and possess good communication skills. You must be able to work well under your own initiative as well as being part of the existing team. Given that this is work is a ministry, a strong Christian faith is essential.

This post is office based and full-time (37.5 hours per week)

More details on the job are available from info@christianfocus.com

Interested in applying? Please send your CV and a covering letter, detailing your relevant experience, to info@christianfocus.com

Closing date: 14th November 2016

Leave a Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Ulrich Zwingli – The Shepherd Warrior

Our guest post for today comes from William Boekestein, author of one of our latest titles in the popular CF4K Trailblazers series. The Trailblazers series, geared for tweens through to teens, feature some of the great Christian men and women from across history in these exciting biographies. 

9781781918036

In front of me sat a few dozen prisoners including men who were serving life sentences for murder. One of the men in the room was in his seventies. Others were in their twenties. The men had lived hard lives. They had caused deep pain and experienced crushing disappointment.

From a homemade lectern in the front of the room I began to read—a story for children ages 8-14—about a man who lived and died 500 years ago.

Perhaps most of us in that prison room had misgivings when I started to story-tell. But as the chapter came to life the men seemed to lean into the story. Some fought back tears. Others seemed engrossed in thought.

These convicted men grasped that the hero “had the sentence of death” in himself (2 Cor. 1:9). He was heading for war. He had already said tearful goodbyes to his wife and small children. He steeled himself to use courageously what was left of his time on earth. His story touched theirs.

In the end, the protagonist struggled to stay alive amidst “blasting muskets, groaning men, screaming horses, mud-slurping boots tromping through the marsh, pain [and] loss of blood.” After echoing Jesus’ words, “They can kill the body, but not the soul,” he slumped over dead.

The story was over.

I closed the session in prayer, but only after a protracted pause. The only sound came from a few whirring box fans swirling the heavy heat around the room. Perhaps the pause should have been longer. Stories can be like Paul Simon’s visions that are planted in our brains and linger in the sound of silence.

But the story wasn’t really over. William Faulkner said, “The past is never deadIt’s not even past.” Whenever we hear a good story it mingles with our present experience. As the reader revives the story, the story revives the reader. It was for this reason that, when invited to speak to this group of several-dozen convicts, I chose to read a chapter from a juvenile biography. I chose this story because I wrote it. Maybe it is better say, it was a story that I was privileged to put my name on after it came alive to me. It had become a story that I wanted to see reborn into the imaginations of a group of men that needed a story.

The listeners were students in a reformed Bible seminary that holds classes within their penitentiary. While serving long sentences they are trying to live for Jesus and serve as restoring instruments in the hands of their heavenly Father. I was invited to speak to them about the life of reformer Ulrich Zwingli (1484–1531). For the first half of the class—before closing with the story—I lectured. I told them facts, hopefully meaningful facts.

As a child, Ulrich Zwingli worked hard to sharpen his mind and fuel his imagination. As a young pastor, he labored tirelessly to promote biblical change in the churches of Switzerland, his beloved homeland. In the pulpit, he opened God’s word, showing Christ’s beauty to everyone who had ears to hear. As a churchman, Zwingli strove to strengthen the ties between reform-minded people, including Martin Luther. In the home, he fervently loved his wife and children. In broader Swiss society, he was both wildly popular and passionately hated. In Zwingli’s world people of unlike faith could not conceive of coexisting peacefully. Switzerland became divided, Catholics against Protestants. By the 1530s, Zwingli’s State of Zurich had become largely isolated from the rest of the mostly Catholic confederacy. In 1531, a sort of cold war flared into a heated civil conflict. Serving as a citizen-chaplain, Zwingli was killed on October 11.

These facts are important. But when facts are woven into a story they stop merely telling and begin showing. They help us feel and dream. They can bolster courage and strengthen hope. Stories can remind us that the strands of our lives are woven into a far grander tapestry than we sometimes realize.

Prisoners serving life sentences need facts. They need to be able to live and die standing on the granite-like facts of Jesus’ death and resurrection. But even these pivotal facts are told in a story, the greatest story. All redemptive stories are tributaries that swirl us into the roaring river of God’s grand plot.

Prisoners need stories. So do you. Maybe you need this one.

