Monthly Archives: December 2019

Royal Presents

The off’rings of the Eastern kings of old
Unto our lord were incense, myrrh and gold;
Incense because a God; gold as a king;
And myrrh as to a dying man they bring.
Instead of incense (Blessed Lord) if we
Can send a sigh or fervent prayer to thee,
Instead of myrrh if we can but provide
Tears that from penitential eyes do slide,
And though we have no gold; if for our part
We can present thee with a broken heart
Thou wilt accept: and say those Eastern kings
Did not present thee with more precious things.

Nathaniel Wanley (1634-1680)

The Magi

Sometimes I wish that Balthasar
Had not been gazing when that star
Appeared, so many years ago.
We were younger then and bold, though
Not so rash as to dash our lives
For sudden changes in the skies.

But nightly we watched their motions.
Their dance soon cast out all notions
Of conjunctions we expected.
This was new. Old, too: predicted!
A Magi six hundred years past-
Daniel, the Hebrew unsurpassed,
In wisdom great, and said to be
Possessed by the Spirit of God:
Israel’s God, Yahweh the Only.

Daniel wrote of a coming king
Whose throne would end all suffering,
A king to rule all human clans
Somehow from God and yet from man.
He’d crush those kings who’d not submit
And heal those humbled to the pit.
Meek as lambs; strong as a lion.
Strangest truth: His throne in Zion.

“Israel” We spat at the name!
Haughty hypocrites laying claim
To chosen status: God’s people.
“Never! All nations are equal”,
We’d say, by silencing the doubts
Gnawing at our hearts with proud shouts.

But what if? What if the Saviour
Was Jewish? Should our behaviour
Towards that old, ancient nation
Keep us from our own salvation?
Should we then make an enemy
Of God? Rather an embassy
Of peace, gifts of royal treasure
To secure his heart and pleasure.

If we needed confirmation
His grace surpassed expectations
And wrote on the parchment of sky.
Regulus, the king of stars with
King Jupiter the planet fifth.
A king’s king in constellation
Leo, sign of Daniel’s nation.

Thus the unforeseen decision:
We gathered goods, made provision
For the months we would journey west.
Gold, frankincense and myrrh, our best
Gifts safely in our camels’ sacks;
Soldiers, hunters, guides on their backs.

I will not lie: the road was hard,
The nights cold, the way often barred,
The inns dirty, the towns unkind,
The desert highways hard to find.
Caspar tried cheering us with rhymes
“Philosopher on camel’s hump
Is sure to come down with a thump!”
Truth in jest. We were just magi,
Not explorers. The weeks went by.

We could not agree what to say
To Herod the King on the day
We arrived. It was suicide
To ask a king to be our guide
To the king we sought.
But where else to begin, we thought,
But Jerusalem, the same place
Daniel foresaw Messiah’s grace?

Herod feigned his humble interest.
Beguiled we were, and soon dismissed
The warning in our hearts. He called
For the rabbinic crew who hauled
Their scrolls, and with ceremony,
Read the prophet’s testimony.

Micah, I think it was, who said
His birthplace is the House of Bread:
Bethlehem, a town one hour south.
Herod’s heart was dark, but his mouth
Spoke of his unannounced visit
To worship. Fools! Who can match wits
With a fox? Naive stargazers
cannot read those men like razors
who rule in palaces. We thanked
Herod, spurred camels south and banked
our hopes on more clear providence.

Our hearts soon leaped, we laughed aloud:
the star we’d seen now pointed south!
To come this far, the end in sight –
my heart was racing, my chest tight.
The town was small, the houses rough.
We knocked on doors and soon enough
We learned about a recent birth.
The house was small and hardly worth
A second glance. “Strange home”, thought I,
“To bear and raise the king most High.”

We entered in, lanterns aflame.
I know not how, but more light came.
In that moment, the room aglow,
Within my heart I came to know
The deeper meaning of this shame.

The light burst on my consciousness
Of course salvation must be thus:
To be rich he must first be poor;
To taste reward he must endure
The pain of God’s condemnation
Before he knows commendation.
If he would reign he must first serve,
He must refuse what he deserves;
Accept the scorn he has not earned
To purchase back what man has spurned.
To conquer pride, the king will kneel.
He’ll carry weakness so as to heal.
Our greed he’ll kill by giving all
Our hate he’ll quell by loving more.
To master death, the Son will die.
The King of Kings, Lord God Most High.
This I saw in the broken walls
The meagre food and dirty floors,
The weary couple, faces thin
The infant child of tender skin.

