Saturday, September 19, 2020

Saturday Synaxis

Dear Father, take this day's life into Thine own keeping. Control all my thoughts and feelings. Direct all my energies. Instruct my mind. Sustain my will. Take my hands and make them skillful to serve Thee. Take my feet and make them swift to do Thy bidding. Take my eyes and keep them fixed upon Thy everlasting beauty. Take my mouth and make it eloquent in testimony to Thy love. Make this day a day of obedience, a day of spiritual joy and peace. Make this day's work a little part of the work of the Kingdom of my Lord Christ, in whose name these prayers are said. Amen.

- John Baillie

Friday, September 18, 2020

A Selection from My Poetry-Prayer Journal

Thank you, Lord,
For the onerous beauty of my calling,
Here where I plow amid thorns and stones.
I love to serve in the teeth of the fight,
And to be useful in places
Where others may not want to go.
I don't want to be a pastor in a place
Where great pastors are a dime a dozen;
I want to be a pastor where being a man of God
Is a stark and unsettling thing.
Thank you for giving me that.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Heroes of the Faith: Thomas Cranmer and the English Reformation

“All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.”   - Mark 13:13

“Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted.”  – Romans 13:1-2b

Thomas Cranmer: Basic Facts

- Thomas Cranmer (pictured above, 1489-1556) was the Archbishop of Canterbury during one of the most pivotal periods of British history: the slow break-up between the English church and the Roman Catholic Church. Unlike other great Reformers like Calvin and Luther, Cranmer never had aspirations of being a leading figure in the Protestant movement, but he happened to be in the right place at the right time to help guide a very messy political and religious situation into a new direction.

- Cranmer’s legacy is a complex one, and he is often accused of being wishy-washy and capitulating too much to King Henry VIII (pictured at right). But he did show remarkable courage and moral fortitude on several occasions, including at his execution.

- Cranmer is best known today as the author and compiler of The Book of Common Prayer, which is still the fundamental staple of all worship services in Anglican and Episcopal churches worldwide.

Timeline of Cranmer's Life and the Course of the English Reformation:

1529 – For nearly a decade and a half, Cranmer has pursued a career as a priest and theologian at Cambridge University. There he meets the retinue of King Henry VIII, and suggests to the royal advisors that the King’s desire to be legally divorced from his wife, Catherine of Aragon, could be validated by sound theological arguments. King Henry selects Cranmer himself to research and write a treatise on the subject.

1530-32 – Cranmer is sent to Rome to argue the case for Henry’s annulment before the Pope, but to no avail. He then visits the courts of the Lutheran princes of Germany and there marries the niece of a Lutheran reformer (but their marriage would be kept secret for most of his life). Meanwhile, with his mistress Anne Boleyn pregnant, Henry VIII needs to go forward with the annulment of his marriage whether the Pope approves or not.

1533 – When the Archbishop of Canterbury passes away, Cranmer is surprisingly selected as his replacement. Although hesitant to accept the post, he eventually agrees, and then allows Henry’s marriage to be annulled.

1534 –38 – A quick series of royal decisions push England in a Protestant direction. The King is declared the “supreme head” of the English church (rather than the Pope), English Bibles are ordered to be put in every church, and the Roman Catholic monasteries are liquidated.

1539-43 – Henry does an about-face and, while not giving up his leadership of the Church of England, tries to preserve certain Catholic doctrines and practices, including priestly celibacy and transubstantiation of the Eucharist; he now forbids reading of the Bible except by experts. Henry also has Thomas Cromwell, his supreme church advisor, executed under dubious charges (despite Cranmer’s objections), and nearly allows Cranmer himself to be done away with.

1547 – Henry dies and his nine-year-old son Edward comes to the throne, under the guidance of the Duke of Somerset. Somerset and his successor push England back into a radically Protestant direction,

1549-1552 – Cranmer publishes his Book of Common Prayer; it is put to immediate use in the churches (and is still used today). He also composes his “Forty-Two Articles,” which will eventually become the basis for the foundational declaration of Anglican theology.

1553 – After young King Edward’s death, Cranmer supports Lady Jane Grey’s claim to the throne; but within a few months she is pushed out by Henry’s Catholic daughter Mary (known in Protestant history as ‘Bloody Mary’). Cranmer is immediately arrested after the regime change.

