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.”

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.”'

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

Friday, August 14, 2020

A Selection from My Poetry Prayer-Journal

Move, Lord, move, according to Your will,

And in Your moving let me move,

While inwardly peaceful, still.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Heroes of the Faith: Bartolomé de las Casas

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.”  – Isaiah 61:1

“Tainted are the gifts of him who offers a sacrifice of ill-gotten goods! Mock presents from the lawless do not win God’s favor. The Most High approves not the gifts of the godless, nor for their sacrifices does he forgive their sins. Like the man who slays a son in his father’s presence is he who offers sacrifice from the possessions of the poor….God hears the cry of the oppressed.”  - Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) 34:18-20, 35:13b (from the Old Testament Apocrypha)

Bartolomé de las Casas: Basic Facts

- Bartolomé de las Casas (1484-1566) was arguably the second most important figure in the Spanish settlement of the Americas, after only Christopher Columbus. In fact, during his own lifetime, he was more well-known, more loved and more hated, than Columbus ever was. Las Casas was a Catholic priest who took a dramatic stand against the exploitation of Native American peoples at the hands of European settlers. He was among the first to argue that all people, regardless of culture or ethnicity, were to be regarded with the full dignity, honor, and love due to the image of God in humanity.

- Las Casas is now best known through the writings he left behind, particularly his history of the Spanish conquest and his incendiary exposé, A Brief Account of the Destruction of the Indies.

Historical Background of European/Indian Interactions in the 16th Century:

Columbus had opened the way for European settlement with his “discovery” of the New World in 1492. Columbus landed on the island of Hispaniola (modern Haiti & the Dominican Republic) and founded a small settlement there. Over the next few decades, the Spanish brutally killed or enslaved the native Indian population there, the Tainos. Added to these attacks was the introduction of European diseases. Within 50 years, the entire Taino nation was dead, with no survivors. A similar scene unfolded across the Caribbean, with almost every Arawak and Carib tribe completely wiped out. Overall, many historians now estimate that the losses to Native American populations in the 16th and 17th centuries, mostly due to European diseases, amounted to 80-95% of the total population—the largest demographic disaster in all of human history (worse than the Holocaust, the Black Plague, and all modern wars put together). Those that survived were usually enslaved in Spanish encomiendas and forced to work in the mines, digging gold and silver. Many Europeans at the time did not see anything wrong with this. They saw Native Americans as backward and barbaric, perhaps as sub-human, and rationalized that they were being a “civilizing influence” on them. They interpreted the deaths of Indian tribes as God’s hand, making a way open for them.

Timeline of Las Casas' Life and Ministry:

1502 – As a teenager, Las Casas emigrates with his father from Spain to the island of Hispaniola.

1510 – Las Casas joins the priesthood, becoming the first priest ordained in the New World. At the same time, however, he is also a slave-owner who runs his own encomienda.

1511 – Las Casas is deeply impacted by a brave sermon delivered by the Dominican friar Antonio de Montesinos, accusing the Spanish settlers of great crimes against the Indians and against God.

1512-1514 – Las Casas joins the Spanish expedition to Cuba, and witnesses a horrific massacre of Indians at Caonao. In 1514, inspired by Ecclesiasticus 34, he gives up his encomienda, sets his slaves free, and preaches his first sermon against the exploitation of the Indians.

1515-1516 – He travels back to Spain to plead the cause of the Indians before King Ferdinand. He is given authority to curb some of the exploitative practices and is named “universal protector of all the Indians.” In 1516, he travels back to the New World, but his reforms are ignored.

– He goes back to Spain again in an attempt to win entire protection for South America against Spanish incursions. He wins the support of the new king, Charles.

1521 – With his royal grant in hand, Las Casas tries to keep Spanish raiders away from the South American coast. They ignore him, and his missionary efforts in the area end in failure.

1522-1534 – Las Casas retires from the fight for awhile. He joins the Dominican order and lives as a friar, working on writing his History of the Indies. He also publishes The Only Way, advocating that love alone (not conquest or force) is the only method for bringing people to faith in Christ.

1535-1540 – He travels through central America and Mexico, preaching against Spanish abuses.

1541-1542 – Las Casas returns to Spain, engages in high-profile debates about Indian issues, and succeeds in getting King Charles to pass “The New Laws,” which protect the Indians and demand an end of the encomienda system.

1543-1547 – Las Casas serves as the bishop of Chiapas (southern Mexico/Guatemala), causing great anger when he refuses to hear confession from slave-holders and encomienda owners.

1547-1566 – Las Casas returns to Spain for the last time, and over the final two decades of his life continues debating, preaching, and writing books in attempts to win more freedom for the Indians.

Quotes from Las Casas:

“I desire that [my readers] would please consider whether such barbarous, cruel, and inhumane acts as these [which the Spanish have done] do not transcend and exceed all the impiety and tyranny which can enter the thoughts of man, and whether these Spaniards deserve not the name of Devils. For which of these two things is more desirable: whether the Indians should be delivered up to the devils themselves, or be tormented by the Spaniards? That is still a question.”

“The Indians are our brothers, and Christ has given his life for them.”

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Photo of the Week


All heaven is singing, "Thanks to Christ, whose Passion
Offers in mercy healing, strength, and pardon.
Peoples and nations, take it, take it freely!"

