Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Blessed Perseverance—and Our Propensity to Wander


Perhaps the most comforting of the doctrines of grace, though they are all inextricably linked, is the promise that Christ preserves His people to the end, despite ourselves and our wanderings.     
The older I get the more I appreciate this exeedingly great and precious promise.     Having know many believers over the past 46 years since becoming a Christian, sadly, some of those who professed Christ have since completely fallen away from the faith and have  categorically denied everything they once professed.    Some of these people were even in the ministry and led others to Christ.   But on the other hand,  I’ve also had the joy of observing those whose faith has endured the test of time, even though they may have tripped  along the way in one way or the other.   Many of them have already made it across finish line with their faith intact and are now with the Lord.    
There are times  I when I also wander in the wilderness of worldly affections.  And  there are times when my zeal dims, my faith is weak, and like the Israelites  I am discontent and complain about my lot in life.    I know I cannot trust my stubborn sinful heart,  therefore I also understand  that there may be more occasions to come like this—especially considering what the ravages of old age and the process of dying  can do to us.  Despite the wonderful testimonies we read of saints on their deathbeds,  I know from first hand experience that not every saint who dies in the Lord goes out with praise on their lips and a smile on their face. 
But this one thing I know for sure,  my  Savior will never let me go.   I am no more able to keep myself to the end, than I was to save myself in the first place.    He alone will hold me fast.    
Lorraine Boettner writes well regarding God’s faithfulness in the face of our unfaithfulness and weakness. 
“As long as the believer remains in this world his state is one of warfare. He suffers temporary reverses and may for a time appear to have lost all faith; yet if he has been once truly saved, he cannot fall away completely from grace [emphasis mine]. If once he has experienced the inner change which comes through regeneration he will sooner or later return to the fold and be saved. When he comes to himself he confesses his sins and asks forgiveness, never doubting that he is saved. His lapse into sin may have injured him severely and may have brought destruction to others; but so far as he is personally concerned it is only temporary.
 “The Christian is like a man making his way up hill, who occasionally slips back, yet always has his face set toward the summit. The unregenerate man has his face turned downwards, and he is slipping all the way,” — A. H. Strong. 
“The believer, like a man on shipboard, may fall again and again on the deck, but he will never fall overboard.” — C. H. Spurgeon. 
Each one of the elect is like the prodigal son in this, that for a time he is deluded by the world and is led astray by his own carnal appetite. He tries to feed on the husks, but they do not satisfy. And sooner or later he is obliged to say, “I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight.” And he meets with the same reception, tokens of unchanging love; and a father’s welcome voice echoes through the soul, and melts the heart of the poor returning backslider, “This my son was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.” Let it be noticed that this is a thoroughly Calvinistic parable in that the prodigal was a son, and could not lose that relationship. Those who are not sons never have the desire to arise and go to the Father. 
…The Christian, too, falls many times, but is finally saved. It is unthinkable that God’s elect should fail of salvation. “There is no possibility of their escaping the omnipotent power of God, so that, like Jonah, who fled from the will of God, which was to carry the message to Nineveh, yet was pursued even into the belly of the fish by the power of God until he willingly obeyed God’s command, so they will eventually return to the Saviour, and after confession receive pardon for their sins and be saved.”1

When I fear my faith will fail
Christ will hold me fast
When the tempter would prevail
He will hold me fast
I could never keep my hold
Through life’s fearful path
For my love is often cold
He must hold me fast

He will hold me fast
He will hold me fast
For my Savior loves me so
He will hold me fast – 2



For further study: 
Grace to You Articles:  Peseverance of the Saints 
Mongergism: Perserverance of the Saints - Assorted papers
Ligonier Ministries:   Articles on Peseverance of the Saints
The Perseverance of a Saint - Brian Borgman (sermon) 

2. “He Will Hold Me Fast”;  ORIGINAL WORDS VV 1-2 BY ADA HABERSHONNEW WORDS AND MUSIC BY MATT MERKER©2013 GETTY MUSIC PUBLISHING (BMI) / MATT MERKER MUSIC (BMI) (ADMIN BY MUSICSERVICES.ORG)

Sunday, October 14, 2018

See the Destined Day Arise

See the Destined Day Arise
Original words: Venantius Fortunatus (c.530-600)  
Translator: Richard Mant (1837)
Alt. words, chorus, and music: Matthew Merker- Sovereign Grace Praise

VERSE 1 
See the destined day arise! 
See a willing sacrifice! 
Jesus, to redeem our loss, 
Hangs upon the shameful cross; 
Jesus, who but You could bear 
Wrath so great and justice fair, 
Every pang and bitter throe, 
Finishing Your life of woe? 

