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A Godward Gaze: The Holy Pursuit of John Calvin by David S. Steele

The Heavy Laden Bookshelf

When a book ministers to us is as important as how it ministers to us.  Just as some sermons strike some of us as adequate but are life changing to others.  So it is with books.  At this age and stage of life, I read many books that are merely affirming what I have long since believed.  Of course, the reminders are good, and every book will reveal some aspect of a truth or event that I did not know.

This brings us to my discussion of a new, brief book titled A Godward Gaze: The Holy Pursuit of John Calvin by David S. Steele.  

My knowledge of John Calvin began in the fall of 1974 when I was taking an American history course.  The professor, who was both a well read history teacher and pastor, lectured on the role Calvin and Calvinism played in the settlement of the…

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A Godward Gaze: The Holy Pursuit of John Calvin

calMy newest book, A Godward Gaze: The Holy Pursuit of John Calvin is available now! Here’s a brief synopsis.

“… But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word” (Isaiah 66:2).

A Godward Gaze is a snapshot of a man on a mission. It is about one man who set his sights on the Celestial City and never looked back. His name is John Calvin. He was a pious man, driven by God’s glory and a love for Scripture. His holy pursuit was rare among men and a model for followers of Christ. David Steele points readers to a truly remarkable man – a biblical expositor, a theologian, and a courageous reformer. Calvin changed a city and helped changed the world. His godly example may change your life.

Pick up your paperback copy today. https://www.amazon.com/Godward-Gaze-Holy-Pursuit-Calvin/dp/1095816462/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?keywords=a+godward+gauze+david+steele&qid=1559651630&s=gateway&sr=8-1-fkmr0

Or pre-order the Kindle version: https://www.amazon.com/Godward-Gaze-Holy-Pursuit-Calvin-ebook/dp/B07SJJM1GP

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No Final Conflict – Francis Schaeffer (1975)

“It is my conviction that the crucial area of discussion for evangelicalism in the next years will be Scripture.  At stake is whether evangelicalism will remain evangelical.”  So stated Francis Schaeffer in his 1975 landmine, No Final Conflict.  While this treasure was penned over forty years ago, it remains relevant and applicable to 21st-century culture.

It was not unusual for Schaeffer to warn Christians.  He did it often during the seventies and eighties.  His chief warning in No Final Conflict is to cling to the propositional truth of the Scriptures:  “We must say that if evangelicals are to be evangelicals, we must not compromise our view of Scripture … The issue is clear: Is the Bible truth without error wherever it speaks, including where it touches history and the cosmos, or is it only in some sense revelational where it touches religious subjects?”  Schaeffer smelled a “rat” in 1975.  He always had a good sense of smell!  The pesky “rat” that Schaeffer detected continues to scurry about in postmodern culture; in fact that “rat” has produced offspring.  The liberalism of the 70’s is flourishing in the 21st century.  Schaffer’s antidote is simple – We must embrace the truth of Scripture: “In our day that point is the question of Scripture.  Holding to a strong view of Scripture or not holding to it is the watershed of the evangelical world … We must say most lovingly but clearly: evangelicalism is not consistently evangelical unless there is a line drawn between those who take a full view of Scripture and those who do not.”

One of Schaeffer’s key points is to clear up the confusion between reason and faith.  Indeed, this was one of the major notes of his writing.  He saw a unity between faith and reason; a unity that is marginalized especially by the new atheists like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris.  Schaeffer posits, “There may be a difference between the methodology by which we gain knowledge from what God tells us in the Bible and the methodology by which we gain it from scientific study, but this does not lead to a dichotomy as to the facts … if both studies can be adequately pursued, there will be no final conflict.”  Truth is “unified” as Nancy Pearcey observes.  There is no conflict between reason and faith.

Dr. Schaeffer went to be with his Lord in 1984.  If he were still with us, I’m convinced that he would never have an “I told you so attitude.”  Rather, he would continue to admonish believers to hold to a strong uncompromising view of Scripture.  He would challenge Christ-followers to cling to the rock of propositional truth.  And he would warn disciples of Christ to flee from anything that looks like a rat, smells, like a rat, or walks like a rat.  His warnings mattered over forty years ago.  They continue to be as relevant as ever!

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Bold Reformer and Reformation Day

1632960702_b

The paperback version of my book, Bold Reformer: Celebrating the Gospel-Centered Convictions of Martin Luther is now available on Amazon for $11.78, but only for a limited time.  The Kindle version is also available for $2.99.

