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August 13, 2016

Even though I’m on vacation this week, the Kindle Deals for Christians page is being updated as new deals come along. You can check it out right here.

Don’t Say God Is Silent With Your Bible Closed

“I don’t know who said or shared it first, but it’s clear this simple statement resonates with many, at least it has with me. These ten words rebuke our fear that God might be inactive or uncaring in the brokenness and messiness of our lives, and reminds us that he cares, he sees, and he speaks. But too often, we’re just not listening.”

Livestreaming Violence

This article points out some of the ways that livestreaming has forever changed the way we view violence.

Take a Quiz Explaining Your Faith to a Muslim

My gratitude goes to Zondervan for sponsoring the blog this week with “Take a Quiz on Explaining Your Faith to a Muslim.” I know some tried to take the quiz earlier in the week and were unable to. The quiz service is now working properly!

10 Things You Should Know About the Immutability of God

“Some see the concept of immutability as a threat to the biblical portrait of God who appears in some sense to change. Others are equally concerned that a careless tampering with this attribute of God will reduce him to a fickle, unfaithful, and ultimately unworthy object of our affection and worship. It is imperative, therefore, that we proceed cautiously, and yet with conviction, in articulating these ten truths about divine immutability.”

Southern Baptists and the Quest for Theological Identity

Al Mohler: “Our commitment to regenerate church membership, the baptism of believers only, and our understanding of the nature of the church gives Baptists a unique voice in the face of disappearing cultural Christianity. I honestly believe that in coming years evangelicals will increasingly look to Southern Baptists due to the ecclesiological crises created by the collapse of cultural Christianity. The coming generation will urgently need the wisdom and biblical conviction of Baptists on these issues.”

This Day in 1845. 171 years ago today, devotional writer Sarah Flower Adams died at age 43. She published The Flock at the Fountain, containing children’s hymns including “Nearer, My God, To Thee.” *

Bird Brains

If you want to know how to reduce concussions, why not study the woodpecker. “If someone could figure out how woodpeckers do it—they slam their beaks into trees thousands of times per day, generating forces far beyond what most people experience in car wrecks—then maybe we could better protect soldiers.”

Flashback: Why We Love to Read

Sometimes you need to do a lot of reading to come away with one really good idea. Some books yield nothing but nonsense; some yield nothing but ideas you have come across a thousands times before. But then, at last, you find that one that delivers. There is such joy in it. Such reward.

Spurgeon

The louder Satan roars, the more proof you shall have of Christ’s love. —C.H. Spurgeon

Free Stuff Fridays Updated
August 12, 2016

This week’s Free Stuff Fridays is sponsored by Zondervan and they are offering pre-release copies of what is sure to be a popular book when it releases at the end of the month—Nabeel Qureshi’s No God but One: Allah or Jesus?. Here’s their description of the book:

Having shared his journey of faith in the New York Times bestselling Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, Nabeel Qureshi now examines Islam and Christianity in detail, exploring areas of crucial conflict and unpacking the relevant evidence. In this anticipated follow-up book, Nabeel reveals what he discovered in the decade following his conversion, providing a thorough and careful comparison of the evidence for Islam and Christianity—evidence that wrenched his heart and transformed his life.

No God but One: Allah or Jesus? addresses the most important questions at the interface of Islam and Christianity: How do the two religions differ? Are the differences significant? Can we be confident that either Christianity or Islam is true? And most important, is it worth sacrificing everything for the truth? Nabeel shares stories from his life and ministry, casts new light on current events, and explores pivotal incidents in the histories of both religions, providing a resource that is gripping and thought-provoking, respectful and challenging.

Both Islam and Christianity teach that there is No God but One, but who deserves to be worshiped, Allah or Jesus?

Winners will also receive a copy of Quresh’s bestselling debut book Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus.

Enter Here

Giveaway Rules: You may enter one time. As soon as the winners have been chosen, all names and addresses will be immediately and permanently erased. Winners will be notified by email. The giveaway closes Saturday at noon. If you are viewing this through email, click to visit my site and enter there.

