Wednesday, December 31

Humility and Delight

"Authority exercised with humility, and obedience accepted with delight are the very lines along which our spirits live." --C.S. Lewis

Tuesday, December 30

Right to Life Rally

On January 25, George Grant will be the plenary speaker for the annual Tennessee Right to Life rally in downtown Nashville marking the 36th anniversary of the infamous Roe v. Wade decision. The event, held adjacent to Capitol Hill at the Bicentennial Mall from 2-3:30 PM, will also feature Dr. Richard Land and Bishop David Choby. Given the historic challenges to the sanctity of life posed by our new administration in Washington, this could very well be a pivotal moment for the pro-life movement and for our nation. Be sure to mark your calendars and plan to attend this peaceful, prayerful event.

Sunday, December 28

Sanctity of Life Sunday

Often called Childermas, this day on the Christian calendar has traditionally been celebrated as the Feast of the Innocents. It is the day that solemnizes the slaughter of the children of Judea by Herod the Great following the birth of Christ.

It has always been the focus of the Christian’s commitment to protect and preserve the sanctity of human life—thus serving as a prophetic warning against the practitioners of abandonment and infanticide in the age of antiquity, oblacy and pessiary in the medieval epoch, and abortion and euthanasia in these modern times. Generally set aside as a day of prayer, it culminates with a declaration of the covenant community’s unflinching commitment to the innocents who are unable to protect themselves.

Virtually every culture in antiquity was stained with the blood of innocent children. Unwanted infants in ancient Rome were abandoned outside the city walls to die from exposure to the elements or from the attacks of wild foraging beasts. Greeks often gave their pregnant women harsh doses of herbal or medicinal abortifacients. Persians developed highly sophisticated surgical curette procedures. Chinese women tied heavy ropes around their waists so excruciatingly tight that they either aborted or passed into unconsciousness. Ancient Hindus and Arabs concocted chemical pessaries--abortifacients that were pushed or pumped directly into the womb through the birth canal. Primitive Canaanites threw their children onto great flaming pyres as a sacrifice to their god Molech. Polynesians subjected their pregnant women to onerous tortures--their abdomens beaten with large stones or hot coals heaped upon their bodies. Egyptians disposed of their unwanted children by disemboweling and dismembering them shortly after birth--their collagen was then harvested for the manufacture of cosmetic creams.

Abortion, infanticide, exposure, and abandonment were so much a part of human societies that they provided the primary literary liet motif in popular traditions, stories, myths, fables, and legends. The founding of Rome was, for instance, presumed to be the happy result of the abandonment of children. According to the story, a vestal virgin who had been raped bore twin sons, Romulus and Remus. The harsh Etruscan Amulius ordered them exposed on the Tiber River. Left in a basket which floated ashore, they were found by a she wolf and suckled by her. Romulus and Remus would later establish the city of Rome on the seven hills near the place of their rescue. Likewise, the stories of Oedipus, Jupiter, Poseidon, and Hephaistos, were are victims of failed infanticides.

Because they had been mired by the minions of sin and death, it was as instinctive as the autumn harvest for them to summarily sabotage their own heritage. They saw nothing particularly cruel about despoiling the fruit of their wombs. It was woven into the very fabric of their culture. They believed that it was completely justifiable. They believed that it was just and good and right.

The Gospel therefore came into the world as a stern rebuke. God, who is the giver of life (Acts 17:25), the fountain of life (Psalm 36:9), and the defender of life (Psalm 27:1), not only sent us the message of life (Acts 5:20) and the words of life (John 6:68), He sent us the light of life as well (John 8:12). He sent us His only begotten Son—the life of the world (John 6:51)--to break the bonds of sin and death (1 Corinthians 15:54-56). For God so loved the world, that He sent His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16).

Saturday, December 27

Strong, Old Things

"Weak things must boast of being new, like so many new German philosophies. But strong things can boast of being old. Strong things can boast of being moribund." --G. K. Chesterton

Thursday, December 25

The Paradox of the Incarnation

“Maker of the sun, He is made under the sun. In the Father He remains, from His mother He goes forth. Creator of heaven and earth, He was born on earth under heaven. Unspeakably wise, He is wisely speechless. Filling the world, He lies in a manger. Ruler of the stars, He nurses at His mother’s bosom. He is both great in the nature of God, and small in the form of a servant.” --Augustine (354-430)

On the Nightstand

Wednesday, December 24

The Continual Passion of Christ

"The whole life of Christ was a continual passion; others die martyrs, but Christ was born a martyr. He found a Golgotha even in Bethlehem; for, to his tenderness then, the straws were almost as sharp as the thorns after; and the manger as uneasy at first, as his cross at last. His birth and his death were but one continual act, and his Christmas Day and his Good Friday are but the evening and morning of one and the same day." --John Donne, A Sermon Preached at St. Paul's Cathedral in London on Christmas Day, 1626.