1554-1557 – During Mary’s reign, Catholicism is aggressively reinstated, and Protestant leaders are regularly executed. Among these martyrs are Cranmer’s friends Nicholas Ridley and Hugh Latimer; then in 1556 Cranmer’s own time comes. Under great duress, he signs a recantation of his Protestant views. But at his execution, he surprises everyone by recanting his recantation, deciding at the very end to stay faithful to the Protestant principles of which he had become convinced. While burning at the stake, he held out his hand in the flames to let it burn first, as if to atone for the writing of his false recantation.

1558 – Queen Mary dies and Elizabeth becomes queen. Through her decades-long reign, England once again swings back toward a Protestant direction, sometimes violently persecuting its Catholic citizens, before finally settling on a “middle road” between the two theological camps.


[A Prayer:] “Almighty God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility, that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the quick and dead, we may rise to the life immortal, through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, now and ever. Amen.”

[Hugh Latimer, to his friend at their execution:] “Be of good cheer, Master Ridley, and play the man; we shall this day light such a candle in England, as I hope, by God’s grace, shall never be put out.”

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

The Evangeliad (17:27-29)

Section 17:27-29 (corresponding to Matt. 13:43-46)

So if you have ears to hear this, then hear:
The kingdom is like a treasure most dear--
That treasure, so costly, was hid in the ground,
And then by a certain man it was found;

He hid it again, then went forth and sold
All that he had, just to get enough gold
To purchase that field where treasure was stored--
So give up your all and come to the Lord!

The kingdom of heaven is much like a pearl,
The most valuable pearl in all the world--
If a merchant had found a pearl like that,
He'd give all to have it, and hold nothing back.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Photo of the Week

Thou lovely Source of true delight,
Whom I unseen adore!
Unveil Thy beauties to my sight,
That I might love Thee more.

- from a hymn by Anne Steele

Monday, September 14, 2020

Quote of the Week

"It would be a mistake to suppose that the highest state of inward experience is characterized by great excitements--raptures and ecstasies.... One of the remarkable results in a soul in which faith is the sole governing principle is that it is entirely peaceful."

François Fénelon, 17th-18th century archbishop and spiritual writer

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Saturday Synaxis

Forever firm Thy justice stands, as mountains their foundations keep;
Wise are the wonders of Thy hands; Thy judgments are a mighty deep.
Above the heavens' created rounds, Thy mercies, Lord, extend;
Thy truth outlives the narrow bounds where time and nature end.

- from Isaac Watts' hymnographic rendering of Psalm 36

Friday, September 11, 2020

A Selection from My Poetry-Prayer Journal

Help me, Lord,
To take joy in the simple things,
Lest I find myself unable to find it
In the rich, complex, fathomless depths
Of your divine simplicity.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Heroes of the Faith: The Anabaptists

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”  – Luke 15:12

“This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. This is love for God: to obey his commands.”  – 1 John 5:2-3a

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also….You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”  – Matthew 5:38-39, 43-44

The Anabaptists: Basic Facts

- Conrad Grebel (above), 1498-1526, began as part of Zwingli’s Swiss Reformation in Zurich, but a local Bible study convinced him to start baptizing adults (instead of infants).

- Menno Simons (right), 1496-1561, helped to unify the non-resistant Anabaptists after the catastrophe of the Munster rebellion.

- The Anabaptists are usually seen as the fourth major wing of the Reformation, after the Lutherans, the Reformed churches, and the English Reformation. The Anabaptists, however, found persecution almost everywhere they went and did not ally themselves with secular authority. They are known as “the Radical Reformation,” and were originally feared as anarchists. Their direct legacy carries on today in the Mennonites, Amish, Hutterite, and Brethren in Christ churches, and indirectly in the Baptists and Congregationalists.

- “Anabaptist” means “re-baptizer,” because their practice was to baptize people as adults, even if they had been previously baptized as infants.

- The Anabaptists decided to follow the Bible as closely as they could. This led them to challenge some of the fundamental assumptions of their culture—namely, they suggested that people ought to have the right to choose for themselves what they believed, and that true Christians ought not to be involved in matters of war or secular politics. These were dangerous ideas at the time, and they led to many early Anabaptists being persecuted and martyred.

