Table of Contents Discerning God

John Knox: Fearless Reformer


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John Knox: Fearless Reformer

John Knox (c. 1513-1572) was ordained successively in the Roman Catholic Church, the Church of England, and finally the Church of Scotland. So much of his life was spent fleeing persecution that he would have been a good candidate for frequent flyer miles, and travel facilities then were so primitive by today’s standards.

Little is known of his early life beyond the facts that his father was a lowland Scottish farmer and that his mother died when he was very young. Indeed, the record doesn’t show where he received his education (most believe either at the University of St. Andrews or Glasgow) or just when and how he came to saving faith in Christ (though the rest of his life demonstrates clearly that he did).

He was ordained a priest in the Catholic diocese of St. Andrews, and served as a tutor to the sons of two Scottish nobles, Hugh Douglas and John Cockburn, who had embraced the Protestant Reformation. It was probably during the early 1540s under their influence that Knox renounced Rome and became a Protestant.

Around 1545, he began accompanying George Wishart, a reformer who had recently returned to Scotland after years of exile, as his associate teacher and bodyguard. Wishart “was proclaiming the evangelical doctrines and was preaching against the Church of Rome.” Wishart was tried for heresy and burned at the stake in 1546, but Knox escaped apprehension by returning to tutoring.

While Knox was in hiding, friends of Wishart murdered his accuser, Cardinal Beaton, and took over the Castle of St. Andrews. By 1547, the castle had become the stronghold of Protestant rebels and Knox took refuge there.

Unfortunately by then, the Catholic leadership of Scotland had grown weary of the unrest and the rebellion, and enlisted help from Henry II, the Catholic king of France. French warships laid siege to St. Andrews, and eventually the protestant leaders, including Knox, were captured and taken to France for punishment. Knox endured 19 months as a galley slave on French ships.

Released in 1549, he came to England, where there was a firm break with Rome, and “preached the doctrines of the Reformation with great eloquence.” He became a pastor in the Church of England, served several congregations around the country and helped revise The Book of Common Prayer according to Reformed doctrines and practices. During this time, Knox was noticed by those in power, but refused to be used as a political pawn, committing himself to the teaching of God’s Word. During this time, he met and married Marjorie Bowes.

But many are the afflictions of the righteous. When the Catholic Mary Tudor ascended the throne in 1553, Knox fled to Frankfurt, Germany, where he pastored a group of English refugees.

Knox then spent a few years with John Calvin in Geneva, learning thoroughly Reformation theology and Presbyterian church polity. He spent about 10 years in voluntary exile, preaching in Germany, Switzerland, and France, with occasional trips to England and Scotland.

During his time in Geneva, Knox wrote an elaborate treatise on Predestination and his First Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstrous Regiment of Women, which made a vehement case against female leadership of nations and institutions. This work, spurred by his distrust of the Catholic rulers of Scotland and England, ultimately backfired on him, by offending the Protestant Queen Elizabeth I of England and leading her to withhold support for Knox.

Returning home to Scotland in 1559, Knox “declared that the mass was idolatry and that Catholic churches and monasteries should be closed.” After the death of the Queen Regent Mary Guise (a Catholic), the British and the French withdrew from Scotland, Protestantism took hold as the national religion and a church constitution was prepared.

During this time, he preached boldly at St. Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh, and won the support of many of the noblemen. In 1560, his wife died, leaving him with two young sons. Knox remarried in 1564 to Margaret Stewart and had three daughters.

Difficulties were still ahead. Mary Stuart (The Queen of Scotland) had Knox arrested for treason, but the court acquitted him. He devoted his last years primarily to preaching and counseling in Edinburgh and St. Andrews.

By the time he died the Scottish Reformation had triumphed. “It was the victory of the people under the leadership of a brave and true man, against the combined force of a queen, a court, and a powerful nobility.” His legacy of fierce defense of the Word of God and the freedom of worship in the face of great opposition lives on, inspiring centuries of believers to faithfulness.

