Remembering Dietrich Bonhoeffer today

BonhoefferOn April 9, 1945, just three weeks before World War II ended, German pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer was hanged at the Flossenberg prison camp for his part in a conspiracy to assassinate Adolph Hitler. Bonhoeffer is remembered well for his strong faith and has been remembered beyond his death for his writings, including The Cost of Discipleship. Bonhoeffer’s legacy is a great one, and it is good to remember what he taught, even 65 years later.

In 2003, filmmaker Martin Doblmeier produced a documentary, Bonhoeffer, that looked at the German pastor’s life. In an interview on PBS’ Speaking of Faith, Doblmeier discussed Bonhoeffer with host Krista Tippett. The program is a great introduction to the man and what kind of turmoil produced some of thing he wrote.

This year a new biography is coming out on Bonhoeffer.  Written by Eric Metaxas, who also has written a biography on Wilber Wilberforce called Amazing Grace, the new book is called Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. I look forward to reading it.

God can be trusted: Celebrating the life of George Mueller

George Mueller
George Mueller

On this date in 1805 in Kroppenstaedt, Germany, George Mueller was born. Mueller would die 92 years later and would be best remembered for his orphan ministry he founded in Bristol, England. From the biographical message delivered by John Piper, we are given these facts:

He built five large orphan houses and cared for 10,024 orphans in his life. When he started in 1834 there were accommodations for 3,600 orphans in all of England and twice that many children under eight were in prison. One of the great effects of Mueller’s ministry was to inspire others so that “fifty years after Mr. Mueller began his work, at least one hundred thousand orphans were cared for in England alone.”

George Mueller pastored for 66 years at his church in Bristol and is said to have delivered at least 10,000 messages. He was a giant in the faith not likely to be seen any time soon. Mueller was a man of consistent prayer who lived daily from God’s word. The way he supported his ministry to orphans was to ask from God and watch and trust God to provide — and he did. Here is more from the Piper message about this:

The reason he is so adamant about this is that his whole life—especially in the way he supported the orphans by faith and prayer without asking anyone but God for money—was consciously planned to encourage Christians that God could really be trusted to meet their needs. We will never understand George Mueller’s passion for the orphan ministry if we don’t see that the good of the orphans was second to this.

The three chief reasons for establishing an Orphan-House are: 1. That God may be glorified, should He be pleased to furnish me with the means, in its being seen that it is not a vain thing to trust in Him; and that thus the faith of His children may be strengthened. 2. The spiritual welfare of fatherless and motherless children. 3. Their temporal welfare.

And make no mistake about it: the order of those three goals is intentional. He makes that explicit over and over in his Narrative.The orphan houses exist to display that God can be trusted and to encourage believers to take him at his word. This was a deep sense of calling with Mueller. He said that God had given him the mercy in “being able to take God by His word and to rely upon it.” He was grieved that “so many believers . . . were harassed and distressed in mind, or brought guilt on their consciences, on account of not trusting in the Lord.” This grace that he had to trust God’s promises, and this grief that so many believers didn’t trust his promises, shaped Mueller’s entire life. This was his supreme passion: to display with open proofs that God could be trusted with the practical affairs of life. This was the higher aim of building the orphan houses and supporting them by asking God, not people, for money. …  Mueller’s faith that his prayers for money would be answered was rooted in the sovereignty of God. When faced with a crisis in having the means to pay a bill he would say, “How the means are to come, I know not; but I know that God is almighty, that the hearts of all are in His hands, and that, if He pleaseth to influence persons, they will send help.” That is the root of his confidence:God is almighty, the hearts of all men are in his hands, and when God chooses to influence their hearts they will give.

So, today we celebrate not only the life of faithful servant George Mueller, but also the God who provides and holds the hearts of men in His hands.

Thank God today for John Calvin, a man who treasured God’s glory

Today is the 500th anniversary of the birth of reformer John Calvin, an important man in the history of the Christian church. To help mark the occasion, the Desiring God blog is doing a nine-part series on his biography. Here is the first part:

Five hundred years ago today, he was born Jean Cauvin in Noyon, France—about 70 miles north of Paris. His father was Gerard, son of a barrelmaker and boatman. Gerard was a lawyer, and it was his law practice that brought him into the everyday sphere of the church.