- Anabaptists were also feared because their name became associated with several very radical sects. Foremost among these was a group led by Jan Matthys and Jan of Leiden, which took over the German city of Munster and turned it into a bizarre cult center for more than a year. Most Anabaptists, however, denounced these actions.

- They began in Switzerland, but persecution pushed them into Germany, Austria, and the Netherlands; then later into eastern Europe and Russia; then finally to the US and Canada.

Anabaptist Theology

Anabaptist doctrine highlighted a number of important themes: 

- The importance of discipleship—while they acknowledged that salvation came by God’s grace alone, through faith, they put much more stress on the matter of obedience in the Christian life than some other reformers.

- Love is the highest obligation of the Christian, an obligation which is expressed in concrete ways (i.e., in actions, not just as an emotional sentiment)—one of the foremost ways this love is expressed is by a commitment to peace.

- Religious toleration—people ought not to be coerced or forced into their faith-commitments; they should be free to choose for themselves. For Christians, baptism is the symbol of this choice.

- Separation from the state—the church is a different society altogether, set under the love-oriented law of Christ. God has instituted secular government as a means of keeping order outside of the perfect order of Christ’s kingdom. Hence, Christians ought not to serve in the military or in political offices that would require the use of force, and they ought not to take oaths.

Quotes from Menno Simons

“The regenerated do not go to war, nor engage in strife. They are children of peace who have beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning forks, and know no war....Christ is our fortress; patience our weapon of defense; the Word of God our sword. ...Iron and metal spears and swords we leave to those who, alas, regard human blood and swine’s blood of well-nigh equal value.”

“We who were formerly no people at all, and who knew of no peace, are now called to be a church of peace. True Christians do not know vengeance. They are the children of peace. Their hearts overflow with peace. Their mouths speak peace, and they walk in the way of peace.”

“True evangelical faith cannot lie dormant. It clothes the naked, it feeds the hungry, it comforts the sorrowful, it shelters the destitute, it serves those that harm it, it binds up that which is wounded, it has become all things to all people.”

Wednesday, September 09, 2020

The Evangeliad (17:18-26)

Section 17:18-26 (corresponding to Mark 4:34; Matt. 13:36-43)

By such parables the multitudes heard,
But Jesus explained to his friends every word.
So after they stepped away from the crowd,
His followers came up to him in the house.

"Tell us, Lord, about the story of tares;
Yes, what does it mean that the tares were there?"
And Jesus replied, "I was the man who sowed,
The Son of Man, who the whole field owned:

That field is the world, and in it my seeds--
The kingdom's own children, of truth and good deeds--
Are planted to grow up on every side,
But the enemy's children grow alongside.

Satan himself is that enemy who
Desires the kingdom's growth to undo.
The coming of harvest is the world's end;
The reapers are angels that the Son will send.

As tares are bundled and burned in the flames,
So it will be at the end of all days.
The Son of Man will his angels engage
The tares from the kingdom to separate.

All things that harm will forever be gone:
Iniquity's doers in flames will be thrown;
There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth,
For all who grew not from grace of good seed.

But the righteous ones, the harvest of wheat,
Will be gathered into the kingdom of peace.
There in the glory of Father and Son,
In radiance bright, they will shine like the sun.

Tuesday, September 08, 2020

Photo of the Week


Joy is a fruit that will not grow in nature's barren soil;
All we can boast, 'till Christ we know, is vanity and toil.
But where the Lord has planted grace, and made his glories known;
There fruits of heavenly joy and peace are found, and there alone.

- from a hymn by John Newton

Monday, September 07, 2020

Quote of the Week

On judging others:

"God himself, sir, does not propose to judge a man until after his life is over. Why should you or I?"

- Dr. Samuel Johnson, 18th-century lexicographer and polymath

Saturday, September 05, 2020

Saturday Synaxis

Lord God almighty, I pray you for your great mercy, and by the token of the holy cross, guide me to your will, to my soul's need, better than I can myself; and shield me against my foes, seen and unseen; and teach me to do your will, that I may love you inwardly before all things with a clean mind and a clean body. For you are my maker and redeemer, my help, my comfort, my trust, and my hope. Praise and glory be to you now, ever and ever, world without end. Amen.