I confess I forgot my speech
My throat was tight, my knees were each
Without strength and I fell, offering
What I had, for so great a king.
Long I lay, in sweet surrender
To Israel’s God whose tender
Mercies fed us, the ‘dogs’ with crumbs
From Zion’s table, and who comes
To Him He will cast out never.

That night we slept: God, our Father,
In dreams warned us and rather
Than go to Herod, we escaped
His eye another way and scraped
Our way home.

But now this birth became a death.
Deaths, for those who’d only drawn breath
For less than two years. How many tears
Were shed that week and our worst fears
Came to pass. Our regret may not
Ever be soothed, the pain forgot,
Though it was Herod’s sin, his blot.

But the other death was now ours.
We weren’t those who’d left the towers
Of Persia with its religion,
No longer men who tried to win
The favour of a foreign Lord
With gifts. We’d lost, and found reward.
We were dead and at last alive.
Our home was now an idol’s hive,
Our family were but strangers now,
Our culture’s gods we’d disavow.

Yes, sometimes I wish Balthasar
Had not been gazing at that star.
But all such thoughts are soon expelled
And with the truth my heart is quelled.

“What will a man give in exchange
For his soul?” Nor is it strange
To lose your life for Him and find
You now can see, who once were blind.

David de Bruyn

(with HT to Eliot and Piper)