The young Jean benefitted immensely through his father’s ecclesiastical connections. He was able to be educated privately with the children of the wealthy De Montmor family and eventually garnered church support for his further studies.

Gerard originally planned a career for his son in the church. But when things later soured with the dioceses, he would redirect his son toward law.

When Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg on October 31, 1517, and unknowingly launched the Reformation in earnest, the young Calvin was a mere 8 years old. He likely heard very little, if anything, about the rebellious German monk until he left for university in Paris at age 14. There he would hear more.

Portrait of CalvinAs part of the celebration, Desiring God is, today only, offering THL Parker’s 1954 biography of John Calvin, called “Portrait of Calvin,” for only $2. You can also download it for free. Why care about a man who lived hundreds of years ago and is not without controversy? I think John Piper gives good reason in his foreward to “Portrait of Calvin.”

“I am eager for people to know Calvin not because he was without flaws, or because he was the most influential theologian of the last 500 years (which he was), or because he shaped Western culture (which he did), but because he took the Bible so seriously, and because what he saw on every page was the majesty of God and the glory of Christ.”

The euphemism of ‘choice’ and why it’s something else

Kevin DeYoung writes a great post today, “Lincoln’s Legacy and the Unborn,” in which he discusses how America’s most popular (arguably) president was not a fan of ‘popular sovereignty,’ which would have allowed each state as it entered the union the choice of whether it would be a slave state or a free state. DeYoung writes:

The connections with the pro-slavery argument and the pro-abortion argument should be obvious. Both argue for choice. Both, at least in their more civilized forms, pretend moral neutrality. And both rely for their inner logic on strikingly similar propositions: blacks are not human persons with unalienable rights; and neither are the unborn. To quote from Lincon’s 1864 speech in Baltimore with only a slight tweak, subsituting ‘choice’ for ‘liberty’: “We all declare for choice; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing. With some the word choice may mean for each man to do as he pleases with himself, and the product of his labor. While with others the same word may mean for some men [and women] to do as they please with others, and with other men’s labors. Here are two, not only different, but incompatible things, called by the same name–choice. And it follws that each of the things is, by the respective parties, called by two different and incompatible names–choice and tyranny.”

Remembering William Cowper: Don’t trust the certainties of despair

The life of William Cowper is one that causes you to give pause and wonder. On this day in 1800 he passed on from a life filled with pain and darkness. For a man who wrote many inspiring hymns and poems, he suffered much in his life. He found Christ in his 30s, yet suffered for decades with a kind of debilitating depression that left him paralyzed with doubt. Many times he tried to take his own life.

In his message at the Bethlehem Pastors Conference in 1992, John Piper said that one of the lessons learned from the life of William Cowper is that we must “all fortify ourselves against the dark hours of depression by cultivating a deep distrust of the certainties of despair. Despair is relentless in the certainties of his pessimism. But we have seen that Cowper is not consistent. Some years after his absolute statements of being cut off from God, he is again expressing some hope in being heard. His certainties were not sureties. So it will always be with the deceptions of darkness. Let us now, while we have the light, cultivate distrust of the certainties of despair.”

The video below (click to view it) is from Mars Hill Church in their series The Rebels Guide to Joy entitled “The Rebels Guide to Joy in Loneliness.” Let us not abandon those around us who are saved but struggle mightily against the darkness.


Who was John Calvin?

This year marks the 500th anniversary of reformer John Calvin’s birth. To mark that anniversary, Reformation Trust has published a collection of essays from some of the top reformed teachers and pastors looking at Calvin’s life, ministry and teachings. The list of authors in the 20-chapter book is impressive:  Derek W. H. Thomas, Sinclair B. Ferguson, D. G. Hart, Harry L. Reeder, Steven J. Lawson, W. Robert Godfrey, Phillip R. Johnson, Eric J. Alexander, Thabiti Anyabwile, John MacArthur, Richard D. Phillips, Thomas K. Ascol, Keith A. Mathison, Jay E. Adams, Philip Graham Ryken, Michael Horton, Jerry Bridges, and Joel R. Beeke.

