July 28, 2014

Looking Ahead, the Martyr's Great Hope

Just over a month before his martyrdom in May 1567, Guido de Bres, the author of the Belgic Confession, wrote from prison to his wife:
“And I pray you, my dear and faithful companion, to join me in thanking God for what he has done. For he does nothing that is not just and very equitable, and you should believe that it is for my good and for my peace. You have seen and felt my labours, cross, persecutions, and afflictions which I have endured, and have even had a part in them when you accompanied me in my travels during the time of my exile. Now my God has extended his hand to receive me into his blessed kingdom. I shall see it before you and when it shall please the Lord, you will follow me. This separation is not for all time. The Lord will receive you also to join us together again in our head, Jesus Christ.
This is not the place of our habitation – that is in heaven. This is only the place of our journey. That is why we long for our true country, which is heaven. We desire to be received in the home of our Heavenly Father, to see our Brother, Head, and Saviour Jesus Christ, to see the noble company of the patriarchs, prophets, apostles and many thousands of martyrs, into whose company I hope to be received when I have finished the course of my work which I received from my Lord Jesus Christ.  
I pray you, my dearly beloved, to console yourself with meditation on these things. Consider the honour that God has done you, in giving you a husband who was not only a minister of the Son of God, but so esteemed of God that he allowed him to have the crown of martyrs. It is an honour the like of which God has never even given to the angels.”


How do you prepare for persecution ahead of time and find strength in the midst of it? By meditating on eternity.

Godly men and women, suffering for their faith, do not ultimately hope in release from an earthly prison. The wife of de Bres, and many martyr’s wives of the past oriented their hope around heaven, trusting the truth of God’s word that “the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Rom. 8:18)

When an assembly of judges accused John Bunyan of preaching heresy, Elizabeth courageously declared: “’My lord, when the righteous Judge shall appear, it will be known that his doctrine is not the doctrine of the devil.’” This same confidence in eternal vindication has characterized many godly women of the past. It must also characterize us today.

One of the most poignant stories of a martyr’s wife is that of Isabel, the wife of Scottish covenanter John Brown (1627-1685). On her wedding day, a fellow minister warned Isabel of her new husband’s likely violent death, and he “advised her to keep linen with which to make winding sheets, or grave clothes.”

Three years into their marriage, John Brown was indeed shot in front of his wife and children because he refused to swear the Oath of Allegiance to the king. The commanding officer stood over Isabel as she cradled the body of her husband and asked her what she thought of her husband now. Isabel’s reply shows her sure and certain hope: “I ay thocht muckle [always thought much] o’ him, but now more than ever.”

Will persecution come to the American church and its gospel ministers? I don’t know. But if it does come, I will pray the words of Isabel Brown, when the soldiers arrived at her house: “’The thing I feared has come upon me. O give me grace for this hour.’”

I have every confidence that He will.

_______________

Posts in the persecution series:
3 Reasons to Think about Persecution
Seek Peace. Expect Trouble. Make New Friends.
Before We Call Suffering "Persecution"
Knowing Whom We Have Believed

Husband Arrested? Pack Him a Lunch


Also:
How to Be a Martyr's Wife


Brendenhof, W.L. “A Reformation Martyr Comforts His Wife from Prison.” The Aquila Report: 16 November 2009. Accessed 21 July 2014.

Deal, William. John Bunyan The Tinker of Bedford. Christian Liberty Press, 2007. Print.

Love, Dane. Scottish Covenanter Stories: Tales from the Killing Times. Neil Wilson Publishing, 2011. Print.

July 21, 2014

Husband Arrested? Pack Him a Lunch.

I have long held, with my tongue only partly in my cheek, that the primary job of a pastor’s wife is to keep the pastor alive.

Most churches have at least some people who will organize events, or lead Bible studies, or play the piano. We’ve got members who greet, members who teach, and members who hold babies in the nursery. But nobody is lining up to iron the pastor’s shirt or make his breakfast smoothie or rub his tense shoulders. That’s my job.

It’s actually vital to the kingdom. Jesus commanded us to pray for laborers to be thrust out into the harvest field (Matt. 9:37-38). And, every day, I pray one out the door and hand him his lunch.

It’s vital, but not so glamorous. And when I begin thinking about the possibility of persecution, I get nervous. I don’t know anything about how to be a pastor’s wife under persecution.

But for many of my sisters, the work of being married to a persecuted pastor was not fundamentally different from the work at any other time. When persecution arrived, they packed lunches and ran errands.

In 1942, Darlene Deibler Rose was a newlywed missionary to New Guinea when her husband was arrested and taken to a prison camp by occupying Japanese soldiers. As he was loaded into a truck with the other men, Rose recalls,


“Running out to the pavilion, I found a pillowcase and put into it Russell’s Bible, a notebook, a pen, shaving gear, clothes, and other things I thought he would need. . .I handed Russell the pillowcase and looked into the face that had become so dear to me. . .The driver started the engine, Russell leaned over the tailgate and very quietly said, ‘Remember one thing, dear: God said that He would never leave us or forsake us.’ The truck started with a jerk and disappeared down the road. I never saw him again.”

Rose's conduct, pillowcase in hand, wasn't newsworthy or heroic. She was simply doing what she could to keep the pastor alive.

Similarly, Margaret, the wife of Richard Baxter (1615-1691), watched her husband suffer imprisonment, unjustly, for “holding conventicles, and refusing to take the Oxford oath.” While he was there, she continued to be a homemaker—in her husband’s prison cell. (Richard Baxter wrote that his wife “brought her best bed thither and did much to remove the removeable [sic] inconveniences of the prison.”)

Other women ran errands for their imprisoned husbands. Elizabeth, the second wife of John Bunyan (1628-1688), saw her husband arrested and sent to prison for refusing to attend the parish church and to stop preaching. She spent the almost twelve years of her husband’s imprisonment going from judge to judge, petitioning them to allow her husband to present his defense.

In Burma, Ann Judson’s husband, Adoniram (1788-1850), was imprisoned on false charges of spying. She, too, made the rounds of the government offices, a nursing infant literally in her arms, asking for Adoniram’s release.

In the Scriptures, too, our conduct under persecution is not fundamentally different from our conduct in times of peace. Those New Testament churches, so frequently suffering, are instructed again and again simply to continue. So, we continue in the faith, continue in prayer, continue in what we have learned, and continue to love the brethren—especially our husband-brothers. (Acts 14:22, Col. 1:23, Col. 4:2, 2 Tim. 3:14, Heb. 13:1) We keep on keepin’ on.

And whether we are brought low or whether we abound, we receive our strength from the One who is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Phil. 4:11-13, Heb. 13:8).

Pray. Pack your husband a lunch. Continue.
___________

Posts in the persecution series:
3 Reasons to Think about Persecution
Seek Peace. Expect Trouble. Make New Friends.
Before We Call Suffering "Persecution"
Knowing Whom We Have Believed

Also:
How to Be a Martyr's Wife


Rose, Darlene Deibler. Evidence Not Seen. New York: Harper One, 2003. Print.

Deal, William. John Bunyan The Tinker of Bedford. Christian Liberty Press, 2007. Print.

Anderson, James. Memorable Women of Puritan Times. Vol. 2. London: Blackie and Son, 1867. Accessed via Google Books http://books.google.com/books?id=sNcSAAAAYAAJ&pg=PP7#v=onepage&q&f=false
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