CHORUS 
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! 
Lamb of God for sinners slain! 
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! 
Jesus Christ, we praise Your name! 


VERSE 2 
Who but Christ had dared to drain, 
Steeped in gall, the cup of pain, 
And with tender body bear 
Thorns and nails and piercing spear? 
Slain for us, the water flowed, 
Mingled from Your side with blood; 
Sign to all attesting eyes 
Of the finished sacrifice. 

VERSE 3 
Holy Jesus, grant us grace 
In that sacrifice to place 
All our trust for life renewed, 
Pardoned sin, and promised good. 
Grant us grace to sing Your praise 
‘Round Your throne through endless days, 
Ever with the sons of light, 
“Blessing, honor, glory, might!” 

Sunday, October 7, 2018

What Wondrous Love is This?


What Wondrous Love Is This?

Author:  Anonymous
"What Wondrous Love is This" is a  Christians folk hymn, sometimes described as a  "white spiritual" , from the American South.  Its text was first published in 1811, during the Second Great Awaking,  and its melody derived from a popular English ballad. Today it is a widely known hymn included in hymnals of many Christian denominations.” –Wikipedia

What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this, that caused the Lord of bliss
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul!

When I was sinking down, sinking down, sinking down
When I was sinking down, sinking down
When I was sinking down, beneath God's righteous frown
Christ laid aside His crown for my soul for my soul
Christ laid aside His crown for my soul

To God and to the Lamb I will sing, I will sing
To God and to the Lamb I will sing
To God and to the Lamb, Who is the great I AM
While millions join the theme, I will sing, I will sing
While millions join the theme, I will sing

And when from death I'm free, I'll sing on, I'll sing on
And when from death I'm free, I'll sing on
And when from death I'm free… I'll sing His love for me
And through eternity I'll sing on, I'll sing on
And through eternity I'll sing on

Sunday, September 30, 2018

And Can It Be?


And Can It Be?
Charles Wesley - published 1738 

VERSE 1
And can it be that I should gain
An int’rest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain—
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
An int’rest in the Savior’s blood?

REFRAIN
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

VERSE 2
‘Tis myst’ry all: th’ Immortal dies:
Who can explore His strange design?
In vain the firstborn seraph tries
To sound the depths of love divine.
’Tis mercy all! Let earth adore,
Let angel minds inquire no more.

VERSE 3
He left His Father’s throne above—
So free, so infinite His grace—
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race:
’Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For, O my God, it found out me!

VERSE 4
Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quick’ning ray—
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

VERSE 5
No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine;
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach th’ eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Behold Our God

Behold Our God  
This presentation is beautiful!
Sovereign Grace Music: Music and Words by Jonathan Baird, Meghan Baird, Ryan Baird, and Stephen Altrogge © 2011 

VERSE 1
Who has held the oceans in His hands?
Who has numbered every grain of sand?
Kings and nations tremble at His voice
All creation rises to rejoice
CHORUS
Behold our God seated on His throne
Come, let us adore Him
Behold our King! Nothing can compare
Come, let us adore Him!
VERSE 2
Who has given counsel to the Lord?
Who can question any of His words?
Who can teach the One Who knows all things?
Who can fathom all His wondrous deeds?
VERSE 3
Who has felt the nails upon His hands
Bearing all the guilt of sinful man?
God eternal humbled to the grave
Jesus, Savior risen now to reign!
Men: You will reign forever
Women: Let Your glory fill the earth

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Katherine Parr: Reformation Queen of England and Ireland

 "To be useful in all I do.”
Queen Katherine Parr
Sixth and last wife of King Henry VIII

The year was 1512.   Michelangelo’s magnificent Sistine Chapel frescos were unveiled.  Twenty-nine year old Martin Luther earned his Doctorate in Theology at Wittenberg U,  but had not yet to come an understanding of justification by faith.     And a precocious three year old named Jehan Cauvin  was  busy exploring his world in northern France.  God was setting the stage for a Reformation that would soon rock the world.

Sir Thomas Parr  and  his wife Maud Greene,  a prominent couple from Westmoreland,  welcomed  their  baby daughter  into the world that  year.  Katherine, named after King Henry VIII’s first wife, Catherine of Aragon,   received a fine education learning several languages fluently.    But by the age of twenty-one,  she had lost both parents and her first husband.  


