Wednesday, November 30

St. Andrew's Day

Numbered among the Apostles, the brother of Simon Peter eventually became the revered patron of both Greece and Scotland where his feast day, November 30, remains a kind of national holiday.

Andrew (c. 10-60) may well have been, as tradition asserts, the founder of the church at the site of Constantinople, but he was most assuredly the great reconciler, as Scripture asserts.  As a result, his memory is celebrated by a day of forgiveness.  Services of reconciliation are often followed by a great feast of roasted or smoked beef, the telling of heroic tales, the reciting epic poetry, and the singing of great ballads.  King David of Scotland, son of Malcolm Canmore and Queen. Margaret, codified the day a national holiday in 1125—and so it has been ever since.

Monday, November 28

"If you cannot read all your books, at any rate handle, or as it were, fondle them—peer into them, let them fall open where they will, read from the first sentence that arrests the eye, set them back on the shelves with your own hands, arrange them on your own plan so that you at least know where they are.  Let them be your friends; let them be your acquaintances." Winston S. Churchill 

Wednesday, November 23

The First Proclamation

The Mayflower was not the first ship of colonists to arrive in the New World.  It was not even the first in the English domains.  Yet it retains a place of first importance in the lore and legend of this land.  

In this romantic verse by Margaret Preston, we catch a glimpse of the faith, resolve, and bold sense of providence that the passengers of that little ship brought with them from across the Atlantic—and that they then endowed upon all those who would follow them:

"Ho, Rose! "quoth the stout Miles Standish,
            As he stood on the Mayflower's deck,
And gazed on the sandy coast-line
            That loomed as a misty speck.

On the edge of the distant offing;
            See!  yonder we have in view
Bartholomew Gosnold's headlands.'
            'Twas in sixteen hundred and two

"That the Concord of Dartmouth anchored
            Just there where the beach is broad,
And the merry old captain named it
            (Half swamped by the fish)—Cape Cod.

"And so as his mighty 'headlands'
            are scarcely a league away,
What say you to landing, sweetheart,
            And having a washing-day?"

"Dear heart"—and the sweet Rose Standish
            Looked up with a tear in her eye;
She was back in the flag-stoned kitchen
            Where she watched, in the days gone by:

Her mother among her maidens
            (She should watch them no more, alas!),
And saw as they stretched the linen
            To bleach on the Suffolk grass.

In a moment her brow was cloudless,
            As she leaned on the vessel's rail,
And thought of the sea-stained garments,
            Of coif and farthingale;

And the doublets of fine Welsh flannel,
            The tuckers and homespun gowns,
And the piles of the hose knitted
            From the wool of the Devon downs.

So the matrons aboard the Mayflower
            Made ready with eager hand
To drop from the deck their baskets
            As soon as the prow touched land.

And there did the Pilgrim Mothers,
            "On a Monday," the record says,
Ordain for their new-found England
            The first of her washing-days.

And there did the Pilgrim Fathers,
            With matchlock and axe well slung,
Keep guard o'er the smoking kettles
            That propt on the crotches hung.

For the trail of the startle savage
            Was over the marshy grass,
And the glint of his eyes kept peering
            Through cedar and sassafras.

And the children were mad with pleasure
            As they gathered the twigs in sheaves,
And piled on the fire the fagots,
            And heaped up the autumn leaves.

"Do the thing that is next," saith the proverb,
            And a nobler shall yet succeed:
'Tis the motive exalts the action;
            'Tis the doing, and not the deed;

For the earliest act of the heroes
            Whose fame has a world-wide sway
Was--to fashion a crane for a kettle,
            And order a washing-day!

Tuesday, November 22

A Literary Life

Long before the bane of cable television and the internet 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.  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.”

Saturday, November 19

The Battle of Lutzen

In the immediate aftermath of the Battle of Lutzen—one of the most crucial engagements in the bloody Thirty Years War—it was announced to the world that King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden had died.  During the course of the battle on this day in 1632, the king had been surrounded by enemy soldiers. Before taking his life, they demanded his name. Gustavus replied, "I am the King of Sweden! And this day I seal with my blood the liberties and religion of the German nation."

Throughout the horrific conflict, during which Gustavus defended the cause of the Protestants against Emperor Ferdinand II, a staunch Roman Catholic, the people of Europe suffered terribly.  Out of a German population of sixteen million people, only about four million survived. The town of Augsburg had a population of 80,000 people at the beginning of the conflict but only l8,000 survived to the end. Indeed, before the awful war had concluded an estimated 30,000 villages were destroyed. It was one of the saddest chapters in the long history of man—and the loss of Gustavus was a bitter loss for all the advocates of freedom.

Friday, November 11

Martin Bucer

Martin Bucer was born on this day, Martinmas, in 1491 in the Alsace-Lorraine borderland between France and Germany.  He would eventually become one of the most influential men in the Great Reformation.

