Friday, January 30

The Regicide of Charles

At two o'clock on the afternoon on this day in 1649, Charles I, King of England stepped upon a scaffold outside the banqueting hall at Whitehall Palace in London. A few moments later he was beheaded by executioner Richard Brandon and England was without a king. His death brought to an end the Civil War between the king and his parliament. It was just four years after the King's royalist forces lost at Naseby to the army led by the Parliamentarian's Oliver Cromwell.

Charles had offended a large majority of his subjects by refusing to accept accountability to Parliament, flirting with Catholicism, and continually raising tax rates. He went so far as to dissolve Parliament on several occasions for several years at a time. The struggle between the Parliament and the Crown erupted in a war in which Charles was opposed by well-trained Roundhead and Cavalier forces. After several contentious battles, Charles surrendered to a Scottish army in 1646. He was convicted of treason in 1648 and finally executed in 1649.

Cromwell was afterwards named Lord Protector of the English Commonwealth—though he repeatedly refused to accept Parliament’s offer of the Crown. The monarchy was restored in 1660 when Parliament invited Charles II to return from exile in France to assume his father’s throne.

The whole tragic episode was fraught with difficulty, controversy, and dissension. Even so staunch a supporter of the cause of constitutional freedom in England as the Anglican bishop of Liverpool J. C. Ryle (1816-1900), could not approve of the regicide. He noted in his book, Light from Old Times,, "It is a vulgar error to suppose, as many do, that the whole Parliamentary party are accountable for that wicked and impolitic act. The immense majority of the Presbyterians protested loudly against it." It was, in fact, the army that took the lead. Ryle was particularly anxious to make it clear that the Puritans "were entirely guiltless of any participation in the trial and death of the King." Nevertheless Ryle admitted that as much as the civil war was to be regretted, "we must in fairness remember that we probably owe to it the free and excellent Constitution which we possess in this country."

Thursday, January 29

Providence Farms

The wonderful calling, the compelling vision, the gracious hospitality, and (of course) the delicious food of Will and Judy Matheny at Providence Farms are all featured in The Tennessean, the metropolitan newspaper of Nashville and Middle Tennessee. The brief profile provides a delightful insight into how a business can be a means by which genuine covenant life is joyously provoked and enhanced.

Tuesday, January 27

The Quest for Happiness

"All that we call human history--money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery--is the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy." --C.S. Lewis

Monday, January 26

Truly Useless

"In my many years I have come to a conclusion that one useless man is a shame, two is a law firm, and three or more is a congress."
-- John Adams

Saturday, January 24

A Merrier World

"If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world." --J.R.R. Tolkien

Friday, January 23

God, Have Mercy on Us

Today, President Obama put hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars into the hands of those insidious organizations that aggressively promote abortion services--including the multi-billion dollar infanticide conglomerate, Planned Parenthood. In ordering a reversal of the Mexico City Policy, the president fulfilled his campaign promises to the minions of the vast, tenured, and privileged anti-life lobby. Saying, "It is time we end the politicization of this issue," he only succeeded in radically re-politicizing the issue. Alas, he also simultaneously made every American taxpayer complicit in the horror of an ever-broadening modern holocaust.

Peace and Reconciliation

John Calvin (1509-1564) established Geneva as the epicenter of the Reformation with his profound theological insight and his rich devotional piety. His careful and systematic codification of the Biblical foundations for Reform was like a magnet for the best and brightest throughout Christendom. The city quickly became an island of intellectual integrity and economic prosperity.

A Frenchman who only came to Geneva reluctantly after he was exiled from Paris during a persecution of Protestants there, Calvin nevertheless gave himself heart and soul to his adopted city. It was there that he would write his greatest work, The Institutes of Christian Religion. A massive systematic theology, the work would set the pace for generations of scholars after him and provide the loadstone for reform movements all over the world--from Knox’s Scotland and Whitefield’s England to Mather’s America and Kuyper’s Holland. His weekly preaching was comprehensively Biblical and practically pastoral. As a result, Geneva became a center for Christian scholarship.

In addition though, the city became renowned for its charitable compassion. It was a kind of safe haven for all of Europe's poor and persecuted, dispossessed and distressed. There they found that Calvin had not only instructed the people in such things as the providence of God, but he had also taught them the importance of mercy in balancing the Christian life. On this day in 1555, he reorganized the diaconate of the city for the task of caring for the flood of poor refugees pouring into the city from the persecution in provinces all over Western Europe. Ever since, Geneva has been known as a haven for peace and reconciliation--a reputation it maintains to this day.


