Category Archives: Guest Post

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:

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Wisdom for Your Marriage from Voices of the Past – Robert L. Plummer

Held-in-Honor-twitter-q7

A few years ago, in doing genealogical research, I acquired a copy of a single handwritten page by my great-great grandfather’s brother, Rev. James Ransom Plummer, Jr. (a Methodist minister), on the eve of his wedding to Sarah Ann Elizabeth Ford.   The page reads:

The evening before marriage, May 8th 1851

The last night of my single life has come.  Oh, with what intense interest have I looked forward to this hour! And, while many . . . very many . . . would spend this night in wild revelry and frantic glee, be it mine in sweet tranquility to hold communion with the Great and Good Being above, who has crowned my life with the highest of earthly bliss. And here would I record, in truthful words, the wondrous  kindness of our Heavenly Father, He, in whose hands are the issues of life, has granted me the affections of an earthly angel, and already virtually committed to my charge, under him, this gentle being, to protect and cherish through life’s rough way. She is all I would have her to be, pure as the snow that lies unthawed upon Everest’s towering summit, beautiful as the opening bloom radiant with the first kiss of summer sun and glittering with the dew drops of morning, gentle as a fondling lamb, with a mind free and untrammeled, capable of deep thoughts and investigation, pious like one who loves God and aspires to a home where angels sing and the redeemed live. Oh, how shall I be grateful enough for this loved one? And while I feel deeply the responsibility of this precious commitment, I humbly implore of him, who all my life long has been unremitting in his kindness, that he would vouchsafe unto me wisdom and grace, that she who has plighted her faith in truthful confidence to me, may be loved and cherished through life and that together we may live, in the home of the saved, in companionship in the skies.

Written by Jas. R. Plummer the evening before he married S.A.E. Ford

Mother and Father of Martha Louetta Plummer (Mrs. B. F. Haynes)

When I consider Rev. Plummer’s tenderness towards his wife and his joyful commitment to purity, that legacy propels me to treat my wife with gentle and unwavering love.

Being drawn to the example of my ancestor reminded me of a newspaper article I read a few years ago.  According to the article, sociological research indicates that it is beneficial for children to know their parents’ and grandparents’ stories of hardship.  Somehow these familial stories strengthen young travelers for the trials they face in their own life journeys.

In doing research for Held in Honor: Wisdom for Your Marriage from Voices of the Past, my co-author Matt Haste and I read through scores of marital reflections from Ignatius of Antioch (1st century) to Elisabeth Elliot (20th century). I found myself embracing anew the truths about the challenges, joys, and God-ordained purposes of marriage from these spiritual fathers and mothers in the faith. They loved unto death, and I can do the same. They persevered through trial, and I can do the same.  They rejoiced in tenderness over their beloved, and I can do the same.  For the glory of God, empowered by his Spirit, they held marriage in honor, recognizing it as a holy institution that points to the greater reality of Christ’s love for the church. I can do the same.  And, you can too.

About The Author:

Robert L. Plummer is professor of New Testament Interpretation at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky and serves as an elder at Sojourn Community Church. Find out a bit more about the man ‘Behind the Bowtie’!

 

Where to Buy:
Held in Honor 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:

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Seeing God as Good in Suffering? – Jamie Freeman

I wasn’t raised under theology that would be labeled “reformed”.  I came to it the way most reformed believers do, kicking and screaming at the “unfairness” of it all until divine providence showed me the beauty contained therein. But, it wasn’t long after entering that garden of rest found in God’s sovereignty that the forbidden tree was cast before me; pride! How easy it is, in our humanity, to begin to take ownership of the fact that now we believe the “hard truths.” We’re not some cereal bowl Christian, full of nuts and flakes. We ascribe to deep theology!

Yet, as we revel in our self-exalting pride, we forget that the true implications of what we profess to believe demands that we have no ability to take ownership even to the ascribing of the truth. If our hearts have laid hold of biblical truth, surely grace and grace alone has caused it.

Therefore, it has been in times of self-examination that the Spirit of God has required that I put my “Calvinist Card” away and question the extent to which I truly embrace God’s electing prerogative. It’s one thing to believe God elects who gets saved; but what about who gets cancer? Are we as content with God if He not only elects some for life, but also elects some for down-syndrome?

