Monday, March 31

Wartime Prayer

The efficacy of wartime intercessory prayer by God’s covenant people is one of the most important, though least told stories in Church History. But at a time when the war to stymie the malevolent plans of Islamic terrorists and to liberate the Iraqi and Kurdish peoples continues to rage between the Tigris and Euphrates, it would behoove us to hear and heed, recall and recover.

King Alfred the Great saved the English people during the 9th century Viking invasions with the help of praying saints throughout the little kingdom of Wessex. Read of their exploits in the marvelous epic verse, THE BALLAD OF THE WHITE HORSE, by G.K. Chesterton (Ignatius).

Another great epic poem by Chesterton, THE BATTLE OF LEPANTO, though focusing on the courage and vision of Don John of Austria, likewise recalls the importance of the supplications of God’s faithful at home (Everyman Classics).

The Puritans in England not only deployed their men at arms to defend England against the onslaught of the Spanish Armada, they mobilized their churches for effectual praying. The story of the amazing results may be found in the memoir, FERVENT PRAYERS AVAILING, by Jonathan Mahew (Commission Books).

George Washington’s diligent and persistent intercessions during the long cold winter at Valley Forge are recalled in Douglas Southall Freeman’s magisterial biographical work, GEORGE WASHINGTON (Scribner).

Rees Howells and his students at the Welsh Bible College are among the most notable modern examples of wartime intercessors--praying fervently during the grave crises of Dunkirk, the Battle of Britain, D-Day, and the Jewish exodus following the Nazi Holocaust. The story is told in the worldwide best selling book, REES HOWELLS: INTERCESSOR, by Norman Grubb (Lutterworth Press).

Images from the Frontlines

The Army Times is a subscription-based e-zine service for servicemen and their families. It does have a few free features that the rest of us can benefit from including an archive of in-the-trenches photographs. Though the embedded journalists have given us an up-close-and-personal perspective in the war to liberate the Iraqi and Kurdish nations, I find these photos, taken by the soldiers themselves, are even more personal, compelling, and revealing. Visit for the downloadable images.

Thursday, March 27

The Battle for Nasiriyah

I just heard from my dear friend, Bruce Green, the new dean of the Liberty University School of Law. He and his beloved wife, Debra, have a son on the front lines of the war in Iraq. Caleb is in the Marine's Task Force Tarawa, 2nd Light Armor Reconnaissance Battalion which is currently engaged in some of the heaviest fighting just north of Nasiriyah. He is just 18! As you pray for all the men and women deployed in this conflict generally, please do remember this covenant family specifically.

What I Am Reading

I always have several books going at any given time. Right now, I am in the middle of several really compelling works:

ETERNITY IN OUR HEARTS by R.C. Sproul Jr. is a collection of essays united around the theme of the good life. R.C. Jr. is one of my favorite writers. I’ve been listening to his “Basement Tapes” in my truck the last two days--in fact as I travel today across Tennessee and Arkansas, I have several packed away for the drive. He is witty and wise, practical and profound, incisive and insightful. In this new book from Draught Horse Press, he comments on everything from baseball to baptism. And he does it in his inimitable style. I am loving it. I am going to hate to come to the end of it.

THE CONFIDENCE MAN by Herman Melville is, besides the inevitable MOBY DICK, far and away my favorite novel from this, the great American novelist. It develops the theme of the Fall in the midst of a world where everyone, without exception, tries to ignore the consequences of the Fall. Nothing is as it seems. No one is who they say they are. It is a marvel. Set on a Mississippi river boat with a cast of characters right out of Gunsmoke or Maverick, this is a real barn burner.

WISDOM AND FOLLY by Dale Ralph Davis is an extraordinarily rich commentary on the book of First Kings. Dr. Davis, the esteemed professor of Old Testament at Reformed Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi, has written several volumes in this series from Christian Focus Publications--on Joshua, Judges, First Samuel and Second Samuel. But so far, this is my favorite of them all. It is practical. It brings the narrative to life. And it is brimming over with immediate applications. Very worthwhile.

