Sunday, March 30

Daily Battlefields

"The world has no room for cowards. We must all be ready somehow to toil, to suffer, to die. And yours is not the less noble because no drum beats before you when you go out into your daily battlefields, and no crowds shout about your coming when you return from your daily victory or defeat." Robert Lewis Stevenson

"In valor there is hope." Tacitus

"The strength and glory of a land does not depend upon its wealth, its defenses, its great houses, its powerful armaments; but on the number of its gracious, serious, kind, wise, and courageous citizens." Martin Luther

"Faith is always at a disadvantage; it is a perpetually defeated thing which survives all conquerors." G. K. Chesterton

Saturday, March 29

What's On

Cranmer's Legacy

Thomas Cranmer was consecrated Archbishop of Canterbury by King Henry VIII on this day in 1533. Believing himself subject to the King, Cranmer promptly granted Henry an annulment of his marriage.

Already leaning toward Protestantism, Cranmer became the chief architect of the English Reformation. He urged the King to place Bibles in England's churches and it was done. With the help of Martin Bucer, he wrote the first Book of Common Prayer. On his deathbed the king clung to Cranmer's hand. Under Edward VI, Henry’s young son and successor, Cranmer advanced Protestantism even more, helping draft doctrines which became the basis for the Church of England's Thirty Nine Articles.

Cranmer supported Lady Jane Gray to succeed Edward. It was not to be. Bloody Mary took the throne instead and charged him with treason and heresy. In face of death he recanted his Protestant opinions. When he learned he was to die anyway, he publicly renounced his recantation. "As for the pope, I refuse him, as Christ's enemy and Antichrist, with all his false doctrine." When the fire was lit, he held the hand that had signed the recantation into the flame, burning it off before the fire touched his body, saying, "This unworthy right hand." As death approached he repeated several times, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."

What I'm Reading


"In one sense, Babylon is the acceptance of matter as the only meaning, the source of the mystery. That man could accept the shell for the total meaning, that his vanity could so lead him ... is the ultimate folly." Andrew Nelson Lytle

Wise Guys

"Never be ashamed to own you have been in the wrong; 'tis but saying you are wiser today than yesterday." Jonathan Swift

"To be happy at home is the end of all labor." Samuel Johnson

Winthrop's Journal

"Anno Domini 1630, March 29, Easter Monday. Riding at the Cowes, near the Isle of Wight, in the Arbella, a ship of three hundred and fifty tons."

So begins one of the most famous journals ever written, a journal which remains a treasure mine of information for historians of New England. John Winthrop, the writer of the journal, was a well-educated upper-class Englishman. Although a moderately successful lawyer, he left it all to join the Massachusetts Bay Company. Motivating his decision was a personal inclination toward Puritanism and distress over the religious condition of Europe.

Eventually, the Puritans settled in the New World. There Winthrop was for nine years a governor and for ten years deputy-governor. John Winthrop maintained his sporadic journal entries until 1649.

Keep Away

"Our greatest wealth is not measured in terms of riches but relationships. Likewise, our greatest debts are incurred because of wastrel companions." Oliver Cromwell

"People are judged by both the company they keep and the company they keep away from." Bonnie Prince Charlie

Friday, March 28

The Last Big Thing

"If you simply want a crowd, the seeker-sensitive model produces results. If you want solid, sincere, mature followers of Christ, it's a bust." Bill Hybels

Father Figure

Pioneering educator, John Comenius was born in Prague on this day in 1592. Like most of the other followers of John Hus, he was forced into exile during the Thirty Years War. He and most of the members of his small covenant community settled in Leszno, Poland. There Comenius wrote several textbooks on education. These were so original in their conception of classical and covenantal discipleship that they won him the name "Father of Modern Education."