- from a 17th-century Hungarian hymn, translated by Erik Routley

Monday, August 10, 2020

Quote of the Week

Man who man would be,
Must rule the empire of himself; in it
Must be supreme, establishing his throne
On vanquished will, quelling the anarchy
Of hopes and fears, being himself alone.

- Percy Bysshe Shelley, from "Political Greatness"

Saturday, August 08, 2020

Saturday Synaxis

Lord, when iniquities abound, 
And blasphemy grows bold,
When faith is hardly to be found,
And love is waxing cold,
Is not Thy chariot hastening on? 
Hast Thou not given this sign?
May we not trust and live upon 
A promise so divine?
Thy word, like silver seven times tried,
Through ages shall endure;
The men that in Thy truth confide 
Shall find Thy promise sure.

- from a hymn of Isaac Watts

Friday, August 07, 2020

A Selection from My Poetry-Prayer Journal

Thank you, Lord, for walking with me this day
And preserving me from the dangers of myself.

Thursday, August 06, 2020

Heroes of the Faith: Thomas à Kempis and the Early Reformers

For it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”  – 1 Peter 1:16 

Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.  – Luke 9:23 

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  – Philippians 2:3

Early Reform Movements in the Late Middle Ages

John Wycliffe
- Reform movements began appearing across Christian Europe throughout the 14th and 15th centuries. Some of these (like Wycliffe’s and Hus’ movements) dared to criticize the institutions and official practices of the Roman Catholic church—they were declared heretical and are now seen as forerunners of the Protestant Reformation. Other movements, like the “Devotio Moderna,” of which Kempis’ Imitation of Christ is an early representative work, remained within Roman Catholicism and aimed at a reformation of personal piety and holiness. 

- John Wycliffe (1328-1384) was an English philosopher and theologian who inspired a movement of lay preachers, the Lollards, which tried to initiate biblically-centered reforms. He was also a pioneer of the first Bible translation into English. 

Jan Hus
- Jan Hus (1369-1415) was a Czech priest who criticized the practice of papal indulgences. His ideas inspired the German reformers of the 16th century. He was burned at the stake by church authorities.

- Thomas à Kempis (1380-1471) was a relatively unknown monk and a member of the Devotio Moderna movement, founded by Geert Groote. They emphasized the practices of inner holiness, prayer, and humility as a means of reforming the Roman Catholic church from within. Kempis is probably the author of The Imitation of Christ, perhaps the most widely read devotional book from all of Christian history. It was written in the Netherlands around 1420, and has remained tremendously influential to this day.

Selections from The Imitation of Christ

On Humility:
It is great wisdom and perfection to consider ourselves as nothing and always to judge well and highly of others….We are all frail; but think of yourself as one who is more frail than others.

You will make no progress in the interior life until you regard yourself as lower than everyone else.

It is better to lead a hidden life and care about one’s salvation than to neglect it and work miracles.

On Relationships:
If God dwells among us then we must sometimes relinquish our own opinion for the sake of peace. Who is so wise as to be able to know all things? Therefore, rely not too heavily on your own opinion, but listen to the ideas of others as well. Your opinion may be a good one, but if, for God’s sake, you set it aside and follow that of another, you will profit the more.

Be patient in bearing the imperfections and weaknesses of others, no matter what they may be, just as others have to put up with your faults. If you cannot remake yourself in the way you would like, why, then, do you expect another to fashion himself according to the pattern you set for him?

Don’t have your peace depend on what other men might say about you. Whether they interpret your actions rightly or wrongly, you still are what you are.

Everyone enjoys living in peace and love with those who think the same as they do, but if you can live in peace with those who are difficult, obdurate, and undisciplined, ah, that is a great grace, a courageous and praiseworthy deed.

On Making Spiritual Progress:
If you want to understand Christ’s words and relish them fully, you must strive to conform your entire life to his.

If you only knew how much peace you can give yourself and how much joy you give to others by living as you should, I think you would show greater interest in your spiritual progress.

Jesus today has many lovers of his heavenly kingdom, but few of them carry his cross. He has many friends who ask for consolation, but few who pray for affliction. He has many companions to share his meals, but few to share his fasting.

Progress in the spiritual life does not consist so much in the possession of the grace of consolation as it does in the following: being able, with humility and patient resignation, to live without it, not becoming lazy with regard to your prayers, nor giving up the devotional exercises you are accustomed to perform.

Bear the cross cheerfully and it will bear you.

Without the way, there is no going; without the truth, there is no knowing; without the life, there is no living.

Tuesday, August 04, 2020

Photo of the Week

Heavenly Father, all creation
Shows the wonders of Thy hand;
Now accept our adoration,
Maker of the sea and land.
Thee the Fount of life we own,
Thee our Maker, Thee alone.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

- from a hymn by Arthur T. Russell

Monday, August 03, 2020

Quote of the Week

"When soil is ready, the plow will penetrate it. Love, simplicity, and serious sincerity are always effective. Be patient. Fire does not always fly from the flint on the first stroke."

- Richard Baxter, puritan pastor, from his book The Saints' Everlasting Rest

Saturday, August 01, 2020

Saturday Synaxis

Grant, O Lord, that I may be so ravished in the wonder of thy love that I may forget myself and all things; may feel neither prosperity nor adversity; may not fear to suffer all the pain in the world rather than be parted from thee. O let me find thee more inwardly and verily present with me than I am with myself; and make me most circumspect how I do use myself in the presence of thee, my holy Lord. Amen. 

- Robert Leighton