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The next footsteps in the corridor, he knew, might be those of the guards taking him away to his execution. His only bed was the hard, cold stone floor of the dank, cramped prison cell. Not an hour passed when he was free from the constant irritation of the chains and the pain of the iron manacles cutting into his wrists and legs.
Separated from friends, unjustly accused, brutally treated—if ever a person had a right to complain, it was this man, languishing almost forgotten in a harsh Roman prison. But instead of complaints, his lips rang with words of praise and thanksgiving!
The man was the Apostle Paul—a man who had learned the meaning of true thanksgiving, even in the midst of great adversity. Earlier, when he had been imprisoned in Rome, Paul wrote, “Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:19-20, NIV).
Think of it: Always giving thanks for everything—no matter the circumstances! Thanksgiving for the Apostle Paul was not a once-a-year celebration, but a daily reality that changed his life and made him a joyful person in every situation.
Thanksgiving—the giving of thanks—to God for all His blessings should be one of the most distinctive marks of the believer in Jesus Christ. We must not allow a spirit of ingratitude to harden our heart and chill our relationship with God and with others.
Nothing turns us into bitter, selfish, dissatisfied people more quickly than an ungrateful heart. And nothing will do more to restore contentment and the joy of our salvation than a true spirit of thankfulness.
In the ancient world, leprosy was a terrible disease. It hopelessly disfigured those who had it, and it permanently cut them off from normal society. Without exception, every leper yearned for one thing: To be healed.
One day 10 lepers approached Jesus outside a village, loudly pleading with Him to heal them. In an instant He restored them all to perfect health—but only one came back and thanked Him. All the rest left without a word of thanks, their minds preoccupied only with themselves, gripped with a spirit of ingratitude.
Today, too, ingratitude and thanklessness are far too common.
Earthly goods are given to be used, not to be collected. In the wilderness God gave Israel the manna every day, and they had no need to worry about food and drink. Indeed, if they kept any of the manna over until the next day, it went bad. In the same way, the disciple must receive his portion from God every day. If he stores it up as a permanent possession, he spoils not only the gift, but himself as well, for he sets his heart on his accumulated wealth, and he makes it a barrier between himself and God. Where our treasure is, there is our trust, our security, our consolations and our God. Hoarding is idolatry.
This evening at Harvey Oaks Baptist Church was the Annual Thanksgiving Service. Paul Yates of Tiny Hands International. It is a wonderful Christian organization out of Lincoln, NE that not only raises awareness of slavery and sex trafficking but also rescues young girls and boys out of that diabolical trade. Did you know there are 27 million slaves around the world and half of them are children? Are you aware that sex trafficking is alive and well in the United States? By that, I mean children and young people are sex slaves even the heart of the Midwest.
It should break our hearts!
Get involved by going to Tiny Hands International.
Adolf Hitler’s strategy for the conquest of Germany included an assault on the German Evangelical Church. Aiming for the wholesale surrender of Christian doctrine to support Jewish annihilation, Hitler ordered the Gestapo to keep close watch on the pulpits of the land. Fearing widespread resistance, in 1933 the German government drafted “the Aryan Clause” for ratification by the churches of Germany. This amendment barred from the ministry anyone who did not fully subscribe to theDeutsche Christen (German Christians) position on church issues. It paralyzed the Church as it forbade anyone to publicly disagree with any policy of the German government—the first step toward Church endorsement of the extermination of the Jewish race.1
Hitler’s attempt to annex the Church was opposed by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who, at twenty-five, held a prestigious teaching post in Berlin. He, with a cadre of like-minded pastors known as “the young reformers,” refused to bow to Hitler’s demands for agreement with the Third Reich. Bonhoeffer first sought to refute the doctrine of the Nazis through careful and sustained preaching and writing. Organized resistance soon became necessary. After a synod meeting where the Deutsche Christen tightened its hold on pastors, Bonhoeffer sent the first of what would be many messages around the world alerting everyone to the evils of Nazism.2
Bonhoeffer called The Confessing Church to help defend the victims of injustice “who had fallen under the wheel.” He further called the Church to actively “fall into the spokes of the wheel itself” in order to halt the government’s wicked machinery.3 Rightly understanding the vital connection between the health of the Church and the good of the nation, he publicly supported the Barmen Declaration (1934), which rejected the Aryanism of the Reichstag. Refusing to recant his beliefs during a Gestapo hearing, he boldly stated that Christianity came before Germany. He later declined asylum in London and America, choosing instead to return to his homeland and face what most certainly would be death should he continue to lead resistance to Hitler:
I shall have no right to take part in the restoration of Christian life in Germany after the war unless I share the trials of this time with my people.4
Bonhoeffer lamented the failure of the German Church to publicly refute the sins of the state.