A Christmas Prayer For America

Monday, December 22

Neglecting Fads

“You can find all the new ideas in the old books; only there you will find them balanced, kept in their place, and sometimes contradicted and overcome by other and better ideas. The great writers did not neglect a fad because they had not thought of it, but because they had thought of it and of all the answers to it as well.” --G.K. Chesterton

Friday, December 19

Paul Weyrich: 1942-2008

"The last forty years of Washington politics is, in a sense, a series of footnotes to Paul Weyrich." --George F. Will

"Paul Weyrich is the man a generation of Washington conservatives wanted to be when they grew up." --Tom DeLay

"No single person--other than Ronald Reagan-- has done more to create the modern conservative movement than Paul Weyrich. I'm not sure there could have been a 'Contract with America' without Paul Weyrich's leadership."
--Newt Gingrich

"If there were a Mount Rushmore for conservative leaders, Paul's face would have to be on it." --Morton Blackwell

"In the beginning there was Paul Weyrich. Forty-two years in Washington, leading the conservative movement. Not just talking, leading." --Rush Limbaugh

Wednesday, December 17

Why Blog?

According to John Piper, ministry leaders should use new technologies like blogs--in order "to write, to teach, to recommend, to interact, to develop an eye for what is meaningful, and to be known."

This post on the Desiring God site is just one example of why I believe Piper's ministry is so fruitful and effective for the Kingdom.

Tuesday, December 16

For Gourmets and Gourmands

Though the shopping days are quickly slipping past us now, it is still not too late to order Saints Bearing Casseroles for Christmas. Contact Joanna at the Parish Presbyterian church office. With 225 pages and more than 300 recipes, this new cookbook, hot off the press, is the perfect gift for all the gourmets and gourmands on your list.

A New Hardback Edition of "Patriot" for 2009

Winter Wonderland

Saturday, December 13

Santa Lucia’s Day

A beautiful and wealthy Sicilian who was martyred during the persecutions of Diocletian, Lucia of Syracuse (c. 304) was known as the patron of light. For her, Advent was always a celebration of the approach of Light and Life. Interestingly, her feast day, held on December 13, is one of the shortest and darkest days of the year. Thus, a great festival of lights is traditionally held in her memory--particularly in Scandinavian cultures. Candles are set into evergreens. Garlands are spread, full of twinkling lights. Torchlight parades are held. And fireworks brighten the evening sky. The celebration remains an important holiday in Sweden, Denmark, Estonia, Norway, Finland, Malta, Italy, Bosnia, Iceland, and Croatia.

St. Columba

Nearly two centuries after Patrick had carried the gospel of Christ to Ireland, Columba was born in the Irish town of Donegal on this day in 521. He was a member of the royal family--though his parents were devout Christians, and as a boy Columba attended the first church established by Patrick.

Columba was ordained and established several churches and monasteries in Ireland, but in 563 he left his native land and went on pilgrimage for Christ. With twelve companions he sailed to Iona, a rugged island just off the west coast of Scotland. There he established a monastery which would serve as a base of evangelism among the barbarian Scots and the Picts.

He and his pioneer evangelists courageously preached to these fierce people who were still under the strong influence of the Druid religion. Brude, king of the Picts, was converted under Columba's influence, and Christianity began to spread quickly and have a strong influence on the region.

The monastery Columba founded at Iona became a center of learning and piety. In a day when the Roman church was becoming more ceremonial and priestly, the school at Iona emphasized the Bible as the sole rule of faith. For these Celtic Christians, Christ alone was head of the Church--they did not follow the hierarchical authority or the liturgical ceremonies of the Roman church.

From Iona, a vast number of missionaries went out to the lands of Holland, France, Switzerland, Germany, and Italy. As a result, the island became a favorite burying place for kings-more than seventy Irish, Scots, Norse, and Fleming kings sought to be interred within its holy confines.

By the end of the sixth century, the Pope began to try to bring the movement Columba under the authority of the Roman Church. He sent the missionary Augustine to Britain in 592 and established him as bishop at Canterbury. For a century there was a struggle between the British church and the Roman church for authority in the region. At last though, in the seventh century, at the synod of Whitby in 664, the authority of the Roman church was affirmed and accepted by all but a few of the churches. Even those few recalcitrant parishes in the Highlands of Scotland eventually acceded to Rome’s control by the end of the eighth century and Columba’s vision was all but lost--until its revival under John Knox and George Buchanan during the Scottish Reformation during the sixteenth century.

Monday, December 8

Saints Bearing Casseroles

I love food. I love everything about food. I love eating it, of course. But, I also love talking about it, thinking about it, and reminiscing about it. I love the social traditions that surround good meals. I love the kind of fellowship that can only be shared around a dinner table or across a picnic table or beside the kitchen counter or over the stove.