He served as a mediator between Luther, Zwingli, and Melancthon at the Marburg Colloquy.  He was a theological sounding board for Kopfel, Zell, and Cop at Heidelberg.  He served as a mentor to Calvin, Beza, and Knox at Strasburg and Geneva.  And he helped Cranmer compile the first Anglican Book of Common Prayer in Canterbury.

No other Reformer had such an impact on so many spheres, men, or nations.

According to historian Philip Schaff, “Martin Bucer is simultaneously the most neglected and the most influential of all the first generation Reformers.  His impact was felt in virtually every sphere and every arena of the age.”

The Prevailing Power of Prayer

"Prayer does not fit us for the greater work; prayer is the greater work." Oswald Chambers

“Prayer can never be in excess.” C.H. Spurgeon

"Prayer is not learned in a classroom but in the closet."  E.M. Bounds

"There is no power like that of prevailing prayer, of Abraham pleading for Sodom, Jacob wrestling in the stillness of the night, Moses standing in the breach, Hannah intoxicated with sorrow, David heartbroken with remorse and grief, Jesus in sweat of blood. Such prayer prevails.  It turns ordinary mortals into men of power.  It brings power.  It brings fire.  It brings rain.  It brings life.  It brings God."  Samuel Chadwick

"We give too much attention to method and machinery and resources, and too little to the source of power." J. Hudson Taylor

"It is in the field of prayer that life's critical battles are lost or won.”  J.H. Jowett

"Prayer is the first thing, the second thing, the third thing necessary to a minister. Pray, then my dear brother; pray, pray, pray." Edward Payson

"Let this be your chief object in prayer, to realize the presence of your heavenly Father." Andrew Murray

"Praying men are the vice-regents of God; they do His work and carry out His plans." E.M. Bounds

"Prayer should be the breath of our breathing, the thought of our thinking, the soul of our feeling, the life of our living, the sound of our hearing, and the growth of our growing.  Prayer is length without end, width without bounds, height without top, and depth without bottom; illimitable in its breadth, exhaustless in height, fathomless in depths, and infinite in extension.  Oh, for determined men and women who will rise early and really burn for God.  Oh for a faith that will sweep into heaven with the early dawning of morning and have ships from a shoreless sea loaded in the soul's harbor ere the ordinary laborer has knocked the dew from the scythe or the lackluster has turned from his pallet of straw to spread nature's treasures of fruit before the early buyers.  Oh, for such.” Homer W. Hodge

"No learning can make up for the failure to pray. No earnestness, no diligence, no study, no gifts will supply its lack." E.M. Bounds

"Men may spurn our appeals, reject our message, oppose our arguments, despise our persons, but they are helpless against our prayers." J. Sidlow Baxter

"Satan does not care how many people read about prayer if only he can keep them from praying.” Paul Billheimer

"0h brother, pray; in spite of Satan, pray; spend hours in prayer; rather neglect friends than not pray; rather fast, and lose breakfast, dinner, tea, and supper--and sleep too--than not pray. And we must not talk about prayer, we must pray in right earnest. The Lord is near. He comes softly while the virgins slumber." Andrew Bonar

"Don’t pray when you feel like it. Have an appointment with the Lord and keep it. A man is powerful on his knees." Corrie ten Boom

"Talking to men for God is a great thing, but talking to God for men is greater still." E.M. Bounds

"Satan trembles when he sees the weakest Christian on his knees." William Cowper

"You may as soon find a living man that does not breath, as a living Christian that does not pray." Matthew Henry

"Prayer will make a man cease from sin, or sin will entice a man to cease from prayer." John Bunyan

"He who has learned to pray has learned the greatest secret of a holy and happy life." William Law

"Prayer is not overcoming God's reluctance, but laying hold of His willingness." Martin Luther

“The one concern of the devil is to keep Christians from praying.  He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work and prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, mocks at our wisdom, but he trembles when we pray.” Samuel Chadwick

 “I would rather teach one man to pray than ten men to preach.”  C.H. Spurgeon

 “The man who mobilizes the Christian church to pray will make the greatest contribution to world evangelization in history.”  Andrew Murray

 “To make intercession for men is the most powerful and practical way in which we can express our love for them." John Calvin

“Prayer is the root, the fountain, the mother of a thousand blessings." John Chrysostom

Prayer should not be regarded "as a duty which must be performed, but rather as a privilege to be enjoyed, a rare delight that is always revealing some new beauty." E.M. Bounds

"Our praying must not be self-centered. It must arise not only because we feel our own need as a burden we must lay upon God, but also because we are so bound up in love for our fellow men that we feel their need as acutely as our own." John Calvin