August 12, 2016

If you are into Kindle books, be sure to check in with the Kindle Deals for Christians page. I generally update the page on a daily basis.

The Miraculous in the Mundane

“It is not enough merely to say that Christians’ daily toil, whether it is sacred or secular, is good and important. To get off this see-saw, we must come to believe that our work is, in fact, miraculous.”

6 Surprising Ideas the KJV Translators Had

“The KJV translators themselves had particular ideas about translations other than their own, and they lay out their views clearly and forcefully in the published Preface of the original edition of their eloquent translation. Ironically, their views are very different from those who champion their translation today. So here are 6 ideas the KJV translators had about other translations of the Bible.”

Tour the London of Yore

So neat: “Think of the map as Google Street View for vintage London. You can click on the map to view historical images of particular buildings, streets or areas, or search the collection by topic to reveal everything from historic coffee houses to buildings associated with different authors or time periods.”

The Surprising Truth About False Teachers

“The question is not whether you ever hear the voice of false teachers. You do — probably every day. The question is whether you can discern which messages are false.”

FX Conference

Frontline Missions International has developed a training and orientation program that will 1) help men and women begin to explore ways in which they can serve Christ in restricted-access countries and 2) serve local churches that are serious about addressing the Unfinished Task of taking the Gospel to people who have yet to hear. This year’s event happens on October 13-15 in Minneapolis. Use code fx_challies to get a discount when you register.

This Day in 1947. 69 years ago today, A group of Ayoré Indians in Bolivia laid down their weapons in response to friendly overtures by New Tribes missionaries. The Ayoré had martyred 5 of their missionaries 4 years earlier. *

Get Ready to Be Identified By Your Ear

This is just weird: “Last year, the United States Customs and Border Protection rolled out a recognition pilot program that uses biometric recognition tools like face and iris scanners. The program will snag ‘imposters’ using a fake passport at airports, and what’s more, reduce wait times at security checkpoints. But what might identify individuals even more conclusively and speed travelers on their way more swiftly is another kind of biometrics, based on the ear.”

Flashback: My Own Personal Bollywood

As I watched Singham commit another great feat of strength, I saw a bit of a parallel between Bollywood and its big brother Hollywood. Hollywood allows its own version of unrealism in the movies we enjoy. We just take our fantasy on a different level.

Milne

Christian leaders must practice what they preach if they are to see what they preach practiced. —Douglas Milne

The Bestsellers
August 11, 2016

Today I continue this series of articles that takes a look at books that have been awarded the Platinum or Diamond Sales Awards from the Evangelical Christian Booksellers Association. The Platinum Award recognizes Christian books that have reached 1 million sales while the Diamond Award recognizes the few that have surpassed the 10 million mark. Today we turn our attention to a book that uses a fictional story to make a real-life and deadly serious point.

The Harbinger by Jonathan Cahn

Jonathan Cahn was born into a devout, reform Jewish home in New York. He revoked his faith as a child, declaring himself an atheist, but when 20 years old, encountered the Christian faith and determined that Jesus is the Messiah. Today he is President of Hope of the World ministries and both Senior Pastor and Messianic Rabbi of the Beth Israel worship center in Wayne, New Jersey.

Jonathan Cahn

One of Cahn’s particular interests is biblical prophecy and it was this that led him to write his debut novel The Harbinger: The Ancient Mystery that Holds the Secret of America’s Future. It released in 2012 and very quickly made a tremendous splash. With only a few exceptions, the Christian novels that sell a million copies are what we might call didactic or theological novels—novels that use fiction not simply to tell a story but to instruct the reader. The Shack and its redrawing of the Trinity is an obvious example and The Harbinger very clearly falls into this same category.

Within the story are claims that the author insists are factual, biblical, and of critical importance. He claims to reveal an ancient mystery that holds the secret to America’s future. He tells how this truth has been hidden in the pages of the Bible until he uncovered it. The book is essentially a lengthy exposition of Isaiah 9:10: “The bricks have fallen down, but we will rebuild with hewn stones; The sycamores are cut down, but we will replace them with cedars.” It is, in fact, a two-level exposition of this text, applying it both to ancient Israel and to contemporary America. An excerpt of dialog will help show what he believes and what he means to teach:

“But what does America have to do with ancient Israel?”

