Sunday, December 28, 2014

From an Iraqi brother in Baghdad

For the hopeless security situation especially against the Christians, I have started to think seriously about immigration abroad. The cost will be very high though. Even in Baghdad there are gangs exploiting this situation by kidnaping and extorting Christians and ask for huge ransoms. The fanatic religious teachers all over the world who increasingly agitate people against Christianity and the western world. It is getting harder to live in such societies. Till now IS is near Baghdad but its agents here do their best to kill people through bombing attacks. The political situation and the unprecedented corruption in the Iraqi state have helped IS a lot. I greatly thank God for delivering my mother, my brother and his family from the hands of IS. Few years ago, my brother left Baghdad for a peaceful suburb with a major Christian community near Mosel in the north of Iraq for being threatened in his neighborhood in Baghdad. Please pray warmly for them and for whole Christians in Iraq and Syria who live in the regions captured by IS.   

Please pray for Iraq that the Almighty God may save the innocent people in it from this catastrophe and evildoers. 

28 Dec 2014

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Unnoticed Guest

( By an Act of Parliament in 1652 Christmas was abolished)

A plague on they Christmas!
The Puritans cried;
Thou glutton! Thou drunkard!
Thy flesh-pots we've spied!
'Tis pagan, 'tis popish.
'T will lead to damnation:
God cancels thy Christmas-
By State proclamation!

A Christ without Christmas?
He calls us to dine!
He feeds the five thousand.
Turns water to wine,
Sits down at the tablesOf common-place sinners:
The unnoticed Guest
At all Christmas dinners.

So eat and be merry!
Rejoice in his birth!
Let feasting not fasting,
Replenish the earth!
But share with the hungry,
Keep Jesus in sight:
For a Christmas that's Christ-less
Proves the Puritans right.

Arnold Kellett, Kellett's Christmas,1997.

Monday, December 22, 2014

John Calvin kept Christmas.

English Puritans and Scottish Presbyterians have not always endeared themselves to others by their antipathy towards Christmas, claiming it is consistent with their support for Calvin's reforms. There were zealots in Geneva too who abolished the four Christian feast days of Christmas, Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Pentecost and Calvin got the blame. But he sets the record straight in a letter to Berchtold Haller the reformer at Berne.
'The abolition of the feast-days here has given grievous offence to some of your people, and it is likely enough that much unpleasant talk has been circulating among you. I am pretty certain, also, that I get the credit of being the author of the whole matter, both among the malevolent and the ignorant. But...I can solemnly testify that it was accomplished without my knowledge, and without my desire... Before I ever entered the city, there were no festivals but the Lord’s day... Since my recall, I have pursued the moderate course of keeping Christ’s birth-day as you are wont to do.
'Selected Works of John Calvin, Tracts and Letters', Vol. 5, pp. 299f.…

December 22: Hugh McKail Martyred (1666)

by davidtmyers
He Gained the Martyr's Crown
The enemies of the Covenanters had very long memories. Long after sermons were preached or actions taken, the authorities in Scotland remembered words and actions against them. Such was the case with a young minister by the name of Hugh McKail.
A child of the manse, from Bothwell, Scotland, his pastor father was one of those forced out of his pulpit and parish when he refused to conform to Prelacy.  Little is known of young Hugh's early days, but he did go to Edinburgh for education. There he was soon marked out as a young man of exceptional ability. For that, upon graduation, he was chosen to be a chaplain and tutor of the Lord Provost of Edinburgh, Sir James Stewart. In that Covenanter home, he would sit at the feet of those in leadership positions in the church and learn of the dire situation facing both the church and the state.
In 1661, he applied to the Presbytery for licensure in the ministry. Preaching in a variety of situations, he was quickly recognized by his hearers for his great ability in the Word of God. However, his ministry soon came to an end as it became obvious that he wouldn't compromise his convictions, just as his father before him.  Preaching his last sermon in a church in Edinburgh, he had a sentence in it which marked him for remembrance by the Prelate forces of his day. He said, "the Church is persecuted by a Pharaoh on the throne, a Haman in the State, and a Judas in the Church." The identification was obvious to all in the pews that day.
Forced to leave his beloved Scotland, the young twenty-six year old would spend the next three years in Holland. On his return to Scotland, the situation had not improved any and there was a spark of rebellion in the air. That spark was ignited, as my post on November 28 indicated, at the Battle of Rullion Green. Hugh McKail was among the nine hundred in the Covenanter ranks that day. But his own physical weakness removed him before that great battle arrived, and he traveled to Edinburgh instead. There he was arrested by the authorities, not so much for his Covenanter attachments as for his statement made in that Edinburgh church some years before.
Interrogated in prison, he was placed in the Boot, a fearful torture device which all but crushed his leg while he remained silent in voice. He was ordered to die by hanging on December 22, 1666. His exact words that day of death have been preserved through the ages. They were:
Farewell father, mother, friends, and relations; Farewell the world and its delights; farewell meat and drink; farewell sun, moon, and starts; Welcome God and Father; welcome sweet Jesus Christ the mediator of the New Covenant; welcome blessed Spirit of grace, the God of all consolation; welcome glory, welcome eternal life; welcome death!  Into Thy Hands I commit my spirit."
Words to Live By:
Could Hugh McKail have compromised his convictions and avoided suffering and death? Certainly, and many did. But this young man  was reared by a parent who by his example remained steadfast to the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. With such an example like that, it is no wonder the young minister was given over to sacrifice, in loyalty to both the Living and Written Word, come what may to his physical body. Addressing all parents reading these posts on Presbyterian history: Your life preaches all the week. Are those in your family being helped or hindered to follow the Living and Written Word?