"We have to pray with our eyes on God, not on the difficulties." Oswald Chambers

"Prayer breaks all bars, dissolves all chains, opens all prisons, and widens all straits by which God's saints have been held." E.M. Bounds

"Four things let us ever keep in mind: God hears prayer, God heeds prayer, God answers prayer, and God delivers by prayer." E.M. Bounds

"Prayer is the acid test of devotion."  Samuel Chadwick

"As is the business of tailors to make clothes and cobblers to make shoes, so it is the business of Christians to pray." Martin Luther

"True prayer is measured by weight, not by length. A single groan before God may have more fullness of prayer in it than a fine oration of great length." C.H. Spurgeon

“What the church needs today is not more machinery or better, not new organizations or more novel methods, but men whom the Holy Ghost can use—men of prayer, men mighty in prayer" E.M. Bounds

"If you want that splendid power in prayer, you must remain in loving, living, lasting, conscious, practical, abiding union with the Lord Jesus Christ." C.H. Spurgeon

"The word of God is the food by which prayer is nourished and made strong." E.M. Bounds 


Martin of Tours was a faithful pastor in Gaul who was martyred on this day in 397.  Also on this day in 655, Martin of Umbria was martyred during the great Monothelite controversy.  Both men demonstrated perseverance in the face of political persecution, personal humiliation, torture, starvation, and eventually, death, made them models of faith during the early medieval period. 

According to legend, Martin of Tours once cut his own coat in half to share it with a beggar.  Part of the cloak was saved and considered a holy relic in France, with monarchs going so far as to carry it into battle.  The cloak was kept in a small cask called the “chapelle,” from the French word “chape,” meaning “cape,” and its overseer was the “chapelain,” from which, of course, we get our words “chapel” and “chaplain.” 

The spell of warmer weather often falling around this time is called Saint Martin's Summer, especially in England. During his final imprisonment, Martin of Umbria diligently kept the fasts of the Little Pascha, as Advent was then called, though he was already dying of hunger. 

Traditionally, Christians have recalled the faithfulness of both saints on November 11 by enjoying the last great feast of the season—in England a sumptuous dinner of beef is consumed while in Germany a grand banquet featuring roast goose is served.  The new wine is uncasked.  Good children receive gifts of fruit and nuts—while naughty children receive little more than sticks, stones, and ashes.

Thursday, November 10

A Most Zealous and Efficient Evangelist

According to tradition, on this day in the year 432, a young British monk—formerly held captive as a slave by the very people he now sought to serve—arrived in Ireland to begin his ministry.

Patrick was said to have been born at one of the little Christian towns near present day Glasglow—either of Bonavern or Belhaven. Although his mother taught him the Christian faith, he preferred the passing pleasures of sin. One day while playing by the sea, Irish pirates captured Patrick and sold him into slavery on a farm in Ireland. Alone in the fields, caring for sheep, 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.

Writing of his conversion, Patrick 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 fear of him increased more and more in me and my faith began to grow and my spirit stirred up, so that in one day I would pray as many as a hundred times and nearly as many at night. Even when I was staying out in the woods or on the mountain, I used to rise before dawn for prayer, in snow and frost and rain, and I felt no ill effect and there was no slackness in me. As I now realize, it was because the Spirit was glowing in me.”

Eventually rescued through a remarkable turn of events, Patrick returned to his family in Britain.  But his heart increasingly longed to return to his Irish captors and share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with them.  He sought theological training on the continent and gained a warrant to evangelize his former captors in Ireland.

When he finally did return, Patrick preached to the pagan tribes in the Irish language he had learned as a slave. Many accepted Christ, and soon heathen songs were replaced with hymns praising Jesus Christ as Lord. Patrick once wrote that God's grace had so blessed his efforts that thousands were "born again to God" through his ministry. Killen, a prominent historian of Ireland wrote, "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."

Patrick ministered to the Irish more than 50 years until he died in 493. Tradition asserts that he reached and baptized in excess of a hundred thousand people.

Tuesday, November 1

All Saint’s Day

In the earliest years of the church, so many martyrs died for their faith, Christians set aside special days to honor them.  For example, in 607 Emperor Phocas presented the beautiful Roman Pantheon to the church. Boniface IV, the Bishop of Rome, quickly removed the statues of Jupiter and the other pagan gods and consecrated the Pantheon to the memory of all the martyrs who had suffered during the Roman persecution in the first three hundred years after Christ--that great cloud of witnesses to the Christian faith.  Originally celebrated on May 1, a festival in commemoration of those faithful saints was eventually moved to November 1 by Pope Gregory IV.  Ever since this day has been set aside as a time of remembrance of all those who have suffered persecution for their faith.  And, given the fact that more Christians have been martyred in the last century than in all the other centuries combined, this is a particularly relevant remembrance.