It’s for this reason that I’ve had to spend much time meditating on Matthew 15:21-28. Here we meet a Canaanite woman in great need of a touch from the Savior. Her daughter is severely oppressed by a demon and in need of deliverance. Surely, Jesus would be quick to save, right? After all, isn’t Jesus always “nice”? Yet, we find Jesus’ response very shocking. He says, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Just so it is known, that response wouldn’t fly in our racially and politically correct society. Still, when further pressed on the issue, Jesus only seemingly adds insult to injury when He says, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” Wow! A mother comes to Jesus needing deliverance for her demonic daughter and in response Jesus highlights His electing prerogative towards Israel. It could almost seem as if Jesus is saying to her, “Sorry, I’ve never seen you at the synagogue before. Maybe if you had a name like Lewin or Katz– you know, a little Abraham in your blood-line.” Instead, she’s a Gentile dog! She’s faced with the electing prerogative of God and it doesn’t seem to benefit her at all. Yet, notice her response. “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” We should pause here for a moment. Firstly, when was the last time you presented the truth of election to someone and their first response was affirmative agreement, “Yes!”? Not only does she respond affirmatively, she takes on the label of “dog”.  How easy it can be to believe election when it seems to favor you, but look at this gentile woman who accepts God’s election even when it doesn’t seem personally beneficial. Here is the true test.

Just as God has prerogative to elect as He wills in matter of salvation, the extent to which we meet suffering and the measure to which that suffering manifests in our lives is also all subjected to the electing prerogative of God. It is here that those who proudly wear the name tag “reformed” must stop and truly question the extent to which their lives rest on the sovereign election of God. The true test is this: when met by suffering and adversity, is our heart able to quietly, patiently rest in faith that nothing has come upon us except that which a sovereign God has chosen to thus ordain for us? If our heart meets suffering and hardship with anxiety and anxiousness, do we really have the right to call ourselves “sovereign grace” people? Thus, it’s not what a person does with salvation alone that shows the extent to which they’ve placed their hope in God’s sovereignty, but what they do with the most personal and severe of their sufferings.

Therefore, we need to note the result that comes to the Gentile woman after she is shown to have fully embraced the full extent of God’s electing prerogative. “Then Jesus answered her, ‘O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.’ And her daughter was healed instantly.” It’s after she sees God’s election and embraces it- all of it- that Jesus opens to her the windows of blessing and meets the need for which she came. She proves to be yet another Gentile grafted into the promise and can truly wear the name “reformed”. Can you?

This is a guest post by Jamie Freeman, born with cerebral palsy and not expected to walk or talk. However, God had a wonderful plan for Jamie’s life and used his trials with cerebral palsy to make him into a trophy of grace. He is the author of Though He Slay Me: Seeing God as Good in Suffering recently published by Christian Focus Publications.

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Is the Pope the Anti-Christ? – Leonardo De Chirico

Pope Francis
These days no one asks a question like this. It seems too arrogant, too outdated, grossly missing the mark of a honest religious conversation. Moreover, any reference to the Anti-Christ seems to be further marred by the fancy treatments that it has received in popular pseudo-apocalyptic novels, futurist accounts of world trends, and millenarist explanations of Christian eschatology.

It seems that on the Anti-Christ is better to maintain a silent attitude if not an agnostic approach. It is there in the Bible, but we don’t know what it looks like and we are bound to stay away from any polemical discourse or unhelpful conjecture. Ecumenical correctness imposes a dialoguing code that demands that only “nice” things can be said in inter-faith conversations. In this overly hesitant position there is also a clear-cut theological judgment on the way in which the Protestant tradition has been understating the nature of the Anti-Christ for centuries. From Martin Luther to C.H. Spurgeon, from John Wesley to the Puritans, there has been a consistent, coherent and univocal interpretation of the identity of the Anti-Christ. The Protestant Reformation did not invent this reading of the Papacy as the Anti-Christ but carried it on from strands of Medieval teachings and gave it a deeper theological basis.

Here is how the 1646 Westminster Confession of Faith aptly summarizes this widespread and long-standing Protestant consensus:

“There is no other head of the Church but the Lord Jesus Christ. Nor can the pope of Rome, in any sense, be head thereof, but is that Antichrist, the man of sin, and son of perdition, that exalteth himself, in the church, against Christ and all that is called God” (art. XXV.6).[1]

Francis Turretin (1623-1687) is perhaps the greatest Reformed theologian of the XVII century. His major work, the Institutes of Elenctic Theology, has been one of the most influential theological textbooks of the continental Reformed tradition. In his section on the Church, Turretin extensively deals with the Papacy, as he always engages in “apologetic” theology. His more comprehensive treatment of the Pope as the Antichrist, however, is his 7th Disputation on the Antichrist that, in turn, is part of a larger work entitled Concerning our Necessary Secession from the Church of Rome and the Impossibility of Cooperation with Her (1661).[2] Here we find perhaps the most detailed and systematic Protestant argument for the identification of the Pope as the Antichrist. Turretin endeavors to exegete Scripture and evaluate the facts of church history for the purpose of saving the Church of Christ from committing spiritual fornication.

After noting that it is the common opinion of Protestants that the Pope is the Antichrist, Turretin explains that Scripture reveals the place of the Antichrist (the temple), his time (from apostolic times onward), and his person (an apostate from the faith, a performer of spurious miracles, one who opposes Christ, a self- exalting figure, a man of sin, an idolater). Turretin goes as far as analyzing the name and number of the Beast of Revelation 13:17-18. Gathering all these elements together, he does not find these marks among the Jews or Turks (Muslims), nor among the Greek Orthodox. In his view, they only fit the chief authority of the Roman Church.

