Archives For History

As I saw her sitting there on her wheelchair sobbing…both our hearts were breaking.

people-holy-stepsHers because she was unable to walk up the Holy Steps to have her sins forgiven. She so desperately wanted to be able to spend less time in purgatory and she couldn’t bear the thought of being so close to the steps where Jesus had walked and unable to go up them like everybody else.

Mine because she had been duped into believing that this ritual of walking up the steps, and saying a few hundred hail Mary’s, would save her from her sin. Her tears were yet another example of the evil that is the Roman Catholic Church.

Of course, a sign not too far from her stated that those who could not crawl up the steps could stay right where they were and still receive pardon for their sin, but she wasn’t buying it.  She knew that she was missing out on something, and it was all because of her inability to perform works.

As I gazed around the room, I was overwhelmed by the dozens of people who were partaking in this practice of walking up these “holy steps”. According to Roman Catholic tradition, these were the steps that Jesus walked on in order to go up to Pilate. They even have spots on them which they claim is where Jesus’ blood dropped. Supposedly, Helena the mother of Constantine had them brought from Jerusalem to Rome in the fourth century.

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reformation-wall-in-genevaHave you ever wondered why people call themselves “Reformed”? The word “reformed” generally means “improved”—as in, desperate parents may send an incorrigible adolescent to a reformatory school to get them back in line; politicians promise economic reforms to undo the damage of their predecessors. In theological circles, the word is written with a capital, and acts as a self-designation for those who consider themselves to be direct doctrinal descendants of the progenitors of the Reformation, namely Martin Luther, Jean Calvin, et al.

For example, plain vanilla Baptists get upgraded to “Reformed Baptists” if they embrace not only the tenets of Baptists, but also the doctrines for which the Reformers risked life and limb.

Exactly 499 years to the day (October 31, 1517) the Catholic priest, Martin Luther, nailed, to the door of the Wittenburg Castle Church, his list of 95 things the Catholic Church needed to reform/improve in order to be faithful to what the Bible teaches.

Reformed folk today come in various subspecies: some don’t hold to all five tenets of the Calvinist TULIP* scheme, others have shed the Reformers’ eschatology and ecclesiology, such as infant baptism. But all who brandish the prefix “Reformed” will share a profound commitment to the five slogans of the Reformation that functioned as the five-fold battle cry of essentials around which all Reformers united.

Ironically, these five mottos are commonly referred to by their Latin monikers. I say it’s ironic because the Reformers were committed to translating the Scriptures and theological writings out of the elitist Latin language and into any and every vernacular tongue imaginable. But the description of this commitment has come to us in Latin: Post tenebras lux,(after darkness light).

post-tenebras-lux

Any visitor to South Africa’s Kruger National Park wants to see the Big Five: lion, leopard, elephant, rhino, and buffalo. Though there are countless species to keep career game wardens busy for a lifetime, nothing trumps the satisfaction of spotting the Big Five.

Here is a quick primer on the doctrinal biggies of the Reformation, the so-called “Five Solas.”

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GIFSec.com

GIFSec.com

You’ve probably heard it many times. “We just need to get back to the days of the early church.” “You know, things would be so much better in contemporary Christianity if we were more like the early church.”

While there were some great things happening then, I’m not so sure that I am eager to get back to the early church days. They, too, had their problems. Here are a few reasons why we might put the brakes on the glamorization of the early church.

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It was 1856 and things could not have been going better for Spurgeon.

spurgeonTwenty-two years old, married for about a year, already with twin boys, Spurgeon was also experiencing great blessing in ministry. He was preaching to thousands. On October 19, 1856 some say almost 14,000 gathered to hear him preach, even though only 10,000 fit in the building. They were eager to hear this young pastor who preached the Bible. But there were many jealous people.

That night during the service at around 6 o’clock some people started shouting “fire!”

A stampede broke out, and in the midst of the panic, people trampled over each other causing the death of seven people.

There was no fire.

Because Spurgeon was so distraught over the events that occurred, he was unwilling to preach the next Sunday, he even thought about quitting the ministry altogether. And it wasn’t until the Sunday after that that he was willing to return to the pulpit. Here were his first words as he got up to preach that morning,

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The reason we all remember where we were on 9/11 is because the events were undeniably dramatic, dastardly, and devastating. We knew we were witnessing something historic and horrifying. Brexit is not that.

A lot of people on Twitter are getting the words “historic” and “histrionics” confused.

EU Referendum

If/when you heard that Britain voted to exit the European Union on Friday, you would have been excused for greeting the news with a nonchalant, meh.Nobody died. No laws were broken. And nothing was lost (if you don’t count the $2,100,000,000,000 that evaporated from the world markets in a puff of panic). In one sense it was just the Brits being British and the world will keep turning. And yet, therein lies the rub. The Brits were being British instead of European, which is what got them on a sticky wicket. (If you’re not in the mood for obscure British idioms, you should stop reading).

If you’re anything like me or millions of other geographically estranged observers, far removed from the epicenter of the fray, you may have these two simple questions: Who cares, and why?

