Martin Luther and the Black Plague

This is what Martin Luther wrote to his fellow Christians as they navigated a local bubonic plague:

“You ought to think this way: ‘I shall ask God mercifully to protect us.  Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine, and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance infect and pollute others, and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor needs me, however, I shall not avoid place or person, but will go freely.’ See, this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.”

10 Ways in which this Coronavirus Pandemic Can Be for Our Good

Here is a brief, helpful article by Brian G. Najapfour that is well worth your two minutes of reading in the midst of all the heavy news about the Coronavirus pandemic:

I am a Christian and therefore I want to look at this Coronavirus pandemic through the lens of the Bible, particularly of Romans 8:28–29, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”

This text teaches us that for us, believers in Christ, all things, without exception including the Coronavirus, work together for good. Although sometimes in time of great trial we feel what Jacob felt, “all these things are against me” (Gen. 42:36).  But later, once we look back we can say with Joseph, “God meant it for good” (Gen. 50:20).

So how can this Coronavirus be for our good? Let me suggest ten ways in which this virus can be for our good.

1. It can unite us in prayer globally, since the virus is now pandemic. And let us not underestimate what our prayers can do. Revival begins with prayer.

2. It can open a door for us to share the gospel with the unbelievers. With this pandemic, we Christians have a wonderful opportunity to show Christ’s love to others. Jesus says, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16).

3. It can wean us from some of our idols in this world such as sports, since this virus has caused cancellations and postponements of sporting events. Sadly, some Christians would rather watch or attend a sporting event on Sunday than worship God.

4. It can compel us to put our confidence in God for healing, since there is no known vaccine yet for this virus. Medicines are gifts from God but sometimes we depend more on these gifts than on the Giver.

5. It can give parents special time to be with their children, since this virus has also caused schools to shut down. Let’s ask help from God that our time with our children will become a blessing rather than a burden. Let’s remember, too, that our children are watching us. Thus, by what we say and do, let’s teach them how to react to a crisis like this in a God-honoring way.

6. It can serve as an occasion for us to “Be still, and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10). The pace of life in which we live now is so fast that we hardly find time to pause and meditate on God’s Word. Since this virus has brought normal life to a halt, for most of us we have extra time to commune with God and ponder upon heavenly and eternal things.

7. It can bring us face to face with the reality of death, as this virus continues to claim lives around the globe. “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Heb. 9:27). Are you ready to die?

8. It can be a wakeup call to us from God to repent of our sin. Usually a pestilence is a sign of God’s judgment. For instance, in 2 Samuel 24 God punished His covenant people because of David’s sin and God’s punishment came to them in a form of pestilence that claimed 70,000 lives.

9. It can point us to Christ’s Second Coming. In a sense, we should not be surprised to see more events like this pandemic as Jesus Himself says regarding the last days, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences” (Luke 21:10–11). Unfortunately, people prepare for the coming of the Coronavirus, but give little thought to Christ’s Second Coming.

10. It is certain that God will only use this pandemic as an instrument in His hand to conform us more to the image of His Son Jesus Christ. So the Coronavirus is not designed to drive us away from God but to draw us closer to Him. It is in this sense that this virus is ultimately for our spiritual good and for God’s own glory.

Therefore, fellow Christians, “Let not your hearts be troubled” (John 14:1).

________________

Brian G. Najapfour is Pastor of Congregational Life at Eastmanville United Reformed Church in Michigan. He is the author of several books, including A Hearer of God’s Word: Ten Ways to Listen to Sermons Better. He blogs at biblicalspiritualitypress.org.

Smile!

Here is concrete evidence that our youngest grandchild is now smiling! Someone once asked me: What makes everyone in the world smile—both believers and unbelievers? Answer: a smiling baby!

PCRT (Philadelphia Conference of Reformed Theology) Conference

I preached three times for the PCRT (Philadelphia Conference of Reformed Theology) Conference today in a large empty church in Byron Center, Michigan, due to the Coronavirus. A few handfuls of people had special attention to attend—but happily 1800 people live-streamed the conference. The conference was on “Revelation: The Sovereign Reign of the Exalted Christ.” Rick Phillips, Phil Ryken, and Cornel Venema were the other speakers. Fourteen addresses were given in all (counting the pre-conference), over three days—mostly on the Book of Revelation. I was given the subjects, ”Lessons from the Letters to the Seven Churches (Rev. 2—3), “The Two Beasts (Rev. 13), and “The King’s Victorious Return and the Lamb’s Utopian Marriage” (Rev. 19). It was an unusual experience and I felt an emotional letdown afterward, but I am grateful that God has provided modern media in our day for people to still hear and watch His Word proclaimed in our modern day.