Bernard R. DeRemer chronicled the lives of dozens of heroes of the faith in more than a decade of writing for Pulpit Helps Magazine. He continues to serve in this capacity as a volunteer contributor to Disciple. He lives in West Liberty, Ohio.
References: Who Was Who in Church History, by Elgin S. Moyer, 1962. Wikipedia, “John Knox”,

Counselor’s Corner

by James Rudy Gray

Christian Counseling that Is Christian

Christian counseling should be, above everything else, Christian. That seems so obvious, but it is often not the case.

Dr. Siang-Yang Tan, professor of psychology at the Graduate School of Psychology at Fuller Theological Seminary recently wrote, “Whatever form or shape Christian counseling, and the integration of Christian faith and psychotherapy, may take in the future, it needs to be Christ-centered, biblically-based, and Spirit filled to the glory of God for the healing of many hurting people.”

Today, there are over 400 different counseling theories. Tan has given a preview of the 10 major theories in Christian Counseling Today. His conclusion as a Christian counselor points to 13 principles of effective counseling from a “biblical, integrated perspective.”

In summary he emphasizes that Christian counselors must depend on the Holy Spirit and know that the Bible is the basic and comprehensive guide for counseling. The goal in counseling is to help a person grow in Christ and enable them to fulfill the Great Commission. This requires a counselor to maintain a strong prayer life. A client’s attitude for help is important, but the attitude must be coupled with the spiritual qualities of the counselor.

Effective counseling focuses on creating the kind of thinking that produces good change. Dr. Tan believes counseling should be flexible but that the techniques and strategies should be consistent with Scripture.

In today’s world, cross-cultural understanding is required. A caring community for the counselee is significant in their growing process. Knowing our limitations as a counselor is important. It is essential that a good Christian counselor have a referral base from which he can connect clients that he or she may not be able to help effectively.

With over 400 different counseling theories out there, Christian counselors will, no doubt, study many approaches that may contradict each other. While we can learn from this pool of diversity, we must stay rooted in God’s Word, guided by God’s Spirit, and seeking God’s glory in every counseling opportunity we face.

James Rudy Gray is certified as a professional counselor by the National Board for Certified Counselors, and is a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors. He serves as the pastor of Utica Baptist Church in Seneca, S.C.

Book Review—12/26/11

A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World, Paul E. Miller, 2009, NavPress, Colorado Springs, Colo., ISBN 9781600063008, 288 pages, $14.99, softcover.

In the barrage of output from Christian publishers large and small, some truly worthwhile books get lost in the shuffle. Some of these are hidden gems that just take a few years to gain the respect they deserve; others open to wide acclaim, and it just takes some of us a long, long time to recognize and read them. Paul Miller’s A Praying Life is in that second category for me.

I had heard about this book from various quarters for quite a while, but I wasn’t in a hurry to get a copy. Frankly, I’m not a fan of books about prayer and other spiritual disciplines because they often share a common flaw—an author assumes that the way that God worked with him in his own life is somehow a measurable, normative prescription for how God works with everyone. Miller delightfully avoids this temptation, and the result is a book that is both bold and helpful.

Miller’s central theme is that prayer is a crucial yet simple aspect of the Christian walk that is often the weakest point of a believer’s faith. He proposes that the reasons for this are manifold, but primarily related to one of two “ditches” on either side of the right path: 1) Christians tend to “over-spiritualize” prayer, making it more complex and difficult than God intends and thereby becoming discouraged by their perceived underachievement, or 2) they undervalue prayer and allow the erosion their faith in God’s ability to change people and circumstances, leading them to cynicism and frustration. In either case, their relationship with God suffers and their ministry to others grows stale.

