Freedom is Never Free
Often we hear that all war is wrong. Wrong for the defenders as well as for the aggressors. That war is wrong even when waged with the sincere purpose of defending the innocent and restraining evil. Yet much of the religious and political freedoms, which we take for granted today, were won through wars approved of by the churches of those days. The great Christian Theologian, Augustine of Hippo, spelled out the Christian criteria for a Just War: Jus ad bellum (a just cause for war), Jus in bello (just conduct during war) and Jus post bellum ( a just conclusion of a war). A just war requires a just cause. Innocent life must be in imminent danger and intervention must be to protect life. Only duly constituted authorities may wage war. War must be a last resort, only after exhausting all peaceful means. There must also be a reasonable probability of success to justify involvement in a war. The benefits of the war must be proportional to the costs and risks of the war. In a Just War there must be a clear distinction between combatants and non-combatants.
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Gustav Adolphus (1594 - 1632) is one of the most inspiring characters of the Reformation. The rapid rise to fame of Gustav Adolphus, the young King of Sweden, his military innovations and dramatic victories in battle turned the tide in The Thirty Years War and saved Protestant Germany from annihilation.
A Military Strategist
Military strategist Carl von Clausewitz and French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte considered Gustav Adolphus one of the greatest generals of all time. Gustav II is famous for employing mobile artillery on the battlefield, and very aggressive tactics where attack was stressed over defence and mobility emphasized over the usual linear tactics. His musketeers were widely known for their shooting accuracy and reload speed, three times faster than any contemporary rivals.
Leading from the Front
Gustav Adolphus was an active participant in his battles, and chose to lead charges himself at crucial moments. He was repeatedly wounded in battle, including gunshot wounds to the neck, throat and abdomen. Because of an early wound where a musket ball was lodged in his neck near the spine, due to the extreme pain, he chose to avoid wearing the customary two part metal armour cuirass, adopting a flexible leather armour instead.
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Bishop Stephen Bradley observed: “We are in danger of forgetting truths for which previous generations gave their lives.”
That our churches are in danger of forgetting the great Reformation truths, for which previous generations of martyrs willingly laid down their lives, was forcefully impressed upon me during a recent ministry trip to Europe. I had the opportunity to visit Oxford and see the Martyrs Memorial. It drew my attention to an event that occurred 450 years before.
The Oxford Martyrs
On 16 October 1555, just outside the walls of Balliol College, Oxford, a stout stake had been driven into the ground with faggots of firewood piled high at its base. Two men were led out and fastened to the stake by a single chain bound around both their waists.
The older man was Hugh Latimer, the Bishop of Worcester, one of the most powerful preachers of his day, and the other Nicolas Ridley, the Bishop of London, respected as one of the finest theologians in England.
More wood was carried and piled up around their feet. Then it was set alight. As the wood kindled and the flames began to rise, Bishop Latimer encouraged his companion: “Be of good cheer, Master Ridley, and play the man! We shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out.”
"Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognise them." Matthew 7:15-16
STEPHEN VII (896-897AD)
"He dug up a Corsican predecessor, Pope Formosus (891-896), when he had been dead for over nine months. He dressed the stinking corpse in full pontificals, placed him on the throne in the Lateran and proceeded to interrogate him personally.After being found guilty, the corpse was condemned as an anti-pope, stripped and minus the two fingers with which he had given his fake apostolic blessing, was thrown into the Tiber." (Vicars of Christ - the Dark Side of the Papacy by Father Peter de Rosa).
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Let My People Go!
“So Moses and Aaron came in to Pharaoh and said to him, ‘Thus says the Lord God of the Hebrews: ‘How long will you refuse to humble yourself before Me? Let My people go, that they may serve Me’.” Exodus 10:3
The nation of Israel grew out of secession from Egypt. In the Bible, a nation is an ethnolinguistic people group with a shared faith. The Scriptures make it clear that the Hebrews remained Hebrews, even after 480 years in Egypt. They never became Egyptians. We are not geographic accidents, but demographic descendants. The Scripture emphasises that all the families of the nations of the earth are to sing the praises of the Creator in every language and tongue. “And they sang a new song, saying: ‘You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals; for You were slain and have redeemed us to God by Your Blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” Revelation 5:9
The Secession of the Ten Northern Tribes of Israel from Judah and Benjamin
In 1 Kings 12, we read of the secession of the ten Northern tribes from the United Kingdom of Israel. After the reigns of King Saul, King David and King Solomon, the United Kingdom was divided when Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, foolishly dismissed the wise counsel of the elders who had stood before his father, Solomon. Instead Rehoboam chose to rather listen to the irresponsible advice of the young men who had grown up with him. As a result, he arrogantly dismissed the petition of his subjects and threatened to tax them even heavier and to burden them with more oppressive laws than they had ever experienced before. “Now when all Israel saw that the king did not listen to them, the people answered the king, saying: ‘What share have we in David? We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse. To your tents, O Israel! Now, see to your own house, O David!’ So Israel departed to their tents.” 1 Kings 12:16
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"Why should I care about dates and dead people?"