Monday, December 15, 2014


 by William Cowper
FORCED from home and all its pleasures
           Afric's coast I left forlorn,
To increase a stranger's treasures
           O'er the raging billows borne.
Men from England bought and sold me,
           Paid my price in paltry gold;
But, though slave they have enrolled me,
           Minds are never to be sold.
Still in thought as free as ever,
           What are England's rights, I ask,
Me from my delights to sever,
           Me to torture, me to task ?
Fleecy locks and black complexion
           Cannot forfeit nature's claim;
Skins may differ, but affection
           Dwells in white and black the same.
Why did all-creating nature
           Make the plant for which we toil?
Sighs must fan it, tears must water,
           Sweat of ours must dress the soil.
Think, ye masters iron-hearted,
           Lolling at your jovial boards,
Think how many backs have smarted
           For the sweets your cane affords.
Is there, as ye sometimes tell us,
           Is there One who reigns on high?
Has He bid you buy and sell us,
           Speaking from his throne, the sky?
Ask him, if your knotted scourges,
           Matches, blood-extorting screws,
Are the means that duty urges
           Agents of his will to use?
Hark! He answers!--Wild tornadoes
           Strewing yonder sea with wrecks,
Wasting towns, plantations, meadows,
           Are the voice with which he speaks.
He, foreseeing what vexations
           Afric's sons should undergo,
Fixed their tyrants' habitations
           Where his whirlwinds answer--"No."
By our blood in Afric wasted
           Ere our necks received the chain;
By the miseries that we tasted,
           Crossing in your barks the main;
By our sufferings, since ye brought us
           To the man-degrading mart,
All sustained by patience, taught us
           Only by a broken heart;
Deem our nation brutes no longer,
           Till some reason ye shall find
Worthier of regard and stronger
           Than the colour of our kind.
Slaves of gold, whose sordid dealings
           Tarnish all your boasted powers,
Prove that you have human feelings,
           Ere you proudly question ours!

December 15: They Stood Alone Because They were Left Alone

by davidtmyers
Ministry in Troubling Times
Here's a question for those of you who are teaching elders and pastors:—how long would your congregations exist without your presence, or any pastor-teacher's presence over them in the Lord? In other words, suppose your congregation did not have a pastor for an extended period of time? And further, there were no supply pastors available to minister the Word and Sacrament to them. Question? Would they persevere in the faith as an organized body of believers?
Such was the case in Scotland in the late 17th century. Presbyterianism as a whole in 1690 had been restored to Scotland by what is known as the Revolution Settlement. Covenanters however were disappointed by this settlement as it ignored early covenants made by the people. It further gave the civil government some authority over the church. And to make matters worse for the Covenanters, they were without an ordained minister at this time. Some 16 years later, the Rev. John MacMillan left the Church of Scotland to minister to their spiritual needs. But in hindsight, that was sixteen years down the proverbial pike. Sixteen years without a pastor! It took a degree of faith to stand together for the faith, by faith. And faith they did indeed possess, as evidenced by their organizing themselves in what is known as the Society People of Scotland.
These groups, according to A.S. Horne in his small booklet "Torchbearers of the Truth," were not large in number, often being between ten and twelve individuals. If they grew beyond this, then they were required to split into two groups. They knew that the times were against them, as the principles of the Reformation had been largely swept aside and abandoned by the nation. Spiritual declension marked their times. Scrupulous care had to be exercised as to new members in their society.
Listen to one rule of entrance into a society, according to Horne. "None are to be invited, or upon his own desire brought into any Society" wrote author Horne, "but by the advice and consent of all the Society; and that he is particularly known at least to some of the members; that he is one who makes conscience of secret prayer, and of prayer in his family and he is of exemplary and blameless conversation and free from all scandal."
Further, their meetings were quite obviously for the professing, committed Christian. A full meeting was "four hours at least should be seriously and closely spent about the work for which they meet, which is prayer and spiritual conference." In addition, they "are not to be diverted from their work by talking about their worldly affairs or public news until they close, except something for the informing of the meeting whereof may be useful."  It is clear that the primary purpose of the Society meetings were for spiritual edification.
There were other rules too, but space hinders their inclusion in this post. Some 7000 Scottish Covenanters regularly met together in this way throughout Central and Southern Scotland. Finally, a general meeting was held, with representatives from as many of the societies as could attend. The first of these general meetings was held on December 15, 1681 in Lanarkshire, Scotland. In all, some forty-one general meetings were held during this twenty years of persecution, "and never in one instance did informers succeed in getting information of them in time to prevent them, or capture those who attended them."
Words to Live By:
This author can still remember during his years as a pastor-teacher, a church member who came to the door after the sermon, to urge  him to end his sermon on time as she and her husband wanted to be able to get the best seat in their local restaurant for their noon lunch! Contrast that remark with the Covenanters who, in the prelude to the Killing Times in Scotland, gathered together for hours in prayer and spiritual conversation so as to be made strong and valiant for the Lord.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Nigeria update