“Israel was unique among the nations in that it was conceived and dedicated at its foundation for the purposes of God.”

OK…”

“But there was one other—a civilization also conceived and dedicated to the will of God from its conception…America. In fact, those who laid its foundations…”

“The Founding Fathers.”

“No, long before the Founding Fathers. Those who laid America’s foundations saw it as a new Israel, an Israel of the New World. And as with ancient Israel, they saw it as in covenant with God.”

“Meaning?”

“Meaning its rise or fall would be dependent on its relationship with God. If it followed His ways, America would become the most blessed, prosperous, and powerful nation on earth. From the very beginning they foretold it. And what they foretold would come true. America would rise to heights no other nation had ever known. Not that it was ever without fault or sin, but it would aspire to fulfill its calling.”

“What calling?”

“To be a vessel of redemption, an instrument of God’s purposes, a light to the world. It would give refuge to the world’s poor and needy, and hope to its oppressed. It would stand against tyranny. It would fight, more than once, against the dark movements of the modern world that threatened to engulf the earth. It would liberate millions. And, as much as it fulfilled its calling or aspired to, it would become the most blessed, the most prosperous, the most powerful, and the most revered nation on the earth—just as its founders had prophesied.”

The correlation between ancient Israel and modern America allows Cahn to read the Bible’s prophecies in such a way that they apply equally to both nations. “Before its end as a nation, there appeared in ancient Israel nine specific warnings and omens of national destruction – These same nine Harbingers are now manifesting in America with profound ramifications for America’s future and end-time prophecy.” These warnings, he says, are real and must be heeded before it is too late.

Sales & Lasting Impact

The HarbingerThe Harbinger was an immediate smash hit. By 2012 it had already crossed the 500,000 mark and the next year it was awarded the Platinum Sales Award for surpassing 1 million sales. It has since more than doubled that total. While sales were brisk and reader reviews were enthusiastic (currently 8,436 at Amazon with an average of 4.5 stars), the book also received a number of serious critiques for both its quality as a novel and its theology. When addressing the latter concern, most critics pointed out that Cahn violates basic and well-established rules of biblical interpretation by applying to America prophecies given to ancient Israel. The Berean Call made this clear: “Cahn gleans nearly all of his correlations connecting America with a prophecy made to Israel from one verse—Isaiah 9:10. To begin with, this verse applies only to the tribes of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, who, along with the Southern Kingdom of Judah, comprise God’s covenant people. All the way through TH , the United States is presented implicitly as a nation in covenant with God. No, God has only one covenant nation—the nation of Israel.”

Many reviewers also pointed to the dubious correlation between words recorded in the Bible and historical events that have since taken place in or to America. “The nine harbingers are selectively (and erroneously) taken from Scripture and are then given life by the comparison to similar things surrounding 9/11, which are then identified with Isaiah 9:10.” But, of course, similarity does not indicate identity.* One reviewer concluded that “The Harbinger is a distraction from properly understanding the Word of God, particularly prophecy and so can legitimately be characterized as dangerous. It conveys what the author believes is a prophetic message, but the book clearly does not meet the tests for a prophetic Word from God.”

Since the Award

Not surprisingly, the success of The Harbinger generated some unique opportunities for Cahn to spread his message. At the United States Capitol Building he spoke before a number of national leaders after being introduced by Mike Huckabee who described The Harbinger as “remarkable,” “soul-stirring,” “stunning,” and “spell-binding.” Joseph Farah of WorldNetDaily produced a two-hour program featuring Cahn which further popularized his work. He was also featured on The 700 Club where Pat Robertson praised the book and recommended it to his viewers.

