It seems inane to say so when so many others have said the same so often for so many centuries, but having recently led our Pastors College men through Richard Baxter's The Reformed Pastor, I was reminded how central to the development of my work as a minister of the Word Baxter has been. After seminary, I read The Reformed Pastor, followed quickly by Baxter's Autobiography, and it's impossible to overstate the impact both had on my pastoral conscience and commitments these past thirty years. Page after page, I see my markings and marginal notes and think to myself, "that's where I learned that" and "that's why I think that way!"
Whether you're a deacon, pastor, or elder, if you haven't read Baxter's Reformed Pastor, buy it now and read it yesterday! Then preach on Acts 20 and you're good to go! (Or to sit down and mourn and cry and beat your breast and confess your failures to the Chief Shepherd, asking for His mercy and renewed commitment to faithfully shepherd Christ's Church which He bought with His Own precious blood.)
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Speaking of books, I also just finished Silence by Shusaku Endo and recommend it to our good readers. (I was up staying with my brother, David, for a couple days and pulled it from his bookshelves, so thank David for the recommendation.) Silence is said to be the masterpiece of Japan's most respected novelist and the work is a fictionalized account of the great persecution Christians suffered in Japan during the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries... During the prior century under the missions work of Roman Catholics, up to one million Japanese converted to Christian faith resulting in Japan having the largest number of Christians of any Asian nation.
But then came awful persecution as the Japanese tried to stamp out Christian faith. Around 40,000 of our brothers in Christ died. The goal of the Japanese became prolonging believers' suffering and postponing their death as long as possible with the hope of inducing such horror in those who watched that they would renounce their Christian faith. Endo is historically accurate in his account of this terrible blot on the Japanese history.
When I read that much of the tormenting of God's People took place in and around Nagasaki, I wondered if this was part of the reason Nagasaki was targeted by the second atom bomb? Not that America was seeking vengeance for past wrongs against Christians, but that God determined that those who persecuted His Son with such wickedness would themselves bring down on their descendants an even greater torment.