Turretin is convinced that the Antichrist is not a single person but must refer to an office or succession of persons in office that began operating in apostolic times. To the Catholic objection that Popes have never denied Christ, Turretin replies that the Antichrist will not openly deny Christ as a professed enemy but as a professed friend of Christ who praises Him with their words, yet fights Him with his actions. He sees this attitude in Popes who arrogate to themselves the three offices of Christ (Priest, Prophet and King), but bury the Gospel under their own traditions and undermine His work of redemption by their masses, purgatory, indulgences, and false worship.

Referring to the doctrine of Papal supremacy, the 1997 Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that “the Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, and as pastor of the entire Church has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered” (882). Turretin’s analysis of the Papacy may seem harsh and trenchant, but fits the presentation of the official teaching of the Roman Church on the Papacy. The Pope as Vicar of Christ with full, supreme and universal power, coupled with the political status of the papacy, is indeed an institution that claims titles and prerogatives which must be Christ’s and Christ’s only and is also an institution that blurs religious and political fundamental distinctions!

These views are certainly far from being “ecumenically correct”. Yet, whatever one makes of them, it is important to appreciate the fact that they do not stem from slandering invectives or bandying insults. Theologians like Turretin built a highly sophisticated Biblical and theological argument and were not driven by resentment alone. The Roman Church, while not being static, nor a monolithic reality, does not really change in its fundamental commitments. It expands itself but does not purify itself. It embraces new trends and practices but does not expel unbiblical ones. It grows but it does not reform itself according to gospel standards. The discussion on the Anti-Christ must be revived and worked out with biblical soberness and historical awareness.

[1] It is followed by The Savoy Declaration (1658), art. XXVI and The London Baptist Confession of Faith (1689), art. XXVI.

[2] The 7th Disputation was published as F. Turretin, Whether It Can be Proven the Pope of Rome is the Antichrist, ed. by R. Winburn (Forestville, CA: Protestant Reformation Publications, 1999).

Leonardo De ChiricoAbout The Author:
Leonardo De Chirico has been involved in a church planting project in Rome and is now pastor of the church Breccia di Roma (www.brecciadiroma.it). He is lecturer of Historical Theology at Istituto di Formazione Evangelica e Documentazione (www.ifeditalia.org) and vice-chairman of the Italian Evangelical Alliance (www.alleanzaevangelica.org).

Where to Buy:
A Christian’s Pocket Guide to Papacy 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:

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Top 10 Reasons to Read Andrew Murray’s Life Story – Vance Christie

Top 10 Reasons to ReadAndrew Murray's Life Story
In this guest post, Christian Focus author Vance Christie shares the top ten reasons for reading Andrew Murray’s life story.

Why is it worthwhile to read an account of the life and ministry of Andrew Murray (1828-1917), the distinguished pastor-devotional writer from South Africa? Here’s a brief rundown of my top ten reasons:

