Thursday, June 28

Cracking Open the Muslim World

On this day in 1890, Samuel Zwemer sailed from his homeland in the United States on a Dutch liner called the Obdam. He stopped briefly in Europe to contact the only evangelical missionary group then working among Muslims. Then by train and boat, he headed for Beirut.

He lived, breathed and thought of one thing alone: "cracking open the Muslim world for the Gospel of Christ." He set up presses, under British protection in Cairo. These poured out a continual stream of books to educate Westerners about the need of Islam as well as Arabic language books to share Christ with the Arabs. He authored or co-authored at least 48 books in English, titles such as Arabia, The Cradle of Islam; Childhood in the Moslem World; and The Moslem Doctrine of God.

He often noted that in Islam the tender fatherhood of God was altogether unknown. Printed Christian prayers from his presses were prized by many of the Islamic people he served--it seems that they found them to have more "meat" than their own.

Though Zwemer was able to penetrate the cultural armor of Islam with remarkable grace, the great work he began remained unfulfilled at his death--as it does to this day.

Interestingly, while he was in London at the very beginning of his great life adventure, he bought a copy of Arabia Deserta. Many years later he sold it to T. E. Lawrence. Zwemer's exploits have none of the popular renown of Lawrence of Arabia's, but were, nonetheless, of greater boldness, vision, purpose, and effect.

Wednesday, June 27

Sweet Sleep in Jesus

The editors at Banner of Truth received a request this past week from Billy Graham's circle of close friends to use an excerpt from The Valley of Vision at the funeral of the evangelist's beloved wife, Ruth Bell Graham. The Valley of Vision, a little collection of Puritan prayers, is a classic of deep and practical devotion. Reading this prayer, I think you'll agree--and you'll understand why the Graham family chose it:

Blessed Creator,
Thou hast promised thy beloved sleep;
Give me restoring rest needful for tomorrow’s toil.
If dreams be mine, let them not be tinged with evil.
Let thy Spirit make my time of repose
A blessed temple of his holy presence.
May my frequent lying down make me familiar with death,
The bed I approach remind my of the grave,
The eyes I now close picture to me their final closing.
Keep me always ready, waiting for admittance to they presence.
Weaken my attachment to earthly things.
May I hold life loosely in my hand,
Knowing that I receive it on condition of its surrender.
As pain and suffering betoken transitory health,
May I not shrink from a death that introduces me
To the freshness of eternal youth.
I retire this night in full assurance of one day’s awakening with thee.
All glory for this blessed hope,
For the gospel of grace,
For thine unspeakable gift of Jesus,
For the fellowship of the Trinity.
Withhold not thy mercies in the night season;
Thy hand never wearies,
Thy power needs no repose,
Thine eye never sleeps.
Help me when I helpless lie,
When my conscience accuses me of sin,
When my mind is harassed by foreboding thoughts,
When my eyes are held awake by personal anxieties.
Show thyself to me as the God of all grace, love and power;
Thou hast a balm for every wound,
A solace for all anguish,
A remedy for every pain,
A peace for all disquietude.
Permit me to commit myself to thee awake or sleep.

21 Day Stand

Every afternoon from now until July 6, young Christians are taking a stand against pornography in Nashville--praying, fasting, and crying out for the mercy of Almighty God.

Then on July 7, they will embark on a repentance walk through the streets of Nashville. Afterwards they will join with tens of thousands of others at Titans Stadium for a solemn assembly and fast to pray for the nation.

For more information about these events and the ministries that sponsor them, visit the websites of Pure Life Revolution and The Call. May God be pleased to pour out His kindness, grace, and blessing once again on this great land.

Tuesday, June 26

Reprinted Letters

The good editors of the Free St. George’s Blog have published an excellent review of the newly reprinted Letters of Thomas Chalmers. Though it is no substitute for a full biography of the great man, this volume, selected and edited by his son-in-law, John Hanna, introduced by Iaian Murray, and printed in a fine hardback edition by Banner of Truth, is most welcome indeed.

What I'm Reading

Freedom Fighter

Mario Vargas Llosa has never held political office, never been a recalcitrant captain of industry, never fought on a battle field, and never led a popular social movement, but like Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, he has been a terror to dictators and would-be dictators--simply by writing stories. As a result, he has helped to reshape the world in which we live. This past week the Wall Street Journal published a rare profile of this remarkable champion of freedom.

Sunday, June 24

The God of Heaven and Earth and Gael

Today is the traditional festival called “Midsummer,” “Litha,” or "St. John’s Day.” In Medieval Christendom, it marked the summer solstice and the first cycle of harvests as well as commemorating the life, work, and sacrifice of John the Baptist. Thus, the festival was a was a day of delighted thanksgiving. Activities in rural English, French, Dutch, and northern German villages included the lavish decorating of the village well which then became the focal point for music recitals, feasting, rejoicing, and dancing throughout the day. As the traditional carol asserted:

When bloody Herod reigned king,
Within Judea's land,
Much woes his cruel will did bring,
By bloody fierce command.
Amongst the rest with grief oppressed,
Was good Saint John there slain,
Who on this day, 'midst sport and play,
A martyred death did gain.