William Boekestein pastors Immanuel Fellowship Church in Kalamazoo, Michigan. His most recent book is Shepherd Warrior, a lively retelling of the life of Ulrich Zwingli.

William Boekestein

Where to Buy:

Ulrich Zwingli: Shepherd Warrior by William Boekestein is available at any good Christian bookstore. If you don’t have a Christian bookstore near you, you may want to consider purchasing a copy from one of the online book retailers listed below:

Buy Now:

 

 

 

Leave a Comment

Filed under CF4K, Guest Post, New Release, Uncategorized

Ebooks on Sale Through October 27 – November 3, 2016

Below is our current selection of ebooks on sale through October 27 – November 3, 2016.

Delighting in the Sunlit Uplands of Grace: Spurgeon on Joy by C. H. Spurgeon Sale Price: $2.99/£2.50

Facing A Task Unfinished Sale Price: $2.99/£2.50

Faith of Our Father Sale Price: $2.99/£2.50

 

Leave a Comment

Filed under E-Books, Sale, Uncategorized

Psalms by the Day by Alec Motyer – Psalm 37

 

Prospering wickedness: responses

1. Do not upset yourself over the evil-doers; (aleph) do not become jealous of workers of deviancy,

2. because like grass, quickly, they will fade away, and like green growth they will wither.

3. Trust in Yahweh, (beth) and do good. Live in the land,  and tend trustworthiness

4. and find your pleasure in Yahweh, and he will give you your heart’s requests.

5. Commit your way to Yahweh (gimel) and trust in him, and he will take action.

6. And he will bring out your righteousness like the light, and your judgment like the noonday.

7. Be still before Yahweh, (daleth) and wait with keen anticipation for him. Do not upset yourself over one who is making his way prosperous, over the man who is making plans.

8. Let exasperation drop, (he) and leave rage. Do not upset yourself – only to doing evil!

9. Because evil-doers will be cut down, while those who wait for Yahweh will inherit the land.

10. And yet a little while, (waw) and there will not be a wicked one, and you will look searchingly at his place, and he will not be there,

11. and it is the downtrodden who will inherit the land, and will find their pleasure in an abundance of peace.

Hostile wickedness: insights

12. The wicked plots against the righteous, (zayin) and grinds his teeth at him.

13. The Sovereign One laughs at him because he has seen that his day will come.

14. The wicked have drawn their sword, (cheth) and bent their bow to make the downtrodden and vulnerable fall, to slaughter those whose way is upright.

15. Their sword will enter their own heart, and their bows will be broken.

16. Better is a little belonging to the righteous (teth) than the abundance of many wicked,

17. because the arms of the wicked will be broken and Yahweh is indeed upholding the righteous.

18. Yahweh indeed knows the days of the person of integrity (yodh) and their inheritance will be for ever.

19. They will not be disappointed in a period of evil, and in days of famine they will be satisfied.

20. Because the wicked will perish, (kaph) and Yahweh’s enemies are like the splendour of pastures: they come to an end; like smoke, they come to an end!

Pause for Thought

The idea of submissiveness – doing nothing, leaving it to God – is both the strength and weakness of Psalm 37, because there is a time for ‘letting go and letting God’, and there is a time for the intense and often costly activity of fighting back, and these can be confused to our peril. For example, as young Christians we heard notable preachers teaching that sanctification was a matter of ‘letting go and letting God’, and we were grievously led astray, because it’s not! The Bible urges us to resist even unto blood in striving against sin (Hebrews 12:4); it describes our armour for the war, as we wrestle with ‘principalities’ and ‘powers’ (Ephesians 6:10–17, kjv). When it calls us to ‘present’ our ‘bodies’ (Romans 12:1–2, kjv) it does not have in mind a future of dressing gown and slippers, but the arduous road of Christlike virtues (Romans 12:4ff .) and the demanding task of putting on the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 13:14). We have a race to run with demanding discipline (1 Corinthians 9:24–27); we are in the tough trades of soldiers, athletes and farmers (2 Timothy 2:3–6). But there is also a time for non-retaliation, for leaving it to God (Romans 12:19), for waiting silently for God, holding our tongues and turning the other cheek (Lamentations 3:25–30; Matthew 5:39). In such a time, says Psalm 37, our active response is to trust and delight in Yahweh (3–4), to be still and wait (7), to live in the visible world of trial seeing clearly the invisible world of divine sovereignty and justice (13, 18), to look to the end, secure in Yahweh’s care, even sharing in his laughter (verse 13; Psalm 2:4). Alongside Psalm 37, Isaiah 53: 79 and 1 Peter 2:20–25 make good reading: we are called to be like the Son of God in all things; he is our inspiration and model as well as our Redeemer.