On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed the ninety-five theses to the castle door in Wittenberg. One act of courage sparked a theological firestorm in Germany that set the world ablaze in a matter of days. Spreading like wildfire, thousands were introduced to the gospel which is received by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.

Bold Reformer: Celebrating the Gospel-Centered Convictions of Martin Luther takes readers on a journey through a remarkable period of church history. It will challenge contemporary readers to learn the lessons of courage, and perseverance. It will inspire a new generation of people to follow Jesus, obey Jesus, and worship the Savior with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. It invites a new generation of Christ-followers to recover the gospel in their generation and make their stand as a bold reformer.

Bold Reformer is born out of personal pastoral turmoil and inspired by the courage of Martin Luther.  My hope is that many pastors, Christian leaders, and Christ-followers will be encouraged as a result of reading this book; that God will propel them into the future by his grace and for his glory.

Endorsements:

“David Steele’s Bold Reformer is a book for our times! As we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, how appropriate to look afresh at ways the bold faith and action of Martin Luther can inspire and instruct our own faith and work. Christians today need strength of character and boldness of conviction. Steele’s presentation of Luther’s life moves readers to live bold lives that adorn the gospel of grace alone, by faith alone, in Christ alone.”

Dr. Bruce A. Ware, T. Rupert and Lucille Coleman Professor of Christian Theology, Chairman of the Department of Christian Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

“Pastoral ministry is often mingled with both blessing and despair. Many pastors experience seasons of opposition that result in discouragement and even depression. David Steele’s new work, Bold Reformer is an exploration into the gospel-centered convictions of the stalwart reformer, Martin Luther. Luther faced many pastoral hardships during his ministry, but emerged victorious because of his unwavering faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ. I encourage you to drink from the refreshing waters of this book and use the life of Luther as an example that emboldens you to stand strong in the midst of the fiery trial.”

Dr. Steven J. Lawson, President, OnePassion Ministries, Dallas, Texas

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Bold Reformer and Reformation Day

1632960702_b

The paperback version of my book, Bold Reformer: Celebrating the Gospel-Centered Convictions of Martin Luther is now available on Amazon for $11.78, but only for a limited time.  The Kindle version is also available for $2.99.

On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed the ninety-five theses to the castle door in Wittenberg. One act of courage sparked a theological firestorm in Germany that set the world ablaze in a matter of days. Spreading like wildfire, thousands were introduced to the gospel which is received by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.

Bold Reformer: Celebrating the Gospel-Centered Convictions of Martin Luther takes readers on a journey through a remarkable period of church history. It will challenge contemporary readers to learn the lessons of courage, and perseverance. It will inspire a new generation of people to follow Jesus, obey Jesus, and worship the Savior with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. It invites a new generation of Christ-followers to recover the gospel in their generation and make their stand as a bold reformer.

Bold Reformer is born out of personal pastoral turmoil and inspired by the courage of Martin Luther.  My hope is that many pastors, Christian leaders, and Christ-followers will be encouraged as a result of reading this book; that God will propel them into the future by his grace and for his glory.

Endorsements:

“David Steele’s Bold Reformer is a book for our times! As we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, how appropriate to look afresh at ways the bold faith and action of Martin Luther can inspire and instruct our own faith and work. Christians today need strength of character and boldness of conviction. Steele’s presentation of Luther’s life moves readers to live bold lives that adorn the gospel of grace alone, by faith alone, in Christ alone.”

Dr. Bruce A. Ware, T. Rupert and Lucille Coleman Professor of Christian Theology, Chairman of the Department of Christian Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

“Pastoral ministry is often mingled with both blessing and despair. Many pastors experience seasons of opposition that result in discouragement and even depression. David Steele’s new work, Bold Reformer is an exploration into the gospel-centered convictions of the stalwart reformer, Martin Luther. Luther faced many pastoral hardships during his ministry, but emerged victorious because of his unwavering faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ. I encourage you to drink from the refreshing waters of this book and use the life of Luther as an example that emboldens you to stand strong in the midst of the fiery trial.”