Frequently we hear expressions of exasperation against the teaching of history.
"What possible relevance could all those events of long ago have for me today?"
Real History Has Great Relevance
Well, take 9/11. Did those responsible just choose an arbitrary date for the aircraft hijackings and terror attacks on 11 September 2001?
The Strategic Significance of September 11
Those who know the history of Islamic Jihad can point out that September 11 is a most significant date for Jihadists. It was on 11 September 1565 that the Ottoman Turkish siege of Malta was decisively defeated.
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The Reformation was one of the most momentous turning points in world history. It was led by men of strong faith, deep convictions, great intelligence, high moral standards and tremendous courage. Towering above all these great Reformers, Martin Luther stands out as the most courageous, controversial and influential Reformer of all time.
Luther has been alternatively described as the brilliant scholar who rediscovered the central message of the Bible, a prophet like Elijah and John the Baptist to reform God’s people, the liberator who arose to free his people from the oppression of Rome, the last medieval man and the first modern man. Zwingli described him as: “the Hercules who defeated the tyranny of Rome.” Pope Leo X called Luther: “A wild boar, ravaging his vineyard.” Emperor Charles V described him as: “A demon in the habit of a monk!”
Martin Luther was born 10 November 1483 in Eisleben, Saxony. His father, Hans Luder, had worked hard to climb the “social ladder” from his humble peasant origins to become a successful copper mining entrepreneur. Hans married Margaretha Lindemann, the daughter of a prosperous and gifted family that included doctors, lawyers, university professors and politicians. Hans Luder owned several mines and smelters and he became a member of the City Council in Mansfield, where Martin was raised, under the strict discipline typical of that time.
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1 January marks the birthday of Swiss Reformer Ulrich Zwingli and of the launch of the Reformation in Switzerland. It was on 1 January 1519 that Ulrich Zwingli began expositionary preaching in Zürich, starting with the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 1. Ulrich Zwingli was the father of the Reformation in Switzerland.
Born and raised in the Alps, Zwingli was one of the most colourful and audacious characters in Swiss history. A devout student of Scripture, Zwingli was transformed and shaped by the Word of God. He has been described as "an amazing combination of intellect, passion and wit."
Man of the Mountains
Born at an altitude of 3,600 feet (1,100 metres), the son of the Mayor of Wildhaus, Zwingli studied in Bern, Basel, and Vienna. In 1506, he received his MA degree. As a pastor in Glarus, Zwingli served as a chaplain with Swiss mercenary soldiers in Italy. The Swiss regularly hired out their men to fight for foreign powers. At that time, the Swiss generally believed that their national economy depended on this war industry.
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A Man of Action
Guillaume Farel (1489-1565) was a dynamic man of action who gave his whole life to spreading the Gospel of Christ. Farel was one of the most important leaders of the French Reformation from its beginnings.
By Grace Alone
While studying under Professor Jacques Lefevre at Sorbonne University in Paris, Farel came to faith in Christ. Professor Lefevre had published a Latin translation of, and commentary on, The Epistles of St. Paul. As he taught that it is God who saves by grace alone, Farel said his eyes were opened and his heart believed.
Leader of the French Reformation
When Luther’s Reformation writings came to France, Farel was one of the most prominent leaders in the French Reformed movement. When persecution forced him to flee from France in 1523, he became the leader of a group of evangelists who preached in French speaking Switzerland.
Winning Switzerland to Christ
Farel’s energetic efforts were central in opposing Catholicism and promoting the Protestant Reformation in Basel, Bern, Lausanne and Geneva. Everywhere he proclaimed the supremacy of the Scriptures and the need to return to a purified faith, which was based on the Bible alone. With great skill in debating and evangelistic zeal, Farel succeeded in winning most of French speaking Switzerland to the Protestant Faith.
While much has been written concerning the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, surprisingly little attention has been given to the Islamic slave trade across the Sahara, the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. While the European involvement in the Trans Atlantic slave trade to the Americas lasted for just over three centuries, the Arab involvement in the slave trade has lasted fourteen centuries, and in some parts of the Muslim world is still continuing to this day.
CONTRASTS IN CAPTIVITY
A comparison of the Islamic slave trade to the American slave trade reveals some interesting contrasts. While two out of every three slaves shipped across the Atlantic were men, the proportions were reversed in the Islamic slave trade. Two women for every man were enslaved by the Muslims.
While the mortality rate for slaves being transported across the Atlantic was as high as 10%, the percentage of slaves dying in transit in the Trans Sahara and East African slave trade was between 80 and 90%!
While almost all the slaves shipped across the Atlantic were for agricultural work, most of the slaves destined for the Muslim Middle East were for sexual exploitation as concubines, in harems, and for military service.
While many children were born to slaves in the Americas, and millions of their descendants are citizens in Brazil and the USA to this day, very few descendants of the slaves that ended up in the Middle East survive.