THIRTEEN PHANTASMS by James Blaylock is a collection of short stories by this master of the peculiar, the bizarre, the homely, and the profound. All of his best are collected here but there are also several I’d never heard of before. There are even two stories co-written with his good friend and co-belligerent in the war against ordinariness, Tim Powers. So far the range of the stories is wildly wonderful. If you have never read any Blaylock before, this Ace trade paperback is a great place to start.

Wednesday, March 26

Wes King's Site

One of my dearest friends and favorite artists, Wes King, has a great web site. I'm over at his studio right now trying to convince him to start blogging as an effective way to communicate with the Reformed community, to let fans go a little deeper with his music, to profile some of his newer work, and to increase traffic at his site. He has a lot to say. And because he has cut across the grain of the music industry, it is essential that thinking Christians have a way to know about and then support his efforts. Check out this remarkable servant-artist at:

Soul Surfing

There is a treasure trove of creative and substantive material on the web. Unfortunately, finding it, even with tools like Google and Technorati, is like searching for a needle in a haystack, only harder. That’s why I like to pass on my finds--and appreciate it so much when others reciprocate.

In addition to the links I have posted in the NashVillage section at, some of my favorite sites for book reviews, theological discussion, and cultural commentary include:

The web logs I have most appreciated of late include:

It is always encouraging and helpful to me to be able to find new sources for information and inspiration. I trust these links will bolster your walk in faith as well.

Tuesday, March 25

GKC Audio

My good friend, Aidan Mackey, is the director of the G.K. Chesterton Study Center at Oxford University. He recently uncovered some very rare recordings of Chesterton's popular broadcasts on BBC radio. They are very brief, incomplete, scratchy, and distorted, but marvelous nonetheless. One is a review of recently released architectural books, about nine minutes long; one is a five-minute excerpt of his long-running Spice of Life commentary; and one is a thirteen-minute speech on Rudyard Kipling at a meeting of the Canadian Literary Society--hosted by Chesterton's friend and the founder of that pioneering association, Governor-General John Buchan.

As soon as I can get the analog tapes digitized, I will make these available as MP3 files on the King's Meadow web site. Christmas in Spring!

KMSC Site Update

We have completed a new overhaul of the King's Meadow Study Center web site as well as taking care of a few clean-up tasks on the Gileskirk and Micah Mandate sites. My daughter, Joanna, is quickly bypassing me as the primary web master--and the improvements to the site demonstrate that only too well.

The King's Meadow site changes are the most extensive of the upgrades. We've moved all the reading lists--including recommended new books, a bare-essentials classics list, and a through-the-Bible-in-a-year plan--to the Shelf Life page. That means all the sundry archived articles have moved to the Hubbub Pub section. The Almanac will be updated every two weeks or so with text versions of our Today-in-History radio scripts. We're also trying to clean up the design of the NashVillage links so that they are more user-friendly. I've added a Blog Spots to the links section as well as to this page--but I'm not going live until I can continue to shape my template to conform it to the overall site design.

Next up: a special blog site for the Gileskirk curriculum subscribers. It will have forums and bulletin boards so that students can interact with me and with each other. I've tried several different pieces of software through the years and after several spectacular disappointments have concluded that blogging is a much more reliable and streamlined approach to this than anything else I've come across.

This should be fun!

Sunday, March 23

Freedom Fries Alternative

Newly expectant dad and ever wry commentator, Remy Wilkins, offers this very helpful suggestion at his tasty blog spot:

"Freedom Fries, Freedom Toast, pouring out good French wine...can't we just boycott Jerry Lewis movies?"

For more of his wit and wisdom, prose and verse, paraded parables and serated edges, visit:

Saturday, March 22

French's Isn't French

From the You-Know-Things-Are-Really-Getting-Bad department: New Jersey-based Reckitt Benckiser, the maker of French’s mustard, hired public relations firm, Bender Hammerling, to convince American consumers that French’s isn’t French! So, here it is: for the record, there is nothing more American than French’s mustard.