The Harbinger spawned a number of related resources, the first of which was The Harbinger Companion, a study guide of sorts. In 2014 Cahn released The Mystery of the Shemitah: The 3,000-Year-Old Mystery That Holds the Secret of America’s Future, the World’s Future, and Your Future! and this September is set to release The Book of Mysteries, a daily devotional in which “the reader will discover life-transforming secrets, mind-blowing realities, and heart-changing revelations in such mysteries as the Face in the Waters, the Leper King, the Land of Gezarah, the Secret of the Third Prince, the House of Spirits, the Mystery of the Rains, How to Alter Your Past, the Second Scroll, the Similitude, the Mystery of the Eighth Day, and much more.”

A Personal Perspective

I read The Harbinger after receiving a number of requests for a review. I found it difficult to read as a novel and utterly exasperating as a work of theology, though I was at least glad to see that the author included a clear and substantial call to believe the gospel. I mostly left the heavy lifting to others while focusing on a couple of salient points, the first of which is one of the benefits of writing fiction: “What stood out to me as I read The Harbinger … is that writing fiction allows the author to dictate his reader’s reaction. He can present a mundane fact and follow it with a gasp or an expression of awe as if the reader has missed the obvious importance. This is something Cahn does often and to his advantage. What seems like a great stretch in logic can be rationalized or given increased credence by a character’s excitement.” It’s a tactic he uses regularly and effectively.

I concluded this way: “It’s not that The Harbinger has nothing good to say, but that so many of even those good things are built upon a poor and even dangerous foundation. The book depends upon a fundamentally flawed way of understanding and applying the Bible, treating the Bible as a mystery to be solved rather than a clear and sufficient explanation of what we are to believe concerning God and how we can live in this world to his glory. There is no good reason to read or recommend this book.” I stand by those words and assume it applies equally to Cahn’s other works.

 

August 11, 2016

Even while I’m not as active on the blog this week as I usually am, the Kindle Deals for Christians page continues to be updated. You can check it out here.

All of Us Sinners, None of Us Freaks

“It is a wonderful and mysterious thing to be a creature made by Another. Yet being a creature is also frightening and dangerous. Because we cannot mute the Creator’s pattern for gender, gender becomes a battleground in the war between the Creator’s will and his creature’s rebellious desires.”

Holding Out for the Good News

This is the time of year that many Bible plans bring readers to the prophetic books. So perhaps this encouragement is in order.

What Is a Superfood?

Basically there’s no such thing and it’s all a marketing gimmick to get you to buy things you otherwise wouldn’t eat.

Ben-Hur

“What’s called the ‘most influential book of the nineteenth century’ is the result of a debate between two military leaders. It happened on a train ride to Indianapolis on a late summer day in 1876. Colonel Robert G. Ingersoll, whose nickname was ‘The Great Agnostic,’ bumped into author General Lew Wallace. The two spent the trip debating religion.”

This Day in 1778. 228 years ago today, clergyman and hymn-writer, Augustus Montague Toplady, died at age 37. He wrote the beloved hymn “Rock of Ages.” *

Amish Children Are Immune to Asthma

Strange but true: “After a barrage of blood tests, air samples and genetic surveys to find out why Amish children are strangely immune to asthma, an international team of medical researchers has finally hit upon the solution: The Amish are all fortified by cow dust.”

Flashback: An Introverted Christian

I have no right to crave introverted solitude. Rather, the gospel compels me to deny even that trait and all its desires in order to serve other people. I am introverted, but this does not give me a different calling in life than the gregarious Christian.

Mahaffey

Kings do not make history. Kings serve history. —John Mahaffey

3 Ways College Students Can Do More Better
August 10, 2016

My friend Peter Krol loves the Bible, he loves college students, and through the ministry DiscipleMakers he loves to bring the two of them together so college students can better understand, appreciate, and obey the Bible. I recently spoke to Peter about some of the challenges faced by college students today and asked whether the principles I lay out in my book on productivity might be helpful to them. In response he kindly wrote this article telling why productivity is for college students, too.


God Almighty’s intention to bless every nation has always included young adults and students.