  1. Andrew Murray became the most prominent South African minister of his day. He is almost certainly the premiere pastor ever to serve in that country. It’s certainly worth our while and to our benefit to get acquainted with such an outstanding Christian servant.
  2. Murray provides an inspiring example of active service of Christ, even under challenging circumstances, clear to the end of life. His entire adult life (age 20 to 88) was spent in consecrated Christian service. He often ministered under difficult pioneer conditions, despite personal health challenges, and under enormous ministry pressures. When he retired from full-time pastoral ministry at age seventy-eight, he continued right on in his active speaking and writing ministries for another decade.
  3. Murray also has much to teach us about the devotional-contemplative side of the Christian life. He was a man of prayer who maintained daily time for personal prayer and who prayed “without ceasing” by weaving prayer all through his many activities of the day. His mind was saturated with and continually fixed on Scriptural truths. That pronounced biblical focus resulted in his publishing nearly 240 works (including over seventy full-length books) on scores of different subjects, all from a sound spiritual perspective.
  4. Both during his lifetime and to this day Murray’s books have been widely read and appreciated by Christians throughout the world. His books are thoroughly spiritual, devotional and practical in nature. But because Murray’s books contain virtually no autobiographical material, many people who have greatly appreciated and profited from his writings know very little about his life and ministry. However, they can get to know the man behind the pen by reading a biography about him.
  5. Pastors will benefit from considering the ministerial career and powerful preaching ministry of this faithful fellow under-shepherd. Murray pastored four congregations over the course of fifty-seven years, including his last pastorate of thirty-five years. The settings for his pastoral ministries ranged from an isolated frontier settlement to the capital city of South Africa.  In addition to ministering to his own congregations, Murray was a popular preacher who carried out extensive speaking ministries at churches and Christian conferences throughout South Africa, as well as in Europe and America.
  6. Ministry leaders of various types will appreciate and learn from Murray’s vibrant, visionary leadership of numerous Christian causes. He served six terms, totaling some twenty-five years, as the Moderator of his denomination, the Dutch Reformed Church of Cape Colony. Murray threw his tremendous energies into: establishing schools throughout the Colony; actively evangelizing European settlers; founding foreign missionary societies to minister to unreached tribal groups beyond the Colony’s borders; supporting home mission endeavors that ministered to military personnel, the poor and moral outcasts; developing and promoting student ministries and the Higher Life Movement.
  7. Murray lived through two periods of bona fide spiritual awakening. As a twelve-year-old boy, while pursuing his education in Scotland, he witnessed the widespread revival that took place in that country in 1840 through the ministry of William Burns. Twenty years later, as a pastor in Worcester, South Africa, Murray participated in and helped promote the awakening that occurred throughout Cape Colony. The accounts of those two revivals are truly dramatic and stirring.
  8. Another great benefit to reading an account of Murray’s life is the opportunity to consider his amazingly-consistent Christlike character. In public and in private, whether dealing with hearty supporters or harsh critics, Murray manifested patience, kindness and gentleness. Throughout his ministry career he actively sought to promote Christian love and unity in the churches, communities and countries where he served, often in the face of deep divisions between various parties.
  9. While three other full-length biographies were previously written on Andrew Murray, two of those have been out of print for many decades. All three of those earlier biographies related only about half of Murray’s life in chronological order. They treated the ministry emphases of the latter half of his life (such as his promotion of education, evangelism and missions) in topical but non-chronological fashion. The biography I have written on Murray is the first to offer a chronological account of his life from start to finish, presenting the events and developments of his life and ministry in the order in which they unfolded.
  10. Historic Christian biography is an enjoyable and easy way to learn some history, both sacred and secular. As one reads the account of Murray’s life, a lot is learned about (to list only four of many subjects): the establishment and spread of Christianity in South Africa; some of the battles within the Christian Church in South Africa and Europe against encroaching theological liberalism; the settlement of European people groups in South Africa and their conflicts with indigenous tribes; tensions between the British government and Dutch settlers that led to South Africa’s tragic Boer Wars.

I hope you’ll read my recently-published Andrew Murray: Christ’s Anointed Minister to South Africa. Murray’s is an inspiring and instructive example well worth considering.

*This article originally appeared at VanceChristie.com.

Where to Buy:
Andrew Murray: Christ’s Anointed Minister to South Africa 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:

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Triumph through Tragedy – The Martyrdom of John & Betty Stam

John and Betty Stam

John and Betty Stam

Today marks the eightieth anniversary of the martyrdom of John and Betty Stam on December 8, 1934. John and Betty, respectively, served as missionaries in China for only two and three years. They were viewed as ideal young missionaries in many ways and as having excellent potential for a long career of fruitful service. Just two weeks after assuming charge of a fledgling work in southern Anhwei Province (in east-central China), they were taken captive by rebel Communist soldiers. Two days later, on Saturday, December 8, they were executed by decapitation because they were Christians and foreigners. John and Betty were only 27 and 28 years of age at the time of their death.

Even in and through such tragic developments God worked in a number of ways that brought glory to Himself and advanced His Kingdom work. Here are some of the ways He did that:

John closed the short letter he penned to China Inland Mission (CIM) officials, informing them that Betty and he were in the hands of rebels, “The Lord bless and guide you, and as for us, may God be glorified whether by life or by death.” When a Chinese postmaster asked John where the soldiers were taking them, he responded optimistically, “We do no know where they are going, but we are going to heaven.” Faithful Chinese Christians who recovered the lifeless bodies of the martyred missionaries testified that John’s face bore an expression of unmistakable joy while Betty’s facial expression reflected complete serenity.

One of those Chinese believers bore this witness to the crowd that had gathered to watch the recovery of the slain couple: “You have seen these wounded bodies, and you pity these foreigners for their suffering and death. But you should know that they are children of God. Their spirits are unharmed and at this minute are in the presence of God. They came to China … not for themselves but for you, to tell you about God and His love, that you might believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved eternally.”

Helen Priscilla Stam - The Miracle Baby

Helen Priscilla Stam – The Miracle Baby

John and Betty’s three-month-old daughter, Helen Priscilla, was left abandoned in a house when her parents were taken from it to be executed. Learning of the infant’s whereabouts a full twenty-four hours later, a Christian Chinese couple retrieved her. After undertaking an arduous overland journey on foot, they delivered Helen six days later to the closest CIM missionaries. Of the baby’s deliverance Betty’s mother commented: “To me it is nothing less than a miracle that Baby Helen Priscilla has been spared. My husband said this morning, ‘All the hordes of wicked Communists couldn’t harm that helpless babe, if it were the Lord’s purpose to have her live to glorify His name and show His power.’ We know that even more He could have delivered Betty and John from their captors, had that been His will for them.”

