Wednesday, November 30


This past Lord's Day was the first Sunday of Advent according to the church calendar. Despite that, in many Christian communities, the holiday season really only begins when the month of November ends. Thus, today would be the actual beginning of the "Little Pascha" that announces the new Gospel year.

This wonderful holiday season--what we Moderns generically just call Christmastime--is historically a long sequence of holy days, festal revelries, and liturgical rites stretching from these waning moments of November until the first week or so of January. Collectively all these varied celebrations are 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.

St. Jude Marathon

In just three days I will be running the St. Jude Marathon in Memphis in an effort to raise funds for the life-saving work of the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital there. Thankfully, even as my training is winding down, my fundraising is winding down too. I have now crossed the 98% threshold in reaching my targeted goal. On Saturday, as I run, I will do so with the support of lots and lots of dear friends cheering me on--if not in person, certainly in spirit.

You too can still join this noble throng. Why not push me over the 100% mark? Just go to my st. jude sponsor site and pledge right online. You can also follow my daily training and progress at my run blog.

Monday, November 28

Medieval Humility

Gregory the Great served as the pastor of the city church in Rome from 590-604. Tomorrow morning I will be lecturing on this remarkable man and his remarkable heritage. He was of vital importance in the development of Christendom precisely because he forged the Roman bishop’s see into the formidable force of the Medieval papacy--indeed, before Gregory the pastors there were not yet called “popes” nor did their jurisdiction extend much beyond the city itself. There is much to admire in this man. And perhaps just as much to disdain. Like all men, he was a tangle of complexity and his legacy is not so easily summarized as most historians suppose.

Though I have studied his life and legacy a good bit in the past (at least in survey), I had never read much of his writing. In fact, he left behind a substantial and varied literary heritage. His most ambitious work and one of the most popular works of Scriptural exegesis during the Medieval Age was the Moralia in Job. A vast and sprawling commentary on the book of Job in 35 books, it runs to over half a million words. The piety and humility of the work is quite profound--as this sample from the highly confessional last page of the text illustrates:

Now that I have finished this work, I see that I must return to myself. For our mind is much fragmented and scattered beyond itself, even when it tries to speak rightly. While we think of words and how to bring them out, those very words diminish the soul's integrity by plundering it from inside. So I must return from the forum of speech to the senate house of the heart, to call together the thoughts of the mind for a kind of council to deliberate how best I may watch over myself, to see to it that in my heart I speak no heedless evil nor speak poorly any good. For the good is well spoken when the speaker seeks with his words to please only the one from whom he has received the good he has. And indeed even if I do not find for sure that have spoken any evil, still I will not claim that I have spoken no evil at all.

But if I have received some good from God and spoken it, I freely admit that I have spoken it less well than I should (through my own fault, to be sure). For when I turn inward to myself, pushing aside the leafy verbiage, pushing aside the branching arguments, and examine my intentions at the very root, I know it really was my intention to please God, but some little appetite for the praise of men crept in, I know not how, and intruded on my simple desire to please God. And when later, too much later, I realize this, I find that I have in fact done other than what I know I set out to do.

It is often thus, that when we begin with good intentions in the eyes of God, a secret tagalong yen for the praise of our fellow men comes along, taking hold of our intentions from the side of the road. We take food, for example, out of necessity, but while we are eating, a gluttonous spirit creeps in and we begin to take delight in the eating for its own sake; so often it happens that what began as nourishment to protect our health ends by becoming a pretext for our pleasures. We must admit therefore that our intention, which seeks to please God alone, is sometimes treacherously accompanied by a less-righteous intention that seeks to please other men by exploiting the gifts of God. But if we are examined strictly by God in these matters, what refuge will remain in the midst of all this? For we see that our evil is always evil pure and simple, but the good that we think we have cannot be really good, pure and simple.

But I think it worthwhile for me to reveal unhesitatingly here to the ears of my brothers everything I secretly revile in myself. As commentator, I have not hidden what I felt, and as confessor, I have not hidden what I suffer. In my commentary I reveal the gifts of God, and in my confession I uncover my wounds. In this vast human race there are always little ones who need to be instructed by my words, and there are always great ones who can take pity on my weakness once they know of it: thus with commentary and confession I offer my help to some of my brethren (as much as I can), and I seek the help of others. To the first I speak to explain what they should do, to the others I open my heart to admit what they should forgive. I have not withheld medicine from the ones, but I have not hidden my wounds and lacerations from the others.