About the Author: Dr Alec Motyer (1924-2016) was a well-known Bible expositor and from an early age had a love for studying God’s Word. He was principal of Trinity College, Bristol and wrote many widely appreciated commentaries and other books.

Where to Buy: Psalms by the Day is available at any good Christian bookstore. If you don’t have a Christian bookstore near you, you may want to consider purchasing a copy from one of the online book retailers listed below:

Psalms by the Day by Alec Motyer Buy Now:

Leave a Comment

Filed under Book Preview, Christian Focus

Ebooks on Sale Through October 12-19, 2016

Below is our current selection of ebooks on sale through October 12, 2016.

9781781916476 Sale Price: $1.99/£1.60

9781781916469 Sale Price: $1.99/£1.60

9781781917183 Sale Price: $2.99/£2.43

 

 

Leave a Comment

Filed under E-Books, Sale, Uncategorized

New Release – 2,000 Years of Christ’s Power: Volume 2

9781781917794

 

The following extract is taken from 2,000 Years of Christ’s Power: Volume 2, out this week at Christian Focus Publications. This 4 volume set from Nick Needham now features a fourth volume covering the 16th-18th Centuries. Essential reading for anyone with an interest in church history.

The Universities and the rise of Scholasticism

The Universities

The 12th and 13th centuries saw a great flowering of knowledge, especially theology and philosophy, in Western Christendom. It reached its high point in the 13th century, which many consider to be the “golden age” of Western Catholic civilisation in the Middle Ages. At the heart of this flowering of knowledge was the university.

The institution of the university came to the West from the Muslim world. The most important Muslim university was al- Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt. Al-Azhar was founded in 970; it still exists today, one of the world’s oldest centres of learning. These Islamic universities had a strong influence on the development of European education, e.g. in the use of Arabic rather than Roman numbers. However, the greatest impact Islamic universities had on the West was simply the way they acted as channels for the Muslim world’s medical, scientific, mathematical and philosophical knowledge to flow into Western academic institutions. (At that time, the Islamic world far surpassed the West in intellectual achievement.)

Western universities began to appear in the 12th century. They developed out of schools which were attached to cathedral churches and abbeys. … The first universities were those of Bologna (northern Italy) and Paris (northern France). There had been a law school in Bologna since 890; this formed the basis of what became Bologna University, given official recognition by the Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick Barbarossa (1152-90), in 1155. In Paris, there was a famous school attached to Notre Dame Cathedral, which by 1150-70 had taken on the features of a university.

The other Western universities were modelled on Bologna and Paris. In Bologna, the university was a “corporation” (a sort of trade union) of students; the students controlled the policies of the university, and hired and fired the teachers. In Paris, the university was a corporation of teachers; they controlled policy and set the fees for the students. The name “university” arose out of these methods of organisation. A university organised on the Bologna model was called in Latin a universitas scholarium – “the whole body of students”. A university organised on the Paris model was called a universitas magistrorum – “the whole body of teachers”.

Many universities sprang up in the period 1200-1500. By 1500, there were about 80 universities in Western Europe. Some were celebrated for teaching particular subjects: Paris was famous for theology, Bologna for law, Salerno (southern Italy) for medicine, Oxford (southern England) for science and mathematics. A fully developed university would have four departments or “faculties”, teaching theology, law, medicine, and arts. The ideal was to make the university into a centre for preserving and communicating the sum total of all human knowledge.

