Does Praying for Missionaries Make a Difference?

By Dr. Clark Armstrong

Does praying for missionaries make a difference?

There are always testimonies to support in some dynamic or dramatic way that, indeed, prayer does make a difference. But I want to testify today that it makes a daily, sustaining difference also. Our top daily prayer supporters are my wife, Connie’s, parents. But Hannah Babin, the little girl in this picture, was six when we came to her church in Baton Rouge on Home Assignment in April 2014 and now she is ten. She told us and her mother, Heidi, that she was going to pray every day for us and she has faithfully kept her promise.

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As we reflected on this past year, we are amazed that neither Connie nor I have needed to see a doctor other than for routine checkups. Nor have we been really sick. We are in our sixties and this is unusual among our peers.

We have driven (well, Connie is our main driver) in the worst traffic in the world in Manila, Philippines without any fender-benders or incidents. We have found every church building or location we needed to find over this time in places that have no addresses and where, therefore, GPS is almost useless.

We had a really tough time on one day in April, and we were tired and burdened and overloaded. We always know that God has Connie’s parents and a host of others who we may not know by name praying for us every day. But that night I said to Connie not to lose hope because a ten-year-old girl in Louisiana is praying for us today.

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If God could raise up a young prayer supporter like that, we should take courage that he will never leave us nor forsake us. How could he fail to answer the prayers of a sincere girl? Our hearts were strengthened, and I proceeded as professor to proofread the thesis that had to be done by morning. I finished at 5:00am and rose at 7:00am to live another ministry-packed day. I am convinced that that student graduated this year because of Hannah’s prayers.

I have no conclusion to arrive at other than daily prayers have been holding us up. Thank you, Mom and Pops, Hannah and the Babin family, and all our other prayer supporters. Anything that has been accomplished through our lives this year for Christ and his kingdom was made possible and is equal to the credit of your uplifting prayers. To God be the glory! We are a team and we could not do it without you all!

–Dr. Clark Armstrong is Professor in Asia-Pacific Nazarene Theological Seminary in Manila, Philippines.

The Priesthood of All Believers

By Dr. Clark Armstrong

Many people do not realize that the concept of the “priesthood of all believers” was also one of the main tenets of the Reformation from its very start. And many pastors or teachers have overlooked or downplayed that truth.

At its beginning, however, the Reformation’s main points were sola scriptura (scripture alone as our source of authority), sola fide (salvation by faith alone and not by works), and the priesthood of all believers. The other “solas” were added as the Reformation proceeded. All of these were in reaction to prevalent practices and teachings of the Catholic Church at that time. The great principle known as “the priesthood of all believers” was a reaction to the fact that the Catholic Church taught that prayers, confessions and ministry could only be done through or by the priests of the church.

The reformers believed literally that all believers are a “royal priesthood” (1 Pet. 2:9). The book of Hebrews teaches that Jesus Christ is our one true high priest and that we can go straight to him with our prayers (4:14-16). The word priest means “bridge or mediator.” In 1 Timothy 2:5, it says that “There is one God and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus.” Luther taught that a sinner could confess personal sins directly to God through Christ and find forgiveness (Heb. 2:17-18, 1 John 1:9). That was a very radical thought at the time.

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The reformers taught that, as believers, we all have direct access to God through Jesus and there is no necessity for an earthly mediator. The prayers of the priests could be helpful, but Luther viewed the practice at his time as a perversion and misapplication of the Aaronic or Levitical priesthood which was clearly fulfilled in Christ and done away with by the New Testament. The practices that he opposed in his 95 theses were seen as blatant malpractice by the priests of the church.

Every time a sinner repents directly to the Lord; every time we offer prayers to God freely; every time we call on the name of the Lord personally, we should give praise to God for this wonderful doctrine of the Reformation!

*Dr. Clark Armstrong is a Missionary Professor at Asia-Pacific Nazarene Theological Seminary in Manila, Philippines where he has served with his wife Connie since September 2013. Previously he served as a pastor for 32 years in the United States.