Mary and I enjoyed our lunch with Joseph Nwibo (right; one of our PRTS graduates who came all the way from Nigeria to attend the conference!), Rick Phillips (second from right; friend and organizer of the PCRT for the last 20 years), and Bob Brady (left; the behind-the-scenes-guy for PCRT).

Wilhelmus à Brakel’s “The Christian’s Reasonable Service” Back in Print!

Great news! RHB has just reprinted the four volumes of my favorite work (beside the Bible): Wilhelmus à Brakel’s “The Christian’s Reasonable Service”! This amazing, Reformed systematic theology was written in 1700 by a Dutch “puritan” for lay people and was as popular in the Netherlands as Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress” was in England. This is Reformed, experiential, practical, pastoral, ethical teaching at its very best. If I could only have one set of books on a desert island, this would definitely be my choice. If you want your soul to be edified and grow in holiness, I know of nothing in all of English literature that can do you so much good as this set of books. The translation is outstanding—it reads like it was written yesterday. Read one or two chapters a week and, by the Spirit’s grace, you will be blessed indeed! http://bit.ly/2Qb7VeR

Puritan DVD Teaching Sessions and Q&A

Watch a video of two teaching sessions from the Puritan DVD pack along with a Q&A session from the recent Bethlehem College & Seminary Conference for Pastors + Church Leaders 2020, featuring Jason Meyer, Joe Rigney, and David Woollin.

https://vimeo.com/puritan/review/395784972/80810edf3d

Interview with Pastor Paulo Junior

In this video Pastor Paulo Junior interviews me about the Puritans (in Portuguese and English): http://bit.ly/2vBRmSp

Two New Titles at RHB

Two helpful, new titles have arrived while we were in Nashville and California.

RHB’s newest volume by Sarah Ivill on Romans for women’s Bible Study groups: http://bit.ly/IvillRomans. These workbooks are becoming increasingly popular for women’s Study groups in Reformed churches.

Second, “The History and Theology of Calvinism” (EP) by my good friend, Curt Daniel—a 74 chapter, 900-page massive tome (with a thorough 135-page bibliography!) has also arrived. This volume is designed to introduce lay people and office-bearers to all the basics of the Reformed faith. I have had many conversations with Dr. Daniel over the last 30 years about this book, and am so glad that it is finally in print. In the first few days, we have already sold hundreds of copies. You will enjoy this book immensely: http://bit.ly/CurtDanCalvinism

Waging War in an Age of Doubt

RHB just published another new, very helpful title on spiritual warfare: “Waging War in an Age of Doubt: A Biblical, Theological, Historical, and Practical Approach to Spiritual Warfare for Today” by Robert Smart. This is a remarkably well-written, perceptive book that will help us all be more aware of Satan’s devices and how to fight back in the Spirit’s strength. I thoroughly enjoyed editing it. Pray that God will use this book greatly in our needy day—especially for Christians who are not sufficiently watchful and not sufficiently engaged in battling against sin and the powers of evil. http://bit.ly/SmartWagingWar 

Ordination Sermon for Rev. Joel Weaver in Visalia, California

On Saturday, Mary and I had to leave right in the middle of a very busy book-selling time at the homeschooling conference of 12,000 in Nashville, Tennessee in order to catch a flight to Fresno, California. It’s not easy for me to walk away from a book table surrounded by good book-buyers!

On the Lord’s Day, I had the privilege of preaching the ordination sermon on “The Paradox of the Ministry” (2 Cor. 6:8-10) for Joel Weaver, one of our alumni, at the Trinity United Reformed Church of Visalia, California. Rev. Weaver has been serving in this church of about 450 members as associate pastor to Rev. Adrian Dieleman for the past three years. A goodly number of people were present for this very special occasion from other churches as well. Joel has been working especially with the youth, and is a good fit for this church. They are very happy with him and he and his wife (see first picture) and children (see second picture of the children with us) are very happy in this church.

I preached a follow-up sermon in the evening, after which Mary and I had a dinner and excellent fellowship with Rev. and Mrs. Dieleman, and another URC pastor and his wife, Rev. and Mrs. Inks. We also thoroughly enjoyed our time with our hospitable hosts, Garry and Diane Riezebos. Yesterday morning, we spent a few sweet hours with Joel and Heidi and their family and were able to make it home by midnight last night.

Pray for the Weavers please that God will continue to bless them and Joel’s ministry abundantly.