News of two bombs carried by suicide females, one at the Mr Big fast food outlet in the centre of Jos, the busiest part, and at a church in Masalacin Juma’a Street.  BBC World carried this news today with the added info that non-Muslilm youths went on the rampage killing any they thought were Muslim with the cry if BH can do these things without the Government doing anything they would do the same back.  Bishop Kwashi was interviewed on that web page also expressing grave concern about these developments.  Jos has already become a divided city with a lot of hatred and suspicion on both sides.  BH have admitted the bombings.
On Wed two female bombers detonated their bombs at Kantin Kwari Market in Kano killing 4. Another explosion was reported  nearby in Kano.
A heavy transport plane got into trouble and did an emergency landing in Kano on 6/12 and was detained.  It was loaded with bullets, arms, bullet proof vests and a chopper.  It was suspected,  to have come from Russia and destined for N’Djamena in Tchad.  One Alhaji Modu Sherif former governor of Borno, accused of sponsoring BH was seen at the airport demanding the release of the plane.
Also on the 6th gunmen attacked Minna prison in Niger state, shot one warder and injured another.  They freed 270 inmates but some were later arrested.
On the 4th, at a primary school near NITEL in Jos (not far from Hillcrest if that’s so) an improvised bomb using gas cylinders failed to go off. 
On the 2nd Fulani jihadist group attacked the Ashige village of Koro people in Lafia East LGA killing 14 people.
A female suicide bomber was caught in Maiduguri - she later confessed to BH having trained 50 young girls with a mission to kill 100,000 people in December.  What has happened since seems to be bearing this out but we need to pray for the Lord’s intervention, especially over the Christmas period when Churches will be packed.

But in the midst of it all, we still hold on in prayer for Nigeria, praying for the brethren and Nigeria as a whole, believing that the Lord is still in working, so there is hope.

The Testimony of Garba Adamu

Assalamu alaikum. All thanks be to the Lord of the heavens, the earth and all creation. My name is Garba Adamu. My parents came for Katsina in northern Nigeria. I was born at Miango, near Jos in Plateau State. Writing this in 1982 I am fifty years old, but I cannot be certain for we reckoned by important events, not the calendar.
When I was three years old, before I could talk very well, I entered Koranic school my only formal education. Little by little I learned to read and write the Arabic like script of Hausa, my mother tongue. After thirteen years I finished learning to read the whole Koran and went to look for work at the large missionary compound nearby. I asked the man in charge if he would have a job for me, but he burst out laughing because I was a very small teenager. Thank God, I was given a job sweeping floors and washing dishes. My employer saw that worked well and after a while I learned how to cook European food. I was able to bake bread, cookies and cakes, in fact anything they wanted.
While I was still unmarried , one night I had a dream which was very special yet frightening. I saw the heavens open and an angel from God coming down with a message held tight in both hands. He came before me and said, " God says to you,'Take this message.'" With thanks, I took it in both hands. Right away, the angel ascended into heaven. I watched and saw a beautiful shining light. I was amazed. All this happened very quickly, in about one minute. In the morning, before I started work, I went to the office of my supervisor to tell her what had happened. Instead of telling me what the dream might mean, she did not take me seriously at all. At first I was very unhappy about this, but as time went by I began to forget about the dream.
I was very much involved in my Muslim way of life. I married and after some years I married a second wife from among my own Hausa people. The missionaries did not like to employ a man with two wives and I was dismissed from my job. I began to earn my living as a market trader selling cloth. In my spare time I taught myself to read and write Hausa in the Roman script, which had been introduced by the Europeans who found our own Arabic script too difficult. At that time no-one else among the Hausa of my town could read and write the Roman script. I learnt with the help of the Hausa newspaper.
Some Muslim preachers visited our town with the aim of establishing a branch of their Muslim Mission in our town. Being able to read and write I was made secretary of the Mission in our town. I was a zealous Muslim, so after a while I was made secretary for the Muslim Mission for the whole of our local government area. The state headquarters provided me with a motorbike. I was appointed to assist the local Imam then appointed to the state executive committee of the Muslim Mission. As my responsibilities had grown I was to be provided with a car for my work.
Then one day the local Christian Pastor came and asked if I would help at their mission. They wanted someone to help teach Hausa to Europeans. It was only for six weeks. He asked me in such a way that I could not refuse, though I told the missionary lady in charge of the course that I wanted nothing to do with the Bible. In fact. if I so much as touched a Bible I would wash with soap and water.
But this lady, Miss Oliver was not bothered at all. In fact she even helped me with my religion. On Fridays she would arrange transport for me to go to the mosque. She never criticised my faith or my way of life, except when I failed in my Muslim responsibilities. If I was engrossed in my work she would remind me it was time for prayer. When I said I was too busy she asked if I feared God. That was the strongest possible rebuke to me.
We taught Hausa using the Roman script but one day Miss Oliver showed me a booklet in the Arabic script. It was about Jesus Christ, Isa Almasihu. I read it and kept on reading it again and again.I heard a voice in my heart asking why do I not want to read the Bible? So I went to work the next day and asked Miss Oliver if I could read the Bible for the students at their morning prayers. Language School started with daily prayers. I had refused to take part. Now this lady and all the students were really pleased to have me take part with them. I had never come across a European woman with such a character, so easy to get on with, so kind and calm. Before long I remembered my dream of many years before. I told her and asked what it could meant. She was not angry with me but told me that it seemed that God had an important message for me. This explanation pleased me a great deal.
Miss Oliver was writing a book "Jesus, Son of Mary." She was using the Bible and the Koran, writing in Hausa for Muslims and Christians. She asked me to read and comment on what she had written. I was to check the language. She wanted to know if the book really got her message across. When I read her chapter on the Trinity, she was especially interested to know if I understood what she had written. I said that I understood far more than she thought. I asked to pray, and prayed that God would remove the darkness from my understanding and show me his truth. I told Miss Oliver that I repented from my sin and trusted in Jesus Christ. Straight away I had a joy that I had never before experienced. I stopped my Muslim activities.
When the leaders of the Muslim Mission realised that I was no longer active in their work they sent a letter calling me to attend. I neither went nor replied. My answer was according to our proverb," Keeping silent gives a message." They wanted to know why I had stopped my Muslim work and was helping Christians instead. Using occult ways, they tried to stop me teaching . I would feel as if something was falling on top of me. I would break into a sweat and feel dizzy. The students would hold me, help me lie down, then fan me while they prayed for me.
I would be taken home to rest while the students kept on praying. After a while the evil that was being used against me was stopped. Later I heard that someone gave the Muslim Mission a tape of what I was teaching. Like Miss Oliver I had nothing derogatory to say about Islam, nor any fault to find with the customs my own Hausa people. I believe that most have never heard the Gospel in a way that they can really understand. All too often the life of the messenger has spoilt the reception of the message.
Miss Oliver left Nigeria not long after I became a follower of Jesus Christ. I have continued in the faith, employed by a Nigerian church teaching Hausa to newcomers to the country.