The normal age for entering a university was 14 or 15. All a man needed was an education in the Latin language and the ability to pay his fees. Latin was the only language spoken in universities; the Western world considered it the proper language of culture and civilisation. A Latin-speaking student from any country could therefore study in any university in any part of Europe: there were no national language-barriers. However, the student bodies of universities were divided up according to nationality. Each national body of students had its own rules and regulations. It was presided over by a university officer called a proctor. The proctors elected a rector who was head of the university. Each faculty was governed by a dean. Almost all lecturers in all subjects were clergymen, and the few laymen had to be celibate; all students, too, had to be unmarried during their time at university. It was a long academic year: 11 months, with just a few weeks off for Christmas and Easter.

The method of education used in universities was twofold: (i) the lecture; (ii) the disputation.

(i) In the lecture, the teacher would read out a set text to the students (e.g. Peter Lombard’s Sentences – see section 3), and make his own comments on the text. The students were expected to take very full notes of what the teacher said. Books were scarce in the days before printing was invented, so we must not imagine that every student had his own copy of the textbook. Probably the university had only one copy which was kept chained up in the library.

(ii) The disputation was a public event in which a teacher and a student would set out to solve a problem. The problem would be two statements which appeared to contradict each other, but which were both found in authoritative texts. To take a theological example, an early Church father might be quoted as saying, “God cannot die.” But then another Church father might be quoted as saying, “God died on the cross.” The student would have to give all the arguments for and against each statement, by quoting passages from the Bible and great theologians, and offering his own comments on these passages. The teacher would then make remarks on what the student had said, and would offer a solution to the problem. …

When a student had finished his university course, he was awarded the degree of “bachelor”. It normally took five or six years to become a bachelor. To obtain the higher degree of “master” or “doctor”, which entitled its owner to give his own lectures in a university, took much longer – 14 years of study were necessary to become a doctor of theology.

The growth of the universities produced a theological revolution in Western Christendom. Previously, the great monasteries had been the centres of learning; the leading theologians had been monks who studied theology within the setting of monastic life and worship. The universities challenged this. Theology now became an intellectual subject in its own right, and people studied it in the academic context of university life, outside the constraints of monastic discipline. The great theologians were now university professors who earned their living by teaching doctrine. In one way, this had a liberating effect on Western theology, releasing torrents of intellectual energy, debate, and writing, in the stimulating atmosphere of free academic discourse. In another way, though, it introduced a certain element of division between spiritual life on the one hand, and intellectual and theological pursuits on the other. Many have judged this division to be a deeply harmful feature of Western Christianity since the 1100s.

Nick Needham’s volumes on church history explain everything that someone new to the subject might not understand. At the same time, they achieve a depth of detail to interest those who already know something of the subject. We use them as standard texts at LTS and look forward eagerly to forthcoming volumes.

Robert Strivens, Principal, London Theological Seminary, London

Also in the series:

9781781917787

9781781917800

9781781917817

Leave a Comment

Filed under Book Preview, Christian Focus, New Release, Uncategorized

New Release – 2,000 Years of Christ’s Power: Volume 1

9781781917787

The following extract is taken from 2,000 Years of Christ’s Power: Volume 1, out this week at Christian Focus Publications. This 4 volume set from Nick Needham now features a fourth volume covering the 16th-18th Centuries. Essential reading for anyone with an interest in church history.

The Jesus Movement

1. Jews and Gentiles in the early Church

We must leave to our New Testament studies an account of the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. What we will be looking at here is the impact which that life and ministry had on men and women in the 1st century AD – the beginnings of Church history. Our primary source is, of course, the book of Acts.

Early Christianity and the early Church were what we could call a Jesus movement. In its first years, this was a religious movement which blossomed exclusively within the confines of Judaism, and revolved around Jerusalem as its spiritual home. The original followers of Jesus were all Jews, and they had no intention of being anything other than faithful and pious Jews. They continued to worship in the Jerusalem temple, to obey the law of Moses, and to have a negative attitude towards Gentiles. The living heart of their faith was not so much the death as the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. When Jesus was executed, despair had engulfed His followers: they seemed to have a dead leader and a lost cause. It was Jesus’s resurrection from the dead that transformed these broken and despairing people into the fiery apostles and martyrs of a new faith – a faith which, within three centuries, and despite vigorous persecution, would conquer the whole Roman Empire. In the thought and preaching of the early Church, the resurrection was seen as God’s mighty vindication of all Jesus’s claims: He really was the long-promised Messiah of Israel, the Son of God, the Saviour of sinners, the source of God’s gift of the Holy Spirit to all who obeyed Him (see, for example, Acts 2:33-36, 4:10-12, 13:30-39, 17:30-32, and Rom.1:3- 4). So whichever period of Church history we are studying, it is always worth pausing and reminding ourselves of this: the entire history of the Christian Church is rooted in one central reality – the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. If Jesus of Nazareth had not risen, there would be no Church history. The rest of the story told in these pages flows out of the
resurrection.