So I ask that whoever reads this should pour out the consolation of prayer before the strict judge for me, so that he may wash away with tears every sordid thing he finds in me. When I balance the power of my commentary and the power of prayer, I see that my reader will have more than paid me back if for what he hears from me, he offers his tears for me.

Sobering insights indeed for ministry, for writing, for life.

Friday, November 25

Where the Girls Aren't

A UN agency contract researcher says the prevalence of abortion and infanticide targeting girls has caused a critical global gender imbalance--with a disparity of more than 200 million worldwide. According to his report, delivered to international health officials this past week, the girls are “missing” because of a practice he calls “gendercide.”

Swiss Ambassador Theodor Winkler, director of the Geneva Center for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces, said the number of women who die because of gender-related violence, deprivation, and discrimination is larger than the casualty toll in all the wars of the 20th century combined. The deeply rooted phenomenon of violence against women is “one of the great crimes of humanity,” he asserted.

The study he directed, a 335-page global investigation by 60 authors titled Women in an Insecure World, shows that sex-selection abortions and infanticides are the primary cause of this gross imbalance, which has also resulted in increasing problems with child abuse, sibling violence, spousal exploitation, and sex trafficking. “We are confronted with the slaughter of Eve, a systematic gendercide of tragic proportions.”

“There are dozens of ways women come to a grisly end,” Winkler argued. “Obviously, human rights and the legal protection of women is of crucial importance but it is only one component. There is also a cultural change that must operate… It starts in the womb. There are societies where male births are preferred, particularly if the number of births are limited. That's where abortion for gender reasons starts,” he said.

According to Winkler’s report, now being distributed to governments, academic institutions, and field health officials around the world, UN figures, World Heath Organization research, and government reports unanimously demonstrate that personal and family violence against women is among the leading causes of premature death internationally. “Abortion is now both a moral issue and a health issue--but in quite the opposite manner that abortion advocates have long argued.”

Marathon Countdown

I'm getting close to my goal. There are just 7 days to go before I attempt to run the full 26.2 miles at the Memphis St. Jude Marathon! I've got just one more long training run before I begin a full taper this next week. You can follow my daily preparation and progress at my run blog. I'm getting close to my fundraising goal as well. I am running to benefit the vital cancer research efforts at the remarkable St. Jude Children's Hospital. I've passed the 85% mark. You can help me get over the top. Visit my st. jude sponsor site and pledge right online.

Wednesday, November 23

Thanksgiving Newsletter

As you celebrate Thanksgiving with family and friends, we too have a lot to be thankful for and wanted to share it with you! Click here to read our King's Meadow Thanksgiving Newsletter.

St. Clement's Day

Today is St. Clement’s Day--celebrated through the centuries in Christian communities as the threshold to the Advent season and the first of the festive Holy Days (or holidays) that mark the last five weeks of each calendar year.

The third successor to Peter as the pastor of early church in Rome--after Linus and Cletus--Clement (c. 100 AD) was one of the greatest stalwarts of the Patristic Age. His letters, sermons, and commentaries remain one of the best testimonies of the dynamism of the fledgling Christian witness to the world. A constant encouragement to others, he was responsible for the establishment of at least seventy-five churches. His martyrdom apparently occurred on November 23 and as a result, believers have long remembered him on this day.

Celebrated as the first day of winter in many Christian lands, St. Clement's Day has been marked by community or guild suppers--where friends, families, neighbors, and co-workers gather to sing, to roast apples, and to offer mutual encouragement in the faith. So, celebrate this day before Thanksgiving, in accord with Clement's legacy, with a renewed commitment to love well and live well to the glory of Christ.

St. Clement's Day Rhyme

Like all nursery rhymes, the famous St. Clement’s Day Rhyme or the Oranges and Lemons Rhyme is rich in Medieval history:

Gay go up and gay go down,
To ring the bells of London Town.
"Oranges and lemons," say the Bells of St. Clements;
"Bullseyes and targets," say the Bells of St. Margaret's;
"Brickbats and tiles," say the Bells of St. Giles;
"Halfpence and farthings," say the Bells of St. Martin's;
"Pancakes and fritters," say the Bells of St. Peter's;
"Two sticks and an apple," say the Bells of Whitechapel;
"Maids in white aprons," say the Bells at St. Katherine's;
"Pokers and tongs," say the Bells of St. John's;
"Kettles and pans," say the Bells of St. Anne's;
"Old father baldpate," say the slow Bells of Aldgate;
"You owe me ten shillings," say the Bells of St. Helen's;
"When will you pay me?" say the Bells of Old Bailey;
"When I grow rich," say the Bells of Shoreditch;
"Pray when will that be?" say the Bells of Stepney;
"I do not know," say the Great Bells of Bow;
Gay go up and gay go down,
To ring the bells of London Town.