Translated 8 May 1996 from his testimony in the Hausa language by Graham Weeks, who knows Garba well and will be happy to answer any questions you might have.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

December 6: Marion Harvey

by davidtmyers
A Maid Meets Her Master
It was on this day, December 6. 1680. that a young twenty year old maid stood before the Anglican court in Scotland. Her judicial examination and subsequent martyrdom for her Master, the Lord Jesus Christ, was for the terrible crime—are you ready for this reader—attending a worship service in a Scottish pasture, and subsequently giving testimony that she adhered to the truths of the Lord Jesus, avowing Him to be King in Zion and the only head of the Church.
Marion Harvey, the subject of this post, was reared in a home where her father had cast his lot in with those adhering to the National Covenant of Scotland and the Solemn League and Covenant. However, his religious convictions did not, for his daughter, permeate her character and conduct until she was in her mid-teens. Up to then, according to her own testimony, she lived according to the world, engaging in breaking the Sabbath and blaspheming the Name of God for her own pleasures. But a decided change had taken place in her  heart and soul in that middling teenager. Whether by curiosity or by just following the crowds, she began to attend the outdoor worship services in the fields and moors, listening to those ministers who had been ejected from their pulpits and parishes. Listening to the preached Word of God, she "left off hearing the curates, whose ministry she formerly attended without scruple. She now venerated the name of God, which she had formerly blasphemed; she sanctified the Sabbath, which she had formerly desecrated; and she delighted in the Bible, which she had formerly neglected and undervalued." (from The Ladies on the Covenant). In truth, regeneration had occurred in her soul.
It would be five years later when she was arrested by the government's soldiers as she left a field worship service. Thrown into prison, it was the beginning of the end on this earth for her, a trial of her convictions which began with a series of inquisitions by the Anglican government.
After one lengthy examination, she returned to her cell, already aware that on January 26, she would be hung for her religious views. She left a testimony in that cell in Edinburgh prison which said,
"I, being to lay down my life on Wednesday next, January 26, I thought it fit to let it be known to the world wherefore I lay down my life, and to let it be seen that I die not as a fool, or an evil-doer, or as a busy-body, in other men's matters.  No, it is for adhering to the truth of Jesus Christ, and avowing him to be King in Zion, and head of His church, and the testimony against these ungodly laws of men, and their robbing Christ of His rights, and usurping his prerogative royal, which I durst not but testify against."  
On the 26th of January,. she along with another woman were martyred and went joyfully into the presence of the Lord Jesus.
Words to Live By:
At this very time, there are countless fellow Christians, being members of the persecuted twenty-first century Church, who are experiencing the same kind of suffering and death which Marion Harvey experienced in her day. Are you aware of that, Christian? Do you ever think of them, and pray for them in their hour of trial?  Ask your pastor for a list of the names of the countries which still persecute the church today? The list begins with China, North Korea, and continues all across the ten-forty window. Thousands of believers are in jail and inhuman conditions for no other reason than for worshiping whom you worship today. We need to pray for them.
We need to make their cause our cause. Certainly you would want all these responses by others if you were the ones suffering for the Savior today.
O God, thou hast cast us off, thou hast scattered us,
thou hast been displeased; O turn thyself to us again.
Thou hast made the earth to tremble; thou hast broken it:
heal the breaches thereof; for it shaketh.
Thou hast shewed thy people hard things:
thou hast made us to drink the wine of astonishment.
Thou hast given a banner to them that fear thee,
that it may be displayed because of the truth.

