Monday, September 26, 2011

No Man Is An Island: The Great Lesson of Friendship from John Donne

Rachelle and I are standing before the church that one of my direct maternal ancestors, John Donne, served as Dean (pastor) from 1631 to 1641. The church is St. Paul's Cathedral in London, England and is an iconic symbol of English Anglicanism. Princess Charles married Diana here before a world-wide television audience in 1981. Three state funerals have been held in St. Paul's, Lord Horatio Nelson (1758-1805), The Duke of Wellington Arthur Wellesley (1769-1852), and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (1874-1965). This week the Queen made known the state's desire to give former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher the fourth state funeral and burial at St. Paul's. The church was originally built of wood in A.D. 604 in the spot that the massive marbel and stone cathedral now stands, beautifully constructed in 1669 by renowned architect Christopher Wren.

Many Americans know little about John Donne, but Rachelle and I, along with our friends Kyle and Carol, were all afforded free entrance and a personal escort within the cathedral when the staff were told of my lineage. In addition, though photographs are forbidden in the cathedral, the staff gave permission for my wife to take my photograph alongside the iconic John Donne monument (see picture to the right). The John Donne statue is the only monument in St. Paul's to survive the Great London Fire of 1666 unscathed. Though one can still see the black scorch marks of the great fire at the base of the marble, the statue of Donne himself is intact. It seems that John Donne is as iconic to the learned British as the cathedral itself. King James I convinced my ancestor to become the pastor of St. Paul's, even though Donne sought to avoid the Anglican priesthood. John Donne had a very effective pastoral ministry and was considered the finest preacher St. Paul's has ever had (that assessment comes from the senior guide of St. Paul's, not me). Interestingly, John Donne is probably better known for his poetry than his preaching, including the often quoted meditation, even in America, entitled "No Man Is An Island."

"No man is an island, entire of himself; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the Sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were ...

Any man's death diminishes me because I am involved in Mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."

John Donne wrote the above Meditation XVII while he was deathly ill, still serving as pastor of St. Paul's. It was also during his time of illness that John posed in a death shroud for the sculptor who made the monument that now stands in St. Paul's. As John Donne lay ill, unable to serve his people, he would often hear the funeral bells at St. Paul's toll. He wondered who it was in his congregation that had died. The thought of death, including his own and those he loved, caused him to reflect upon friendship, Mankind, and death.

His renaissance thinking that "No Man Is An Island" unto himself is consistent with the teaching of Scripture. Life is all about relationship with God and with God's highest creation - human beings. I bear a great deal of physical resemblance to John Donne, but my desire is to bear even a closer resemblance to his philosophy of life.

Friendship is the greatest of all jewels, and God has blessed Rachelle and me with a treasure trove at Emmanuel, Enid and around the world.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Tale of Two Tombs

Napoleon's Sarcophagus
Napoleon Bonaparte is buried inside the coffin pictured to the left. The massive brown marble contains an oak coffin. Inside that oak coffin are two lead coffins, one inside the other. Inside the lead coffins sits a tin-plate coffin that contains the body of Napoleon. The sarcophagus is located in Paris, France inside a building constructed specifically to house the body of the Emperor of France who was born August 15, 1769 and died May 5, 1821.

Napoleon's Tomb
The building constructed by Parisians to house their emperor's sarcophagus is easily seen as one looks at the skyline of Paris. The ostentatious setting for Napoleon's final resting place is consistent with the Emperor's lifetime desire to shake his roots of poverty and live the life of exalted ruler. Born on the island of Corsica to poor peasants, Napoleon rose through the ranks of the French military during the French Revolution and eventually became First Counsel of the French Republic in 1799. Napoleon would soon believe, however, that absolute power was needed to fulfill his desire to conquer the world. On December 2, 1804, Napoleon Bonaparte crowned himself "Emperor of France." Europe's royalty gathered in the Notre Dame Cathedral in the heart of Paris, France as Napoleon fulfilled his life-long dream of power, authority and riches. During the Napoleonic Wars of the early 1800's, over 13 million people died.

Mother Eva's Tomb
Rachelle and I visited Napoleon's Tomb this week on our way back to the states from a week of ministry in Poland. We couldn't help but draw a comparison between Napoleon's life and his tomb and the life and tomb of a German woman that we learned about during a week of ministry in Poland this past week.