Both John’s and Betty’s parents bore remarkable testimonies of unshakable trust and commitment in the midst of their unspeakable loss. John’s father, Peter, wrote in part: “It was our desire that he, as well as we, would serve the Lord, and if that could be better done by death than by life, we would have it so. The sacrifice may seem great now, but no sacrifice is too great to make for Him who gave himself for us. We are earnestly praying that it will all be for God’s glory and the salvation of souls. … How glad we shall be if many dear Christian young people shall be inspired to give themselves to the Lord as never before, for a life of sacrifice and service!”

Several memorial services were held in China and the United States to honor John and Betty and to praise God for their lives of consecrated service. At two such services, 700 Moody Bible Institute students and 200 Wheaton College students stood to dedicate their lives to missionary service wherever the Lord might lead. Literally thousands of Christians around the world were challenged and encouraged to serve Christ with greater consecration and courage.

Hundreds of secular newspapers across the globe carried full accounts of John and Betty’s martyrdom, faith and dedication. Some were thus drawn to salvation.

A tribute in the February 1935 edition of the CIM’s periodical China’s Millions stated: “It has been a long time since any event connected with the mission fields has made so wide and profound an impression in this country. We believe that John and Betty Stam may by their death have spoken even more loudly than by their brief lives of devoted service. Let no one call this ending of their career a tragedy, for in reality it is a triumph.”

*          *          *

John And Betty Stam: Missionary Martyrs by Vance Christie In the eight decades since their deaths, the story of John and Betty’s service to Christ and their martyrdom for their faith in Him has continued to inspire and strengthen countless Christians in their own devotion to the Lord. You can read their full story in my book John and Betty Stam, Missionary Martyrs.

Copyright 2014 by Vance E. Christie

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Sword Play – A Guest Post by Linda Finlayson

Wielding the SwordSwords have been used in many centuries as the soldier’s weapon. Today we might still use them in special settings like Renaissance Fairs or martial arts training schools. Some people like to have them on display on their walls like an art piece. Even though swords are no longer considered an important weapon, people are still interested in them. There is a ‘romance’ or fascination about them.

In times before guns, tanks and missiles, a soldier began early to learn how to handle and care for his sword. Since sharp swords can quickly injure a person, the new recruit began his training with a wooden sword. He learned the important steps to fighting an opponent while protecting himself from injury. He practiced how to correctly draw his sword from its scabbard, making sure to draw it away from his body. Next he learned how to stand, with muscles relaxed, his feet placed solidly on the ground. If he lost his balance at any time during the fight, he could be in real danger. Not only did he learn to use his body correctly, mastering how to thrust and parry, but he also learned to use his mind. He had to assess his situation, looking for obstacles like rocks or trees that could get in the way. He had to check where the sun was and where to stand to keep it out of his eyes. He also assessed his opponent: was he experienced or a beginner? was he angry and impetuous, or calm and ready for battle? Above all he learned how to plan a strong defence, without taking unnecessary chances to defeat his opponent.

Once the trainee is ready for a real sword, he learned how to care for it. The weapon could only be useful if he kept it sharpened. He also oiled his blade to prevent it from rusting, polished it to remove any scratches, and, of course, kept it clean and dry. It had be hung up when not in use and not stored in leather or other types of scabbards. Having mastered all the steps to successfully using his sword, the most important thing for him to do was practice, practice, practice. As the blade needs oil to prevent rust, so the soldier continued drilling to keep his skills from getting rusty.

God’s Word the Bible is compared to a sharp sword in Hebrews 4:12:

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

God’s Word is sharp like a sword, and in fact even sharper. Where a sword can cut off a person’s arm, God’s Word can cut even deeper into us, into our very thoughts and plans. When we read the Bible the words act as a sword, piercing our hearts, showing us God in his holiness and us in our sinful condition. As those words penetrate our mind and heart we begin to understand God’s hatred of sin and his great compassion for his wayward creatures. So much love he had for us that he provided a way to deal with our sin in a just way and offer us eternal life. But God’s Word doesn’t stop there. It is full of promises and commands about how to live now and what we can look forward to in the future. There is no other book that can do all that.

As Christians we are armed with our sword, God’s Word. And like soldiers we need to learn how to use it and care for it. We need to learn how to understand what it says. This is where our ministers and teachers become part of our training. We need to pay attention to the preaching and teaching we receive at church and in our homes. We need to think and pray about what we learn. And we need to be ready to share with others what God says in his Word. We need to read it every day, like the soldier who practices to keep his skills ready for use.

God has provided many men and women throughout history who have guarded God’s Word by translating it correctly into many languages, and have wielded or used God’s Word to teach and preach the Gospel. And it hasn’t always been an easy job. Men like John Chrysostom, who had to stand up to an empress, ended up in exile, or John Hus, who encouraged people to read the Bible for themselves, was killed for his preaching. Women like Mary Lyon worked long and hard to convince people that women should be educated in God’s Word so they could become missionaries and teachers. To learn more about God’s Swordsmen and women, check out Wielding the Sword just published by CF4K.