On the Nightstand

The Audacity of Hope

Thursday, January 22

Roe v. Wade

In perhaps its most divisive and controversial decision since Dred Scott, the Supreme Court overturned the infanticide and homicide laws in abortion cases in all fifty states by legalizing abortion procedures from the moment of conception until just before the moment of birth. Delivered 36 years ago today, on January 22, 1973, the Roe v. Wade decision sent shock waves throughout the nation—the effects of which are still felt. In a remarkably argued majority opinion, Associate Justice Blackmun introduced several creative constitutional innovations—including a heretofore unrecognized “right to privacy.” Like the Dred Scott decision before it, this case actually only exacerbated the debate the court set out to resolve.

Monday, January 19

The Dream

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal. I have a dream.”
--Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Popularity v. Principle

“Look, I’ve been both popular and not so popular. But the thing that matters most in life is not one’s popularity but principles. And I am not going to sacrifice my principles on the altar of political popularity. If you chase popularity, you’ll be a lousy president. If you make decisions based upon sound principles, you’ve done your job.”
--President George W. Bush

Sunday, January 18

Tiny Pushes

"I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish humble tasks as though they were great and noble. The world is moved along not by the mighty shoves of its heroes, but by the aggregate of the tiny pushes of each honest worker." --Helen Keller

Saturday, January 17

The Truer Friend

"A man with a definite belief always appears bizarre, because he does not change with the world; he has climbed into a fixed star and the earth whizzes below him like a zoetrope. Millions of mild-mannered men call themselves sane and sensible merely because they always catch the fashionable insanity, because they are hurried into madness after madness by the maelstrom of the world. The man with a definite belief is sure to be the truer friend. --G.K. Chesterton

Thursday, January 15

Little Big Men

"Democracy demands that little men should not take big ones too seriously; it dies when it is full of little men who think they are big themselves." --C.S. Lewis

On the Nightstand

Sunday, January 11

Sharing Joy

"Grief can take care of itself, but to get the full value of a joy you must have somebody to divide it with." --Mark Twain

Rally for Life

Done With

The great Victorian preacher, Charles Spurgeon, read it more than a hundred times. E.M. Bounds kept a copy by his bedside and read from it every night before retiring. Stonewall Jackson kept a copy in his knapsack throughout his Southern campaigns. Its enduring value was confirmed by C.S. Lewis who said it was "a literary and spiritual masterpiece." Translated into more languages than any other book save the Bible. It is Pilgrim's Progress, a fanciful allegory of the Christian life written primarily from a prison cell midway through the seventeenth century by John Bunyan.

The son of a poor brazier, born in 1628, Bunyan was a witness to some of the momentous events in English history: the civil war, the regicide of King Charles, the Cromwell protectorate, the great fire, the restoration of the monarchy, and the great Puritan purge. Those days left an indelible mark of change upon the souls of both men and nations. Bunyan was no exception. After a dramatic adult conversion, he immersed himself in the life and work of a very small non-conformist congregation.

For nearly a decade, Bunyan served as an unordained itinerant preacher and frequently took part in highly visible theological controversies. Thus, he was an easy target for the very restrictive laws concerning religion in his day. He was arrested for preaching without a license. The judges threatened Bunyan, but he was unshakable. Finally, they told him they would not release until he was willing to foreswear his illegal preaching. And so, he was sent to the county gaol where he spent twelve long years.

Because of his wife’s strong exhortations to use his time of incarceration wisely, Bunyan began writing the allegorical Pilgrim's Progress as a sort of spiritual autobiography. Almost immediately, Pilgrim's Progress struck a nerve. Bunyan was able to throw a searchlight of understanding on the soul of Everyman. As literary critic Roger Sharrock said: “A seventeenth-century Calvinist sat down to write a tract and produced a folk-epic of the universal religious imagination instead.”

Today, in the center of Bedford, England there stands a statue of Bunyan carrying a tinker's burden upon his back and a Bible in his hand. It marks the place where that great Puritan spent the long years of his imprisonment for the offense of preaching without the permission of the state. Near the foot of the statue is a little bronze plaque. On it are engraved the words of the prosecutor, the Lord Judge Magistrate of Bedford, spoken at Bunyan's sentencing on this day in 1673. The judge said, “At last we are done with this tinker and his cause. Never more will he plague us: for his name, locked away as surely as he, shall be forgotten, as surely as he. Done we are, and all eternity with him.”