Dr. Steven J. Lawson, President, OnePassion Ministries, Dallas, Texas

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The Bucket List

The Bucket List, starring Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson is about two very different men who are both diagnosed with terminal diseases. One of the men, upon learning of his condition, decides to draft a “bucket list.” The list would include achievements and things to see before he “kicks the bucket.” After viewing the film, I began to re-visit my bucket list:

  • Attend a baseball game at every major league park in America
  • Visit the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London
  • Walk the streets of Geneva where John Calvin ministered
  • Stand at the Castle Door in Wittenberg
  • Climb the stairs of the Lincoln Memorial

A bucket list is an important tool because it helps a person discern what is most important in life. What is on your bucket list? Who would you want to see? What would you want to accomplish? Where would you travel?

We know that the Apostle Paul had some important goals in his life. But if Paul had a bucket list, what would be on it? Philippians 1:12-18 is a window into the heart of Paul:

I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice …

At the top of Paul’s “bucket list” is that the gospel of Jesus Christ would spread to every man and woman and every boy and girl in great power to the glory of God. And indeed, the gospel spread like wildfire in the ancient world. The gospel would eventually explode in Europe and Africa and China. The gospel would ignite all around the world! What caused this gospel to progress with such great power?

The Gospel Progressed Because of Ferocious Persecution

The Method God Used

Imagine serving on a team that was commissioned to help promote the flourishing of the gospel. What methodology would you employ? Would you initiate a massive advertising campaign? Would you pump money into a missions program? Or perhaps you enlist the help of an army of volunteers?

In the first century, God providentially used Paul’s imprisonment to cause the powerful spread of the gospel. This persecution came as no surprise to the apostle and should not surprise us either. Jesus told the disciples,

Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour” (Matt. 10:16–19, ESV).

One of the methods that God used and continues to use to advance the gospel is persecution.

The Meaning Behind God’s Method

Paul refers to the advance of the gospel. The word advance comes from the Greek term prokopei which refers to the progress of an army. It comes from a verb that means “to cut down in advance.” It describes the removing of any barriers which would hinder the progress of an army.1 Paul’s imprisonment took place so that the gospel might advance in a mighty way. The end result is that people would benefit greatly and God would be greatly glorified.

Verse 13 describes a flourishing gospel; one that became known “thought the whole imperial guard.” “The praetorian guard,” writes John MacArthur, was likely a group of nearly ten thousand soldiers who were stationed throughout Rome to keep the peace and protect the emperor.”2 Paul glories in this gospel which became known “to all the rest” for the great name sake of Jesus, his Savior.

The Model Prisoner

The apostle Paul was chained to a Roman guard (Acts 28:16). Consequently, the guards circulated in and out as their shifts changed which gave Paul a remarkable opportunity to bear witness to Christ. No doubt, the guards would have witnessed his body language and learned things about him that would have otherwise been difficult if not impossible. In short, God used this model prisoner to serve as an ambassador for Christ.

No less than one hundred years later (A.D. 155), Polycarp of Smyrna would also serve as a model prisoner and give his life for his Savior. After his arrest, the judge ordered Polycarp to renounce Jesus. The judge promised that if he would swear by the emperor and curse Christ, he would be set free. Polycarp’s response is priceless: “For eighty-six years I have served him, and he has done me no evil. How could I curse my king, who saved me?”3When the judge threatened to burn him in the pyre, Polycarp simply answered that the fire would only last a moment, whereas the eternal fire would never be extinguished. After Polycarp was tied to the post in the pyre, he gazed into the heavens and prayed aloud, “Lord Sovereign God … I thank you that you deemed me worthy of this moment, so that, jointly with your martyrs, I may have a share in the cup of Christ … I bless and glorify you.”4The gospel progressed because of ferocious persecution. Notice two principles that will serve us in our generation. 

First, remember to maintain an eternal perspective. God’s in his providence permits persecution so that Christ might be proclaimed. We may reason, “In order for the gospel to progress in a country like China, communism must be rooted out.” But the reality is this: Communism continues and the underground church is flourishing! God’s providence may close doors that open others doors. Paul maintained an eternal perspective. He maintained his passion for the spread of the gospel and made the best of every opportunity.

Second, allow persecution to strengthen your resolve for proclaiming the gospel of Christ. When you are ridiculed for believing in a personal Creator who fashioned the world, be encouraged. Continue to proclaim the truth, despite the ferocious persecution. When you are mocked for believing in absolutes, be encouraged in that truth and proclaim it despite the ferocious persecution. And when you are challenged for believing that Jesus is the only One who can forgive sin, be encouraged in that truth and proclaim it, despite the ferocious persecution.