- King Alfred the Great

Friday, September 04, 2020

Does God Really Exist?

(Note: This post was originally written as a devotional column for my local newspaper)

Does God really exist? The vast majority of people in our society, throughout its entire history, would almost certainly have answered “Yes, of course!” In recent years, however, there have been a lot of folks questioning that assumption. In the early 2000s, a spate of popular bestselling books came out from writers known as “the New Atheists,” vigorously mocking traditional religious beliefs and claiming that religion had been disproven by science. However, to anyone who paid attention to how those books were received among the writers’ colleagues in the academic worlds of philosophy, theology, and yes, even science, the widespread sense was that the books were more bluster and nonsense than anything else. Nevertheless, they seemed to hit a mark: more and more people are abandoning traditional faith-perspectives in our society (though on a global scale, the reverse is actually the case). “Nones”—that is, people who say they have no religious aspect to their lives or worldview at all—are one of the most swiftly-rising demographics in our country.

All of this is not much of a surprise to anybody who has been paying attention to social trends. Sometimes Christians might feel a certain anxiety about such things, but I generally don’t worry too much about it. Of course, I do want people to believe in the truth-claims of Christianity—there is nothing so beautiful, life-giving, and true in the world as the faith that I’ve been blessed to receive. But I don’t feel much anxiety about the attacks of atheists and agnostics, because the plain fact of the matter is that they’re bound to fall short (and that’s coming from someone who, for a while at least, counted himself an agnostic!). God does exist, he has revealed himself in history, in Scripture, and most of all in the person of Jesus. In short, Christian truth really is true, and, as Shakespeare once put it, “The truth will out.” Truth has a way of becoming known, simply because it is true, as it presents itself over and over again to honest seekers of all generations.

Let me give one rather striking example. Back in 1955, theism (a belief in God) had been almost entirely eradicated from academic philosophy departments in universities. A group of prominent atheist philosophers issued a volume of triumphant essays at that time, essentially as a statement of their triumph in their field. The book had as its editors two of the rising stars and leading lights of those atheist philosophers: Anthony Flew and Alasdair MacIntyre. Now fast-forward the clock sixty years, and guess what you see? Both Anthony Flew and MacIntyre reversed course and became convinced of God’s existence because of the evidence for it from science, logic, history, and philosophy. Flew (once called “the pope of atheists”), issued a book before his passing titled simply “There Is a God.” And MacIntyre became not only a theist, but a Christian, and is now one of the leading theologians in the world. The tide of God-believing philosophers has risen substantially in university departments all over the world, to the point where a significant majority of experts in the field of the arguments for whether God exists or not (philosophy of religion) are of the opinion that he does. There is powerful and compelling evidence that not only does God exist, but also that the biblical story stands up to scrutiny: this creator-God loves us to such an extent that he has called us, redeemed us, and entered our story to attain our salvation on our behalf. I truly believe that “the truth will out,” the tide of faith will turn again, as it always has before, and the great Christian revival that is sweeping through the most unlikely corners of the world right now will one day soon return to our shores.

Thursday, September 03, 2020

Heroes of the Faith: John Calvin & the Swiss Reformation

“Depart, depart, go out from there! Touch no unclean thing! Come out from it and be pure, you who carry the vessels of the Lord.”  – Isaiah 52:11

“For [God] chose us in [Christ] before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace….In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.”  – Ephesians 1:4-6a, 11

“What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.’ It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy….Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.”  – Romans 9:14-16, 18

Basic Facts: John Calvin, Ulrich Zwingli, and the Swiss Reformation:

- The Swiss Reformation refers mostly to the reforms begun by Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1531) in Zurich and John Calvin (1509-1564) in Geneva. Zwingli was a contemporary of Martin Luther, and Calvin was the leading light of the second wave of great reformers. The Swiss Reformation went even further than the Lutherans by adjusting the meaning of the Lord’s Supper, by getting rid of the arts in church, and by trying to go back even closer to New Testament Christianity (i.e., whatever was not explicitly allowed in Scripture was not allowed in church). 

- The Christian tradition that comes from the Swiss Reformation (particularly the tradition shaped by Calvin) is known as the “Reformed” tradition, and it emphasizes the priority of Scripture and the sovereignty of God. Several current denominations, like the Presbyterians, Dutch Reformed, and Church of Scotland, are direct offshoots of the Reformed tradition; it also played a major role in the growth of the Baptists.