Today, many continue to teach and preach God’s Word so that we might know the truth. Each new generation needs to hear correct doctrine and be taught to guard against believing in heresies. The Apostle Paul uses the picture of a Christian putting on armour in Ephesians 6:16-18a:

In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.

Preachers and teachers must use the Bible, God’s Word, as a sword, wielding it in their preaching and teaching so that all might know The Truth.

Linda Finlayson, author 2010About Linda:
Linda Finlayson is a Canadian living in the Philadelphia area of the USA. She has enjoyed working with children in schools, churches and children’s clubs. Bringing together her love of books, children and history has given her the opportunity to write the adventure stories of real people. Linda is married and has one son.

A full list of Linda’s books published by Christian Focus 4 Kids is available here:  LINK

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How To Use “The Bible’s Big Story”: Dads, Step Up and Play the Man

The Bible's Big Story Salvation History for Kids by James M Hamilton JrDo you know what I’m trying to accomplish with The Bible’s Big Story?

I want you to win the hearts of your children.
I want you to win them through the time you spend with them.
I want you to start when they’re so small they can’t yet climb off your lap and crawl around.
I want you to read to them, and I want you to read to them about the highest and most important things: the Lord, the gospel, the true story of the world in the Bible.

So more than just winning their hearts, I want you to win your kids to the Lord. My prayer is that the big story of the Bible will capture their imagination, that the high King would lay claim to their allegiance, that they would trust him from deepest recess of soul.

I’m trying to help parents–and I really have dads in my crosshairs–obey Deuteronomy 6:7. The ESV translates that verse as follows: “You shall teach them [these words that I command you today, v. 6] diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”

That phrase “you shall teach them diligently” could also be rendered “you shall repeat them constantly.”

This verse calls fathers to do two things: 1) repeat the Bible constantly to their children, and 2) discuss it with them.

That’s your basic recipe for family discipleship, and I’m trying to help you do it by starting when your children are sitting there on your lap looking at picture books with you.

[Here’s a longer discussion of family discipleship interpreting Deuteronomy 6 and Proverbs: “That the Coming Generation Might Praise the Lord,”].

Make no mistake about it: Satan is prowling around like a lion wanting to devour your child. You can’t outsource their discipleship. They need you. Particularly you, Dad.

The other day my wife was telling me how it’s harder for my kids to get to sleep when something has me out of the house and I’m not part of the bedtime routine of family devotions. Without me there, she finds the kids to be more fussy and fearful. She said to me: “Don’t underestimate daddypower.”

Dad’s, I’m calling you to step up.
I’m calling you, fathers, to read to your kids.
I’m calling you to be a man, to take the responsibility God has placed at your feet in the Scriptures.

This is bigger than any free throw you ever shot, bigger than any at-bat with two outs in the bottom of the ninth with the winning run in scoring position. This is more important than twitter and blogs and books and news. We’re talking about your kids.

We’re talking about whether you will lay the foundation when they’re small that will put you in position to be heard and heeded when you start warning them against the snares of the devil–snares of porn and predators and pushers. How do you lay that foundation? By establishing yourself as their father in the formative years. Before they start walking, you’re holding them, teaching them what the world is–what it’s for, what life is about.

Step up, dads. For the sake of your children, for the respect of your wife, for your own Christlikeness, for the glory of God, for the church in the generations to come. By all that you love, by all that is holy, in the name of the Lord Jesus, let us take up the solemn charge to train our kids in the fear and admonition of the Lord. Disciple your children.

Play the man. Repeat the Bible constantly to your kids and discuss it everywhere you go, when they get out of bed in the morning, when they go to bed at night, when at home, when out and about (cf.Deut 6:7).

Their souls depend upon it, and if you’re in ministry, your qualification depends upon it.

So how can you use The Bible’s Big Story in your efforts to fulfill the role God has given to you and play the man? (cf. 1 Cor 16:13–14)

Here are some suggestions, following the basic outline of Deuteronomy 6:7, to 1) Repeat and 2) Discuss, and I’m adding the third step of 3) Do It Yourself to get at the idea that is clearly the goal of the repetition and discussion Moses prescribed in Deuteronomy 6:7–living out the Bible. Moses wasn’t calling for Hebrew households to become seminar rooms or discussion forums. He wanted fathers to repeat the Bible to their children and discuss its meaning with them so that they would live out faith and obedience for God’s glory.