—Psalm 60:1-4, KJV

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Recent news from Nigeria

On 21/11 there was violence on the people of Arikya Soni and Sakon Lafia East LGA in Nasarawa St, reported as Fulani and local Muslims the attackers.

27/11 a bomb went off in the motor park outside Mubi in Adamawa when 5 military were killed.  There have been repeated attacks in an attempt by BH to re-take Mubi.

Over the past few days there has been a major struggle between the vigilante/military and the BH at Lassa in Adamawa.  On 29/11, the BH attacked but at first they were repelled by civil defence but then a larger group came from opposite direction and overwhelmed them. 2 EYN churches, including the main one that was started in 1923 have been destroyed.  The Lassa youth put up a big fight, but some were killed, the shopping centre and a guest house destroyed, the GGSS staff quarters burnt.  By midday the youth had regained control with many BH members killed.  
Today, 3/11 though news came that men in military uniform came in trucks, the vigilante were asked to join them so they did, but then outside town about 40 were all massacred.  The attackers then took the town and raised their flag.
Also today a female suicide bomber was apprehended in Maiduguri.  When interrogated she said over 50 of them have been deployed by BH to kill a hundred thousand people this month.  A tightened security is called for throughout Nigeria.

December 3: First Covenant Subscribed (1557)

by Wayne Sparkman

"The first godly band" 

A covenant can most easily be thought of as a contract between God and man. As Presbyterianism was gaining ground in Scotland, so too the understanding of covenants. So it is that those Scottish Presbyterians, who came to be known as Covenanters, sought to bind themselves under a series of covenants, seeking to uphold Presbyterian doctrine, worship and government as the only expression of religion in the land. 
It was in response to the perception that Roman Catholicism was attempting to regain its position in Scotland, by way of royal marriage, that the first "band" or covenant was signed. A document of great importance in connection with the history of the Reformation in Scotland, what is today known as the First Covenant of Scotland bound its signatories to uphold and promote "the blessed work of God and his Congregation [i.e., the Protestants] against the Congregation of Satan" [i.e., the Roman Catholics]. Among those signing the covenant were the Earls of Argyll, Morton, Glencairn and John Erskine of Dun. The text of this First Covenant follows:
The First Covenant of Scotland. At Edinburgh, 1557.
WE perceiving how Satan in his members, the Antichrists of our time, cruelly do rage, seeking to overthrow and destroy the Gospel of Christ, and his Congregation, ought, according to our bounden duty, to strive in our Master's Cause, even unto the death, being certain of the Victory in him: The which our duty being well considered, We do promise before the Majesty of God, and his Congregation, That we (by his grace) shall with all diligence continually apply our whole power, substance, and our very lives, to maintain, set forward, and establish the most blessed Word of God, and his Congregation: And shall labour according to our power, to have faithful Ministers, truly and purely to minister Christ's Gospel and Sacraments to his people. We shall maintain them, nourish them, and defend them; the whole Congregation of Christ, and every Member thereof according to our whole powers, and waging of our lives, against Satan and all wicked power that doth intend Tyranny or trouble against the foresaid Congregation. Unto the which holy Word, and Congregation, we do join us; and so do forsake and renounce the Congregation of Satan, with all the superstitious abomination and idolatry thereof. And moreover, [we] shall declare ourselves manifestly enemies thereto, By this our faithful Promise before God, testified to this Congregation by our Subscription at these Presents.
At Edinburghthe third of December, anno 1557. God called to witness.
A. Earle of Argyle.Glencarne.Mortoun.Archibald, Lord of Lorne.Iohn Erskin of Dun,Et cetera.
Then in God's providence, within just a few years, this was the picture throughout Scotland:
". . . In Scotland we hear that there have been some disturbances, I know not of what kind, respecting matters of religion; that the nobles have driven out the monks and taken possession of the monasteries; that some French soldiers of the garrison have been slain in a riot, and that the Queen was so incensed as to proclaim the banishment of the preacher Knox by sound of horn, according to the usual custom in Scotland, when they mean to send any one into exile. What has become of him I know not," . . . .London, May 1559. 
". . . Everything is in a ferment in Scotland. Knox, surrounded by a thousand followers, is holding assemblies throughout the whole kingdom. The old Queen (dowager) has been compelled to shut herself up in the garrison. The nobility, with united hearts and hands, are restoring religion throughout the country, in spite of all opposition. All the monasteries are everywhere levelled with the ground; the theatrical dresses, the sacrilegious chalices, the idols, the altars, are consigned to the flames; not a vestiage of the ancient superstition and idolatry is left." -- London, August 1, 1559.
" . . . The Scots have in their camp the preachers Knox and Goodman, and they call themselves the 'Congregation of Christ.' Their next step was to send to the Queen to retire from Leith, if she would not be driven from thence by force and violence. And from this time they began to treat an alliance with England." -- London, Dec. 1, 1559.
[excerpted from letters of Bishop Jewel to Peter Martyr]
Words to Live By:
It is the Lord who raises up kings, and who brings down nations. (Judg 2:16; Isa. 9:11; Prov. 21:1). More importantly, salvation belongs to the Lord (Ps. 3:8; Jonah 2:9). When the Lord turns His face toward us, we shall be saved. When the Lord sovereignly sends His Spirit, then and only then might a nation be called back from sin and destruction to repentance and godliness. When Reformation came to Scotland, it was the work of the Lord and not the work of men. Pray the Lord would so move across this earth again. Pray that Christ would be lifted up, that all men might be drawn to Him. 