The Parr family was acquainted with some of  the early Reformers and Katherine  zealously embraced this  “New Religion”.
"[Catherine] lamented the fact, that she had once been an enthusiastic  Papist.  ‘I sought’,  she confessed,  ‘for such riffraff as the Bishop of Rome had planted in his tyranny and kingdom,  trusting with great confidence by virtue and holiness of them to receive full remission of sins.’  … That she underwent conversion, as all the first generation of Reformers did is clear.”1 
Devoted wholly  to Christ,  Katherine’s  life  motto  became  “to be useful in all I do”,  even if it meant sacrificing her own happiness.   

A QUEEN

After losing a second husband,  Katherine’s piety  caught the attention of King Henry.   Denying her heart’s desire to marry  Sir Thomas Seymore,  Katherine accepted the King’s marriage proposal.    On July 12, 1543   the attractive  31 year old widow became the sixth and  last wife of King Henry VIII.    Without  fanfare   Katherine  was proclaimed  Queen at Hampton Court Palace.     Her affection for Henry was sincere,  although the prospect of marrying a man who had sent two of his wives to the scaffold must have been terrifying!    Just months before the marriage, a plot  to execute Reformers in Henry’s household had been underway at the  behest of  Stephen Gardiner,  bishop of Winchester.
Henry remained Catholic after breaking from Rome to form the Church of England when the Pope  refused to grant him an annulment from his first wife.   Desiring a wife who could produce a male heir to the throne the King set his sights on the captivating  young  Evangelical,  Anne Boleyn. 
“Anne understood her providential mission to be this: to bring the Reformation to England and to employ every single instance of patronage and influence to that end. … In fact it was through Anne that the New Religion entered England.”2 
Anne Boleyn,   the most controversial of Henry’s wives, was  beheaded on  trumped up charges of adultery, incest, and  treason,   leaving behind her little daughter Elizabeth. The new Queen’s kindness and motherly affections  endeared her to Henry and  his children; Mary, Elizabeth,  and young Edward.
“besides the virtues of the mind,  she was endowed with very rare gifts of nature, as singular beauty,  favor  and  comely personage,   being things wherein the king was greatly delighted.”3 
But Katherine would not allow herself to be caught off guard by Henry’s affections as  he was a fickle man,  sending both  Catholics and Protestants alike  to the Tower  for  execution—Catholics  for treason and Protestants for heresy.

While Henry turned a blind eye,  his wife hosted  Bible studies and prayer meetings  at court.   Katherine’s guests included influential  preachers and numerous high ranking women including  Anne Askew  and the young  Lady Jane Grey.

A CLOSE CALL

In an attempt to destroy the Queen,   Katherine’s  Catholic enemies  had  Anne Askew arrested and tortured.    Their attempts  to get her to implicate the Queen for heresy failed  and Anne was burned at the stake for denying the literal presence of Christ’s body in the Mass.    

Stephen Gardiner's  evil intentions were not about to be thwarted.    As Henry’s health declined his legs became severely ulcerated and Katherine  would minister to him in  his chambers.   She used these opportunities to bring up spiritual matters and on one occasion when Gardiner was present   Henry became angry.  
 “A good hearing it is when women become such clerks  [clergy];  and a thing much to my comfort to come in my old days to be taught by my wife!’” 4  
Gardiner seized the opportunity  to fan the fires  of suspicion by suggesting  those who would dare to  argue with the King verbally might also overthrow him by their actions.    Henry’s heart was turned against  the Queen and orders were drawn  up  to send  Katherine and three of her ladies to the Tower for execution.   

Providentially,  the papers  sealing  Katherine’s fate  fell  into  the Queen’s hands, unbeknownst to Henry.    The  discovery  caused   Katherine to  have a nervous  breakdown.    The  King  had  confided in his  physician the plan to execute  his wife and when  Henry  learned that Katherine had become ill,   he sent Dr. Wendy to check on her.   The doctor was fond of the Queen and secretly advised her to play ignorant  and try to dissuade her husband.

Wise as a serpent and harmless as dove,  Katherine  refused the temptation  to engage in religious discussion when Henry  brought up the subject.    Instead,  she  stated  that  her opinions as a woman were   inferior and  unimportant,  and declared Henry to be her “only anchor,  Supreme  Head and Governor here on earth,  next under God.”5     Convincing  her husband   that she had merely  argued  religion with him in order  to divert his attention away from his physical suffering,  Henry forgave her and  their disagreement ended  with a kiss.