 

A Mighty Fortress

By Dr. Clark Armstrong

One of the great byproducts of the Reformation was that the people started singing. The chants of the monastic era, which had been almost entirely in Latin, were the only music of the church. But suddenly the common people came alive like the early church singing hymns, psalms and spiritual songs (Col. 3:16) in their own languages. It greatly changed the worship of the Protestants and the people have never stopped singing!

Martin Luther wrote many hymns for the church to sing. But we would do well to think about the words of his most famous hymn. It is called “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” taken from Psalm 46. It has motivated soldiers going into battles. It has empowered many Christians who felt themselves to be experiencing great spiritual warfare as well. It always seemed to encourage the believers in the church that I came into as a Christian.

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You cannot leave any verse out of this hymn because it is a classic account of the struggle between good and evil, light and darkness, even God and the devil. It builds up with dramatic overtones until its grand conclusion. One of my favorite lines is a simple one. Speaking of that dastardly devil, it says “One little word will fell him.” One day in church as we were singing it, I realized what that little word was. See if you can figure it out.

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;

Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:

For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;

His craft and pow’r are great, and, armed with cruel hate,

On earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing,

Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing:

Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;

Lord Sabaoth, His Name, from age to age the same,

And He must win the battle.

And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,

We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us;

The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;

His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,

One little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly pow’rs, no thanks to them, abideth;

The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him Who with us sideth;

Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;

The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,

His kingdom is forever.

ClarkA1.jpg*Dr. Clark Armstrong is a Missionary Professor at Asia-Pacific Nazarene Theological Seminary in Manila, Philippines where he has served with his wife Connie since September 2013. Previously he served as a pastor for 32 years in the United States.

 

 

Reformation Quiz

By Dr. Clark Armstrong

This month is the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.  We have enjoyed several reflections in the past two weeks, but now let’s take a simple five question quiz about the Reformation to see what has been learned so far?
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Click here to take the quiz online: Reformation Quiz

#1 – The start of the Protestant Reformation occurred when?

  1. The Gutenberg Bible was produced off the first printing press.
  2. Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses on the Castle Door at Wittenberg.
  3. John Hus was burned at the stake in Bohemia.
  4. John Calvin wrote “Institutes of the Christian Religion.”

#2 – The Reformation began on October 31 of what year?

  1. 1415
  2. 1452
  3. 1517
  4. 1536

#3 – The Protestant Reformation began as an attempt to reform what?

  1. The Roman Catholic Church
  2. The European Monarchies
  3. Certain Universities and Educational Institutions
  4. The Middle Earth Peoples.

#4 – True or False.

The Reformers opposed what they perceived as false doctrines and ecclesiastical malpractice — especially the teaching and the sale of indulgences (or the abuses thereof) and doctrinal policies about purgatory, particular judgment, Mariology (devotion to Mary, Jesus’s Mother), the intercession of and devotion to the saints, wrong beliefs about most of the sacraments, the mandatory clerical celibacy, including monasticism, the unbridled authority of the Pope and the practice of simony: the selling and buying of clerical offices.

#5 – Which of the following was a prominent point of the reformers?

  1. Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone as our source of authority.)
  2. Sola Fide (Salvation is by faith alone and not by works.)
  3. The Priesthood of All Believers
  4. All of the above.

Bonus Question:

The Reformation continued until the Treaty of Westphalia brought the European religious wars to an official end in what year?

  1. 1492
  2. 1525
  3. 1597
  4. 1648

You probably correctly answered the majority of the first five questions. So what about the Bonus Question? It was 1648. That event signaled the end of the Reformation through the peaceful ending of what was called the Thirty Years war between the Habsburgs and their Catholic allies and the Protestants with their French allies.

The Catholic Church was not reformed, per se, by that date, but the Protestant churches were fully established by then.  After Luther, many other reformers came who extended the reformation attempt. But by 1648, it was clear that all attempts to reform the Catholic Church had not been successful and the severance of the protesters from the church was complete. They had established Protestant Churches that were independent from the Mother Church and were thriving in most parts of Europe except Italy.

Click here if you want to download the quiz (in PowerPoint format): Reformation Quiz PPT

*Dr. Clark Armstrong is a Missionary Professor at Asia-Pacific Nazarene Theological Seminary in Manila, Philippines where he has served with his wife Connie since September 2013. Previously he served as a pastor for 32 years in the United States.