First concocted in New York by the R. T. French company, French’s Mustard made it's commercial debut in 1904 at the St. Louis World's Fair along with it's side kick, the hot dog. Both were an instant success! By 1915 the French’s pennant became the brand’s official logo, symbolizing French’s affiliation with both the game of baseball and all-American family values. No really, I’m not making this up. According to Elliot Penner, president of the company, "For many Americans, French's mustard is Americana. It's all about baseball, hot dogs, family, and fun."

Now, aren't you relieved? When so much of our world is unsettled and uncertain, isn't it good to know that your favorite hot dog condiment is safe from foreign influence and corruption?

War Blogs

The invasion of Iraq is a very different kind of war in more ways than just the shock-and-awe tactics employed by the Allies. According to a report from Lisa Bowman on, advances in technology are giving people around the world immediate insight into war-related events--and people's feelings about them--more than ever before. And, she says, no medium is doing it faster than the blog.

Elizabeth Lawley, an assistant professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology's department of information technology, said blogging has made the conflict with Iraq much more human. "When we went into Vietnam, television changed how people saw the war," Lawley said. "I think blogging is going to do the same for this war." According to Lawley, during previous conflicts people had to turn to op-ed pieces or water-cooler gossip to tap into feelings about the conflict. Now anyone with an internet connection can scour the web and find like-minded blogs or those that give a snapshot of life in a country at war. "Blogs give us a global forum to do what we already do in the hallways," she said.

Indeed, war blogs are quickly moving up the list of the most popular blogs according to, a site that tracks the popularity of the web diaries based on the number of links they get. One of the most widely linked-to blogs is "Where is Raed?" which run by a man living in Baghdad. The blog--which can be found at the every day life of an Iraqi dealing with the realities of war, including frustrations with bank closures and two-hour waits to buy gas.

Blogs by conservative commentators are also attracting thousands of links--but don't look for similar success among liberals, Lawley said. "The left has been much less effective in leveraging this technology," Lawley said. "In the same way that conservative groups have used talk radio to reach people, they have been effective using blogs as well." Interesting development, isn't it? The conservatives are more progressive than the progressives--at least in this regard.

Of course, we all pretty well knew that this was going to be a technological war--with smart payloads, precision missile strikes, and tele-communications psyop hijinks galore. But who could have ever predicted that the conflict would thrust personal technologies like video phones and web logs to the forefront of public awareness and cultural discourse?

Killing Giants and Making Nations

The nineteenth century missions movement affords us many lessons in a myriad of arenas. But one episode from that great epoch seems to particularly stands out--even as American troops sweep across southern Iraq and toward Baghdad and we begin to ponder the task of rebuilding a shattered nation. Today, teaching in Louisiana, I will share the remarkable story of a similarly grave challenge:

In 1824, the Glasgow Missionary Society founded the Lovedale mission station deep in the Cape Province of South Africa. The hardy pioneers who staffed the station devoted themselves to evangelistic work for nearly four decades. Alas, their efforts bore little fruit and the Society eventually decided to cut its losses and close Lovedale. On this day in 1867 however, a young and ambitious educator, James Stewart, proposed turning the mission station into a mission school.

Stewart had come to South Africa to work with David Livingstone in an effort to establish new industrial enterprises along the Mabotsa frontier on the headwaters of the Limpopo River. Like Livingstone, he believed he was called to help “open up” Africa's interior to the broader influences of Western civilization. Once that occurred, he was certain that commerce and Christianity would work hand-in-hand to end the evils of slave trading, tribal warfare, and primitive barbarism.

He conceived of the idea of transforming the old failed mission station into a fully integrated institution of learning as a first step toward that goal of liberating Africa from the pagan bonds of oppression, ignorance, and brutality. He served as principal of Lovedale for most of the next thirty-eight years and succeeded in transforming it into the premiere school for indigenous peoples in the region. Stewart’s emphasis on combining a substantive classical Christian curriculum with practical vocational training made his students indispensable to the burgeoning development of Africa.