Eva von Tiele-Winckler (1866-1930) was born in southeastern Germany (modern day Poland) into a family of nobility and wealth. Eva had a conversion experience at the age of 17 after reading John 10. She established a home called Friedenshort, meaning "an abode of peace," for women who desired to follow and serve the Lord. Forsaking her life of privilege and riches, Eva opened homes for orphans, widows, the poor and the infirm. By the end of her lifetime, over 40 homes had been established in Germany through her labor. Eva also preached the gospel in women's prisons and set up homes where these women could live when discharged from prison. She eventually sent a number of the women whom she discipled to China to serve with the China Inland Mission. Other women under Eva's influence went to serve in Guatemala, Africa, and India. Eva herself was greatly influenced by George Mueller and was personally encouraged by contact with Mrs. Jessie Penn-Lewis, Hudson Taylor, the Welsh Revival, and the Keswick Convention.

The orphans that Eva helped in her lifetime numbered in the thousands. It was these orphans who gave to Eva the name "Mother Eva" for the care she gave to them as if she was their own mother. Mother Eva is buried on the grounds of the old German orphanage she founded. She insisted before her death that  name should not be placed on the tombstone and only two Latin words should be etched in the stone: "Ancilla Domini" which means "servant of the Lord."

Very few people know about Mother Eva. Most everyone knows about Napoleon. Mother Eva's life brought eternal life to thousands. Napoleon's life brought death and destruction to millions. Mother Eva sought to expand the kingdom of Christ. Napoleon sought to expand his kingdom on earth. Mother Eva gave up riches for the poor. Napoleon sought riches after being born poor. Mother Eva has a small, unmarked grave. Napoleon is buried in a massive sarcophagus and building that bears his name.

Would to God that we bear the spirit of Eva and not that of Napoleon.

Monday, September 19, 2011

I Swear to Tell the Truth, the Whole Truth and Nothing But the Truth So Help Me God

Alexis de Tocqueville in his two volume work Democracy in America records the following anecdote of his visit to America in the spring of 1831: "While I was in America, a witness who happened to be called at the Sessions of Chester (state of New York) declared that he did not believe in the existence of God or the immortality of the soul. The judge refused to admit the evidence, on the ground that the witness had destroyed beforehand all the confidence of the court in what he was about to say. The presiding judge remarked that he had not before been aware that there was a man living who did not believe in the existence of God; that this belief constituted the sanction [in law, that which gives binding force] of all testimony in  a court of justice; and that he knew of no case in a Christian country where a witness had been permitted to testify without such a belief."

My, how times have changed.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Fall Preaching Convocation and Workshop with Dr. Joel Gregory, September 26-27, 2011

Dr. Joel Gregory, Truett's Professor of Preaching
This past week I visited with Joel Gregory. Some of the most memorable messages I've heard preached have come from his ministry. Four years ago I posted about a sermon I heard Joel deliver to prospective pastors. It is obvious to me that the tribulation and scars in Joel's life have only deepened his respect for the message of grace and the gospel rings even clearer from his powerful preaching.

In two weeks, beginning Monday night, September 26, and going through Tuesday afternoon, September 27, Dr. Joel Gregory will be the featured speaker at the Fall Preaching Convocation and Workshop at Truett Seminary in Waco, Texas. The cost is nominal ($30) and includes lunch on Tuesday. Online registration closes on Tuesday, September 20th.

Joel would like to reach out to folks who otherwise might not be here or know about the conference and let those unfamiliar with Truett know that the seminary is a place where the Bible is believed and the Lord Jesus Christ is exalted. Some of what Joel Gregory will deal with will be personal and autobiographical. All of it will be biblical. His message on Tuesday morning will be "Sometimes It Is Good Just To Get Out Alive" (Jeremiah 45) and will be worth your effort to hear.

You may click on the link above, or call the numbers below to register. My wife and I will be returning from Poland and the Czech Republic on that day, but I hope to be able to make the conference myself.

SCHEDULE OF EVENTS (Fall Preaching Convocation and Workshop at Truett)


6:30 PM Registration
7:30 PM Worship - Dr. Gregory preaching


8:30 AM Registration
9:30 AM Worship - Dr. Gregory preaching

11:00 AM Lecture by Dr. Gregory

12:00 PM Lunch dialogue with Dr. Gregory

1:30 PM Lecture by Dr. Gregory
2:00 PM Final dialogue with Dr. Gregory


- Online closes on September 20th, 2011.