Wednesday, March 26

Either or Neither

While American media pundits have wondered aloud in recent weeks if Barak Obama, his pastor, and his church have an unorthodox view of Christianity, Middle East scholar Daniel Pipes continues to wonder if Obama might have a similarly unorthodox view of Islam. In a controversial article last December, he presented evidence that Obama had actually been raised as a Muslim (despite fierce denials by the Obama campaign, the national media corps, and a host of "experts" on the subject). In a follow-up article in January Pipes confirmed the information--and then added a raft of new evidence. Now, the Indonesian Press has picked up on the story and tracked down the students and teachers who knew young Obama in the days when he was a youngster in a practicing Muslim household. All this has gone far, far beyond the category of "urban myth," "political mudslinging," or "campaign gossip." So which is it? Is Obama an apostate Christian or an apostate Muslim? Or is he neither?

Sunday, March 23

Resurrection Joy!

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!

Welcome, Happy Morning

“Welcome, happy morning!” age to age shall say:
“Hell today is vanquished, Heav’n is won today!
Lo! the dead is living, God forevermore!
Him, their true Creator, all His works adore!

“Welcome, happy morning!"
Age to age shall say.

Earth her joy confesses, clothing her for spring,
All fresh gifts returned with her returning King:
Bloom in every meadow, leaves on every bough,
Speak His sorrow ended, hail His triumph now.

“Welcome, happy morning!"
Age to age shall say.

Months in due succession, days of lengthening light,
Hours and passing moments praise Thee in their flight.
Brightness of the morning, sky and fields and sea,
Vanquisher of darkness, bring their praise to Thee.

“Welcome, happy morning!"
Age to age shall say.

Maker and Redeemer, life and health of all,
Thou from heaven beholding human nature’s fall,
Of the Father’s Godhead true and only Son,
Mankind to deliver, manhood didst put on.

“Welcome, happy morning!"
Age to age shall say.

Thou, of life the Author, death didst undergo,
Tread the path of darkness, saving strength to show.
Come, then True and Faithful, now fulfill Thy Word;
Tis Thine own third morning; rise, O buried Lord!

“Welcome, happy morning!"
Age to age shall say.

Loose the souls long prisoned, bound with Satan’s chain;
All that now is fallen raise to life again;
Show Thy face in brightness, bid the nations see;
Bring again our daylight: day returns with Thee!

Friday, March 21

Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed!

Alas! And did my Savior bleed,
And did my Sovereign die!
Would He devote that sacred head
For sinners such as I?

Was it for crimes that I have done,
He groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity! Grace unknown!
And love beyond degree!

Well might the sun in darkness hide,
And shut its glories in,
When God, the mighty maker, died
For His own creature's sin.

Thus might I hide my blushing face
While His dear cross appears;
Dissolve my heart in thankfulness,
and melt mine eyes to tears.

But drops of tears can ne'er repay
The debt of love I owe.
Here, Lord, I give myself away;
Tis all that I can do.

Thursday, March 20

Man of Sorrows

Man of Sorrows! What a name

For the Son of God, who came

Ruined sinners to reclaim.

Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Bearing shame and scoffing rude,

In my place condemned He stood;

Sealed my pardon with His blood.

Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Guilty, vile, and helpless we;

Spotless Lamb of God was He;

Full atonement! Can it be?

Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Lifted up was He to die;
“It is finished!” was His cry;

Now in Heav’n exalted high.

Hallelujah! What a Savior!

When He comes, our glorious King,

All His ransomed home to bring,

Then anew His song we’ll sing:

Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Monday, March 17

Good Friday and Easter at Parish

St. Patrick's Breastplate

I bind unto myself today
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same
The Three in One and One in Three.

I bind this today to me forever
By power of faith, Christ’s incarnation;
His baptism in Jordan river,
His death on Cross for my salvation;
His bursting from the spiced tomb,
His riding up the heavenly way,
His coming at the day of doom
I bind unto myself today.

I bind unto myself the power
Of the great love of cherubim;
The sweet ‘Well done’ in judgment hour,
The service of the seraphim,
Confessors’ faith, Apostles’ word,
The Patriarchs’ prayers, the prophets’ scrolls,
All good deeds done unto the Lord
And purity of virgin souls.