Tellingly, Stewart called his philosophy of education the “Adullam Strategy.” He appropriately took the name from descriptions of the life of David: like David, Stewart willingly served as the captain to a distressed, indebted, and embittered people only to see them transformed into “mighty men.” He did not despise the day of small beginnings. Rather, he invested himself in the lives of a motley crew of the least and the last. And by God’s grace they eventually became giant-killers.

Today, if there is to be any hope of restoring Iraq, removing the specter of tyranny and barbarism, and pointing the way for future generations in the Persian Gulf region to peace, prosperity, and freedom, we'd best not simply rely on shock-and-awe. We'd best consider something akin to the “Adullam Strategy.” After all, there are still giants in the land.

Wednesday, March 19

War of Words

The irascible American humorist Mark Twain once asserted that, "The difference between the right word and the almost right word is like the difference between lightening and the lightening bug."

With the build up to a clash of swords in Iraq, a build up in a clash of words has been discernable, particularly in both the mainstream and tabloid press. Journalists have begun to display a good deal of creativity in contributing to the great tradition of new jargon, buzzwords, argo, slang, lingo, colloquialism, terminology, and snigglets--a tradition that has long been a part of the development and maturation of the American linguistic canon. They are presumably aimed--as are all neologisms or logomorphs--at wryly identifying the truth of new circumstances and situations we face in this poor fallen world.

Thus, Twain’s observation has taken on a rather prophetic guise. Some recent notable examples of these new logomorphs:

Axis of Weasel: Recently, the New York Post depicted French and German delegates to the UN as weasels. Picking up on that pun, the logomorph "Axis of Weasel" was coined by the weblog Now it is popping up everywhere.

Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys: This very derogatory, stock epithet for the French was originally derived from a Simpson’s episode in which Groundskeeper Willie was a substitute French teacher for the day. The London Times recently reported that France had responded with "an arch shrug, adopting a tone of superiority precisely calculated to send the Americans into even blacker fury." Thus, the Sun adopted this rather provocative logomorph and it has started to spread all across the web.

Pentagonspeak: This interesting logomorph, describing the collection of buzzwords, catchphrases, and mots du jour employed by U.S. strategists, was originally coined by Time magazine. It was no doubt inspired by Orwell's memorable neologism, Newspeak.

Shock and Awe: This may be the quintessential Pentagonspeak. It is the buzzword officials use for their plan for attacking Iraq, the intention being to overpower Saddam with air and ground attacks designed to gain an early victory. How much "shock" an attack will be is doubtful, since everyone knows about it. But in era of "psyops", widespread advance publicity of impending shock and awe could have the desired effect of putting Iraqi forces into disarray.

Simultaneity: This is another Pentagon buzzword, related to shock and awe, referring to concerted bombing and invasion happening at once. Time magazine reported, "The second Gulf War, if it comes, would be more like the Big Bang--hundreds of towering explosions all across Iraq all at the same time."

War Buzz

Are you already getting weary of a war that hasn’t even started yet? Can’t bear to think that there are CNN employees who already have MP3 files on their iPods of the new war’s theme music? Are you anticipating with dread the logos, the lead-in graphics, and the sonorous tones of supposedly serious analysis from the Fox News talking heads? Does the very thought of Rather, Jennings, and Brokaw make you break out in hives?

Avoid the inevitable allergic reaction to the ratings-based news organizations by gathering your information on the web. My favorite links are:

And for the all too rare good news in the Middle East, go to these sites:

Perhaps after we've had the opportunity to digest all that is going on in our world--without the hype and hoopla--we'll actually be able to sort through all the complex issues at hand with some semblance of discernment.

Monday, March 17

What Is Christian Architecture?