- Zwingli was a pastor by choice and profession; Calvin was first and foremost a scholar and writer who was pressed into service (almost against his will) as a pastor.

Major Aspects of the Swiss Reformation:

- Social concern: Both Zwingli and Calvin believed that the Kingdom of God should make an impact on how we live, and especially in politics; and they took great interest in reforming the practice of civil government as well as the church.

- Church practice: A new kind of worship service was introduced, stripped of liturgy and vestments and icons, and centered instead around the teaching of the Bible. The Lord’s Supper was now seen to be a symbol of Christ’s spiritual presence rather than the actual, physical presence of the body and blood of Jesus.

- Doctrine: Calvin’s teaching on predestination focused many of the debates in Christian theology onto the interaction between God’s sovereignty and human free will; these debates continue to this day.


“True and solid wisdom consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves.” 

“In the cross of Christ, as in a splendid theater, the incomparable goodness of God is set before the whole world. The glory of God shines, indeed, in all creatures, but never more brightly than in the cross, in which there was a wonderful change of things - the condemnation of all men was manifested, sin blotted out, salvation restored to men; in short, the whole world was renewed and all things restored to order.”

“Zeal without sound doctrine is like a sword in the hands of a lunatic.”

“There is not one blade of grass, there is no color in this world that is not intended to make us rejoice.”

“God preordained, for his own glory and the display of His attributes of mercy and justice, a part of the human race, without any merit of their own, to eternal salvation, and another part, in just punishment of their sin, to eternal damnation.”

“One of the most remarkable renewals brought by the Reformation was a shift in the whole idea of what it meant to be worthy and do good. The very purpose of life was redirected. Preoccupation with acquired virtue and earned status was displaced by confidence in friendship freely received and permanently guaranteed by God’s unearned love.” – Raymond K. Anderson

Wednesday, September 02, 2020

The Evangeliad (17:8-17)

Section 17:8-17 (corresponding to Mt. 13:31-35; Mk. 4:30-33; Lk. 13:18-20)

Such were the kingdom-teachings of Christ:
"The kingdom of God," he said, "what is it like?
What shall I use to explain all its ways,
The mystery of its growth and its grace?

It's as if one planted a mustard seed,
The smallest of grains one sows in a field,
Yet the greatest of herbs when it has grown,
Giving rest for birds who else would have flown.

Consider it this way: the kingdom is like
The leaven that causes bread dough to rise--
The cook takes some up, through the dough kneads,
Till all of the bread is leavened with yeast."

Thus Jesus spoke to the crowds all around,
In parables simple and yet profound,
So that those who had ears to hear would hear,
As had been prophesied in bygone years:

"In parables will I open my mouth,
And speak forth words which tell you about
Secrets which all have been hidden away
From before the world's foundations were laid."

Tuesday, September 01, 2020

Photo of the Week


If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

- 1 John 1:7

Monday, August 31, 2020

Quote of the Week

On contentment with one's calling and place in life:

"The Great Master Gardener, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, in a wonderful providence with his own hand, planted me here, where by his grace, in this part of his vineyard, I grow; and here I will abide till the great Master of the vineyard thinks fit to transplant me."

- Samuel Rutherford

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Saturday Synaxis

I acknowledge you, O Lord, in your humility, that I may not fear you in your glory. I embrace you in your lowliness, that I may yearn for you in your loftiness, for to those who desire you, you come with clemency.

- Augustine

Friday, August 28, 2020

A Selection from My Poetry-Prayer Journal

Have mercy, Lord, on worn and weary me--
A pilgrim thirsty for faith's sweet jubilee.
Invite me to plunge into your holy mystery,
And let Christ be formed in me.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Heroes of the Faith: William Tyndale

“For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”  – Hebrews 4:12

“And we have the word of the prophets [that is, the Scriptures] made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.”  – 2 Peter 1:19

William Tyndale: Basic Facts

- William Tyndale (1492-1536) was one of the driving forces of the English Reformation. A priest who became convinced by Luther’s arguments for salvation by grace alone, he dedicated his life to making the Bible available to the English people in their own language. Up to that point, only Latin had been allowed in church services, and many of the clergy did not even understand it. The only previous attempt at translating the Bible into English had been carried out by John Wycliffe, but his followers, the Lollards, were being hunted down and executed as dangerous extremists. Tyndale himself would also face persecution, and, ultimately, martyrdom, for his work. 