About the book, D.A. Carson says: “On the five-hundredth anniversary of John Calvin’s birth, it is utterly fitting that a book of essays should appear that is designed for ordinary Christians, not scholars. The scholars will have their conferences, of course, and rightly so, but here is a collection of essays that will inform and move ordinary readers to grasp something of the profound gift God gave to the church in the person and ministry—and especially the writings—of Calvin.”

Ligonier Ministries, of which Reformation Trust is a division, is selling the book as well as offering a sample chapter online. It would do anyone well to better understand a man who had a profound effect on church history and was probably one of the greatest Christian thinkers.

News books coming from John Piper

Currently, John Piper is on a writing leave at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis. This update was posted today on the progress he’s making five weeks into it. Here is where he’s at:

I have completed a manuscript titled Seek It Like Silver: The Place of Thinking in the Pursuit of God. It’s the same length as Finally Alive.

To explain the title, here’s the last paragraph of the introduction:

If you…raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver…then you will…find the knowledge of God” (Proverbs 2:3-6). I need all the help I can get to love the knowledge of God more than the profits of silver. I assume you do too. So I wrote this to remind myself of the place of thinking in the pursuit of God. As a little echo of Calvin and Augustine, I say with them, “I count myself one of the number of those who write as they learn and learn as they write.” If you join me, I hope you find it helpful.

I put the finishing touches on the fifth book of The Swans Are Not Silent series, Filling Up the Afflictions of Christ: The Cost of Bringing Christ to the Nations in the Lives of William Tyndale, Adoniram Judson, and John Paton.

I tweaked the endings of the four narrative poems on Ruth with a view to producing a new artistic book on Ruth like the big Job book. This will go with a new book on Ruth that will be out in about a year titled, A Sweet and Bitter Providence: Sex, Race, and Sovereignty in the Book of Ruth.

And there are more projects he’s working on that you can read about here. Continue to pray for John, his family and his church as he works for another three weeks on this leave.

Spurgeon’s words still ring true: God is at the bottom of it all

And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God.

— Ezekiel 11:19-20

Charles Spurgeon, the great preacher from the 19th century was saved when he was 16. His recounting of how it came to be is good to remember for all of us:

I can recall the very day and hour when I first received those truths (of election and effectual calling) in my own soul—when they were, as John Bunyan says, burnt into my heart as with a hot iron, and I can recollect how I felt that I had grown on a sudden from a babe into a man—that I had made progress in Scriptural knowledge, through having found, once for all, the clue to the truth of God.

One week-night when I was sitting in the house of God, I was not thinking much about the preacher’s sermon, for I did not believe it. The thought struck me, “How did you come to be a Christian?” I sought the Lord. “But how did you come to seek the Lord?” The truth flashed across my mind in a moment—I should not have sought him unless there had been some previous influence in my mind to make me seek him. I prayed, thought I, but then I asked myself, How came I to pray? I was induced to pray by reading the Scriptures. How came I to read the Scriptures? I did read them, but what led me to do so? Then, in a moment, I saw that God was at the bottom of it all, and that he was the Author of my faith, and so the whole doctrine of grace opened up to me, and from that doctrine I have not departed to this day, and I desire to make this my constant confession, “I ascribe my change wholly to God.”

The Man Comes Around: Johnny Cash and the Mars Hill series

As part of their Rebel’s Guide to Joy series, the folks at Mars Hill Church in Seattle put together this short bio of Johnny Cash. Today would have been his 77th birthday and it is good to remember a man on this day who saw the fallenness of his own nature and came to Christ.
Click on the image to see the bio of Johnny Cash
Click on the image to see the bio of Johnny Cash

Why was George Whitefield so passionate in his preaching?

The annual Bethlehem Conference for Pastors is going on this week and there are loads of great messages from speakers and resources available, even for those not attending. A highlight every year, in my opinion, is the biographical message that John Piper gives about a hero from the faith. This year’s message is on George Whitefield, who preached to thousands in the 18th century as part of a great spiritual revival in England and our country.

Whitefield, who was known for his great energy and display of style during his sermons, has come under criticism in some circles. However, Piper explains that Whitefield was not about show but rather about believing what is real.