Daniel Lee is a Presbyterian elder and a gifted Christian architect in private practice in Old Town Alexandria, VA. Recently, he and Notre Dame University architecture professor Duncan Stroik engaged in a fascinating conversation about what Christian or Classical Architecture is, where examples of it might be seen, and how it might be recovered. Their very insightful observations are posted on a fine web site dedicated to the Reformation of Arts and Music:

Sunday, March 16

Covenant Resources

I have just concluded a four-week study of the Biblical doctrine of the covenant. It was a whirlwind tour of one of the most important subjects in the Scriptures and hardly did the subject justice. But soon the tapes, audio files, and compact disks will be available and we can begin to evaluate where the holes are so that the next time I teach it we can have a bit more stable boat to sail in. Meanwhile, several folks have asked for a reading list. Here it is:

If you can only afford the time and energy to read one book on the covenant, make it HEIRS OF THE COVENANT by Susan Hunt (Crossway). Wise, practical, understandable, accessible, and Biblical, this is the best overview available anywhere.

If you can read two books, read Susan’s first and then read David McKay’s THE BOND OF LOVE (Mentor). The rich doctrines of the covenant unfold with beauty and grace in this remarkable work of both Biblical and Systematic Theology.

Also highly recommended are O. Palmer Robertson’s two books on covenantalism, THE CHRIST OF THE COVENANTS (P&R) and COVENANTS (Great Commission) as well as his remarkably wise and balanced book THE ISRAEL OF GOD (P&R).

Matthew Henry’s recently discovered sermons, published in THE COVENANT OF GRACE (Christian Heritage), are marvelous and should really not be missed.

New books like REFORMED IS NOT ENOUGH (Canon) by Douglas Wilson and ADOPTED BY GOD (P&R) by Robert Peterson are delightful expositions of the doctrines of grace in their covenantal perspective.

For those who particularly struggle with the sacraments from a covenantal perspective, I always recommend Douglas Wilson’s TO A THOUSAND GENERATIONS (Canon), Randy Booth’s CHILDREN OF PROMISE (P&R), and Francis Schaeffer’s BAPTISM (TriMark).

To be sure, there is no lack of help on this vital subject. Let us pray that the church in our time will only hear and heed.

Saturday, March 15

Peter Brown Exhibition

One of my favorite contemporary artists, Peter Brown, is currently showing his second portfolio of grand landscape and cityscape oils at the prestigious W.H. Patterson Gallery in London’s tony Albermarle arts district. Brown’s realistic expressionism offers a distinctly modern vernacular take on obviously classic compositions. His brilliant use of color, his faithful renderings, and his eye for irony are evident on nearly every canvas. The fact that his subject matter is the magnificent architectural heritage of Cambridge and Oxford just makes his paintings that much more attractive. If like me, you are stuck on the wrong side of the pond to catch this delightful exhibition of forty new paintings, visit the gallery via the web at:

Friday, March 14

Paul Johnson's Wisdom

I try to read everything Paul Johnson writes--from his brilliant and incisive histories to his always scintillating columns. He is wise, witty, prophetic, and practical all at the same time. His most recent commentary in Forbes Magazine is an apt demonstration of all that and more: read it and weep.

Thanks to my academic collegue, Rhonda Kemp for sending it along to me.

By the way, Johnson writes a regular column for the wonderful English weekly, The Spectator. The magazine's always marvelous book reviews, the dry humor of the cartoons, and Johnson's contributions actually make it well worth the rather steep subscription price.

Demonstrating Against War

There have been any number of impressive demonstrations against war in Iraq in recent days. College coeds have portrayed for us their serious passion by cavorting about in the nude whilst spelling out such profundities as "No War." Hollywood starlets have conveyed to us their substantive soberness by pontificating on late night telly talk shows about national security and economic development. Sundry world leaders of once-great nations have trumped up local polling spikes by taking their best imperial statesman's pose denouncing American imperialism.

But as terribly convincing as all these efforts have been, perhaps the single most impressive demonstration against war in Iraq has come from the White House.