The early Church, then, started its life as a purely Jewish movement, a sect within Judaism. Yet by the end of the 1st century, events had transplanted the Church from its original Jewish soil into the Gentile world, where it became an almost exclusively Gentile movement. How did this astonishing change take place? We find some clues in Acts.

The process of transition began when tensions arose within the early Christian community in Jerusalem between Palestinian Jews, and Jews from a more Hellenistic background (“Hellenism” means Greek culture – see Chapter 1, section 1, under A common intellectual culture). We find this tension described in Acts 6, where Luke refers to the two parties as, literally, “the Hebrews” and “the Hellenists”. Many Jews, as we saw in Chapter 1, lived outside Palestine in lands where Hellenistic culture was dominant, such as Egypt and Asia Minor. So the “Hellenists” of Acts 6 were Jews who had been born in a Hellenistic country and grown up in a Hellenistic culture, speaking Greek as their first language. They had then either moved into Palestine and settled there, or perhaps were there as pilgrims for the passover feast. The chief language spoken in Palestine was Aramaic, not Greek, and Hellenistic Jews would have known little or no Aramaic. The “Hebrews”, by contrast, were the Jews native to Palestine. They knew some Greek, but Aramaic was their first language, and they had less contact with Hellenistic culture, which some of them despised as Pagan.

This cultural divide between Palestinian and Hellenistic Jews would already have produced friction between them before any of them became Christians. The problem was that the Palestinians thought of themselves as the true Jews, born and brought up in the Jewish homeland which God had given to their ancestors, and they looked on Hellenistic Jews as partly foreign, perhaps corrupted by contact with Pagan society. On the other hand, Hellenistic Jews tended to think of themselves as being more cultured and civilised than their Palestinian cousins. They regarded Palestinian Jews as rather narrow-minded, too traditional, not aware enough of the outside world. (This description of Palestinian and Hellenistic Jews applies only in a general way to what most of them tended to be like. There were exceptions. The most notable exception was the apostle Paul, who was brought up in the Hellenistic city of Tarsus in Asia Minor, but surpassed even the Palestinian Jews in his intolerant zeal for traditional Judaism, before his Damascus road experience convinced him that Jesus was the Messiah.)

These existing problems between Palestinian and Hellenistic Jews carried over into the Jesus movement. Jesus of Nazareth had followers from both the Hellenistic and Palestinian sections of the Jewish people, and the friction between them continued, despite their common faith in the risen Messiah. Acts 2:44-45 relates how the early Christian community in Jerusalem cared for its poorer members; the provision of food for Christian widows was part of that system of care, since widows were unable to support themselves economically and depended on others. However, the Hellenists felt (rightly or wrongly) that the widows from their section of the community were not getting a fair deal. Luke records in Acts 6 how the Hellenists complained that their widows were being overlooked in the distribution of food. This particular problem was resolved by the appointment of seven deacons whose names are all Greek – an indication that they were elected from the Hellenistic group within the Jesus movement. But the underlying tensions between Palestinian and Hellenistic believers remained … continues.

For many years now I have said: if you want a thorough, learned but accessible and well-written history of the church, read Nick Needham’s 2,000 Years of Christ’s Power. Now, with the fourth volume finally available, Christians have an excellent resource for improving their knowledge of the history of their faith. Highly recommended.

Carl R. Trueman,Westminster Theological Seminary

Also in the series:

978178191779497817819178009781781917817

Leave a Comment

Filed under Book Preview, Christian Focus, New Release, Uncategorized