- Tyndale’s translation of the New Testament, though a banned book in its own day, eventually became the basis of the King James Version (which preserves 90% of Tyndale’s own wording).

Timeline of Tyndale's Life and Ministry:

1515 – William Tyndale completes his MA degree at Oxford and is ordained as a priest.

1516-1517 – During these years, two notable events happened in other places in Europe that would change the course of Tyndale’s life. In 1516, Erasmus of Rotterdam published a scholarly edition of the New Testament in Greek, giving educated men the opportunity to read the Bible in its original language. The very next year, Martin Luther took his stand for reform in the Roman Catholic Church by posting his revolutionary “95 Theses.”

1521-1523 – Tyndale, now under the influence of the Reformation, begins teaching at Little Sodbury and gets into disputes with priests, many of whom are ignorant of the Bible.

1524 – He seeks the patronage of Bishop Tunstall to translate an English Bible, but Tunstall, worried about the instability of the Reformation, refuses. So Tyndale goes to Germany.

1525 – He begins printing his first draft of an English New Testament in the city of Cologne; but he is discovered and the print shop is raided; he escapes with only a few printed portions.

1526 – Now in the city of Worms, he completes his first printed edition and begins smuggling copies into England; they immediately become popular.

1527 – In an effort to stop Tyndale, Bishop Tunstall purchases all available copies of the New Testaments and has them burned. Ironically, though, his purchase merely goes to finance Tyndale’s updated second edition, which quickly becomes available in England.

1527-1530 – English agents (sent by the bishops) try to hunt down and capture Tyndale in Europe; but he keeps moving, always one step ahead, and he keeps writing theological tracts and working on his translation. By 1530, his translation of the Pentateuch is available in England.

1530-1533 – King Henry VIII, impressed by one of Tyndale’s tracts that Anne Boleyn passed on to him, seeks to employ Tyndale as a propagandist; but Tyndale refuses to leave his translation work. He goes even farther, specifically condemning Henry’s divorces in another theological tract. At this point, the king’s chancellor, Sir Thomas More, begins attacking Tyndale in writing, and the king sends his own agents to capture the translator.

1534 – Tyndale takes refuge in the Reformation-sympathetic town of Antwerp, in the Netherlands. He receives the protection of a wealthy English merchant family there.

– Henry Phillips, a ne’er-do-well agent of the king, finds Tyndale and befriends him under the pretense that he too is a Reformation sympathizer. He tricks Tyndale into walking into an ambush, where he is arrested, then taken and thrown into prison.

1536 – During his fifteen months of incarceration, he continues writing theological treatises. Finally, after a perfunctory trial, he is publicly executed by strangling, and then his body is burnt at the stake. His dying prayer is, “God, open the king of England’s eyes.”

1537 – In a startling answer to that prayer, less than a year later, King Henry VIII approves the distribution of a new English translation of the Bible, put forward by Miles Coverdale but largely consisting of Tyndale’s own work. King Henry decides that he wants an English Bible in every church.

Quotes from William Tyndale

“Christ is with us until the world's end. Let his little flock be bold therefore.”

“For if God be on our side, what matter maketh it who be against us, be they bishops, cardinals, popes, or whatsoever names they will?”

To an ignorant priest: “If God spare my life, ere many years I will cause a boy who drives the plough to know more of the scriptures than you do.”

Translation of Genesis 1:1, in its original spelling: “In the begynnynge God created heaven and erth.”

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

The Evangeliad (17:1-7)

Section 17:1-7 (corresponding to Matt. 13:24-30)

And Jesus told other parables, too,
Regarding the kingdom's crop bearing fruit.
"Imagine," said Christ, "a man sowing seed,
Planting his field with the finest of wheat.

But during the night, an enemy came,
And he sowed tares in the midst of the grain.
So when the crop sprouted, the servants saw there,
Growing up with the wheat, the enemy's tares.

They went to their master and said, 'Did you not
Sow out good seed when planting your crop?
So why then do tares grow up on all sides?'
'An enemy did it,' the master replied.