George W. Bush could have gone to war a very long time ago. But he hasn’t yet. Many political observers have commented that by restraining the overwhelming force of the United States military, he has only strengthened the hand of his opponents--and perhaps even Saddam as well. Still he has bided his time. He has followed the course of international negotiation. He has allowed the process of deliberation at the United Nations to go forward unencumbered. He has afforded the weapons inspectors far more time to complete their work of confirming non-compliance than any of us ever thought he would have. He has even listened as the minions of French wimpessence have had their say. He has exhausted every possible option, every last resort, every final recourse. And still he has not launched a strike against the recalcitrant Iraqis.

Clearly, George W. Bush does not want war. Not if he can help it. Not if he can avoid it. Not if there might still be any other possible outcome to this sordid affair of men and nations.

Thus, the most impressive demonstrations against the war have come, not from the shaggy tenured professors at two-bit state colleges, barely articulate TV creations whose only claim to fame is fame, Dixie Chicks venting in London, or teeny boppers out for a lark between classes. Rather, the most impressive demonstrations against the war have come from the President of the United States. They have come from the Bush administration.

So far, there is no war to protest! You’d think that someone, somewhere on a college campus or in a TV newsroom might actually notice and then have the gumption say as much!

Thursday, March 13

Raising Up Leaders

Thomas Chalmers once asserted, "The task of raising up a new generation of leaders may not evince the energy of many of today’s reformers, but it is far and away more vital."

The years surrounding the nineteenth century Scottish Disruption produced some of the most remarkable servants of God in the history of the church. Thomas Chalmers was the leader of that galaxy of brilliant preachers, writers, and missionaries which included the Bonar brothers--Andrew, John, James, and Horatius--as well as Robert Murray McCheyne, William Chalmers Burns, John Milne, Alexander Moody Stuart, John Urquhart, Robert Nesbit, Alexander Somerville, Rabbi John Duncan, David Ewart, Alexander Duff, David Livingstone, and William Sinclair Mackay. Faithfully discipled by Chalmers, they were bound together by a common cause, in a common time, with a common vision, by a common love. Their pursuit of sanctification and their passion for evangelism--both at home and abroad on the mission field--marked these men as the “Evangelical Prodigies” and helped to change the character and nature of Scottish national life for the better part of a century.

Anyone who has ever heard me speak or read one of my books probably already knows of my great enthusiasm for Chalmers and his cohort of gifted students. They probably would also be able to guess that the ministry of King’s Meadow is a conscious attempt to walk in their vaunted footsteps. Folks have often asked, "What is the overall mission of the Study Center?" The implication is that our apparent aims are all too fuzzy when reduced to bullet points or brochure copy. My best answer is simply that this is it; this Chalmers-like vision; raising up the next generation of leaders--and all that such a task entails. So, there you have it--for all of its fuzziness.

Wednesday, March 12

Swords into Ploughshares

Pulled back from the brink of catastrophe Argentina and Chile were able to successfully negotiate a peaceful settlement of the border war in the Tierra del Fuego region, high in the Andes. Brokered by President Theodore Roosevelt and King Edward VII of England, the peace averted certain armed conflict which would likely have plunged much of South America into an intractable war.

To commemorate the event Monsignor Carmel Benavente, the Bishop of San Juan, suggested the erection of a statue--as a way to remind the people in both countries of Christ's words, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” Tourists traveling the Pan American highway can see the result today: a 26 foot tall bronze Christ holding out his right hand in blessing over the disputant nations. His left hand clings to a cross. Under his feet is the Western hemisphere. Located 13,000 feet up in Uspallata Pass, Mount Aconcagua forms its backdrop, lofting 13,000 feet higher. This is the highest readily accessible point on the boundary between the two nations.

Sculptor Mateo Alonso modeled the work. Señora Angela Cézar de Costa raised the financing. Old cannons were melted down to make the casting. The statue was dedicated on this day in 1904 as the “Christ of the Andes.” A plaque at its base asserts, “He is our peace who hath made us one.”

Such monuments are rare in this tumultuous globe, where ploughshares are more often beaten into swords than swords into ploughshares.