In a sense this wonderful nursery rhyme is an imaginary tour of the old city of London--before the Great Fire of 1666--recounting the predominant trade, guild, and lore of the neighborhoods surrounding each of the churches (with their bell towers). So for instance, St. Clement’s church was in Eastcheap where citrus fruit was unloaded at the nearby warves while St. Margaret’s on Lothbury Street was near an archery range, St. Giles at the Cripplegate Barbican was the center of the building trade, and St. Katherine Cree’s on Leadenhill Street was the site of the Leadenhill marketplace, etc. Who’d have ever thought that the sing-song chants of children through the ages would be so redolent in meaning?

Marathon Countdown

Just 9 days to go! For better or for worse, I'm starting my tapered training in the final run up to the St. Jude Marathon in Memphis. Follow my daily preparation and progress at my run blog. And remember that you still have time to support my run. Visit my st. jude sponsor site and pledge right online. I'm getting close to my goal of $2,500 for cancer research and patient care at the remarkable St. Jude Children's Hospital.

Tuesday, November 22

C.S. Lewis

Long before the bane of television invaded our every waking moment C.S. Lewis commented that while most people in modern industrial cultures are at least marginally able to read, they just don't. In his wise and wonderful book An Experiment in Criticism he said, “The majority, though they are sometimes frequent readers, do not set much store by reading. They turn to it as a last resource. They abandon it with alacrity as soon as any alternative pastime turns up. It is kept for railway journeys, illnesses, odd moments of enforced solitude, or for the process called reading oneself to sleep. They sometimes combine it with desultory conversation; often, with listening to the radio. But literary people are always looking for leisure and silence in which to read and do so with their whole attention. When they are denied such attentive and undisturbed reading even for a few days they feel impoverished.”

Lewis went further admitting that there is a profound puzzlement on the part of the mass of the citizenry over the tastes and habits of the literate. “It is pretty clear that the majority,” he wrote, “if they spoke without passion and were fully articulate, would not accuse us of liking the wrong books, but of making such a fuss about any books at all. We treat as a main ingredient in our well-being something which to them is marginal. Hence to say simply that they like one thing and we another is to leave out nearly the whole of the facts.”

C.S. Lewis was the happy heir of a great tradition of books and the literary life. His brilliant writing—in his novels like The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, The Screwtape Letters, and Perelandra, as well as in his nonfiction like The Four Loves, Surprised by Joy, The Abolition of Man, and A Grief Observed--evidence voracious reading. He was born in 1898 and died on this day in 1963, just seven days shy of his sixty-fifth birthday--the same day that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, and thus, largely overlooked. In the years in-between he became renowned as a popular best-selling author, a brilliant English literary scholar and stylist, and one of the foremost apologists for the Christian faith. Recalling his formative childhood years, he wrote, “I am the product of long corridors, empty sunlit rooms, upstairs indoor silences, attics explored in solitude, distant noises of gurgling cisterns and pipes, and the noise of wind under the tiles. Also, of endless books.”

Throughout his life, Lewis celebrated everything that is good and right and true about the literary life. The result was that he was larger than life in virtually every respect. Though he knew that this was little more than a peculiarity in the eyes of most, he did not chafe against it. Instead, he fully embraced it. He explained, “Those of us who have been true readers all our life seldom fully realize the enormous extension of our being which we owe to authors. We realize it best when we talk with an unliterary friend. He may be full of goodness and good sense but he inhabits a tiny world. In it, we should be suffocated. The man who is contented to be only himself, is in a prison. My own eyes are not enough for me. I will see through those of others.” This is because, he argued, “Literary experience heals the wound, without undermining the privilege, of individuality. Here, as in worship, in love, in moral action, and in knowing, I transcend myself; and am never more myself than when I do.”

Monday, November 21

Marathon Countdown

Just 11 more days until the St. Jude Marathon in Memphis. I'm starting to get excited. I've got all my gear--with all the necessary contingency gloves, shells, hats, and layers just in case race day turns out to be really cold. And I've poured over the race route. I just need one more really good long run to convince me that I'm ready. Follow my daily preparation and progress at my run blog.

And you still have time to sponsor the run. Visit my st. jude sponsor site and pledge right online. I'm getting close to my goal of $2,500 for cancer research and patient care at the remarkable St. Jude Children's Hospital.