The antidote he offers to these misunderstandings is as deep as it is uncomplicated. Miller urges readers to recognize that God has build us for relationship, that He wants more than anything for us to speak with Him, and that the best way to get better at praying is to start praying. He shows that there is nothing in life too small (or too big) to be bathed in prayer. He encourages readers to steer clear of prayer formulas and instead pursue a realistic, conversational approach to God.

The book’s title is a good window into the style of prayer Miller recommends. Throughout the book, he shares story after story of how God has grabbed hold of his heart through both the monumental and mundane things of life, through illnesses, deaths, raising children, successes, and failures. Prayer is not an activity as much as it is a way of life; it is like eating, drinking, and sleeping in its importance and regularity. His honesty is what makes this book so refreshing, but his style and serious goal keeps it from falling into mere confessional autobiography.

I’ve been challenged by this book. It has helped me to see the ways that prayerlessness seeps into my life and threatens to stymie my spiritual growth and undermine the ministry outlets God has placed in my path. By its simple repetition of biblical truths, it has renewed my confidence in God to see through His will in the lives of believers and in the work of His Church. I pray it will do the same for you.

Justin Lonas
Target: All

Type: Prayer

Take: Highly Recommended

News Update—12/26/11

Asia Bibi Forgives Captors, Has Not Lost Hope

Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian mother of five imprisoned and facing a death sentence for false charges of blasphemy, says she has forgiven her captors and has not lost hope nor her desire to continue fighting for her freedom, Asia News reports.

“I wish with all my being to be with my family,” she said. “I still cherish the hope that one day I will be freed…. Although illiterate, I remain deeply Christian, and my religion has taught me the value of forgiveness. At first, when I was thrown in prison, I was angry and meditated revenge, because I had been ripped from my family. Then I started to pray and fast, and it may seem strange, I have noticed that I have forgiven those people who charged me with blasphemy.” 

Bibi also said she was grateful for the prayers of Christians around the world, and added: “How many more brothers and sisters are still unjustly accused ... will be mistreated, abused, defendants in mock trials as happened to me?”

Religion Today Summaries

USCIRF Reauthorized, But Seven Must Leave Panel

Congress granted the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom reauthorization for three more years on Friday, which could have been its final day of existence, Baptist Press reports.

The bill instates limits to commissioners’ terms, which will require seven of the nine current commissioners to leave the panel in 90 days, and also drops USCIRF’s 

yearly budget from more than $4 million to $3 million, but religious freedom advocates are relieved and happy nonetheless.

Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) applauded Congress for re-authorizing the organization: “[USCIRF] speaks plainly about religious freedom abuses wherever they occur in ways that the State Department can barely muster, during Republican and Democrat administrations alike.” Since it was established in 1998, USCIRF has played a major role in bringing attention to persecution of Christians worldwide.

Religion Today Summaries

After Kim Jong Il’s Death, a Call for N. Korea to End Crimes Against Humanity

In the wake of the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) is calling on the North Korean regime to end its brutal oppression of its citizens.

Kim Jong Il reportedly died of a heart attack Dec. 17, although the news was only reported by state on Dec. 19. His youngest son, Kim Jong Un, has been named the “Great Successor,” but it is yet unclear whether he or military officials will take charge.

North Korea is the world’s most closed nation with some of the worst human rights violations and Christian persecution. The country has no religious freedom, and Christians are jailed and often executed for their beliefs.

“There is now a real opportunity for North Korea to change direction, end its isolation, stop the brutal oppression of its own people and open up to the world,” said Mervyn Thomas, CSW’s chief executive.

Religion Today Summaries

Algeria Stalls Appeal of Convicted Christian

A judge’s decision this month to indefinitely postpone the appeal of a Christian sentenced under Algeria’s defamation and anti-proselytizing laws shows how the judicial system often keeps Christians locked up without officially punishing or acquitting them, according to Compass Direct News.

In Abdelkrim Siaghi’s appeal of his five-year sentence for giving a Muslim a CD about Christianity, a judge has been unable to find any evidence against him and has postponed hearing dates several times.

