Monday, 19 November 2018

"Endure hardship": the example of Paulus Schneider in WW II

"I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfil your ministry" 2 Timothy 4:1-5.

At a recent ordination service, I preached on 2 Timothy 4:1-5. The headings were: what, why and how? The last heading was 'how should ministers perform their task?' and I preached this in reference to 4:5. In this blog post I have in mind the phrase "endure suffering" which could also be translated "endure hardship". In our very comfortable Western world, this idea of hardship is almost never mentioned during sermons or in the church generally. But we must mention this truth, so that Christians can understand that the way of discipleship is never easy.

Endure suffering [afflictions] kakopatheĊ — suffer hardship, persevere.

It is not excitement that the life of the Christian is all about. Excitement comes and excitement goes! Living under the Word of God is about walking by faith instead and that includes hardship. Excitement comes and goes, but we must perform our task as ministers by faith. Hebrews 11 teaches us that we endure as seeing him who is invisible. That is how Moses was able to stay on course. This is especially the case during the times of trial, persecution, criticism, obstacles, difficulties, setbacks, and for some even martyrdom.

The example of Pfarrer (German equivalent of minister or Rev) Paulus Schneider, the first martyr in Nazi Germany. He was a German opponent of Adolf Hitler and Nazism. Paulus Schneider was installed as a minister in May 1934 at the age of 36. He had been in his pastorate for only a few weeks when he signed the Barmen Declaration, something against Nazi principles and state interference in the church. In his second pastorate, just after the birth of his sixth child, on May 31st 1937 two Gestapo agents burst into his study and arrested him. He was forbidden to preach in his church when he was released. What should he do? He returned to his church in Dickenschied and in the morning he preached on Psalm 145:15-21. The very act of preaching wrote Don Stephens led to the loss of all he held dear. (p 58, "War and Grace” by Don Stephens, published by EP). He was taken to Buchenwald concentration camp and despite continuing to preach in prison, he was killed by the Nazis in prison by lethal injection, at the age of 41 and his wife was only 35.

“Endure afflictions”, both large and small and count it a joy. Any minister or Christian who is faithful to the LORD, you will face then, criticism, conflict, mis-understanding and there will be tears of various kinds. None the less the Word of God will bear fruit if you remain faithful to proclaim it or live it.

Samuel Rutherford once said: “You will not get to steal quietly to heaven, in Christ’s company, without a conflict and a cross”.

Monday, 12 November 2018

2019 is the 400th Anniversary of the Synod of Dort

How many have heard of the Synod of Dort? This synod took place in The Netherlands between the 13th November 1618 and 9th May 1619. This Synod convened in Dordrecht in the Low Countries, in order to settle the theological dispute with the disciples of Jacobus Arminius (known as Arminianism).

Next year is the 400th anniversary of this important Synod. May we learn more about its history, events and the theology of the settlement of this international Synod. If you would like some books to look at, here are some:

S. M. Houghton, Sketches of Church History.
John Owen, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ.

The fact that I am struggling to find books to recommend on this subject, teaches us about the impoverishment in our church history on this subject. 1619 will change that I think, with a range of new books coming out, I am sure then, on the subject of the Synod of Dort.

The production of the Canons of Dort was one of the legacies of this church Synod. The main points of doctrine are:

1. Divine Election and Reprobation

2. Christ's Death and Human Redemption Through it

3. Human Corruption, Conversion to God, and the Way it Occurs

4. The Perseverance of the Saints

If you want to read more here is a weblink: https://www.crcna.org/welcome/beliefs/confessions/canons-dort

Monday, 5 November 2018

"The power of the printed page".

Despite many spiritual challenges in the UK over recent decades, one really wonderful and yet quiet revolution has been, the growth of quality evangelical and Reformed books, since the 1950's. The arrival of the Banner of Truth in the 1950's and then the almost global explosion of quality Reformed and evangelical literature, has been amazing. While it is true that not all books are of a high quality doctrinally, the emergence of such quality Reformed books is remarkable.

The kingdom of God is bigger than the English language, but English has more materials available in it today, than any other language in the history of the church. Do we recognise and appreciate this? Are we thankful for this?

Christianity is more than about reading, but it is not less than that. There is a danger of people filling their heads with knowledge for the sake of it and then leaning upon that, rather than upon the Lord himself. However, there is real power in the printed page of Christian literature.

"When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments". 2 Timothy 4:13.

How can we respond as Christians to this Reformed literature revolution?

1). In the midst of discouragements, give thanks for all of this.
2). Seek to improve your own reading habits beyond the Bible. Find ways as families to switch from technological feeding via the internet primarily, to the written page with great Christian books.
3). Seek to encourage others to read good wholesome Christian books that you have benefited from.
4). Encourage your church to have a book of the quarter, recommended by the pastor to get Christians reading
5). If opportunities arise, how about starting a book table at events. I have been selling good Christian and Reformed books for years. I contact publishers and get good prices and pass them on to people buying. We want Christians to read, read, read!
6). If you have the financial resources, how about buying a stack of a book that you believe is powerful and give them away as gifts. Generosity is part of being a Christian and giving should be natural for us as Christians.
7). Pray for Christian publishing houses like EP, Banner, Reformation Heritage and others. Christian printing is a labour of love and these publishers need prayer.