2019 Reading

            cover  Title and review Author
Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture
Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture
5/5 A tad nostalgic, but otherwise superb.
Esolen, Anthony
The Fall of Arthur
The Fall of Arthur
3/5. Pity he never finished it.
Tolkien, J.R.R.
A Sacrifice of Praise: An Anthology of Christian Poetry in English from Caedmon to the Mid-Twentieth Century
A Sacrifice of Praise: An Anthology of Christian Poetry in English from Caedmon to the Mid-Twentieth Century
4/5 A great collection.
Trott, James H.
The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation
The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation
4/5 Apart from the big tent approach, excellent. And he mentions famous people like Ryan Martin and Scott Aniol, and I’ve been in their presence.
Dreher, Rod
Work: Its Purpose, Dignity, and Transformation
Work: Its Purpose, Dignity, and Transformation
3/5 Sound, but too Kuyperian.
Doriani, Daniel M.
The Children of Húrin
The Children of Húrin
5/5 Wonderful and tragic.
Tolkien, J.R.R.
To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World
To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World
4/5 Faithful presence is an excellent view of Christianity and culture.
Hunter, James Davison
What I Learned in Narnia
What I Learned in Narnia
4/5. One of the better summaries.
Wilson, Douglas
The Forgotten Heavens: Six Essays on Cosmology
The Forgotten Heavens: Six Essays on Cosmology
3/5. Uneven qualities of essays, but refreshingly supernaturalistic.
Wilson, Douglas
The Silmarillion (Middle-Earth Universe)
The Silmarillion
5/5 Christian mythos at its best.
Tolkien, J.R.R.
Being Consumed
Being Consumed
3/5. Great on diagnosis, shorter on cure. 
Cavanaugh, William T.
The Pilgrim Church
The Pilgrim Church
3/5 Great in places, careless in others. Wish it were all true.
Broadbent, Edmund Hamer
C.S. Lewis: A Very Short Introduction
C.S. Lewis: A Very Short Introduction
4/5 Amazingly concise.
Como, James
Religion and the Rise of Western Culture
Religion and the Rise of Western Culture
5/5 Peerless combination of detail, clarity and insight.
Dawson, Christopher Henry
Paradise Lost
Paradise Lost
5/5 Soaring.
Milton, John
Theology of Jonathan Edwards
Theology of Jonathan Edwards
4/5 Excellent topical summaries.
McClymond, Michael James
The Practice Of Piety
The Practice Of Piety
3/5 Dense and scrupulous.
Bayly, Lewis
How to Be a Gentleman: A Contemporary Guide to Common Courtesy
How to Be a Gentleman: A Contemporary Guide to Common Courtesy
4/5 For us barbarians.
Bridges, John
Mere Fundamentalism: The Apostles' Creed and the Romance of Orthodoxy
Mere Fundamentalism: The Apostles’ Creed and the Romance of Orthodoxy
4/5 Insightful treatment.
Wilson, Douglas
A Peculiar Glory: How the Christian Scriptures Reveal Their Complete Truthfulness
A Peculiar Glory: How the Christian Scriptures Reveal Their Complete Truthfulness
4/5 The middle section on illumination is simply superb.
Piper, John
Live Like A Narnian: Christian Discipleship in Lewis's Chronicles
Live Like A Narnian: Christian Discipleship in Lewis’s Chronicles
3/5 Great chapter or two surrounded by others.
Rigney, Joe
The Hour That Changes the World: A Practical Plan for Personal Prayer
The Hour That Changes the World: A Practical Plan for Personal Prayer
3/5 Fantastic approach, marred by vacuous mysticism.
Eastman, Dick
Lewis on the Christian Life: Becoming Truly Human in the Presence of God
Lewis on the Christian Life: Becoming Truly Human in the Presence of God
5/5 Simply brilliant description and summary. Delightful.
Rigney, Joe
The Stranger in Your House
The Stranger in Your House
3/5 Some helpful insights on teenagers, with some psychobabble.
Jantz, Gregory L.
Man, The Dwelling Place Of God
Man, The Dwelling Place Of God
4/5 Tozer rarely disappoints.
Tozer, A.W.
Streams of Living Water: Celebrating the Great Traditions of Christian Faith
Streams of Living Water: Celebrating the Great Traditions of Christian Faith
3/5 Foster’s taxonomy of spirituality would be brilliant but for his unnecessary inclusion of the ‘social justice’ tradition.
Foster, Richard J.
Madame Guyon: A Short and Easy Method of Prayer
Madame Guyon: A Short and Easy Method of Prayer
3/5 I don’t find it short and easy to be a quietist.
Motte Guyon, Jeanne Marie Bouvi
Worship and the reality of God: an Evangelical Theology of Real Presence
Worship and the reality of God: an Evangelical Theology of Real Presence
3/5 Marred by silly remarks on music and continuationism. The arguments for more frequent Lord’s Supper are strong.
Davis, John Jefferson
A New Song for an Old World: Musical Thought in the Early Church (Calvin Institute of Christian Worship Liturgical Studies)
A New Song for an Old World: Musical Thought in the Early Church
4/5 The early church did not borrow its music from the world.
Stapert, Calvin R.
Select Sermons of George Whitefield With An Account Of His Life By J.C. Ryle
Select Sermons of George Whitefield With An Account Of His Life By J.C. Ryle
5/5 Surprisingly readable and warm.
Whitefield, George
Expository Exultation: Christian Preaching as Worship
Expository Exultation: Christian Preaching as Worship
4/5 Good, but not new for Piper.
Piper, John
The Once and Future King (The Once and Future King, #1-4)
The Once and Future King (The Once and Future King, #1-4)
3/5 A rather odd treatment of the tale, in my opinion.
White, T.H.
Fidelity: What It Means to Be a One-Woman Man
Fidelity: What It Means to Be a One-Woman Man
4/5 Great insights on purity.
Wilson, Douglas
Imitation Of Christ
Imitation Of Christ
3/5 Warm and severe at the same time. Unfortunate sacerdotalism.
Kempis, Thomas à

New Children’s Book: The Mirror Who Wanted To Be Someone

I’m pleased to announce the release of a children’s book, The Mirror Who Wanted To Be Someone. Lovingly illustrated by Diane Shearer with hand-drawn illustrations, this is a fairy tale of the Christian story of creation, fall, redemption and restoration.

A happy Mirror becomes confused when a Dragon tempts him to stop reflecting others, and to “be himself”. When the Mirror makes a fateful decision, only the King can rescue him.

A King, a Mirror, and a Dragon together re-tell the oldest story of all. Man, as Martin Luther put it , is “curved in on himself” (in curvatus in se). When loving ourselves more than our Creator, we are broken. Only grace can fix and re-make what we were meant to be.

The book concludes with questions, answers and Scriptures that give parents the chance to explain the gospel to their children.

The paperback version is available on Amazon , as is the Kindle.