How did the gospel progress in the first century? It progressed in large measure because of ferocious persecution. But the gospel also progressed because it was fearlessly proclaimed.

The Gospel Progressed as it was Fearlessly Proclaimed

The persecution of Paul not only helped advance the cause of the gospel; it strengthened the resolve of Christians to preach the uncompromising message of the gospel.

The Definition of Proclamation

The Greek term for preach in verse 15 means “to be a herald; to proclaim with authority.” This message must be listened to and obeyed. Paul sets forth this imperative to herald the truth in 2 Timothy 4:2-4. He writes,

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.

Martin-Lloyd Jones says, “The most urgent need in the Christian church today is true preaching; and as it is the greatest and most urgent need in the church, it is the greatest need of the world also.”5 And Steven Lawson adds, “True biblical preaching is authoritative in nature and body proclaims God’s Word without compromise or apology.”6 Such is the call of every Christ-follower who fearlessly proclaims the truth.

The Defining Marks of Proclamation

Two marks, in particular, emerge in Philippians 1:14-17. First, proclamation must be confident.Peithō, the Greek term which is translated, confident means “to have faith; to be persuaded of a thing concerning a person – in this case, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 8:38-39 highlights the confidence that believers enjoy: “For I am sure (peithō) that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38–39).

Second, proclamation must be bold and fearless. Paul stresses the importance of speaking the word boldly without fear (Phil. 1:14). The word translated bold means to “endure; to have courage.” Dr. Luke refers readers to the courage of Paul the apostle, who proclaimed the truth “with all boldness and without hindrance” (Acts 28:31). Such a ministry marks the one who is committed to the proclamation of God’s Word.

William Tyndale was a man who modeled the marks of bold proclamation. Born in 1494, he attended Oxford, Magdalen Hall, and Cambridge Universities. A student and adherent of the Protestant Reformation, Tyndall engaged in numerous debates with Roman Catholics. One Catholic leader mocked Tyndale: “We are better to be without God’s laws than the Pope.” Never content to put up with heresy, Tyndale replied, “I defy the Pope and all his laws. If God spare my life ere many years, I will cause the boy that drives the plow to know more of the scriptures than you.”

Tyndale was a confident, bold, and fearless theologian and scholar who translated the Bible into an early form of Modern English, likely with Luther’s help in Wittenberg. But he was arrested and imprisoned for 500 days. He was tried for heresy and treason in a kangaroo court and ultimately convicted. He was sent to be strangled and burnt at the stake in the prison yard on October 6, 1536. The final words were, “Lord, open the king of England’s eyes.”

Unfortunately, not everyone has the courage of Tyndale. In fact, Paul tells us that there are two different kinds of preachers.

The Different Kinds of Preachers

Some preach Christ “from envy and rivalry” (v. 15). Paul explains that this man proclaims Christ out of selfish ambition. Such a man is not sincere and proves to be unfaithful in the final analysis (v. 17).

Some preach Christ from “good will.” Paul says the motivation of this man is love (v. 16). Such a man understands that the apostle was providentially placed in prison for the defense of the gospel.

The Gospel Progressed as it was Faithfully Proclaimed

“What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice” (Phil. 1:18).

The gospel refers to the “glad tidings of the kingdom of God” or the “good news.” It is the proclamation of the grace of God which is manifest and pledged in Christ.

Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary. He lived a perfect life and was tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin (Heb. 4:15). He perfectly kept the law of God. Jesus died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures; he was buried and raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures (1 Cor. 15:3). Jesus was glorified and seated at the right hand of the Father. He bore the wrath of God on the cross for everyone who would ever believe (Rom. 3:25). He redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us (Gal. 3:13). Jesus became our substitute on the cross (2 Cor. 5:21). He reconciled us to God by making peace by the blood of his cross (Col. 1:20). He made us right with God so that we might have peace with God (Rom. 5:1). And Jesus forgives sinners and enables them to stand holy in the very presence of God.

CONCLUSION

In the first century, the gospel progressed because of ferocious persecution, fearless proclamation, and faithful preaching. It was the gospel of Jesus Christ that motivated the apostle Paul. Proclaiming Christ and hearing that Christ was being preached was his passion. The apostle writes, “But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24).

I had the pleasure of visiting a small church in a former communist country a few years ago. The pastor was so proud of the little structure which was smaller than most elementary school classrooms. I noticed a sign above the pulpit, written in a language unfamiliar to me. I asked the pastor, “What does that sign say?” With a smile on his face, he said through a translator, “We preach Christ crucified!