- Registration for this event is $30.00

(which also includes lunch on Tuesday)

- Registration is FREE for currently enrolled seminary students, however students who wish to attend the lunch on Tuesday will be required to pay $5 by September 20th, 2011.

- A block of rooms has been reserved at a reduced rate at the Residence Inn - Marriott, which is located across the highway from Truett Seminary. To make your reservation, please call:

(254) 714-1386 or (800) 331-3131. Be sure to let them know that you would like the Baylor Reduced Rate for the Fall Preaching Convocation. Note: This special reserved rate is only available until September 16th.

Make checks payable to Truett Seminary and mail to:

ATTN: The Kyle Lake Center for Effective Preaching,
              George W. Truett Theological Seminary,
              One Bear Place #97126,
              Waco, Texas 76798-7126

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Sentimental Reasons for the OU vs. Texas Rivalry Continuing Are Outweighed by Reality: Life Changes

Bob Stoops, coach of the Oklahoma Sooner football team, was asked by a reporter today if the Oklahoma and Texas Red River Rivalry Game would continue if the two schools wound up in different conferences. Stoops responded, "I don't think it's necessary. Life changes, and you've got to change with it, to whatever degree. If it works, great. I love the game, but if it doesn't, sometimes that's the way it goes."   Stoops is right. Life does change. Were the Oklahoma Sooners vs. Texas Longhorn football series come to an end next year because of Big 12 conference changes, over 110 years of intense football rivalry would be over.  Were the series to end, it would also bring to a close playing football at one of the most incredible venues in competitive sports--the Cotton Bowl.

The Cotton Bowl (initially called "Fair Park Stadium") was built in 1930. The first college football game played in the new stadium was between the Oklahoma Sooners and the Texas Longhorns. My maternal grandfather, Fred Cherry, (pictured here) was a sophomore tight end for Oklahoma University in 1930. Back then players played on both offense and defense, and my grandfather started for Oklahoma and played the entire game. Both teams were held scoreless during the first half. The first touchdown of the game, and for that matter the first touchdown ever scored in the Cotton Bowl, occurred in the middle of the third quarter.  According to the Oklahoma Encyclopedia of Football, Oklahoma halfback Bus Mills threw a 55 yard 'bomb' to my grandfather who took the ball into the end zone and gave Oklahoma a 7 to 0 lead over Texas. Though Texas would eventually win the game 17 to 7, my grandfather holds the distinction of being the first player to ever score in the Cotton Bowl. He would go on to play against Texas in 1931 and 1932 before he graduated with a petroleum engineering degree.  My grandfather was a personal friend of Kappa Alpha fraternity brother and 1931 Oklahoma graduate Carl Albert, future United States Speaker of the House. However, Fred Cherry would himself leave his job in the oil fields and later quit his job at the state capital in order to fulfill his calling as a Christian evangelist. 

I was born thirty years after my grandfather played for Oklahoma University, but I can distinctly remember watching OU football games at his house while growing up, particularly at Thanksgiving. My grandfather died suddenly of a heart attack in 1970 at the age of 58, but my love for OU football continued. In the early 1970's my father and I crash landed upon returning by private plane from watching the annual OU/Texas Cotton Bowl game. We were caught in a powerful thunderstorm and landed in a convention center parking lot where U.S. Senator John Tower was holding a fund raiser. The kind Senator loaned us his personal vehicle to finish our trip home. Over the years I have many, many memories revolving around the Oklahoma vs. Texas rivalry. Yet, as Coach Stoops says, "Life changes." I look at the picture to the left (taken in 1929 at the OU practice field), and notice my grandfather, playing 'left end' that day (to the far right in his three point stance), and then I flash back to last Saturday night as I watched OU's defensive ends Frank Alexander and Ronnell Lewis play on Owen Field in Norman. Just noticing the physical differences in the size and athleticism of the players makes it easy to realize that things have indeed changed at the University of Oklahoma since the 1930's.

Stoops is right. Life changes.

Bring on the Pac-12.

With, or without, the University of Texas.