Q and I

Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, fondly known simply as "Q," was born in Bodmin, Cornwall on this day in 1863. According to most accounts his greatest accomplishments was the compilation of The Oxford Book of English Verse 1250-1900. Certainly, that was a remarkable feat. That single volume is practically a "classical education in a box."

But, because he was a popular lecturer in English Literature and Classics first at Oxford and then for much of his later life at Cambridge, he became the reading and writing mentor to an extraordinary generation of creative geniuses. We can thank Q for guiding the imaginations--and the skills--of such iconic figures as C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Dorothy Sayers, T.S. Eliot, and Evelyn Waugh.

I've been reading Q for years--ever since I was introduced to him by Helene Hampf's marvelous book 84 Charing Cross Road and its sequels. I love his novels about his beloved hometown in Cornwall. I am constantly wowed by his collections of literary criticism. His poetry is stunning. Indeed, I collect anything and everything that I can by him. And that is no mean feat--he wrote more than 100 volumes including the brilliant On the Art of Reading, On the Art of Writing, Studies in Literature, and Shakespeare's Workmanship.

I am celebrating Q's birthday today by reveling in this master of the Mother Tongue. It is cold and rainy and dreary--the sort of day C.S. Lewis recommended for curling up in an overstuffed leather chair with a big cup of tea and a stack of books beside. I'm going to read. I'm going to read Q.

The Ballad of the Tempting Book

Nearly every year for the past decade or so, I have made it a habit to give each of my graduating students a book. Sometimes I try to find an antiquarian book that I think fits their individual personality, experience, or calling. Sometimes, I stumble upon a cache of rarities and I grab the whole lot of them.

But, more often than not, I buy them all an old copy of Q's Oxford Book of English Verse. As I present it to them at the end of the year, I am wont to recite this little doggerel ballad:

Sometimes when I sit down at night,
And try to think of something new,
Some odd conceit that I may write
And work into a verse or two,
There often dawns upon my view,
The while my feeble thoughts I nurse,
A little book in gold and blue:
Q’s Oxford Book of English Verse.

And though I try, in wild affright
At thought of all I have to do,
To keep that volume out of sight,
If I so much as look askew,
I catch it playing peek-a-boo;
Then work may go to--pot, or worse!
I'm giving up the evening to:
Q’s Oxford Book of English Verse.

O! some for essays recondite,
And some for frothy fiction sue,
But give to me for my delight,
One tuneful tome to ramble through;
To hear the Cornish lilt of Q,
And all those noble songs rehearsed,
Whose deathless melodies imbue:
Q’s Oxford Book of English Verse.


Kind reader, here's a tip for you:
Go buy, though skinny be your purse
And other books of yours be few:
Q’s Oxford Book of English Verse;
‘Tis a classical education in a box,
Worldly sins and Righteous wisdom, unlocks;
Buy every book from every store and still you’d do worse,
Than if you had this single title:
Q’s Oxford Book of English Verse.

Thursday, November 17

Reading C.S. Lewis

After last night's conversation with Wayne Shepherd on the Moody Radio Network, I've gotten a slew of e-mail and phone requests for book recommendations: "What's the best guide to The Chronicles of Narnia?" Or, "What can I read to understand some of the backgrounds Lewis is working with?" And, "Is there a good biography of Lewis you might recommend?"

Well, I'm no expert. But, as is the case in so many other areas of my life, I am an confirmed and veteran enthusiast. So, with that as a caveat, here are my recommendations:

C.S. Lewis: Man of Letters by Thomas Howard (Ignatius) is a very helpful guide to reading the whole fiction corpus of Lewis. It is, like all of Howard's books, wise and witty, literate and learned.

Simply C.S. Lewis by Thomas Peters (Crossway) is a great general introduction to the life and work of Lewis--very much along the line of his award-winning introduction to G.K. Chesterton, Battling for the Modern Mind: A Beginner's Chesterton.

The Spiritual Legacy of C.S. Lewis by Terry Glaspey (Cumberland House). I solicited, edited, and wrote the foreword for this book--and still very much appreciate it despite the fact that it is a decade old now!

Jack: A Life of C.S. Lewis by George Sayer (Crossway) is my favorite of the many biographies of Lewis that I've read. But, I'm also very partial to the books on Lewis by Kay Lindskoog and Michael Coren.

I could probably go on and on, but to do so would be to risk having you despair altogether of reading anything. So, I'll stop with this: at the very least reread the first volume in The Chronicles of Narnia before you head out to the theater to watch Hollywood's The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. You'll be very glad you did.