Of course, it is not Bunyan that is forgotten and "done with." Instead, it is the Lord Judge Magistrate of Bedford that remains unnamed and unremembered.

Bad Poetry

"Disobedience to conscience is voluntary; bad poetry, on the other hand, is usually not made on purpose." --C.S. Lewis

Wednesday, January 7

The Dangers of Atheism

"Really, an Atheist cannot guard his faith too carefully. Dangers lie in wait for him on every side." --C.S. Lewis

Monday, January 5

1066 and All That

Edward the Confessor, son of Ethelred the Unready, was the only English king ever to be canonized a saint by the Church of Rome. Edward was the next to last Saxon king--but his successor, King Harold, did not enjoy the throne long. Just ten months after Edward’s death his Norman cousins invaded England and claimed the crown.

Edward had himself spent much of his life in Normandy. The fierce Viking Danes had invaded England just as Edward was entering his teens. They had removed his father from the throne, so he fled with his mother and brother to Normandy, which was then ruled by Edward’s uncle. There Edward came under the influence of the Norman monks and submitted himself to the rigors of a devout Christian life. The British church--rooted in ancient Celtic traditions--had always functioned quite independently of the Bishops in Rome. So, now Edward was exposed to an entirely new perspective of the faith--one that affected him profoundly. He vowed to make a pilgrimage to Rome; but his half brother died suddenly, and Edward was proclaimed king before he could fulfill his vow.

Edward never proved to be a particularly dynamic or visionary leader. He left most of the actual work of government to his lords, dukes, and earls. Nevertheless, it was evident that he fervently desired the good of his people. He was charitable, compassionate, gracious, and free from personal vanity. His piety became legendary. At the end of his life, Edward built a monastery dedicated to St. Peter in a little village adjacent to London in order to satisfy the vow of pilgrimage he had made but was never able to fulfill. The church, which took more than fifteen years to build, was built in the grand style of churches attached to the royal palaces in Normandy. Today it is known as Westminster Abbey.

Edward died on this day, 1066, just one week after the church was dedicated, and he was buried there the next day--events that were later memorialized on the famed Bayeux Tapestry. On December 25, 1066, his cousin, William the Conqueror from Normandy, was crowned King of England in Westminster Abbey, and the church has continued to this day as the Coronation Church of the British monarchy.

Saturday, January 3

On the Darkened Road

"Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens."
--J.R.R. Tolkien

The Protestant Reformation

On this day in 1521, Leo X excommunicated Martin Luther. Despite repeated warnings from the Pope and his representatives, the Augustinian professor of theology at the University of Wittenberg had steadfastly refused to recant his commitment to help reform the church in accordance with the Scriptures. He had boldly declared, "Hier stehe ich; Here I stand; I can do no other. God help me. Amen!" Thus was the Protestant Reformation launched.

TR on Courage

“Courage is not having the strength to go on; it is going on when you don’t have the strength. Industry and determination can do anything that genius and advantage can do and many things that they cannot.” -- Theodore Roosevelt

Thursday, January 1

Stewardship of Time

"All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us."
-- J.R.R. Tolkien

Good Gone Bad

"Badness is only spoiled goodness." --C.S. Lewis

New Year’s Day

The celebration of the New Year did not occur on the first day of January until after the introduction of the Gregorian calendar in 1582--and even then only in France, the northern Italian city states, Portugal, and in the Spanish nations of Castile and Aragon. The new calendar was not accepted until 1600 in Scotland and 1752 in England and the British colonial possessions (including North America).

From the earliest days of the Roman imperial calendar the New Year was celebrated on March 25--which is why September, October, November, and December are derived from the Latin words septem (seven), octo (eight), novem (nine), and decem (ten).

Nevertheless, throughout Christendom, January 1 was celebrated as a day of renewal--particularly for vows, vision, and vocation. It was on this day that guild members took their annual pledge, that husbands and wives renewed their marriage promises, and that young believers reasserted their resolution to walk in the grace of the Lord’s great Epiphany.

In Edinburgh beginning in the seventeenth century, revelers would gather at the Tron Church to watch the great clock tower mark their entrance into the new year--which was the inspiration behind the much more recent Times Square ceremony in New York. But in Edinburgh, the purpose was not merely to have a grand excuse for a public party, but was instead a way of celebrating the truth of Epiphany newness.

iWant for 2009