Experts on Algeria’s treatment of Christians say Algerian courts customarily have preferred to defer deciding in favor of Christians so they wouldn’t anger local Muslims. Judges have also been slow to pronounce final verdicts to keep from provoking international criticism over religious freedom.

Religion Today Summaries

Pastors, City Council Members Protest NYC’s Ban of Church Services in Schools

More than 100 pastors, church members and legislators gathered on the steps of City Hall in New York City on Dec. 8 to protest the city’s ban on churches renting public school rooms for evening or weekend services, WORLD News Service reports.

Courts declared the ban legal, and the U.S. Supreme Court refused Dec. 5 to hear an appeal. City councilman Fernando Cabrera, also a Bronx pastor, is leading an effort to get the council to overturn the ban; his bill would prevent school districts from excluding groups from meeting on school property because their viewpoints include religious content. 

About 60 churches currently rent space in New York City public schools, and if the ban remains, they will all have to find other space by Feb. 12.

Religion Today Summaries

Virginia Allows Faith-Based Adoption Groups Freedom of Conscience

The Virginia Board of Social Services voted 5-1 on Dec. 14 on a new set of regulations allowing faith-based adoption agencies the right not to place children in households led by same-sex couples, WORLD News Service reports.

Of the state’s 81 private child-placement agencies, 42 are faith-based organizations. Under the new regulations, set to take effect in May, the only characteristics adoption agencies may not take into consideration when placing a child are the prospective parents’ race, national origin and ethnicity.

The state allows both single and married people to adopt or become foster parents, but not cohabitating couples. Though gay-rights activists characterized the move as discriminatory, Virginia law is actually silent on the issue of sexual orientation.

Religion Today Summaries

Bhutan Christian Evangelist Calls Persecution “Necessary”

In a Buddhist region of South Asia, one Christian man from Bhutan spends each day going door-to-door to share the Gospel, Baptist Press reports.

After a sorcerer cursed his family and he watched his wife, three of his children, his sister and her children die, a Christian told him about Jesus. When his fourth son was miraculously healed from the sorcerer’s spell, the man put his faith in Christ. Twenty-three years later, he now lives outside his home country of Bhutan, and makes it a point to share the Gospel with everyone he comes in contact with in his area, especially those who are sick, hopeless or who have never heard it before.

“I believe my job is to share the Gospel,” he says. “It is necessary to be persecuted; the work of God becomes greater.” He has returned to his village in Bhutan many times to share with his extended family; no one has accepted his message yet, but he constantly prays they will come to faith in Jesus.

Religion Today Summaries

Sermon Helps


Sermon Outlines

False Shepherds

Zechariah 11

Intro.: In relating the evil practices of false shepherds, Zechariah provides a blueprint of precisely the obligations of true shepherds.

I. False Shepherds Fail to:

A. Visit those that are missing.

B. Seek out the vulnerable lambs.

C. Heal the wounded sheep.

D. Feed the healthy sheep.

II. Instead, False Shepherds:

A. Devour the best of the flock.

B. Tear off their hooves (crippling them).

Conclusion: If we would be good shepherds, under Christ our Shepherd, we must nurture God’s flock as faithful stewards.

Trading Glory for Junk

Jeremiah 2:9-13

Intro: The message today goes against the grain of so called “modern Christianity.” The words in our text, spoken thousands of years ago to Israel, fit the church today. Like God’s people of old we, too, have exchanged our glory for that which is worthless.