Wednesday, November 16

Adrian Rogers (1931-2005)

Dr. Adrian Rogers is home. Yesterday, he went to sleep in Memphis. And then he woke up in Heaven. Adrian, who retired as the pastor of the 27,000 member Belview Baptist Church in Memphis, died of complications from the cancer treatments he has endured for the past several months.

But, while the Christian community has suffered the loss of a great statesman and ambassador of truth, he would not have us weep too bitterly. He often quipped, “When my time comes, don’t be sorry for me; I’ll be kicking up gold dust on the streets of glory.”

Indeed, shortly after being admitted to the hospital with pneumonia, Adrian asserted, “this is a win-win for me.” By that he simply meant that, whether God chose to heal him or not, he was in the hands of God's good providence. Thus, among the last words that this remarkably gifted pastor, author, and media personality uttered were, “I am at perfect peace.”

Not surprisingly, his favorite Bible passage was Romans 8:38-39: “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Through the years, Adrian and I rallied for battle, sometimes side-by-side and sometimes on opposite lines. He always liked to pretend that he never quite understood why I was a Presbyterian. I always liked to pretend that I never quite understood why he was a Baptist. None of that really matters any more--I'm guessing he knows better now! Somehow though, I can almost hear his sonorous voice engaging the Apostle Paul--or Polycarp or Augustine or maybe even Calvin, Bucer, and Beza--arguing against the idea of covenantalism, even as he did with me, but all the while punctuating each rhetorical flourish with a familiar jolly chuckle.

I know my beloved brother, is going to enjoy being home.

Monday, November 14

Moody Open Line

This Wednesday evening, I'll be on the Moody Radio Network's Open Line program discussing The Chronicles of Narnia in anticipation of the Hollywood film release of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. With my good friend, Wayne Shepherd, I'll be talking the life and legacy of C.S. Lewis, the Narnia series, the Inklings, Lewis's other wonderful books, and how families can begin now to prepare for the theatrical release on December 9. The program airs at 8 PM CST.

Friday, November 11

What I'm Reading

The multiple stacks on my bedside lamp stand, my desk, and the end table next to my reading chair are starting to teeter. They are so ominously tall I’m beginning to despair that I will ever get to the bottom of it!

I’m reading a couple of big biographies at the same time. The new Peter Ackroyd biography of Shakespeare is pretty incredible--despite his insistence on a “Stratfordian” authorship. Likewise, the new biography by James J. O'Donnel on the life of Augustine is irresistable. It is groundbreaking in several areas and will provide new insights for Augustine scholarship to work through. At the recommendation of the Reformation 21 online journal, I have also picked up Mark Ellingsen’s The Richness of Augustine. I haven’t started it yet--but I have perused it and can’t wait to dive in.

Because I’ve been teaching through the Book of Acts, I’ve been reading a slew of commentaries on that book. The one that has really caught my attention time and time again for its practical wisdom and down-to-earth sensibility is a little paperback by Derek Prime, Active Evangelism. I’m also rereading Charles Haddon Spurgeon’s, Majesty in Misery. The three volumes collect the Victorian master’s best sermons on the passion of Christ. Since the whole of Acts is essentially an exercise in those earliest believers coming to grips with the finished work of Jesus, the sermons are incredibly applicable. Besides, every time I tackle one of Spurgeon's works I’m reminded of how little I know and how far I have to go in sermon content and delivery. And that is always a helpful realization for a preacher!

There is also a big pile of novels I’m trying to work through: I’m just about forty pages into Jan Karon’s latest Mitford novel, Light from Heaven. So far, it is great. I’m almost finished with Alan Zweibel’s The Other Shulman. Zweibel is a former Saturday Night Live writer and the hilarious author of books like Bunny, Bunny and Our Tree Named Steve. This novel is about a man who runs the New York Marathon in an attempt to save his marriage, his business, and his life. I’m also just about finished with Anne Rice’s surprising new novel, Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt, the first volume in a planned series. It is a far cry from her earlier vampire and voodoo books. Clearly, she has undergone a remarkable spiritual transformation. I’m not ready to endorse it, but I sure am amazed by it. I have one more chapter to go in Vince Flynn’s latest thriller, Consent to Kill. He’s not the greatest writer--maybe just on a par with Clancy and Grisham--but, man oh man, can he ever tell a story. Plus, I just love all the CIA covert action in the war on terror.

And just for fun, I am reading Jeff Galloway’s Running: Testing Yourself. It is not really helping me for my next marathon (which is just two weeks away now). But it may help with the one after that (the middle of February) and surely the one after that (the end of April). And last but not least, I couldn’t resist the latest by Lynne Truss, Talk to the Hand. Like her earlier book on grammar, this book tackles a very unappealing subject--manners--in a most appealing fashion. Truss is witty, wise, and well informed. This is a much needed, finely argued work. Plus, it is just loads of fun.