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Books read in December 2014

1. A Delicate Truth by John le CarrĂ© 

I found this gripping but question those reviewers who seem to regard it as a critical commentary on Blair's New Labour and its foreign involvement in the War on Terror. Surely this is fiction. Plausible maybe bur no more than gripping fiction. I found it a real page turner keeping me gripped to the end. But the end lost a five star rating from me as it left the reader rather up in the air wondering what will happen to the main protagonist. Is this inconclusiveness to lead on to the next volume in the life of Toby Bell? I hope so.

2. The Radical Disciple: Some Neglected Aspects of Our Calling by John Stott 

This book was the octogenarian Stott finishing his written ministry two years before his death. His writing as ever carries the hallmarks of his ministry, Biblical, clear and profoundly wise. Apart from his seeming wholesale acceptance of man made global warming I have no critical comments, only admiration for the clarity and simplicity of his teaching. Best of all is the chapter on dependency. It is not easy to find good writing on the subject of ageing. I rarely read books more than once but I did with this quite by accident. I was part way through before I thought, this seems familiar. But finding my original review there is nothing to add except how gloriously an 88 year old Christian can face death in full assurance of life eternal.

3. The Future of the Global Church by Patrick Johnstone 

Six years work to produce this encyclopaedic book. It is more than its title. It has sections on demography, history, major religions, Christianity by megablocks, renewal growth, evangelical explosion, the unevangelized,  missions and the future before his conclusion: an evangelical world? A mine of information worth the price of the book just for the history section which century by century traces world empires and the growth of the church. It is more a reference work to dip into rather than a book to read through but I did read through, albeit with some skimming. We are given facts and figures but also challenges as to action to take. Of course futurology is no precise science and I will not be around in 2050 to see how his predictions turn out. Minor quibbles. It is unfair to criticise the Reformers for lack of foreign missions. Their work was home mission. They could not have sent overseas missionaries whiie Spain and Portugal ruled the waves. Secondly, Calvin was never a temporal ruler in Geneva. His authority was solely spiritual and until his latter years he was a French asylum seeker, not even a citizen of Geneva.

4. Gray Mountain Hardcover by John Grisham 
For a thriller this is a slow plot. It really crawls along until one major character dies suddenly then the pace does quicken but it is no pot boiler. Strip mining in the Appalachians devastates the land and the people. Mining companies play dirty to avoid compensating miners sick from inhaled coal dust. The heroine leaves big law in New York to do pro bono work for a legal aid clinic. Will she stay or respond to a lucrative job offer? Will she try and take on the corrupt coal mining firms? Not Grisham's best work. Not incendiary as it says on the dust jacket. A suffering rural community sympathetically portrayed .

5. The Churchill Factor: How One Man Made History by Boris Johnson 

Some years ago my wife and I visited Chartwell. I came away feeling proud to be British. This biography had the safe effect. A great book about a great unique man. Politician, journalist, author and painter. He was all of those, a larger than life character, a modern John Bull. Boris starts by reminding us of the terrible plight we were in when Churchill became PM in 1940. Many wanted a deal with Hitler. But here was a leader who said, 'Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never- in nothing great or small, large or petty-never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense.' 1941--Harrow School. And, 'If you're going through hell, keep going' He did and to him we owe democracy in Europe. Boris takes us to the young Winston, flying within 10 years of the Wright brothers and twice narrowly escaping death in crashes. He was a great adventurer. No other future PM has been shot at on four continents. We are taken through all the ups and downs of a very long political career. Only because he had personal integrity did he survive so many disasters. How he mobilised the English language is fascinating. Some bon mots are discredited as merely apocryphal but we are given some delightful true quotes. Churchill was not a natural orator but he meticulously prepared his speeches and writings. We learn about his eating, drinking and cigars. We hear how he could be bad tempered but he was a Mr Great Heart, kind to little people. This is no hagiography. Political and personal failings are documented though I would have liked to have more on the carpet bombing of Germany and those who opposed it. His part in the Cold War and attitude to European union are described.  I finished the book with a renewed appreciation of Churchill and thanks to Boris who I now admire more for his writing than his pragmatic politics.

6. The Thing Around Your Neck Paperback by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The author appears to have spent nearly half of her life in USA and it shows. Many of these stories are about expatriate Nigerians in USA, or aspiring to get there. I preferred her novels. There short stories often seem to lack satisfying endings. She is no Saki or Archer, masters of the genre.

7. The Boleyn Bride by Emily Purdy

The story of a tragic, virtuous, Protestant queen told through the eyes of her mother who was of very different character. Anne died for her failure to give Henry VIII a son, the failure that cost her predecessor her crown too. The book takes the view that Anne was innocent of all the charges that sent her to the scaffold where she died most bravely and with grace and forgiveness towards the king who cruelly wronged her. It gives a real flavour of court life. My one criticism is that several times jealousy is used where envy would be proper.