'Should we gather the tares, seize and uproot?'
'No,' said the farmer, 'for that would break loose
The roots of the good wheat growing beside.
For now let the tares with the wheat abide.

When harvest-day comes, the reapers I'll ask
To cut out the tares as their very first task.
The tares will be bundled and burned, but the wheat
Will be gathered and stored, the fruit of good seed.'"

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Photo of the Week


Jesus, to thee I now can fly, on whom my hope is laid,
Oppressed by sins, I lift my eye, and see the shadows fade.
Jesus, my strength, my life, my rest, on thee I will depend,
Till summoned to the marriage-feast, when faith in sight shall end.

- from a hymn by Charles Wesley (adapted)

Monday, August 24, 2020

Quote of the Week

"An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered; an adventure is an inconvenience rightly considered."

- G. K. Chesterton

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Saturday Synaxis

Teach me the measure of my days,
Thou maker of my frame;
I would survey life's narrow space,
And learn how frail I am.

- a prayer for humility, from Isaac Watts' hymnographic rendering of Psalm 39

Friday, August 21, 2020

Royal Priesthood (a series of audio Bible studies)

I'm posting this page as an archive of my ongoing series of Bible studies on the idea of our office as God's royal priesthood. This series of studies is a theological exploration of some of the main ideas of early church theology, many of which are only poorly understood in today's churches. Video versions are available under the video tab of our church's FB page, at, encompassing all of the midweek Bible studies from 6/10/20 onward. This page will be updated week by week as I add new studies, but to access it, you'll have to click the link in the blog's sidebar--"Royal Priesthood," under the "Full Series" list (that is to say, future episodes will not pop up in the blog's main weekly feed, but only as new links posted on this particular page). Clicking on any of the links below will lead you directly to an MP3 audio file of the selected Bible study, which you may listen to on your browser or choose to download. I pray it would be a blessing to any who listen.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Heroes of the Faith: Martin Luther

For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous shall live by faith.” – Romans 1:17

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. – Ephesians 2:8-9

Martin Luther: Basic Facts

- Martin Luther (1483-1546) was an Augustinian monk from Germany who became a priest and a professor of theology. He criticized the theological ideas of the Roman Catholic Church which had led to abuses like the sale of indulgences. He is credited with sparking the Protestant Reformation, which changed the course of Christian history in Europe.

- Luther is one of the most important figures of Christian history. For Protestants, his way of reading the Bible and thinking about faith were more influential than anyone else’s since the Apostle Paul.

- Luther’s influence extends far beyond theological ideas—he championed translating the Bible, using congregational singing in church, and putting the family at the center of Christian life.

Outline of Martin Luther's Life and Ministry:

1483 – born in Eisleben, Germany 

1501 – enters University of Erfurt to study law

1505 – vows to become a monk; joins the Augustinian Order

1507 – ordained as a priest

1510 – visits Rome as a pilgrim

1512 – becomes a doctor of theology at the University of Wittenberg

1513-1516 – Lectures on Psalms, Romans, and Galatians

1517 – posts his “95 Theses” on the church door in Wittenberg

1518 – ordered to defend his theology before a church cardinal; released from Augustinian Order

1519 – comes to his final understanding of “the righteousness of God”

1520 – writes three seminal documents: To the Christian Nobility, On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church, and On Christian Freedom; a papal bull orders Luther to recant or be excommunicated; the works of Luther are burned by church officials; Luther burns the papal bull and other Catholic documents

1521 – refuses to recant at the Diet of Worms; he is excommunicated and becomes an outlaw; he is kidnapped by Prince Frederick of Saxony for his own protection and lives in hiding as “Knight George,” during which time he translates the New Testament into German

1522 – returns to Wittenberg; begins a series of theological debates in writing with Roman Catholics, Jews, and other Protestant Reformers which will continue until his death

1525 – criticizes the Peasants’ Revolt (leading to its suppression); marries Katherine von Bora

1530 – the Augsburg Confession is written as the codification of Lutheran belief

1546 – dies in Eisleben

Luther's Theology

Luther’s theology was guided by three precepts: “sola Scriptura” (Scripture alone), “sola fide” (faith alone), and “sola gratia” (grace alone). This led to changes in several areas:

