Encouragement for Bible Reading from Puritan Women

“So how can we know what the Bible really says?” my classmate timidly asked at the end of a long lecture about interpretation. She was not playing the devil’s advocate, but was clearly discouraged by the fact that there seem to be many different and discordant ways of interpreting the Bible. Sometimes reading intense scholarly debates that dissect every tiny part of a passage, listening to sermons that use methods we don’t know how to use, or overhearing a friend joke about misapplying passages like Jeremiah 29:11 make us shrink back from Scripture. Continue reading “Encouragement for Bible Reading from Puritan Women”

“Because We Need Him:” Historical Sermon Illustrations from Matthew 9:12

“But when Jesus heard this, He said, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick.” – Matthew 9:12 (NASB)


“I try to be as good as I can”

From Charles H. Spurgeon’s “The Great Physician and His Patients,” 1865

A minister, when he had done preaching in a country village, said to a farm-labourer who had been listening to him, “Do you think Jesus Christ died to save good people, or bad people?” “Well, sir,” said the man, “I should say he died to save good people.” “But did he die to save bad people?” “No, sir; no, certainly not, sir.” “Well, then, what will become of you and me?” “Well, sir, I do not know. I dare say you be pretty good, sir; and I try to be as good as I can.” That is just the common doctrine; and after all, though we think it has died out among us, that is the religion of ninety-nine English people out of every hundred who know nothing of divine grace: we are to be as good as we can; we are to go to church or to chapel, and do all that we can, and then Jesus Christ died for us, and we shall be saved. Whereas the gospel is, that he did not do anything at all for people who can rely on themselves, but gave himself for lost and ruined ones. He did not come into the world to save self-righteous people; on their own showing, they do not want to be saved. He comes because we need him.[1]

Continue reading ““Because We Need Him:” Historical Sermon Illustrations from Matthew 9:12”

5 Great Sermons from Church History – #2 John Chrysostom’s Easter Sermon

This is the second installment of a five-part series called, “5 Great Sermons from Church History.” See the first here. This is not meant to indicate that these are the greatest or the best sermons, or even the five most important in the history of the church. However, these sermons were selected based on historical significance, content, accessibility (both good translations and comprehensibility), and each as exemplary of the particular era in which it occurred. Given the scope, the five sermons stretch over the entirety of church history. Extreme redaction is unavoidable with such a project. Each of the entries will take a similar approach, namely: Brief background on speaker and sermon, redacted block quote to capture the heart of sermon, and brief commentary on the whole sermon. Continue reading “5 Great Sermons from Church History – #2 John Chrysostom’s Easter Sermon”

The Martyr’s Cause: John Foxe and Our Gospel Embassy

By guest writer Benjamin Hawkins, Ph.D.

On Easter 1555, the zealous English evangelical[i] William Flower burst into a rage in St. Margaret’s Church, Westminster, when he noticed a priest administering the Mass – a rite that Flower saw as the epitome of Roman Catholic idolatry. Immediately, he struck the offending priest with his woodknife, cutting him on the head, arm and hand. Blood from the priest’s wounds, according to the martyrologist John Foxe,[ii]sprinkled onto the consecrated host of the sacrament, which the priest was carrying in a chalice. Immediately, Flower was arrested and, after his trial, was burned at the stake as a heretic.

This intriguing tale of church violence made its first appearance in Foxe’s Acts & Monuments (often called the Book of Martyrs), a colossal tome known best for its heroic tales of some 280 evangelical martyrs who suffered during the brief reign of the Catholic Queen Mary I of England.[iii]As will be seen shortly, Flower’s story takes us to the heart of Foxe’s view of martyrdom. But, for the past four-and-a-half centuries, it has been used by critics to bludgeon Foxe and discredit his reliability as a historian. In keeping with such criticisms, historian Eamon Duffy in his 2009 book, Fires of Faith: Catholic England under Mary Tudor, depicts Flower’s bloody outburst as a “demented suicide-mission.”

Continue reading “The Martyr’s Cause: John Foxe and Our Gospel Embassy”

“Love One Another”: Bunyan on Christian Behaviour in the Home, Workplace, and Community

In 1663 when Bunyan was cooped up in prison and expecting to be executed, he wrote a little conduct manual called Christian Behaviour. Though Bunyan’s fear of execution was based on a misunderstanding of the law, it was not unreasonable for him to be concerned for his well-being because the conditions in prison were horrible. If you were in the same situation, what would you write about?

Continue reading ““Love One Another”: Bunyan on Christian Behaviour in the Home, Workplace, and Community”

The Puritans for Today

This summer I had the privilege of taking Dr. Tom Schwanda’s class on Puritan Spirituality at Regent College. What struck me most about Dr. Schwanda was that it was obvious he really believed and practiced what he taught. Just like I’d never trust a hairdresser with bad hair and always pass by the makeup artists in the Bay with weird makeup, so am I suspicious of those who have a lot to say about the Christian life but don’t really seem like they’re striving to do it.

Continue reading “The Puritans for Today”

“Dear Friend”

In 1999, theologian and evangelical statesman Carl F. H. Henry contributed a brief essay to Lessons in Leadership: Fifty Respected Evangelical Leaders Share Their Wisdom on Ministry.[1] It is Henry at his best: warm, insightful, taking his gospel seriously and himself lightly. Young people in general and young ministers in particular will find it to be a helpful and penetrating essay. Further, as it was written when Henry was 86 years old (four years before his death), it also provides a remarkable reflection upon a life well lived for the evangel and for evangelicalism. Continue reading ““Dear Friend””