When Henry’s henchmen  came  to arrest Katherine  they were raked over the coals,  while Katherine responded graciously in their defense.   This  wise and humble woman showed  “no limit of self-denigration, and self-disparagement.”

A  SCHOLAR 

Katherine was as talented in literary endeavors as she was generous in spirit. Proving  the pen can be mightier than the sword,  Katherine’s  books—Prayers or Meditations  (1546)  and The Lamentation or Complaint  of a Sinner (1547) became instant successes,   making her the first English Queen to publish an original work under her own name.    Additionally,   Katherine financed the English translations of  Erasmus’  Latin Paraphrases of the  Gospels, which were important texts for  Reformed scholars. 
[Katherine] championed the language of the people, encouraged academia to put Christ before Plato, urged Henry to bring England closer to the Reformation,   commissioned scholarly translations of Erasmus, and brought a royal English family together.   In Katherine’s day, her books became examples of the bold Reformation spirit.   Her brilliant mind captured the souls of her people and the respect of the Reformers themselves"7 
 A BITTERSWEET END
During Christmas of 1546  the King became  terminally ill  and  isolated himself  at Whitehall to make final preparations.   The historian John Foxe (1516-1587)  records that Henry made peace with God in the end.   Henry ignored Stephen Gardiner in his Will,  sent the Duke of Norfolk and his son to the Tower for treason,  and then  called  for the  Reformer  Archbishop Thomas Cranmer.   Unable to speak,   Dr. Cranmer exhorted Henry  to put his faith in Christ alone by showing—
“…some token with his eyes, or with hand, as he trusted in the Lord.  Then the King holding him with his hand, did wring his hand in his, as hard as he could, and so shortly after departed,” 8 
On January 28, 1547 King Henry VIII  was dead.   Though leaving his wife generous  provisions of wealth and honor,  the King  did not appoint her  as  Queen Regent. 

Finally free to pursue her own happiness, Katherine  hastily married Thomas Seymore.  Tragically, her marital bliss ended abruptly when Thomas made advances towards  Katherine’s teenage  stepdaughter,  Elizabeth.      After three childless marriages  Katherine  bore a daughter before  the last enemy struck again.    On September 5, 1548,  four days  after  giving birth,  Katherine  developed  puerperal fever and died at the age of 36.   

Like Priscilla (Rom. 16:3-4), Queen Katherine was a true servant and a scholar who was willing to take great risks for the furtherance of the Gospel.   As a result, God used Katherine's  determination “to be useful in all I do”   to profoundly  impact on the advancement of the English Reformation.   
“The fact that the Reformation was preserved in England can be attributed to the amazing presence of mind, and maturity of Katherine Parr.” 9
_____________________________________ 

  1. Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII by David Starkey;  HarperCollins Publishers; 2003;  pg. 701.
  2. Five Women of the English Reformation by Paul F.M. Zahl; William B. Eerdmans Publishing, Grand Rapids, MI. 2001; pg. 26
  3. John Foxe-The Acts of the Monuments
  4. ibid.
  5. ibid
  6. Five Women of the English Reformation by Paul. F. M Zahl;  Eerdman’s Publishing; 2001; pg.45
  7. Katherine Parr: A Guided Tour of the Life and Thought by Brandon G. Withrow - Stephen J Nichols editor P&;R Publish
  8. John Foxe -The Acts of the Monuments
  9. Five Women-Paul F.M. Zahl; pg.40 
ADDITIONAL SOURCES
Lady Jane Grey: 9 Day Queen of England  by Faith Cook;  Evangelical Press 2004   
Women of the Reformation in France and England by Roland H. Bainton;  Fortress Press; 2007;    
Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII by David Starkey;  HarperCollins Publishers; 2003;   
A Lamentation or Complaint of a Sinner (1547)  by Queen Katherine Parr   
Katherine the Queen;  by Linda Porter;  St Martins Griffen; NY  
The Unquenchable Flame: Discovering the Heart of the Reformation, by Michael Reeves B & H Academic,  2010   
The Reformation of the Sixteenth Century by Roland H. Bainton; Beacon Press; 1963 
Katherine Parr image:  National Portrait Gallery - London
©Diane Bucknell 2015- originally posted at  Out of the Ordinary - Oct. 28, 2015