- Theology

- People are justified by God’s grace alone, through faith—not by pious works

- There are two kinds of righteousness—one that is imputed to us in full through faith in Christ, and another that we develop over time in our daily lives—hence people are “simul justus et peccator”: at the same time, justified and sinful

- The priesthood of all believers

- Church Life

- Two sacraments—communion and baptism

- Clergy can be married

- Music should be used in church, especially in congregational hymns

- Special focus on children’s ministries

- Christian Living

- God wants us to delight in our families as the height of his blessing

- God wants us to enjoy, without guilt, the good things of this life


“I hated that word, ‘the righteousness of God,’ by which I had been taught according to the custom and use of all teachers ... [that] God is righteous and punishes the unrighteous sinner….At last, as I meditated day and night, I began to understand that ‘righteousness of God’ as that by which the righteous person lives by the gift of God….This immediately made me feel as though I had been born again, and as though I had entered through open gates into paradise itself. From that moment, I saw the whole face of Scripture in a new light. ... And now, where I had once hated the phrase, ‘the righteousness of God,’ I began to love and extol it as the sweetest of phrases, so that this passage in Paul became the very gate of paradise to me.” 

“A simple layman armed with Scripture is to be believed above a pope or a cardinal without it.”

“The Bible is alive, it speaks to me; it has feet, it runs after me; it has hands, it lays hold of me.”

“Unless I can be instructed and convinced with evidence from the Holy Scriptures or with open, clear, and distinct grounds of reasoning, then I cannot and will not recant, because it is neither safe nor wise to act against conscience….Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me!” (Luther’s famous statement made at the Diet of Worms)

“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.”

“Faith is permitting ourselves to be seized by the things we do not see.”

“Not only are we the freest of kings, we are also priests forever, which is far more excellent than being kings, for as priests we are worthy to appear before God to pray for others and to teach one another divine things.”

“Temptations, of course, cannot be avoided, but because we cannot prevent the birds from flying over our heads, there is no need that we should let them nest in our hair.”

“The devil should not be allowed to keep all the best tunes for himself.”

“If our Lord is permitted to create nice large pike and good Rhine wine, presumably I may be allowed to eat and drink.”

“Of course, the Christian should love his wife. He is supposed to love his neighbor, and since his wife is his nearest neighbor, she should be his deepest love.”

When his neighbors laughed at him for helping out in “unmanly” ways like washing diapers: “Let them laugh. God and the angels are smiling in heaven.”

“People who do not like children are swine, dunces, and blockheads, not worthy to be called men and women, because they despise the blessing of God, the Creator and Author of marriage.”

“What is asserted without the Scriptures or proven revelation may be held as an opinion, but need not be believed.”

“Human nature is like a drunk peasant. Lift him into the saddle on one side, over he topples on the other side.”

“Farewell to those who want an entirely pure and purified church. This is plainly wanting no church at all.”

“Next to faith, this is the highest art: to be content in the calling in which God has placed you. I have not learned it yet.”

“Our Lord God must be a pious man to be able to love rascals. I can’t do it, and yet I am a rascal myself.”

“I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God's hands, that I still possess.”

“To gather with God's people in united adoration of the Father is as necessary to the Christian life as prayer.”'

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

The Evangeliad (16:49-52)


Section 16:49-52 (corresponding to Mark 4:26-29)

After the parable had been explained,
Jesus continued to teach in that way:
"Yes, the kingdom of God is like one who sows
His seeds in the ground and then lets them grow.

While he sleeps or he wakes, the grain grows up,
Yet he knows not whence its power has come.
For the earth brings forth its fruit of itself,
In obedience to its Creator's intent.

First comes the blade, then the ear, then the grain,
And when it has ripened, the sickle will swing.
The harvest is come! Yes, that is the way
The kingdom will grow till the harvesting-day.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Photo of the Week


For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

- 2 Corinthians 4:6

Monday, August 17, 2020

Quote of the Week

"What is right to do cannot be done too soon."

- Jane Austen, from Emma

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Saturday Synaxis

O God, who has hitherto supported me,
Enable me to proceed in this labor,
That when I shall render up, at the last day,
An account of the talent committed to me,
I may receive pardon [for its failings].

- Dr. Samuel Johnson