8. Trinity (Wars of the Roses 2) by Conn Iggulden 

This second volume in the Wars of the Roses concerns the reign of the feeble Lancastrian, Henry Vi and the trinity of nobles, York, Salisbury and Warwick who fight to rule England. But Henry's queen, Margaret is an able summoner of loyal Lancastrrian forces. Battles are fought, St Albans the first, Wakefield the last in the book. It is history as adventure story, thrilling and well recounted. It rings with the clash of steel and armour, death dealing arrows and cannon. First rate historical fiction.

9. Witches: James I and the English Witch Hunts by Tracy Borman

An horrific account of Jacobean witch hunting centering on three women accused of witchcraft against the heirs of the aristocratic Manners family, Earls of Rutland. Late in the book comparison is made with traditional African beliefs and this is indeed the parallel. In both cases there was ignorance of the causes of disease and death. Illness or misfortune was attributed, not to natural causes but to someone exerting a malevolent influence, witchcraft here, juju in Africa. Jacobean women faced a legal system loaded against them. No counsel for the defence. A woman's testimony needing two women witnesses to have the same weight as that of one man. I learned this was canon law. When did it cease? Shari'a law is the same today. We are informed that these horrors lessened as scientific understanding grew. I would also surmise that the teaching of Biblical Christianity with its emphasis on the ultimate defeat of evil would have a positive effect too. The book wonders if James I favourite, the Duke of Buckingham who married the Manners heiress may have been implicated in her brother's death.

10. The Killing Season by Mark Pearson

I found this was a good read, evocative Norfolk setting and a good cast of characters but I think the ending was a bit of a let down, rather far fetched and not really very credible. One odd thing was the word scalpelling. I looked it up but the author must have put a new or figurative meaning to it.

Monday, December 01, 2014

December 1: Rev. John Paton

Paton's autobiography is my favourite missionary story.
Licensed to Preach the Gospel 

by archivist
It was on this day, December 1, 1857, that he was licensed to be a preacher of the gospel by the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Scotland. It would be just four months later that he would be ordained as a minister of the gospel. But what is significant about this date in December is that he had already been faithfully carrying on the work of the gospel as  a home missionary with the Glasgow City Mission in Glasgow, Scotland.
The latter city mission advertises itself even now as the world's first City Mission, having begun in 1826. His ministry with them was that of working in one of the poor and downtrodden neighborhoods of that city, seeking to lead its citizens to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Yes, temporal needs were to be provided to them. But as the slogan on the city mission states, "Providing hope for Today, Tomorrow, Eternity." And clearly the need was great, for as Paton wrote on page 55 of his Autobiography, "in many of its closets and courts, sins and vice walked about openly—naked and not ashamed."
Upon being assigned to his particular neighborhood, Paton sums up his ministry as "being expected to spend four hours daily in visiting from house to house, holding small prayer meetings amongst those visited, calling them together for evening meetings, and trying by all means to do whatever good was possible amongst them."
After the first year of fairly exhausting labors in their midst, John Paton could count on the fingers of one hand the number of people who attended his public meetings.  But then the site of those meetings was hardly inviting in that it was, in his words, "a hay loft under which a cow feeder kept a large number of cows, and which was reached by an outside rickety wooden stairs." (p. 56). Finding so little spiritual fruit, the directors of the city mission planned to move the young missionary to a more promising neighborhood, but John Paton begged for more time, even six months longer. Thankfully the directors agreed, and within that time, attendance doubled and then doubled again. Particularly helpful was the move to buildings purchased for the ministry by Dr. Symington's congregation, where Rev. Paton was a member.
Notice, dear reader, the following description of his work there: On Sunday morning at 7 am, Paton offered a Bible study, which was eventually attended by 70 to 100 people. No day off on Monday either! Another Bible study was offered on Monday night. Wednesday was the weekly prayer meeting. Thursday brought a Shorter Catechism class, which turned into a Communicant's class for church membership. Seven members from this theological class eventually entered the ministry. Friday night was a Singing class, which taught church music to the attendees. And Saturday night was a Total Abstinence class for the many drunkards in the neighborhood. All together, some five to six hundred residents regularly attended meetings led by Rev. Paton. Whew!
And yes, during this busy schedule, John Paton continued on with his own education at the University of Glasgow, the Reformed Presbyterian Divinity Hall, and also classes in medicine at the Andersonian College. God's Spirit was doing much with this young man, and would do much for him in the future.
Words to Love By: 
John Paton said, "I was sustained by the lofty aim which burned all these year bright within my soul, namely—to be qualified a preacher of the Gospel of Christ, to be owned and used by Him for the salvation of perishing [men and women]." ( p. 82)  Oh, how the visible church today, even the local congregation where you yourself are a member, needs people who have as their aim in life, that of being "owned and used by Him" for the salvation of others. Pray with us, will you, that the Lord of the harvest will send laborers into the fields.
And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest."—Luke 10:2, ESV.