OK. Enough of this writing business, I’ve obviously got a lot of reading to do.

Tuesday, November 8

St. Jude Marathon

I am now down to the last couple of weeks of preparation before I run the St. Jude Marathon in Memphis. If my wounded knees and gimpy ankles cooperate, on the morning of December 3rd I'll be in the thick of it attempting to stay upright for more miles than I care to contemplate.

Once again, I will be running for a very special cause. I will be raising funds for essential cancer research. If you'd like to make a pledge, you can do so online at my st. jude sponsor site. With the diagnosis of my dear friend Wes King with cancer this past year and the continuing battle against the dread disease by one of my students here in Franklin and two of my correspondence students in New York, I am more committed to this cause and this work than ever before. My goal is to raise $2500 for St. Jude Children's Hospital this year. Won't you help?

The reason I picked St. Jude as the focus of my fundraising efforts is actually very simple to explain: this nationally renowned children's charity hospital is one of the most remarkable and effective medical research institutions anywhere in the world. St. Jude has treated children from across the United States and from more than 70 foreign countries. And yet ability to pay is never an issue because St. Jude is the only pediatric research center where families never pay for treatment not covered by insurance, and families without insurance are never asked to pay. Not one penny! Not ever! Zip! Zilch! Nada!

The treatment of children and the onging research at St. Jude includes work in bone marrow transplantation, chemotherapy, the biochemistry of normal and cancerous cells, radiation treatment, blood diseases, resistance to therapy, viruses, hereditary diseases, infectious diseases, and psychological effects of catastrophic illnesses. Vital work, indeed. And again, always made available to families regardless of their financial means.

Obviously, this kind of care is very expensive. Won't you help me support the remarkable ministry of St. Jude to children and families battling cancer? Please donate now and come back to visit my St. Jude sponsor site often. Tell others about what I'm trying to do. Learn how my effort to help find cures and save lives is going. Oh yes, and do pray for my weary old knees and ankles to hold up!

Day of Prayer

This coming Sunday is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. Alas, these days most Christians spend very little time thinking about—much less praying about—our persecuted brothers and sisters around the globe. This despite the fact that more believers have been martyred in the last century than all the other centuries combined!

There was a time though when persecution and martyrdom were among the church's highest callings and greatest honors. Early on, Christians embraced the truth that "all those who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted" (2 Timothy 3:12). The heroes of the faith have always been those who actually sacrificed their lives, fortunes, and reputations for the sake of the Gospel.

E.M. Bounds, the great nineteenth century pastor and evangelist is probably best known today for the classic books on prayer that he wrote. In his own time though, he was equally well known for his advocacy for the persecuted church. He once lamented the fact that it is “all too often the case” that “when the church prospers it loses sight of the very virtues from whence its prosperity has sprung.” According to Bounds those virtues "invariably have sprung out of either the suffering of believers or their response to the suffering of others."

That insight was honed from his own personal experience. Throughout his long earthly service to Christ, Bounds suffered both fierce persecution and enforced obscurity. During the terribly uncivil Civil War he suffered great hardship, hunger, and imprisonment. Later he suffered scorn the hands of liberal denominational administrators who objected to his unswerving evangelical faithfulness. Even at the end of his life, he was unable to enjoy success--he was sorely neglected by publishing executives who believed that his brilliant devotional writings were of little value. He was beaten, ridiculed, defrocked, and defamed. He suffered poverty, isolation, betrayal, and disgrace.

Through it all though, Bounds said that he found solace in the fact that the Christian vocation does not depend on the confirmation of worldly notions of success and thus does not need to adjust to the ever-shifting tides of situation or circumstance. He knew that the blood, toil, tears, and sweat of the faithful are the seeds of real success and that our diligent, unflagging efforts on behalf of the despised and rejected are our most potent caveats to the worldly-wise.

Though that may be an alien notion to us today, it has been the common experience of virtually all those who have gone before us in faith. They tasted the bittersweet truth 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).

According to the Scriptures it is incumbent upon us to "comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves have been comforted by God" (2 Corinthians 1:4). We are to "bear one another's burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ" (Galatians 6:2). We are to "encourage one another and build up one another" (1 Thessalonians 5:11). The mandate to care for one another and all those who suffer--even in the midst of our own travail--rings as clear as a clarion down through the ages: "Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and curse not. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly" (Romans 12:10-16).