Remember Joseph? Kidnapped and sold into slavery at age 17, he spent the twilight of his teen years serving, and then managing, the household of Pharaoh’s bodyguard. Unjustly accused, he found himself in prison for a few more years. But “the LORD was with him. And whatever he did, the LORD made it succeed” (Gen 39:23). These years became his training ground, preparing him to manage Pharaoh’s food stores and rescue the world from disaster. Facing his kidnappers, he could later say with confidence: “God sent me before you to preserve life” (Gen 45:5).

Remember Daniel? Also kidnapped and enslaved at a young age, he was forcibly enrolled in Babylon U to study the literature and language of the Chaldeans. After three years at this indoctrination center public institution, he outshone the civil servants and imperial advisors of his day by a factor of ten (Dan 1:20). He outlived and outwitted not only his royal captor, but that king’s successor, and the next as well. Daniel would see the empire itself fall and another take its place (Dan 1:21).

Remember Mary? This favored one, newly engaged and planning a wedding, would certainly have qualified for student loans, had such things existed in the days when Gabriel visited her with life-changing news (Luke 1:26-33).

Of course, these three twenty-somethings helped prepare the world for another young savior. A son of Joseph and Mary would be accused unjustly. And Persian magi, likely informed by the handed-down teachings of Daniel the Wise, would bow before the one born King of the Jews. The young Jesus would himself increase in wisdom and in stature, in favor with God and man (Luke 2:52), thus preparing for his most fruitful years.

In short, God’s agenda to bless all nations has always involved motivated young adults and college students. Perhaps you’ll be one of them.

Do More Better

In his book Do More Better, Tim proposes a vision and a system for biblical productivity. The vision is to bring the greatest glory to God and the greatest good to mankind. The system involves applying good tools (calendar, tasks, and information) to your areas of responsibility (personal, family, church, work, etc.). The vision and the system work just as well for college students as for other busy adults; college students will just need to account for the seasonal nature of university life. As you prepare for the coming school year, here are a few suggestions to help you implement the system.

Establish Work Hours

Many students complain about how busy they are, in part because too few of them view their studies as they’d view a job. You can buck this trend. Your chief identity may be “college student,” but that doesn’t mean your studies should rule your life—any more than your future career would rule your life. If you plan to reserve time for hobbies, personal growth, church involvement, and family life then, you should begin to do so now.

In my previous post about the end of the semester, I suggested designating a workweek of not more than 60 hours. When I was a student, my work hours were 9-6 Monday through Friday (with an hour lunch break) and 9-3 on Saturdays. I avoided 8 am classes like an evil stepsister. A few semesters required evening courses, and I would adjust my work hours accordingly to buy back some personal time.

But establishing work hours is the easy part. The hard part is consistently treating them as work hours. This means that, when you are “on the clock,” you should be working. Strain out all distractions. Find good places to study. Always work on the next thing, even if it’s not due right away. Resist the urge to goof around if nothing demands your attention.

If you have a class at 9 am and another at 11 am, don’t squander the hour in between. Find a quiet lounge or unused classroom somewhere between the two buildings, and put the hour to good use. Someday, when you have many demands on your time, and children interrupting you at every turn, you’ll appreciate having learned the skill of squeezing the life out of your sporadic down time.

Here’s the beauty of having defined work hours: When they’re over, you don’t have to do any more work that day. Without a trace of guilt, you can set the schoolwork aside and do things you enjoy. Spend time with people. Get to know your hall mates. Attend or lead a Bible study. Join a small group at your church. Participate in a few clubs. Read something just for fun, or go for a jog.

Commit to a Few Extracurriculars, Including Church

This principle follows from the first one. If you establish defined work hours, you’ll be free to commit to other things in the off hours. You can keep your promises to attend extracurricular meetings. You can join and serve your church-away-from-home.  You can disciple and be discipled. You can learn a new sport or promote an important cause. You can get to know your peers deeply and win some to Christ. You can get adequate rest.

Before the semester begins, define your areas of responsibility. Sample areas could include: church, campus fellowship, sports team, special interest club, or residential life. Create a “project” for each area, with a view toward developing as a young adult before the Lord.