I. The Long-suffering of God (v. 9; 2 Pet. 3:9)

A. The nation was going down a dead-end path.

B. The preachers knew not God (v. 8).

C. Yet God loved Israel and pleaded with her to turn from her way, but she would not (Jer. 6:16).

II. The Foolishness of Israel (vv. 10-12)

A. No other nation had changed its gods. It was unheard of!

B. But Israel had exchanged her glory for that which was worthless.

C. What was their glory?

1. God’s presence.

2. God’s miracles.

3. God’s Word.

D. Israel should serve as a warning to us!

III. The Sins of Which God’s People Were Guilty (v. 13)

A. They forsook the Lord—the Fountain of living waters.

1. Christ is the Water of Life (John 4:14).

2. Christ is still the answer to the sin problem (John 14:6).

3. There is no substitute for Gospel preaching (1 Cor. 1:18).

4. The cross of Christ is our glory (Gal. 6:14).

B. They made earthen cisterns that would not hold water.

1. Many have done away with Gospel preaching and have placed entertainment in its stead.

2. There is no prophet in Israel! (1 Sam. 3:1).

Concl. 2 Chronicles 7:14

Lamar Denby


Backsliding Does Not Happen Suddenly

What goes through the mind of a professing believer when he turns away from Christ? How can a person who shows excitement for the things of the Lord suddenly act like none of that means anything at all. Well, backsliding does not happen suddenly.

Mike Yaconelli writes in The Wittenburg Door: “I live in a small, rural community. There are lots of cattle ranches around here, and every once in awhile a cow wanders off and gets lost.

“Ask a rancher how a cow gets lost, and chances are he will reply: ‘Well, the cow starts nibbling on a tuft of green grass, and when it finishes, it looks ahead to the next tuft of green grass and starts nibbling on that one, and then it nibbles on a tuft of green grass right next to a hole in the fence, so it nibbles on that one, and then goes on to the next tuft. The next thing you know, the cow has nibbled itself into being lost.’

“[Backsliders] keep moving from one tuft of activity to another, never noticing how far we have gone from home or how far away from the truth we have managed to end up.”


Both Born and Adopted

A lady who adopted a baby orphan girl lavished upon her the same love and care as upon her own children. When the child was old enough to attend school, she one day heard someone there remark that she was “only an adopted child.” She ran home crying bitterly, and sobbed out to the lady: “Is it true that I’m not really your little girl?”

“Why, of course you’re my little girl,” was the answer. “Isn’t this your own home, and aren’t May and Josey and Willie and Tom your sisters and brothers?” The child’s head was laid in her mother’s lap, and the lady stroked her hair soothingly: “But, mother, did you born me?”

We are not by birth children of God. No, sin stamps us as children of the devil by birth. But, the moment we receive Christ as Savior we are adopted as children of God. And not only that—to make assurance doubly sure, God provides an actual birth, a new birth—the second birth.

The Scots have a soft, pleasant word for children. They call them “bairns”. “Bairns” means born ones. Thank God, those who have broken with sin and have accepted Jesus Christ as Savior are both adopted orphans and “bairns.” For Jesus’ sake God adopts us as Jesus’ brethren; and through the Holy Spirit he regenerates us. Christians are both adopted and born as God’s children.


Bulletin Inserts

On Heaven
The more I learn about God, the more excited I get about heaven. The more I learn about heaven, the more excited I get about God.

Randy Alcorn, In Light of Eternity

The cross bearers here will be the crown wearers “over there.”

Paul E. Holdcraft, Quick Notes for Church Bulletins

I can see how a man might look down upon the earth and be an atheist, but I cannot conceive how he could look up into the heavens and say there is no God!

Attributed to Abraham Lincoln

The difference between man-made utopias and a God-made heaven is the cross. That is why the former can never be.

Ravi Zacharias, Can Man Live Without God?

Life is a voyage that is homeward bound.

Herman Melville

What we wear in time we wear in eternity.
God washes the eyes by tears until they can behold the invisible land where tears shall come no more.

These two came to our files anonymously.

Puzzles and ‘Toons

Church ‘Toons by Joe McKeever

Answers to last issue’s puzzles:

Father Abraham and Hidden Wisdom

By Mark Oshman

Originally published in Pulpit Helps, December 1994

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