In Scotland, the celebration also included a sort of “independence day” flavor commemorating the anniversary of Robert the Bruce’s great victory over the English at Bannockburn on this day in 1314. According to Sir Walter Scott, “On Midsummer Day in Cotter’s Villages all across the Highlands, Scots parish churches would afix their worship on the Everlasting Compassions of the Covenant-Keeping Laird, the God of Heaven and Earth and Gael.”

Scottish poet Robert Burns penned one of his most famous verses especially for the celebration of the day:

Scots! wha hae wi' Wallace bled,
Scots! wham Bruce has aften led,
Welcome to your gory bed,
Or to victory!
Now's the day, and now's the hour;
See the front o' battle lour:
See approach proud Edward's power;
Chains and slavery!
Wha will be a traitor knave?
Wha can fill a coward's grave?
Wha sae base as be a slave?
Let him turn and flee!
Wha for Scotland's King and law;
Freedom's sword will strongly draw,
Freeman stand, or freeman fa'?
Let him on wi' me!
By oppression's woes and pains!
By your sons in servile chains!
We will drain our dearest veins,
But they shall be free!
Lay the proud usurpers low!
Tyrants fall in every foe!
Liberty's in every blow!
Let us do or die!

At Bannockburn

In an effort to relieve the besieged Stirling Castle, England’s King Edward II, the effeminate son of the cruel Longshanks, sent troops northward into Scotland--a land that had been in constant rebellion against his sovereignty for more than a decade. First there was William Wallace and his ragged corps of Highland warriors. Now there was the loyal army of the presumptive king of an independent Scottish nation, Robert the Bruce.

Though the great castle overlooking the wide plain of Bannockburn had thus far been able to resist Bruce’s assault, Edward knew it would not be able to hold out much longer. The taking of this fortress was an achievement of which Edward was prouder than of anything else he had done in his invasion of Scotland--in the royal annals, he made it of far greater moment than even his victory over Wallace at Falkirk.

The time and the place of the inevitable battle were thus fixed by an obdurate necessity, on this day in 1314; The English were bound to relieve Stirling Castle; The Scots must prevent them. If the invaders were not met and fought at Bannockburn, they might outflank the Scots and reach the castle. And if the Scots did meet and fight them there, it was not likely there would be any other favorable field for a pitched battle anywhere in the whole of the land. The battle, therefore, would of necessity, be under the walls of the castle. Nevertheless, the odds were against the Scots--they were outnumbered by at least three to one. They would have to rely on strategy--and Bruce had a brilliant strategy.

At daybreak they met the fierce charge of the English armies. A detachment of English archers quickly wheeled around the Scottish flank and took up a position where they could rake the compact clumps of Scots spear men. But the lines held just long enough for a host of decoys--actually just a group of camp-followers--to appear along the horizon of a neighboring hill. The women and children were mistaken for a fresh army of the Scots--just exactly what Bruce had hoped. The confused English lines began to scatter. Scottish pikemen were then able to confine the English to a small land mass between the Bannock Burn--the Gaelic name for river--and the Firth of Forth. With little room to maneuver effectively, the massive English were forced into flight by a final charge of fewer than 2,000 Scots swarming down from Gillies Hill--on that hill today stands the William Wallace Memorial.

The end was rout, confused and hopeless. The pitted field added to the disasters; for though they were able to avoid it in their careful advance, many of the English were pressed into it in the retreat, and floundered among the pitfalls. Through all the history of its great wars before and since, never did England suffer a humiliation deep enough to approach even comparison with this. Besides the vast inferiority of the victorious army, Bannockburn was exceptional among battles by the utter helplessness of the defeated. There seemed to have been no rallying-point anywhere. It was as if the Scripture had been fulfilled, “The wicked flee when no man pursueth.” At last, Scotland was free.

Tuesday, June 19

Godlessness for Dummies

Oh boy, just what we all needed. An itty-bitty, portable bible for Atheists. I know, I know, it sounds like the punch-line to a bad joke. But, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer it's the latest craze for all those ardent doubters amongst us.

Monday, June 18

Awful Cliches

Eager to preserve the English language against a rising tide of rhetorical and grammatical nonsense, the editors of the London Telegraph asked readers to compose a piece of prose crammed with as many infuriating phrases as possible. The results would be hilarious if only they were not so evidently the currency of our everyday discourse.