I bind unto myself today
The virtues of the star lit heaven,
The glorious sun’s life giving ray,
The whiteness of the moon at even,
The flashing of the lightning free,
The whirling wind’s tempestuous shocks,
The stable earth, the deep salt sea
Around the old eternal rocks.

I bind unto myself today
The power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, His might to stay,
His ear to hearken to my need.
The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, His shield to ward;
The word of God to give me speech,
His heavenly host to be my guard.

Against the demon snares of sin,
The vice that gives temptation force,
The natural lusts that war within,
The hostile men that mar my course;
Or few or many, far or nigh,
In every place and in all hours,
Against their fierce hostility
I bind to me these holy powers.

Against all Satan’s spells and wiles,
Against false words of heresy,
Against the knowledge that defiles,
Against the heart’s idolatry,
Against the wizard’s evil craft,
Against the death wound and the burning,
The choking wave, the poisoned shaft,
Protect me, Christ, till Thy returning.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself the Name,
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three.
By Whom all nature hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
Salvation is of Christ the Lord.

Patrick's Missionary Impulse

Patrick of Ireland was a younger contemporary of Augustine of Hippo and Martin of Tours--the fifth century heroes of the faith who laid the foundations for the great civilization of Christendom. He was apparently born into a patrician Roman family in one of the little Christian towns near present day Glasglow--either Bonavern or Belhaven. Although his pious parents, Calphurnius and Conchessa, nurtured him the Christian faith, he later confessed that he much preferred the passing pleasures of sin.

One day while playing by the sea as a teen, marauding pirates captured Patrick and sold him into slavery to a petty Celtic tribal king, named Milchu. During the next six years of captivity he suffered great adversity, hunger, nakedness, loneliness, and sorrow while tending his master's flocks in the valley of the Braid and on the slopes of the Slemish.

It was amidst such dire straits that Patrick began to remember the Word of God his mother had taught him. Regretting his past life of selfish pleasure seeking, he turned to Christ as his Savior.

Of his conversion he later wrote, “I was sixteen years old and knew not the true God and was carried away captive; but in that strange land the Lord opened my unbelieving eyes, and although late I called my sins to mind, and was converted with my whole heart to the Lord my God, who regarded my low estate, had pity on my youth and ignorance, and consoled me as a father consoles his children. Every day I used to look after sheep and I used to pray often during the day, the love of God and a holy fear of Him increased more and more in me. My faith began to grow and my spirit was ardently stirred. Often, I would pray as many as a hundred times in a single day--and nearly as many at night. Even when I was staying out in the woods or on the mountain, I would rise before dawn for prayer, in snow and frost and rain. I felt no ill effect and there was no slackness in me. As I now realize, it was because the Spirit was maturing and preparing me for a work yet to come.”

Amazingly, Patrick came to love the very people who humiliated him, abused him, and taunted him. He yearned for them to know the blessed peace he had found in the Gospel of Christ. Eventually rescued through a remarkable turn of events, Patrick returned to his family in Britain. But his heart increasingly dwelt upon the fierce Celtic peoples he had come to know so well. He was stunned to realize that he actually longed to return to Ireland and share the Gospel with them.

Though his parents were grieved to see him leave home once again, they reluctantly supported his efforts to gain theological training on the continent. His classical education had been interrupted by his captivity, so he was far behind his peers academically. But what he lacked in he made up for in zeal. Before long he had secured a warrant to evangelize his former captors.

Thus, Patrick returned to Ireland. He preached to the pagan tribes in the Irish language he had learned as a slave. His willingness to take the Gospel to the least likely and the least lovely people imaginable was met with extraordinary success. And that success would continue for over the course of nearly half a century of evangelization, church planting, and social reform. He would later write that God’s grace had so blessed his efforts that “many thousands were born again unto God.” Indeed, according to the early church chronicler Killen, “There can be no reasonable doubt that Patrick preached the Gospel, that he was a most zealous and efficient evangelist, and that he is entitled to be called the Apostle of Ireland.”