by JOE CARTER
Today is the 50th anniversary of the death of Clive Staples Lewis, one of the most well known, widely read, and often quoted Christian author of modern times. Here are nine things you should know about the author and apologist who has been called “The Apostle to the Skeptics.”
1. Lewis is best known for his seven children’s books, The Chronicles of Narnia. But he wrote more than 60 books in various genres, including poetry, allegorical novel, popular theology, educational philosophy, science-fiction, children’s fairy tale, retold myth, literary criticism, correspondence, and autobiography.
2. Lewis’s close friend Owen Barfield, to whom he dedicated his book The Allegory of Love, was also his lawyer. Lewis asked Barfield to establish a charitable trust (“The Agape Fund”) with his book earnings. It’s estimated that 90 percent of Lewis’s income went to charity.
3. Lewis had a fondness for nicknames. He and his brother, Warnie, called each other “Smallpigiebotham” (SPB) and “Archpigiebotham” (APB), inspired by their childhood nurse’s threat to smack their “piggybottoms.” Even after Lewis’s death, Warnie still referred to him as “my beloved SPB.”
4. In 1917, Lewis left his studies to volunteer for the British Army. During the First World War, he was commissioned into the Third Battalion of the Somerset Light Infantry. Lewis arrived at the front line in the Somme Valley in France on his nineteenth birthday and experienced trench warfare. On 15 April 1918, he was wounded and two of his colleagues were killed by a British shell falling short of its target. Lewis suffered from depression and homesickness during his convalescence.
5. Lewis was raised in a church-going family in the Church of Ireland. He became an atheist at 15, though he later described his young self as being paradoxically “very angry with God for not existing.”
6. Lewis’s return to the Christian faith was influenced by the works of George MacDonald, arguments with his Oxford colleague and friend J. R. R. Tolkien, and G. K. Chesterton’sThe Everlasting Man.
7. Although Lewis considered himself to an entirely orthodox Anglican, his work has been extremely popular among evangelicals and Catholics. Billy Graham, who Lewis met in 1955, said he “found him to be not only intelligent and witty but also gentle and gracious.” And the late Pope John Paul II said Lewis’ The Four Loves was one of his favorite books.
|Giving Thanks in Hitler’s Reich|
by Timothy George | November 19, 2013
Timothy George is dean of Beeson Divinity School of Samford University and chairman of the Colson Center’s Board of Governors that oversees the Worldview Church.
Paul Robert Schneider (1897-1939) was the first Protestant pastor to die in a concentration camp at the hands of the Nazis. His story is one of unmitigated courage, self-sacrifice, and martyrdom. Only in recent years has he begun to receive some of the recognition he deserves.
Schneider was not a theologian of first rank like Karl Barth or Dietrich Bonhoeffer, nor a hero like the Polish friar Maximillian Kolbe, who sheltered thousands of Jews and eventually exchanged his own life for one of his Auschwitz cellmates. Nor did Schneider live in a large urban center like Martin Niemöller, the Confessing Church leader in Berlin or the Catholic bishop Clemens August Graf von Galen, the “Lion of Münster.” Paul Schneider, rather, was an obscure village pastor who could have escaped persecution completely had he simply been willing to keep his mouth shut.