Thursday, June 14

Flag Day

It was on this day in 1777 that Congress formally adopted the stars and stripes of the American flag as the National Standard. With the exception of the adding of a star for each new state and the geometric arrangement of those stars, the flag as we know it is the same as the original one Betsy Ross sewed for George Washington--based on the design of his own ancient family heraldry. Thus, this day is celebrated as Flag Day by the displaying and honoring of the flag.

The fourth stanza of Francis Scott Key’s Star Spangled Banner aptly captures our hopes and prayers for this day:

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand

Between their loved homes and the war’s desolation,

Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the Heav’n-rescued land

Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!

Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,

And this be our motto: "In God is our Trust"

And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Wednesday, June 13

What's that Sound?

"When the eagles are silent, the parrots begin to jabber." Winston S. Churchill

Tuesday, June 12

The Pleasurable Office

Charles Haddon Spurgeon is commonly heralded as the greatest preacher to grace the Christian pulpit since the Apostle Paul. His Metropolitan Tabernacle was undoubtedly a dynamic force for righteousness in Victorian England. But his many years of ministry were marked not only by his masterful pulpiteering, but by his many labors on behalf of the poor and needy as well.

On this day in 1861, he erected an almshouse for the elderly. In 1864, he established a school for the needy children of London. In 1866, he founded the Stockwell Orphanages. And, in 1867, to these many enterprises was added still another, a private hospital.

Explaining this furious activity on behalf of the poor, Spurgeon said, “God’s intent in endowing any person with more substance than he needs is that he may have the pleasurable office, or rather the delightful privilege, of relieving want and woe. Alas, how many there are who consider that store which God has put into their hands on purpose for the poor and needy, to be only so much provision for their excessive luxury, a luxury which pampers them but yields them neither benefit nor pleasure. Others dream that wealth is given them that they may keep it under lock and key, cankering and corroding, breeding covetousness and care. Who dares roll a stone over the well's mouth when thirst is raging all around? Who dares keep the bread from the women and children who are ready to gnaw their own arms for hunger? Above all, who dares allow the sufferer to writhe in agony uncared for, and the sick to pine into their graves unnursed? This is not small sin: it is a crime to be answered for, to the Judge, when He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.”

The Repugnant Office

“I would rather be right than President,” Henry Clay once said. He got his wish. He was often right but never President, though he ran for the office four times. Franklin Pierce (1804-1869), on the other hand was a genial New Hampshire lawyer who said that the Presidency would be “utterly repugnant” to him. Pierce became President in spite of himself--without ever making a single campaign speech.

Like his predecessor James K. Polk, Pierce had not even been considered a candidate before the Democratic convention, but he was reluctantly pushed into the role of compromise candidate when the convention reached a stalemate at the forty-eighth ballot on this day in 1852. Although he had served honorably in his state legislature and in the House and Senate, Pierce gradually developed a marked distaste for politics--in 1842 he resigned from the Senate to return to private practice, and later he refused several opportunities to return to office. Handsome, friendly Pierce remained in committed retirement from all political involvement for a decade until he was caught up in the swirl of events that suddenly put him in the White House. The nation saw his ambivalence to party pandering, refreshing. He won over a divided field after his friend, Nathaniel Hawthorne, wrote a flattering campaign biography.

In 1852 slavery was still a dominating issue. Pierce took office with the belief that he should support the Compromise of 1850, and like Fillmore, he alienated the North by enforcing the law then on the books: Fugitive Slave Act. The Kansas-Nebraska Act, which created new territories in 1854, simply provided a new arena for the great struggle. In these new territories nothing was settled as abolitionists and pro-slavery groups resorted to force and bloodshed: “Bleeding Kansas” became an open wound.

On other fronts Pierce fared little better. Part of his expansionist policy was a plan to purchase Cuba, but he was forced to denounce three of his ministers--one of them was his successor, James Buchanan--when they declared in the Ostend Manifesto that America should take Cuba, if Spain refused to sell it. However, Pierce was able to purchase land from Mexico which gave us our present southwest border, completing our expansion in the West. Pierce was probably grateful when his party neglected to nominate him for another term. At last he could have his privacy.

Thursday, June 7

King's Meadow College Survey

Here at the King’s Meadow Study Center we are working through the sundry preliminary processes (note the task's laborious and plural dimensions) of establishing a Christian classical college program here in Franklin. It is our intention to lay enduring foundations for a college that would serve as a missional extension of Christ’s church to cultivate knowledgeable, wise, and faithful servants of God. Very simply then, our mission would be to provide the very best of a Liberal Arts education under the Lordship of Christ according to the Holy Scriptures.

One of the necessary legal requirements we must fulfil in order to be authorized by the state of Tennessee to launch such an academic program is to demonstrate both need and support. To that end, we’ve developed a short on-line survey to ascertain the potential interest of our constituency (that'd be you) and the wider community (that'd be the folks you know). Please take a minute to complete the Classical Christian College Survey and please pass it along to any other folks who you think might be interested.