We know that the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to “those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness” (Matthew 5:10) and that great “blessings” and “rewards” eventually await those who have been “insulted,” “slandered,” and “sore vexed” who nevertheless persevere in their high callings (Matthew 5:12-13). We know that often it is in “afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, tumults, labors, sleeplessness, and hunger” (2 Corinthians 6:4-5) that our real mettle is proven. Nevertheless, we often forget that these things are not simply to be endured. They actually frame our greatest calling. They lay the foundations for our most effective ministries. It is when, like Patrick, we come to love God’s enemies and ours that we are set free for great effectiveness.

Jesus said, “Bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you and pray for those who persecute you, (Matthew 5:44) And again, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.” (Luke 6:27). Therein is the missionary impulse. Patrick’s life provides us with a stunning reminder of that remarkable Gospel paradox.

Sunday, March 16

Palms on Palm Sunday

The palm tree and palm leaves appear again and again throughout the Bible as symbols of integrity, honor, righteousness, holiness, godly authority, and royal glory. The palm was used in the carved decorations of the temple, usually associated with the Cherubim, but also with the regal lion and the flower in full bloom. Indeed, the association of the palm with these ideas recurs more than three dozen times. The blessing of the Lord is often portrayed as “Like palm groves that stretch afar, like gardens beside a river, like aloes that the Lord has planted, like cedar trees beside the waters” (Numbers 24:6).

In addition though, throughout the entire ancient Near East the palm also had the common cultural connotation of refreshment and restoration. Waving palm tops along the horizon heralded the location of a desert oasis, a welcome stop for both camel and traveler. Palms provided weary travelers food and shade; the oasis, water. So palm branches become the symbol of welcome, public homage, and journey’s end. It was the sign of completion, fulfillment, and satisfaction.

For both the Romans and the Jews the palm was carried in joyful or triumphant processions. In 293 BC victorious Roman soldiers bore palm branches when parading in Rome; and the palm was given as a victory emblem at public games. Palm branches were the conventional symbol of public approval and welcome by all the eastern peoples to conquering heroes, and were strewn and carried in triumphal processions. The palm tree was embossed on ancient Hebrew coins. Later, the Romans celebrated the conquest of Judea by issuing new currency, retaining the palm tree, but with an added inscription celebrating their crushing victory.

All the Gospels report that people gave Jesus the kingly honor of strewing palm branches along the path during His triumphal entry. In the Synoptics (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) we are told that they also laid down their garments with cut palm rushes on the street; John more specifically mentions the full palm fronds. The joyous Hosannas that the people were singing (Psalm 118) were actually from the benediction song for the Passover meal, and thus foreshadowed passion Jesus would suffer during the week ahead. In addition, the whole scene was a fulfillment of all the Old Testament prophecies of the coming King (Zechariah 9:9-10).

Not surprisingly, as early as the late first century the palm was connected with martyrdom (Revelation 7:9) and was used to decorate grave markers and tombs in the Roman catacombs as a sign of the triumphant death of the martyr. On mosaics and on sarcophagi it usually stands for paradise, and Christ is frequently portrayed amid palms in heaven. So also in the earliest Christian art, the Lamb of God and the Apostles are depicted amid palms. In addition, the use of the palm became an almost universal worship convention on Palm Sunday by the end of the second or the beginning of the third century.