As you organize your tasks within each area, you’ll be more likely to avoid some of the extremes:

  • Recluses make Minecraft, Netflix, and YouTube their only friends.
  • Resume-builders join every club while committing to none.
  • Relational-types can’t turn down an opportunity to hang out, have fun, or go to a party.

What you do now sets you up for sustainable long-term service to Christ. What will help you grow into a mature, thinking Christian adult and a magnetic influencer of others? Give yourself to those things.

Blitz the Task Manager Early

On or near the first day of class, enter your complete class syllabi into your task manager (such as Todoist). It may feel costly to take 2 or 3 hours to do this. But when you combine these documents into a single task manager, you’ll know, on any day of the semester, exactly what is the next thing you should work on. You’ll save loads of time—and retain peace of mind—from week to week.

Don’t Give Up

In Do More Better, Tim recommends a daily and a weekly review of tasks, appointments, and priorities. If you set up the system before the semester begins, and stick to it week in and week out, your semester just might go smoother than a greased watermelon down a bowling alley.

But you’ll still have crunch times, tempting you to abandon “the system” in favor of “the urgent.” Some weeks will have three or more exams. Or your professors will conspire to overload you with unannounced assignments. Or group projects will involve fellow students who don’t pull their own weight. Or a family crisis will prevent you from focusing on anything for a few days.

During these crunch times, remember that God has given you this lot. And he makes everything beautiful in its time (Eccl 3:10-11). In other words: You are not God, and your life does not consist in the abundance of your pain points. Because God never sleeps, you can sleep (Ps 121). Because God is always working, you can get some rest (John 5:17). The world will continue turning, and life will go on.

Get some help to figure out the next thing, and do it. As soon as you can, get back on the daily and weekly reviews. But if you do abandon the system, you can always learn from the experience and try it again next semester. Don’t give up on it altogether. There’s too much to be done.

Avoid Vanity

“Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep” (Psalm 127:1-2).

You don’t need to dedicate four years of your life to vanity. Productivity is for college students, too. May the Lord use these skills to prepare you for more fruitful service to him in the years ahead.

Peter Krol is president of DiscipleMakers campus ministry. He blogs at Knowable Word, where he helps ordinary people learn to study the Bible.

August 10, 2016

Yesterday morning my family climbed aboard a plane and jetted off to Vancouver, B.C. (Shout-out to Air Canada and their air miles program!) We are here to explore, relax, and have fun as a family. What you read on the blog this week has been largely queued up in advance and includes a couple of guest articles I think you’ll enjoy. I’ll be back to business as usual next week. Kindle deals will be updated through the week.

Ten Things Pastors Love to Hear

Thom Rainer: “It is a simple question. What do you hear from your church members that gives you the greatest encouragement? The responses from the pastors were amazingly similar.”

The Tyranny of Pop Music

You may enjoy this little video about the utter tyranny of pop music. Even if you don’t agree with all of it, you’ll admire some of the one-liners.

Older Women, Teach Us to Pray

“Reluctance to pray publicly can arise for several reasons—fear of public speaking, awareness of spiritual weakness, lack of interest, ignorance of how to pray aloud—but it is always worth overcoming.”

Do I Have to Pray for Politicians I Oppose?

“With today’s ever-changing political environment, it is very easy to complain and not pray for our leaders. And, yes, many are deserving, sadly, of the comments they receive. Yet, the Bible tells us to pray for our leaders…”

Themelios

Committed readers will want to grab (and read) the new issue of Themelios.

This Day in 1897. 119 years ago today, William Walsham How, known as “the poor man’s bishop” died in England. An Anglican clergyman, he authored the outstanding hymn “For All the Saints.” *

U.S.S. Enterprise

This fun little video shows the restoration of the U.S.S. Enterprise that was used in all 79 episodes of the original Star Trek television series.

Flashback: The Man Who Is Most Free

True freedom is not found in pursuing sin but in rejecting sin. The man who is most free is the one who is freed from the power of sin.