When I plan a family trip, I always factor in where we’ll stop for our meals--and our snacks between meals. If I’m away for a speaking engagement, I always do a little research to discover what must-experience local cuisines I can fit into the weekend. I even have my favorite spots to grab a quick bite in airports all over the world. A few years ago when I wrote a novel, I turned it into a kind of food-travelogue. Once, I even found a way to fit my love for barbecue into a book about theology. I love food.

That's why I am about to shamelessly hawk the new cookbook published by all the great cooks in my congregation, Parish Presbyterian. No, really. Hot off the press with 225 pages and 300 recipes,Saints Bearing Casseroles is perfect for Christmas gift-giving.

Not only that, but it is a gift with real theological import. Seriously.

You see, not only do I love food, but I actually think God loves food too. Consider the fact that we can hardly read a single page of Scripture without running into a discussion of bread and wine, milk and honey, leeks and onions, glistening oil and plump figs, sweet grapes and delectable pomegranates, roast lamb and savory stew. Everywhere we look, there are feasts and celebrations, fatted calves and pungent herbs, loaves and fishes.

Think about how many ways the Lord uses food to preach the Gospel to our hearts and lives. Faith is defined by hungering and thirsting. Covenant is defined by hospitality and community. The pinnacle of worship is the gathering of God’s people around His table. The culmination of the history of redemption is a wedding supper.

And have you ever noticed that nearly all of Christ’s post-resurrection appearances occurred at meals? Remember, Jesus did not say, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone opens the door, I will enter in and discuss theology with him.” Oh no! Instead, Jesus said, “I will come in and sup with him.” What a difference!

It is always delightful for me to consider the fact that one of the surest indications of healthy covenant love in a church is the appearance of “saints bearing casseroles.”

This Christmas, give the cooks you love this wonderful collection of wit and wisdom, recipes and meal plans, insight and whimsy. Get your copy (or copies) of Saints Bearing Casseroles from Joanna at the Parish Presbyterian office--they're just $20 apiece and all proceeds benefit the Parish Pres Building Fund (OK, OK, I already admitted that this was all rather shameless). Merry Christmas--and be sure to check out the Texas guacamole!

Newsweek's Absurdity

The current Newsweek magazine cover story on same-sex marriage is embarrassing. As Mollie Hemmingway point out in her spot-on analysis at the Get Religion Blog, the article is a complete “train wreck of a hit piece” from its “junior high-worthy snarkiness” right through to its “unbelievable ignorance” and “offensive hackery.”

How could the senior editor of this major media outlet--who, by the way, oversees all of the magazine’s religion coverage--have completely ignored the Bible while making an argument purportedly based on the teaching of the Bible? How could she actually maintain that, "while the Bible and Jesus say many important things about love and family, neither explicitly defines marriage as between one man and one woman"?

Umm, ever see this one?

“Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” Matthew 19:4-6.

Absolutely amazing! Newsweek should probably lay off the theologizing--at least until someone on staff actually knows a bit of theology.

On the Nightstand

Book Sale

This Saturday at Parish Pres, several students of Franklin Classical School and New College Franklin will be holding a book sale to raise funds for missions (for the Classical School of the Medes in Iraq and for New College Franklin). The books have all been culled from my personal library. My goal has been to pull about 2,000 volumes or so--some are duplicates, some are already read and don't need to remain archived, and some are publisher review copies. There will also be copies of the new Parish Pres cookbook, Saints Bearing Casseroles. In addition, a few other folks have donated books of various kinds and there will be fresh baked goodies, coffee, cider, and other refreshments available for sale. So, come early, stay late, and snag some Christmas presents for all those hard-to-buy-for folks on your list. Doors open at 8:30 AM and won't close until 3:00 PM.

Wednesday, December 3

Cantankerous Cant

“Of all the cants which are canted in this canting world, there is no cant to me more hateful than the cant of an ostentatious and affected liberality.” --Thomas Chalmers

Tuesday, December 2

Measure of a Man

"The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good." --Samuel Johnson

Monday, December 1

Before Narnia


The holiday season--what we generically just call Christmastime--is actually a long sequence of revered traditions, holy days, festal revelries, and liturgical rites stretching from the end of November through the beginning of January that are collectively known as Yuletide.

Beginning with Advent, a time of preparation and repentance, proceeding to Christmas, a time of celebration and generosity, and concluding with Epiphany, a time of remembrance and thanksgiving, Yuletide traditions enable us to see out the old year with faith and love while ushering in the new year with hope and joy.

It is a season fraught with meaning and significance. Unfortunately, it is also such a busy season that its meaning and significance can all too easily be obscured either by well-intended materialistic pursuits--frenzied shopping trips to the mall to find just the right Christmas gift--or by the less benign demands, desires, wants, and needs which are little more than grist for human greed. The traditions of Yuletide were intended to guard us against such things--and thus, are actually more relevant today than ever before.