Here’s how you can use The Bible’s Big Story to lay the foundation of you being the most influential person in your child’s life. Here are some steps you can take on the path of winning their hearts:

Repeat

1. Read the poem straight through. On each page there is a rhyming couplet and a Bible verse, and this first recommendation is to skip the Bible verses and just read the rhyming couplets of this book. These rhymes comprise one unified poem. By reading the whole poem over and over straight through, the idea is for both you and your little one to find that you have the thing memorized. The poem is intended to be a high-level overview of the whole story (thus its title, The Bible’s Big Story), and my hope is that it will serve as a roadmap for Bible reading.

So read the poem straight through. This is how you read most children’s books, and in this recommendation I’m encouraging you to read the poetry by itself and save the Bible verses on each page for other kinds of trips through the book.

2. Repeat. Maybe your experience is like mine, and you find yourself saying to your toddler: “we just read that book.” On those second and third readings, go more slowly through the pages, and these are the times to read the verses.

Discuss

3. Got a toddler and other kids under the age of 10? We do, and often the older ones gather round as we read to the younger. When this starts happening, don’t just read, discuss. Ask the older kids to tell you more about the pictures and the stories they depict.

4. Talk about what happens between the lines. This little book is only 24 pages. Most of the Bible’s events and teachings are not depicted. Ask your child if they know what happened before or after what’s on a particular page. Let the things depicted in this book be your landmarks, and more and more sketch in the details between the landmarks.

Do It Yourself

These suggestions can be adapted to the age and aptitude of your child.

5. Assuming that you have access to a photocopier (three in one printers are everywhere these days), photocopy a page in black and white and let your child use it as a coloring page.

6. Have your child reproduce the pictures in the book using tracing paper.

7. The next step after tracing paper is of course for your kids to draw their own versions of the pictures in the book, whether reproducing the book’s pictures or doing the scene a different way, or the previous event . . . you get the idea.

8. At our family gatherings, the cousins sometimes do drama presentations. Why not use The Bible’s Big Story for the family (or church) Christmas drama your kids produce. Have them memorize the lines and say them as they act out the story. Get costumes. Make it a yearly tradition at Christmas or easter. Go whole-hog (even if you’re an LSU fan).

9. Are there families of small children whose parents you’re shepherding or discipling? At $4.99, this is a pretty affordable discipleship tool, birthday gift, or party favor. Let me assure you: my goal is not selling more copies or making a name for myself. I want to love God and neighbor. I want God to be glorified as you win the hearts of your kids, as your friends win the hearts of their kids, as fathers establish themselves in the lives of their kids by obeying Deuteronomy 6:7, as families grow in their understanding of the Scriptures together, as disciples are made of all nations.

10. Are there unbelieving family members, friends, or others who sometimes read to your kids? Put this book on the top of the pile. Unbelievers who read this book will be exposed to the big story of the Bible and an exhortation to trust the Lord Christ. I hope and pray The Bible’s Big Story can be a natural evangelistic experience for your unbelieving neighbors, friends, or family members.

These are of course, merely suggestions, and they’re not exhaustive. Have some other ideas? Please do share them in the comments (or post them somewhere–I’d love to know to your thoughts. . .). The main thing is for us to know God by knowing the Bible, and helping you and your kids do that is what I’m after in The Bible’s Big Story.

Look around.
Darkness clouds the horizon.
The culture grows more and more hostile to Christians and Christianity.
Take action.
Redeem the time.
Disciple your kids.

Dads, your wife and children are yours to protect and lead. Play the man.

*This article originally appeared at jimhamilton.info.

Jim HamiltonAbout the Author:
James Hamilton is Associate Professor of Biblical Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Preaching Pastor at Kenwood Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky. He previously taught at the Houston Campus of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and served as founding/preaching pastor at Baptist Church of the Redeemer. You can follow James on his website (jimhamilton.info) and on Twitter (@DrJimHamilton).

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What are you doing to reach this next generation for Christ? – A Guest Post by Sarah Bubar

next-gen-for-christ

Jack Wyrtzen, the founder of the ministry for which I work, often asked this question when he preached. Growing up with a father in youth ministry, I always assumed ministering to young people was normal; everyone did that, didn’t they? That was part of the core DNA of any ministry: the next generation. As I’ve grown and become actively involved in differing ministries, I can’t help but notice an absence of young people not only sitting in our pews, but also involved in life-changing discipleship in our churches. It begs the question: have we, as believers, lost sight of this goal? Does ministering to this next generation seem like a lost cause because their hearts are so hard from the World’s influence? Or maybe we have forgotten how to minister to them? How do we reach this next generation for Christ?

1. Talk to them! Don’t just assume that they are immune to the effects of the world.
This next generation is becoming exposed to adult content at a younger age than ever before, and it’s not just public schools. This is the world in which this generation has to live, and we must prepare them to do so successfully and not assume they’re okay because they seem like “good Christian” kids. We do this by actively building a relationship with them, talking to them about real issues. We put the iPhones and iPads down, get off Facebook, and interact with the next generation. So they don’t choose to reveal their secrets to a stranger, but to a trusted guide.