Tuesday, March 11

Mendelssohn and Bach

It is hard to imagine the possibility, but the music of J.S. Bach was nearly lost in the hurried progressiveness of the nineteenth century. Were it not for the interest and diligence of a young composer, Felix Mendelssohn, it is all too possible that Bach's rich and voluminous canon would have been buried in forgetful oblivion.

It was on this day in 1829, that Mendelssohn provoked a revival of interest in Bach when he conducted the masterful ST. MATTHEW PASSION. It was only then that classical music connoisseurs began to analyze and appreciate the artistic majesty of Bach--who was by then relatively unknown outside academic or ecclesiastical circles. Unbelievably, for more than fifty years no Bach piece had been published separately on its own merits.

Mendelssohn had long been in awe of Bach, however. His performance of the PASSION came almost exactly a century from the date of its first, long-forgotten performance. "Never," wrote one concert-goer, "have I known any performance so consecrated by one united sympathy." More than 1,000 people were unable to get tickets. Two further concerts had to be scheduled at once. And the sensation did not diminish with the passing of time. Thousands of Bach pieces were subsequently recovered and hundreds of them became mainstays in the musical repertoires of artists, venues, and institutions everywhere.

Today many musicologists and casual listeners alike consider Bach the greatest composer who ever lived. I am among them. So, tonight, my plan is to listen again, in awe and wonder, to the ST. MATTHEW PASSION, with thanksgiving to God--and to Mendelssohn.

Monday, March 10

Christian Focus

There is good news for serious readers. After a long drought, there are finally a number of new publishing enterprises creating excellent and much needed resources for a whole new generation of Christians. Joining long-time stalwarts like Banner of Truth in Scotland, P&R in New Jersey, and Soli Deo Gloria in Pennsylvania are such upstarts as Canon Press in Idaho, Covenant Media in Texas, Joshua Press in Toronto, Veritas Press in Pennsylvania, and Vision Forum in Texas.

To my mind one of the most impressive of these relatively new publishing programs comes from the Highlands of Scotland. Christian Focus has published innumerable indispensable-but-difficult-to-find works by the likes of Thomas Boston, Matthew Henry, John Owen, and Thomas Watson. In addition, they have produced an aggressive program of new publications by R.C. Sproul, Douglas Kelly, Roger Nicole, Terry Johnson, John Barber, and Robert Reymond. And the books cover the gamut--from theology and history to exposition and contemporary issues.

Check out their astonishing selection and substantive quality at Order a parcel load. And then do give thanks.

Sunday, March 9


The new English Standard Version is the translation of the Bible I have been waiting for my entire Christian life. I trust you will find the same to be true for you. It is as precise and accurate as the New American Standard, but is far more literary. It is as readable and accessible as the New International Version, but is far more scholarly. The NAS has always fallen short because of its clunky, ungrammatical prose. The NIV has always fallen short because of its blatant inaccuracies. Thus, Crossway has rendered us all good service by bringing the ESV to market despite all the hazards and costs of Bible translation these days.

With J.I. Packer serving as the general editor and Leland Ryken serving as the literary chairman, the ESV translation team was able to do what no other English language translation committee has been able to do since the Hampton Court Committee was established to translate the King James Version in the first decade of the seventeenth century: render the Greek and the Hebrew into beautiful, accurate, and accessible English vernacular prose. No other modern Bible even comes close. The ESV should become the standard--and the awful compromise of the NIV and the sundry other translation, transliteration, and paraphrase pretenders should happily recede from the forefront of Evangelical culture. Would that such a should could become reality!

Saturday, March 8

Petty Tyrannies

Petty Tyrannies

At the beginning of the twenty-first century, it is the little indignities, the small intrusions, and the almost imperceptible assaults that pose the greatest threat to American freedom. In the name of instituting homeland security, fighting the war on terrorism, protecting consumers, preserving the environment, educating our children, insuring economic efficiency, and establishing public safety we have endured little foxes nibbling away at our freedoms. Complaining about any one of these losses of dignity, privacy, or civil liberty seems more than a little cranky, uncooperative, and unreasonable. But it is in those little, seemingly insignificant freedoms that the genius of the American experiment in liberty may best be seen. Take them away and the entire fabric of our national credo is compromised.