The son of a German Reformed pastor, Schneider followed in his father’s footsteps, succeeding him in 1926 as leader of the Protestant church in the small town of Hochelheim. By that time, his early flirtation with liberal theology had given way to a more vigorous biblical and Christocentric faith, influenced in part by his teacher Adolf Schlatter. In 1933, the year of Hitler’s assumption of power, Schneider ran afoul of local Nazi leaders in his community who forced his transfer to the even more remote village of Dickenschied.
Schneider had been there hardly a month when he was asked to preside at the funeral of a seventeen-year-old member of the Hitler Youth named Karl Moog. Before the benediction had been pronounced, the local Nazi district leader, Heinrich Nadig, interrupted the service to declare that young Karl had now crossed over into the heavenly storm troop of Horst Wessel, to which Schneider replied: “I do not know if there is a storm of Horst Wessel in eternity, but may the Lord God bless your departure from time and your entry into eternity.”
Sturmführer Horst Wessel was a Nazi party activist and author of the popular Nazi hymn “The Flag on High” (also called the Horst-Wessel-Lied). After his violent death in 1930, he was elevated as a hero in the Nazi pantheon. The Wessel story was incorporated into the pagan mythology the Nazis were seeking to revive. Alfred Rosenberg, the master of Nazi ideology, claimed that Wessel had not really died but now led a celestial storm troop. Those who died in the service of the Nazis, like young Karl Moog, were summoned to join the Wessel storm troop above. Just six months prior to the funeral incident, the Nazi bimonthly Der Brunnen declared: “How high Horst Wessel towers over that Jesus of Nazareth—that Jesus who pleaded that the bitter cup be taken from him. How unattainably high all Horst Wessels stand above Jesus!”
Pastor Schneider refused to subordinate the Christian Gospel to such a pagan myth. When Nadig repeated his graveside claim about Horst Wessel, Schneider said: “I protest. This is a church ceremony, and as a Protestant pastor, I am responsible for the pure teaching of the Holy Scriptures.”
After this confrontation, Schneider was placed in prison for five days, but he did not back down. In a letter to the Nazi leader he explained his position:
Over the next four years there were more conflicts and more imprisonments for Pastor Schneider. His wife Margarete—he called her Gretel—supported him with her love, prayers, and correspondence. On one occasion, he wrote back to her from prison: “And now, today, the laundry arrived together with the Heidelberg Catechism, your letter, butter, and chocolate.” To his six children, ages one to ten, he wrote these words: “Keep on praying that God in his love and mercy may bring your father back and that we may all remain in Dickenschied. Even if God keeps us waiting awhile for the fulfilment of our prayers, we must not think that he does not hear us, and we must not tire because it takes so long. Though God helps not in every deed/He’s there in every hour of need.”
Later, he was officially deported from the Rhineland by the Gestapo and warned never to preach again in his church. Schneider ripped up the deportation order in the presence of the Gestapo official and wrote a personal letter to Hitler declaring that he could not in good conscience obey it. The consequences of such defiance were not hard to guess, nor long in coming,
Yesterday evening, I returned home to Omaha, NE from Michigan. I went deer hunting with five other men in the north, central part of the state. We set up “deer camp” which was a fifth-wheel RV. The living quarters were a little tight, but we had a wonderful time. Unfortunately, we did not see many deer. Thus, I was unable to fill my out-of-state deer tag. Oh well! There is always next time.
I did pray a lot during those many hours when I sat in my deer blind. I also prayed a lot when I laid in bed. I prayed myself to sleep and I prayed when I woke up in the middle of the night.
I prayed that Jesus would be glorified in my life!
I prayed that we would be kept safe as we hunted.
I prayed that revival would come to Harvey Oaks Baptist Church.
I prayed for the November 17th Sunday School and worship service.
I prayed for my wife and children.
I prayed my relatives who need Jesus in their lives.
I prayed that God would heal people.
I prayed that God would restore broken marriages.
I prayed for all the widows at Harvey Oaks Baptist Church.
It was good to be away from the computer and television and for the most part, my phone (we used our phones to communicate with one another, but the reception was not always that good!)
Let us continue to seek the Lord through prayer.
“Continue steadfastly in prayer…” (Colossians 4:2)