2. Show them the difference between acceptance and approval.
There is a big difference between acceptance and approval, but so often our world confuses the two. In their minds, if you don’t approve of their choices, you’re rejecting them because their identity is wrapped up in the decisions that they make. But we must teach this generation that God alone has the right to define them (Gen 2; Eph 1), and there is a difference between acceptance and approval. Although we accept them because we love and care for them, we do not approve of the actions that they may take. When your teenager admits to doing something, remind them that you are for them, you want them to be successful in life, and you accept them always; but you cannot approve of the choices that they are making, because there is a difference between acceptance and approval.

3. Give them love with leadership.
No one did this better than Jesus Christ! When dealing with the woman caught in the act of adultery, first he loved her and then he led her (John 8:1 – 11). Titus 2 talks about how the older generation should protect, love and lead this next generation in the way they should go by example for the sake of the Gospel. What are we doing to fulfill this?

4. Don’t give up on them.
Tenacity is key when working with this next generation. We must be more stubborn about their growth than they are about their own way. Paul encourages us in Galatians 6:9 not to give up! This next generation needs us to not give up on them. We must teach them, guide them, but most importantly, we need to pray for them. We can’t afford to give up on these tasks.

This next generation may seem like it’s chocked full of its challenges; and they are. But they aren’t without hope, because they aren’t without an older generation to teach them.

How are YOU reaching the next generation for Christ?

Sarah BubarSarah Bubar is coauthor of Radical Dating: When God Takes Over Your Love Life. She blogs at Unlocking Femininity.

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Why Read Historic Christian Biography? – A Guest Post by Vance Christie

Why Read Historic Christian Biography?

My enthusiasm for historic Christian biography ignited my final semester of seminary. Though I had a couple of thousand pages of assigned reading to do for my classes, I got distracted by two fascinating Christian biographies that I could hardly put down until I had finished them. In the twenty-seven years since then I’ve read hundreds of such biographies. Here are several ways in which I appreciate and benefit from them:

1. Historic biographies provide enjoyable and engaging reading as they relate the life-stories of outstanding Christians of the past. We’re drawn into the narrative of an individual’s life. Once we’ve started, we’re eager to see where the true story will lead and how it will turn out. Some people’s lives are so full of noteworthy developments and amazing events that their biographies rival fast-paced novels in terms of interest. Yet their life-stories have the superior benefit of being entirely true.

2. Through Christian biography we’re introduced to some of the most important and remarkable ambassadors of Christ who have ever lived. These individuals had books written about them because their lives were truly outstanding. Some of them were spiritual giants who were used of God to significantly shape and advance Christ’s kingdom work in their country and/or another part of the world in their generation. The written accounts of their lives and ministries have impacted and profited untold thousands of believers since then.

3. The examples of these notable Christian servants inspire and encourage us in various areas of spiritual life and service. To name but a few of many such areas, they motivate us to higher heights in:

  • Cultivating a deeper devotional relationship with the Lord.
  • Developing a Christlike character and perspective.
  • Serving with singular focus and tireless exertion to help fulfill Jesus’ Great Commission and advance His kingdom.
  • Resolutely enduring discouragements, hardships, sacrifices and even persecution.
  • Having a heart of concern for the lost as well as for other hurting, needy people.
  • Balancing ministry and family demands.

At times their examples expose our own spiritual mediocrity and convict us of our low-level commitment. But they also hearten us to correct our shortcomings and to rededicate ourselves to serving the Lord in an earnest, worthy fashion.

4. To be sure, great Christians of the past were very real people who, like ourselves, had personal weaknesses, struggles and flaws. Part of the benefit of considering their lives is seeing how they addressed and were able to overcome their own faults. They reassure us that the Lord is able to use in significant ways imperfect individuals who nonetheless continue to pursue and serve Him with wholehearted consecration.

5. Their examples also remind us that God greatly blesses and uses believers of widely differing backgrounds, temperaments and abilities. This encourages us to faithfully serve the Lord to the best of our ability, using the unique background, personality, gifts and opportunities He has given us.

6. Christian biography provides us with a treasure trove of interesting and instructive anecdotes to share in our formal teaching opportunities and informal conversations. Adults and children enjoy and profit from these worthwhile illustrations.

7. Historic biography helps us understand and evaluate contemporary Christianity more fully and accurately. We learn how certain beliefs, practices and emphases developed in the Church. We come to realize that many of our present opportunities and accomplishments have been built on the insights, exertions and sacrifices of exceptional individuals who helped prepare the way before us. In the face of endless, transient issues and trends that confront and sometimes distract the modern Church, we are aided in keeping a clear focus on the primary emphases and priorities that strong evangelical Christians have maintained throughout the centuries.

Vance ChristieVance Christie is a pastor and author best known for vivid retelling of missionary stories. He lives in Aurora, Nebraska and has previously written for the ‘Heroes of the Faith’ series. To connect with Vance, visit his website at www.vancechristie.com.

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