Saturday, March 15

Anticipating Palm Sunday

“The entrance into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday has all the elements of theatre of the absurd: the poor king; truth comes riding on a donkey; arcane and ancient symbolic actions played out unknowingly by the unwashed rabble; and all as a prelude to the disaster of crucifixion--or so it seemed.” Thomas Watson

“A day which began with joy and promise ends with rebuke and judgment. Like the fig tree, which outwardly looked fruitful, Jerusalem had all the outward signs of religious piety, but was inwardly hostile to the purposes of the Lord. Palm Sunday is thus both a promise and a warning echoing across the ages.” Elizabeth Prentiss

“Everyone who lined the streets of Jerusalem that day so long ago had a different reason for waving those palms. Some were political activists; they'd heard Jesus had supernatural power, and they wanted him to use it to free Israel from Roman rule. Others had loved ones who were sick or dying. They waved branches, hoping for physical healing. Some were onlookers merely looking for something to do, while others were genuine followers who wished Jesus would establish himself as an earthly king. Jesus was the only one in the parade who knew why he was going to Jerusalem--to die. He had a mission, while everyone else had an agenda.” J.I. Packer


A new blog using eleven words in each post or list.

More Bows in the Times

Thursday, March 13

Field of Dreams

Bows Are Back

According to David Colman writing in today's New York Times , there is something of a "bow tie resurrection" going on in the world of fashion these days, especially "if you’re young and not fainthearted."

According to Colman, "Only a few years ago it was all but left for dead; men were ditching it even as part of a tuxedo." But now the bow tie is "hot, hot, hot." indeed, he asserts, "For gents, the bowtie is the neckwear of choice." Just goes to show you: even broken clocks are right twice a day.

Sunday, March 9

The End of the Christian East

The first Crusade to liberate the once Christian lands of the Near East from the tyranny of Islamic conquerors was a great success. An army of about 50,000 Europeans, supported by the imperial treasury of Byzantium, drove south through Syria and Palestine, finally retaking Jerusalem in 1099. During the next few years, the Crusaders carved up their conquests into several small kingdoms, realms that they dubbed "Outremer." They built castles, churches, and markets. They constructed fortified walls, dug fresh wells, and cultivated the fields. They restored the ancient holy places. They reopened the trade routes. And they rebuilt the roadways.

Many of the men committed their lives to making the region a flourishing Christian culture once again. The feudal order that they instituted there brought dramatic changes to the lives and the fortunes of the citizenry. Under their ambitious building program, cities like Acre, Edessa, and even Jerusalem itself, blossomed into architectural marvels. Out of the rubble of war they brought forth peace and prosperity.

But restoring the lands to their former glory was no easy task. Provisions had to be shipped across long distances. Communications with the West were difficult at best. Petty jealousies between competing clans, commanders, chiefs, and would-be-czars weakened their solidarity, stalled their progress, and diverted their attentions. But, regardless of all that, in the end there simply were not enough of them to hold their tiny strip of territory against the persistent onslaught of Moslem assassins and warlords.

On this day in 1144, the Saracen Muslims reorganized their armies and swept through Syria. Edessa fell. A renewed Crusade led by the kings of France and Germany failed to recover it. All of Europe was stunned. And the worst was yet to come. In 1150, Saladin united the Islamic world under his leadership and began to chip away at the remaining Christian holdings. In 1187, he defeated the Crusaders at the decisive Battle of Hattin. He then captured Jerusalem and overran virtually all the Latin territories except Acre.

Another series of Crusades were launched by such notables as King Richard I of England, Emperor Frederick II of Germany, and King Louis IX of France. Under their leadership the Western armies valiantly won back a few swatches of the lost lands between Joppa and Acre. But the flagging campaigns were generally ineffectual. Jerusalem was lost again in 1244. Acre fell in 1291. And the Christian Near East has been held in the terrifying grips of Islam ever since.

Monday, March 3

Chinese Food Nation

These days, Chinese restaurants usually take the form of urban carryout shops and suburban buffets. And they seem to be everywhere. Indeed, according to a review of a new book by New York Times writer, Jennifer Lee, there are about 40,000 Chinese restaurants in the U.S., "more than the number of McDonald's, Burger Kings, and KFCs combined." Indeed, she asserts, "Chinese food might be our national cuisine." How can this be? Surely there are more hole-in-the-wall BBQ joints and Mexican restaurants--to this I can attest by personal experience! In fact, my Peruvian son-in-law is pretty well convinced that he did not marry into an American family, but a Mexican one.