What would it look like if each one of us committed ourselves to fearlessly and faithfully proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ? What would it look like if we committed ourselves to fearlessly and faithfully proclaiming the gospel in the sphere where God has placed us?

The gospel progressed because of ferocious persecution, fearless proclamation, and faithful preaching. Will you make it a goal to proclaim the gospel of Jesus fearlessly and faithfully, despite the persecution that surrounds you? May gospel proclamation become a part of every Christ-followers bucket list!

  1. See William Barclay, The Letters to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1975), 20.
  2. John F. MacArthur, Philippians (Chicago: Moody Press, 2001), 61.
  3. Cited in Justo L. Gonzalez, The Story of Christianity – Vol. 1 (San Francisco: Harper Collins Publishers, 1984), 44.
  4. Ibid, 44.
  5. Martin Lloyd-Jones, Preaching and Preachers (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1971), 9.
  6. Steven J. Lawson, Famine in the Land: A Passionate Call For Expository Preaching (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2003), 42.
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Designed to Lead

Veritas et Lux

Eric Geiger and Kevin Peck, Designed to Lead Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2016, 234 pp. $16.16

The systematic and purposeful development of leaders in the church is sorely lacking. This reality is reinforced in Designed to Lead by Eric Geiger and Kevin Peck. The authors argue at the outset that leaders must be developed in the church context: “The church is designed to lead, designed to disciple leaders who are, by God’s grace, commanded to disciple people in all spheres of life.” Therein lies the central theme of the book.

But make no mistake – Designed to Lead is not your typical leadership book. While the authors do interact with current leadership literature, their primary aim is to see the fulfillment of the Great Commission. The authors add, “The locus of the Church is and must be Jesus and His finished work for us. The center of the Church must…

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Top Books of 2017

2017 was another great year for books.  Here are my top 10 in order.  Be sure to click on the titles to read a more detailed review.

Number 1: Steal Away Home – Matt Carter & Aaron Ivey

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Number 2: Covenant and God’s Purpose For the World – Thomas Schreiner

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Number 3: Biblical Doctrine: A Systematic Summary of Bible Truth – John MacArthur

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Number 4: The Story of Reality – Greg Koukl

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Number 5: The Imperfect Disciple: Grace for People Who Can’t Get Their Act Together – Jered Wilson

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Number 6: God the Son Incarnate  – Stephen Wellum

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Number 7: A Reader’s Guide to the Major Writings of Jonathan Edwards – Nathan Finn and Jeremy Kimble

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Number 8: The Gospel According to Paul – John MacArthur

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Number 9: Why We’re Protestant: An Introduction to the Five Solas of the Reformation – Nate Pickowicz

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Number 10: Long Before Luther – Nathan Busentiz

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Honorable Mention: House of Spies – Daniel Silva (no review)

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Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God – Brian Zahnd (2017)

Veritas et Lux

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Brian Zahnd, Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God, Colorado Springs: Waterbrook, 2017, 210 pp. $10.19

COMMENDING JONATHAN EDWARDS

I will never forget a very special evening with a small group of Christ-followers at the McLean home.  My good friend, Don suggested that we read Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God by Jonathan Edwards in one sitting – on our knees.  And so a group of middle-aged adults gathered in Don’s living room alongside several children (whose knees were much more nimble) – and we read Edward’s classic sermon – on our knees.  It is a moment I will not soon forget.  We were humbled.  We were drawn into the very presence of God.  And like the 18th-century congregation in Enfield – we were cut to the quick.

Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God is not only one of the most well-known sermons in American…

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Truth Unhinged in Edinburgh Square

Veritas et Lux

My wife and I recently spent five days in Edinburgh, Scotland. While there is much to commend in this very beautiful city, it did not take long to realize that God is no longer welcome for many of the inhabitants there.

On the last evening in Edinburgh, I watched a young street preacher proclaiming the gospel from a makeshift podium on Royal Mile Street, which stands in the shadow of St. Giles Cathedral. Here, the mighty John Knox wielded the mighty sword of God’s Word, which brought reformation to Scotland in the sixteenth century. Knox prayed, “Give me Scotland or I will die,” demonstrating his great love for God and his countrymen.

However, the days of the Reformation are long gone in Scotland. The scoffs of the crowd which were directed at the street preacher bore witness to that:

“Who created God?” one man shouted. “What about the holocaust?” another…

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