Friday, November 28, 2014

November 28: The Battle of Rullion Green

by archivist
The Time Was Not Ripe
This mysterious phrase is found on a stone memorial on the grounds of the Battle of Rullion Green which is located eight miles south of Edinburgh, Scotland. It tells the tragic story of defeat in the first battle of the Scot Covenanters—Presbyterians all—against the English government of Charles II.
This battle was part of the Killing Times era of Scottish Covenanters. In essence, the Anglican government had declared war against the Presbyterians of Scotland, asking for unconditional surrender on their part. Their pastors—some 400 of them—had been ejected from their pulpits, their manses, and their parishes. When some of them began to preach to their people in the fields and moors, that whole scene became a dangerous practice, with fines leveled against the attenders, and imprisonment and death as well. All that was needed was a spark to ignite the smoldering indignation of the Scottish people of God.
That spark occurred on November 13, 1666 when an old man by the name of John Grier was accosted by the soldiers of the English government. Unable to pay a fine for his absence from his church with its Anglican curate in the pulpit, he was beaten severely that day. Four local Covenanters  happened upon the scene, and tried first to reason with the soldiers. When that failed, words turned to actions, and one of the soldiers was shot. Other villagers joined in the fray and took the solders prisoners. At this point, the Covenanters numbered ninety people.
Aware of the danger posed by their actions, they marched to Dunfries, Scotland, where they attacked other soldiers, killing one in the process. By this time, their numbers had reached two hundred and fifty. On the way, they captured Sir James Turner, the overall military commander in the area. Continuing further, they encountered a soldier friend by the name of James Wallace, who had experience in warfare. He and his military subordinates joined the Covenanter crowd. They then headed to Edinburgh, the capital city, to find more support for their actions to stop "the killing times," though to their surprise, the weapons of the citizens were turned against them. The time was not ripe for a rebellion against English rule, evidently, despite their numbers having reached some three thousand or more by this time.
The English government dispatched General Thomas Daiziel against them, who with an army of 3000 (some sources say 5000 soldiers), marched after them. The Covenanter force, with their inadequate weapons and supplies, began to fail, with many deserting the force, leaving some 900 left to do battle. On the afternoon of Wednesday, November 28, 1666, on a long slope in the country side south of Edinburgh, three thrusts by the government forces eventually brought a crushing of the valiant forces of the Covenanters. Some fifty were killed, including two Presbyterian ministers from Ulster. But that was only the beginning of the killing done that day. A bloody retribution was exacted upon the prisoners, including starvation, death by handing, and sending many on prison ships to the American colonies and the West Indies.
Words to Life By:
On the monument which marks the battlefield, there is carved a biblical text from Revelation 12:11, which reads, "And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death."  Another inscription reads,
"A cloud of witnesses lyes here,
who for Christ's interest did not appear,
For to restore true Liberty
Overturned then by Tyrany
and by Proud Prelates who did rage
Against the Lord's own heritage.
Their sacrifices were for the Laws
of Christ their king,  his noble cause,
These heroes fought with great renown,
By falling got the Martyr' Crown."

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

November 26: John Knox is Buried (1572)

by archivist
Parking Space Number 23
You might wonder what in the world is a post about a parking space doing in This Day in Presbyterian History?  Well, if this author tells you that it is the final resting place of Scot Reformer John Knox, as seen in the photo of this post, you will understand.  And yet we don't really understand or comprehend it.  All right, every church needs a parking lot. Every church needs space for its worshiper's automobiles. But to pave over a portion of the church graveyard without moving the graves there, especially the grave of a former pastor of the church and Reformation leaders, namely John Knox, that is really crass, in this author's opinion. But that is exactly what happened sometime in the 1970's of the last century.
His funeral had taken place on this day, November 26, 1572, two days after  he died. Read the words of Thomas M'Cree from the "Life of John Knox" (p. 277):
"On Wednesday, the 26th of November, he (knox) was interred in the church-yard of St. Giles.  His funeral was attended by the newly-elected regent, Morton, by all the nobility who were in the city, and a great concourse of people."
  1. M. Hetherington in his History of the Church of Scotland on pg 77 continues the story of his burial when he wrote:
"When his (Knox) was lowered into the grave, and gazing thoughtfully into the open sepulcher, the regent emphatically pronounced his eulogium in these words, 'There lies he who never feared the face of man.'"
Regent Morton knew himself the truthfulness of these final words as John Knox had reproved him to his face, with Hetherington calling the regent later on in his history "that bold bad man." (p. 77)
It is interesting to this author that, despite searching, he has not found anything of the burial service itself other than these brief remarks around the grave. We in these United States usually have a funeral message, with Scripture being read, and other remarks of comfort and promises  regarding the bodily resurrection of the Christian being buried.
What we do know is that in St. Giles Cathedral parking lot is a parking space with number 23 painted on it, with a blank yellow stone at  its head. Below that yellow stone that can be found written  in a circle of colored bricks the following message, "The above stone marks the approximate site of the burial in St. Giles graveyard of John Knox the great Scottish divine who died on 24 November 1572."
Words to Live By:
There are several monuments to John Knox in Edinburgh, one inside St. Giles Cathedral itself. Another one is standing in Geneva, Switzerland. In one sense, all of Scotland is a memorial to this great Reformer. whether they acknowledge it or not. We who are the spiritual Presbyterian heritage of John Knox, have the hope and confidence that one day Parking Space number 23 will be emptied of its remains and John Knox will be reunited with his spirit already up in heaven. Come, Lord Jesus.
Please Note: We are informed earlier today that The Banner of Truth Trust has pending the republication of The Works of John Knox, a six-volume hardback set, published with typical Banner quality. To learn more about this reprint, click here.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

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