The tenderest stories, the greatest adventures, and the most inspiring examples of faith across the wide span of history are invariably those instances when the Family of God has actually acted like a family and when the Household of Faith has actually functioned as a household. They have been when the church served as Christ's own instrument of mercy, when it became a kind of medicine of immortality to the dying minions of the of the world.

Like so many before him--and so many who would follow--E.M. Bounds discovered the beauty of fellowship, the strength of communion, and the brilliance of grace at a time when ugliness, weakness, and dullness seemed most certain to prevail in his life. Indeed, it was only as he witnessed the constant and fervent service of the true church during his bitterest days of adversity that he began to comprehend the place and power of prayer--a comprehension that would in later years bring blessing and strength to generations of Christian readers through his many incisive books.

Merciful service in the face of suffering is "often the glue that holds together the varied fragments of the confessing church" says the remarkable Romanian pastor Josef Tson. It affords the church "strong bonds of unity, compassion, and tenderheartedness" says Russian evangelist Georgi Vins. It "provokes the very best in us, demonstrating grace to a watching world, working out that which God has worked in," according to Indian apologist Vishal Mangalwadi. It "lays sure foundations for evangelism and discipleship simply because in the face of tyranny, oppression, and humiliation, the church has no option but to be the church," asserts Croatian pastor Josep Kulacik. "Disguised as evil, persecution comes to us as an ultimate manifestation of God's good providence" says Bosnian Christian leader Frizof Gemielic. "It provokes us toward a new-found dependence upon His grace, upon His Word, and upon His people. It is in that sense a paradoxical blessing perhaps even more profound than prosperity."

Our response to the "fragrance of oppression," as historian Herbert Schlossberg has dubbed the persecutions and sufferings of our world, is perhaps the single most significant indicator of the health and vitality of the church. After all, it is in "afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, tumults, labors, sleeplessness, and hunger" (2 Corinthians 6:4-5) that our mettle is ultimately proven.

On this International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church may that mettle indeed be proven anew.

Monday, November 7

Contending Aright

“One man with courage makes a majority.” Andrew Jackson

“Those who are quick to promise are generally slow to perform. They promise mountains and perform molehills. He who gives you fair words and nothing more feeds you with an empty spoon. People don't think much of a man's piety when his promises are like pie-crust: made to be broken.” Charles H. Spurgeon

“The streets of hell are paved with good intentions.” Mark Twain

“The most dangerous form of sentimental debauch is to give expression to good wishes on behalf of virtue while you do nothing about it. Justice is not merely words. It is to be translated into living acts.” Theodore Roosevelt

“We should remember that it is no honor or profit merely to appear in the arena, but the wreath is for those who contend aright.” James A Garfield

“The process has been long, to some extent tedious, but profitable, because insomuch as it has taken time and care and intelligence, by that much does it have meaning.” Andrew Nelson Lytle

“If your ship doesn’t come in, swim out to it.” Andy Tant

Sunday, November 6

NYC Marathon

This morning the thirty-sixth running of the ING New York Marathon drew more than a million spectators onto the streets of the city to witness one of the most remarkable human dramas in all of sport--some 37,000 men and women running 26.2 miles from the Fort Wadsworth staging area on Staten Island, across the Verrazano Bridge into Brooklyn, up through Queens, across the Queensboro Bridge into Manhattan, along the East Side into the Bronx, back down the West Side to Central Park, and finally to the finish in front of Tavern on the Green. My off-the-cuff take on this amazing spectacle is written up in two posts over on my run blog.

Friday, November 4

How to Preach

"Think yourself dry, read yourself full, write yourself clear, and pray yourself hot." Alistair Begg

Vicissitudes of Life

“Often the same thing that makes one person bitter makes another better.” J.C. Ryle

“God often digs the wells of joy with the spades of affliction.” Isaac Watts

“To scale the uppermost heights, we often must come out of the lowermost depths. The way to heavenly joy usually leads through hellish travail.” Herman Melville

“Affliction is often that thing which prepares an ordinary person for some sort of an extraordinary destiny.” C.S. Lewis

“It is not the critic that counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly, who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds.” Theodore Roosevelt

“A wise man will make more opportunities than he finds.” Francis Bacon

“A coward dies a thousand deaths, the valiant dies but once.” William Shakespeare

“A pound of pluck is worth a ton of luck.” James A Garfield

“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

“Brethren, standfast.” Paul of Tarsus

Thursday, November 3

Reform Not Revolt

There is a great deal of difference between a revolutionary and a reformer. Perhaps the most notable feature of America’s founding era was that its leaders were not inclined to revolution whatsoever. Virtually all of the patriot founders—from the familiar heroes like George Washington, John Adams, John Hancock, Thomas Jefferson, and Patrick Henry to the less known heroes like Richard Henry Lee, James Iredell, Samuel Chase, and John Dickinson—were careful, conservative, and constructive men. They were reformers not revolutionaries. They resisted even the idea of radicalism. They loathed the disruptions of violence—whether rhetorical, political, or martial.