I’m not going to give you the bacon, eggs, Welsh rarebit and Earl Gray version; I’ll give you the pop-tart and black coffee version. For a more satisfying and mentally nourishing explanation of the implications for Western civilization, I refer you to Dr. Al Mohler.

What happened?

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Robert Raikes was born in Gloucester, 1736. He became a Christian as a young boy, and at the age of 21 inherited his father’s publishing business. Many boys in the UK at that time were so poor that they had to work in dangerous coal mines from as young as 4 years old. Those who were too weak or scared to work in the dark were interned in a prison-like poor house or turned to crime, as exposed by Charles Dickens in Oliver Twist.

Robert RaikesRobert Raikes was challenged by Scriptures referring to children, such as Matt 10: 42 … whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.”

Raikes believed that education was the silver bullet that would prevent children being trapped in a life of poverty and crime. He committed to teach as many children as he could how to read and write, do basic arithmetic, and about Jesus and the gospel.

The problem was that the minor miners and factory workers labored six days a week 12-16 hours a day. The only time off they had was Sunday when the mines and factories were closed. So, Raikes invented something he called “Sunday School.” Every Sunday he offered free courses in literacy and numeracy. The text book he used was the Bible.

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Christmas eveChristmas is almost here. It’s a time to celebrate what God did. He brought everything together to do what we could not. He brought salvation to ill-deserving humanity in the Person and finished work of Jesus Christ. Like a perfect conductor, God orchestrated all things for the arrival of heaven’s King.

That night, some 2000 years ago, God pulled off a jaw-dropping display of sovereignty. He demonstrated himself the hero as he conducted his plan that he made before creation for the arrival of the God-man. The arrival of the long-ago-promised, long-awaited-Messiah was a stunning demonstration of God’s sovereign grace towards sinful humanity. Despite the obstacles of humanity’s sin and contrary historical events, God was moved by his own mercy to sovereignly orchestrate history in order to bring us the Christmas Gift; the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Consider the majesty of God in his heroic demonstration of sovereignty in bringing us the Person of salvation:

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December 15, 2015

What Would Jesus Do?

by Nathan Busenitz

wwjdReaching the peak of its popularity in the mid-1990s, the phrase “What Would Jesus Do?” used to be the de facto slogan of mainstream American evangelicalism. (Remember the bracelets and wristbands?) And although its prevalence has declined in recent years, a quick internet search reveals that WWJD remains a popular motto.

You can still find the famous acronym emblazoned on a wide array of available paraphernalia: from the expected forms of share-wear (like bracelets, t-shirts, and buttons) to more-surprising curiosities (like baby onesies and pacifiers). There are WWJD books, booklets, bumper stickers, mugs, key chains, and cell phone cases. There are even several films: the 2010 original, and two sequels.

Yet, despite the continuing popularity of this evangelical catchphrase, I doubt the majority of American Christians have ever seriously evaluated whether or not the question, “What Would Jesus Do?” is a biblically-valid mechanism for everyday decision-making.

Upon closer examination, I would suggest that WWJD—at least in terms of its popular application today—is often less than helpful, and sometimes downright dangerous. Continue Reading…

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thenation.com

Much of the world continues astir in the wake of ISIS’s brutal attack last Friday on Paris which left 129 people killed and more than 350 wounded.

Social media was quick to explode with prayers, cries of shock, outrage, and condemnation. But one common thread we have seen running throughout the tweets and headlines and comments of many has been along these lines: “ISIS are not real Muslims.”

We understand the desire of peaceful Muslims to distance themselves of such despicable acts. Yet, the question remains: Can ISIS be considered Muslims in any way? It’s a difficult question, especially for westerners and Christians. In order to speak accurately and intelligently on the issue, some careful consideration is needed.

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November 3, 2015

A Mighty Fortress

by Nathan Busenitz
Diet_of_Worms

‘Luther at the Diet of Worms,’ Anton von Werner, 1877, Public Domain

A post-Reformation Day reflection.

It was 498 years (and three days) ago, in October of 1517, when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the castle church door in Wittenberg, Germany.

That event sparked the Protestant Reformation, as people throughout Saxony and the rest of Western Europe took a stand against the corruption and error of the medieval Roman Catholic Church. As for Luther, he quickly became a wanted man.

Just a few years later, after a series of debates and confrontations, Luther was issued a bull of excommunication by Pope Leo X. It was June of 1520. Luther was given 60 days to recant. Instead, he took a copy of the papal decree out into the center of Wittenberg and burned it as a public demonstration of his resolve.

When news reached Rome that he was unwilling to change his views, Luther was officially denounced by the Catholic church.

Shortly thereafter, the German Reformer was summoned to defend his views before the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, who at that time was the most powerful ruler in Europe.

Because there was no separation of church and state, European governments were often directly involved in the punishment of heretics. Luther knew that if he was convicted of heresy, he would likely be sentenced to death just as John Huss had been a century earlier.

The imperial council, known as a Diet, met in the city of Worms.

Luther arrived on April 16, 1521 and appeared before the assembly the following day at 4:00 in the afternoon. A stack of his books was presented, and he was asked if he would recant the alleged heresies they contained.

Luther, knowing what was at stake and wanting to make sure he answered in a way that was both accurate and precise, asked for more time. He was given 24 hours.

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