Thompson

Surround yourself with people who feed your soul, not your ego. —B.J. Thompson

Rio Olympics
August 09, 2016

Did you know that the location of the 2016 Olympiad, watched over by the iconic Cristo Redentor, was also home to a little-known but early Calvinistic mission? My friend David Hall (whose church hosts the annual Reformation Worship conference) recently forwarded a fascinating article about it. I share it today so you can learn about a forgotten piece of history.

Rio’s Guanabara Bay was the site of an early Genevan mission in the 1550s. As you watch this present Olympiad, you might appreciate some of the history behind the 1558 Confession of Guanabara in Brazil. The site of the first Reformed confession in the Americas is also a reminder to be ready to confess our faith at any time. Some spiritual athletes suffered much more than fatigue and muscle strain at Rio 450 years ago.

You may have heard illustrations like this one: what if armed guards burst in, arrested you, and at threat of your life, asked if you would stick to the Christian faith or not? It’s not that hard to imagine such when you look at Muslim threats and beheadings of Syrian Christians, French priests, or others. There are some, in our day, who are challenged: will you continue to confess Christ? Are you always ready? If terrorists broke in to your home or Sunday School class, would they see Christianity? Are you trained sufficiently to voice it under pressure?

In 1557, a group of Protestants left Calvin’s Geneva to help settle part of Brazil. The leader was a wealthy merchant from Geneva, and a professing follower of Calvin, Villeaignon (alternatively spelled “Villegagnon”). Along with him were dozens of other Genevans, who landed in the bay of Rio de Janerio and settled a small island off the coast. Things went well for a while. However, the leader had—along the way—flipped back to Roman Catholicism, and he grew jealous and suspicious of the other Calvinists. He had the disciples of Calvin arrested, charged with treason, and sought to punish them under Catholic law.

The way he did this was to arrest them, lock them in a room, and in under 4 hours, they had to write out a confession of their beliefs on a list of topics. If they were Roman Catholic, they might live but could be sent home. Conversely, if they were Protestants, they would be killed. They were ordered to commit their beliefs to writing. The result was an 18-paragraph confession that was chock full of Scripture (it was closed book; they were allowed no Bibles), even citing Augustine, Cyprian, and a few other well-known religious leaders. Within 12 hours after this confession was written, three of its authors were promptly hanged. The authors knew they were writing and signing their own death sentence—and the others later were sent back to Geneva.

Guess what passage they used as the beginning of their Confession of Guanabara? They used the well-known verse in 1 Peter 3:15. They were always ready to give an answer for the hope that was within them and with gentleness. Their rapidly drafted confession began with these words:

According to the doctrine of St. Peter, the apostle, in his first letter, all Christians must be ready to give an answer of the hope that they possess, with all meekness and benevolence; we, the undersigned, Mr. Villegagnon, unanimously (according to the measure of grace upon us bestowed by the Lord), are giving an answer, point by point, as you have thus requested and ordained, beginning with the first article:

  1. We believe in one God, immortal, invisible, creator of heaven and earth, and of all things, visible and invisible, who is identified in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit; who constitute nothing else but the same substance in essence, eternal and of the same will; the Father, source and beginning of all good; the Son, eternally generated by the Father, who, in the fullness of time, manifested Himself in the flesh to the world, being conceived by the Holy Spirit, was born of the Virgin Mary, made under the law to rescue those that were under it, in order that we would be received by adoption as God’s own sons; the Holy Spirit, proceeding from the Father and the Son, teacher of all truth, speaking through the mouths of the prophets, bringing the things that were said by our Lord Jesus Christ to the apostles. He is the only comforter in affliction, imparting steadfastness and perseverance in all good.

We believe that it is necessary to worship solely, perfectly love, cry to and call upon the majesty of God in faith, and in a personal manner.

Their confession continued on to affirm the true nature of Christ, the bondage of the human will, the nature of the sacrament of the Lord’s supper, a biblical view of divorce, and other basic Christian tenets. Those Rio athletes were ready and gave a clear confession.

Are you ready? Do you know your beliefs? What if at machete point you or I were asked to give an account for the hope that is within you? 

These Reformed confessionalists exhibited every bit as much sacrifice and dedication as the finest Olympian. They received a crown that will not fade.