As Paul Johnson has pointed out in his magisterial History of the American People, the patriot fathers were largely faithful sons of colonial gentry. They were devoted to all the conventional Whig principles of political stability including the rule of law and the maintenance of corporate order. They had worked hard to maintain a law-abiding, settled, and peaceful society. They wanted nothing to do with the raucous upsets and tumults of agitation, insurrection, and unrest.

Even in the face of increasing pressure from Parliament and Crown, they were terribly reticent to protest, much less rebel. They were determined to exhaust every possible legal course of action before they would countenance the thought of armed resistance. Over the course of a decade they sent innumerable appeals, suits, and petitions across the Atlantic to the Westminster authorities. Even after American blood was spilled at the Boston Massacre, they were willing to negotiate a settlement.

It took far more than the conflicts of Lexington and Concord. It took more than the full-scale battles of Bunker Hill, Falmouth, and Ticonderoga to provoke the patriots to commit themselves to a course of independence. As late as the first week of July 1776, there was not yet a solid consensus among the members of the Continental Congress that "such an extreme as full-scale revolt," as John Dickinson dubbed it, was necessary.

When the Declaration of Independence was drafted by a committee composed of Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, Robert Livingston, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson, the resolution was defeated twice before it was finally adopted. But even then the cautious delegates decided to keep the document secret for another four more days before releasing it to the public.
Clearly, the Founding Fathers were, at best, reluctant revolutionaries.

So, what was it that ultimately cause them to rebel? What was the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back? What finally convinced them to set aside their native conservatism and steer the thirteen colonies toward war and independence?
Again, according to Paul Johnson, it was actually their traditionalism. It was their commitment to a settled life of freedom that finally drove them to arms. They fought against Britain in order to preserve everything that Britain had always represented before.

Colonial pastors, patriot orators, and pioneer journalists decried the radicalism and revolutionary character of the mother country, of Parliament, and of the King. They saw themselves, not as revolutionaries but as the protectors of the Common Law tradition. In a sense, it was Britain that had staged a revolution, not America.

This was the gist of what John Adams wrote in his in his manifesto, The Rule of Law and the Rule of Men. He argued that it is the "duty of all men" to "protect the integrity of liberty" whenever the "laws of God," the "laws of the land," and the "laws of the common inheritance" are "profligately violated." Justice demands, he asserted, "a defense of the gracious endowments of Providence to mankind," including "life, liberty, and property." To deny this duty is to ensure the reduction of "the whole of society" to the "bonds of servility."

Sometimes it is essential for principled leaders to fight—not because they like the fighting, but because by fighting once they can avoid the hazards of fighting continually.

That was why Patrick Henry, chief among the founding conservatives, joined the fray. It was, he said, only a "grave responsibility to God and countrymen" that compelled the peace-loving people of America to fight. He believed that the tyranny and corruption of the Imperial system had all but ensured that "an appeal to arms and the God of Hosts" was "all that was left" to the patriots. "Is life so dear," he asked, "or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take, but as for me: give me liberty or give me death."

Thus was America's great experiment in liberty begun—as a reform not as a revolution—and only thus can it possibly endure.

The Maddening Dreidel

“I am of certain convinced that the greatest heroes are those who do their duty in the daily grind of domestic affairs whilst the world whirls as a maddening dreidel.” Florence Nightengale

“Time after time mankind is driven against the rocks of the horrid reality of a fallen creation. And time after time mankind must learn the hard lessons of history--the lessons that for some dangerous and awful reason we can't seem to keep in our collective memory.” Hilaire Belloc

”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

“To be wise, one must take time to deliberate. But when the time for action has arrived, one must stop deliberating and boldly act.” Napoleon Bonaparte

“To be genuinely wise, one must make haste slowly.” Benjamin Franklin

Wednesday, November 2

Luther's Table Talk

"Faith is a living, daring confidence in God's grace, so sure and certain that a man could stake his life on it a thousand times."

"I am more afraid of my own heart than of the pope and all his cardinals. I have within me the great pope, Self."

"You should not believe your conscience and your feelings more than the Word which the Lord who receives sinners preaches to you."