The slow but steady erosion of basic everyday freedoms that we are all asked to endure at airports, in licensing bureaus, in regulatory offices, and in daily commerce and communications ought to concern us all. Even more though, we ought to think hard about the vision of common freedom that the American founders had in mind in order to find a way toward the recovery of that vision. The myriad of ways we tend to forfeit our freedoms everyday for the sake of not making a fuss or creating a hassle--in the realms of travel, health care, environmentalism, property ownership, communications, commercial transactions, education, business regulation, and taxation--have themselves become a kind of polite and civil bondage that portend far, far worse. Indeed, it is vital that we comprehend why bureaucracies naturally breed a culture of petty tyranny, why the rule of law is ultimately subverted by the collapse of moral standards, and how lascivious entertainment invariably portends the dissipation of personal as well as national liberty. The way to freedom is invariably messy, often noisy, and sometimes even irksome, but in this poor fallen world, it is that messy, noisy, and irksome process that matters most.

Friday, March 7

What I'm Reading

I've just reread a wonderful anthology, THE SERMONS OF JONATHAN EDWARDS, edited by Wilson Kimnach, Kenneth Minkema, and Douglas Sweeney (Yale). Once again, I was particularly taken by the grace, eloquence, and pastoral concern of the farewell sermon, preached in 1750 after the Northampton congregation decided to discharge this remarkable man who had served faithfully in their midst for a quarter century. It really is both stunning and sobering.

I've also been working through a rather unsettling novel of suspense, intrigue, pop culture, and technology by Bruce Sterling. I picked up the book, ZEITGEIST (Bantam), after having my interest in such things re-piqued by William Gibson's PATTERN RECOGNITION (Putnam). The two men, friends, sometime co-authors, and cyber-proteges, write on similar themes but from entirely different perspectives.

Tonight I will be speaking during a local Community Bible Study banquet--you may have seen recently how this grassroots organization is making a very substantial impact on the Evangelical world, all the way up to the White House. My subject is to be Islam. Though I've read a great deal over the years on the subject, I will be drawing a good bit from a very old, out-of-print book I've just recently picked up by the Scottish missionary pioneer to Africa, James Stewart. The book, DAR AL ISLAM, is remarkably insightful both into the character and nature of Muslim culture as well as the ways and means Christians can impact that culture with the good news of the Gospel.

Remembering Chrysostom

John Chrysostom was one of the greatest preachers of the Patristic Age. In fact, his name actually means “golden tongue.” His eloquent, Biblical sermons on family life, personal holiness, and Christian social responsibility remain models of wise erudition and faithful exposition. In addition, he was an influential liturgical reformer. His work helped to define the character and nature of Christian worship from the age of the Patriarchs right up to the present.

When he became the bishop of Constantinople on this day in the year 397, pious men and women throughout Byzantium rejoiced. A champion of charity to the poor, mercy to the lost, and tenderheartedness to the outcast, he was plain spoken about the ills and excesses of his day. As a result, he was extremely popular among the people. Unfortunately, his forthrightness also quickly earned him the enmity of many rich and powerful officials in the Byzantine court, including the Empress.

Though political intrigue surrounded him from the moment he arrived in the capital city, he faithfully carried out his pastoral responsibilities. And he made a dynamic impact on the city in a very short time. A great revival of interest in the Gospel and its resultant stewardship responsibilities swept through even the most cosmopolitan circles.

Eventually though, his unflinching and forthright exhortations could no longer be tolerated by the rich and the powerful. He was exiled and terribly humiliated with torture, isolation, imprisonment, and ultimately martyrdom. Throughout all his ordeals though, he remained steadfast, longsuffering, and unmovable. Thus, even after his death, his impact upon the whole fabric of Byzantine culture was profoundly felt.

Reportedly, his final words were, “The Gospel must never be diluted or diminished—for it is not simply true, it is Truth.”

Thursday, March 6

World Book Day

Maybe you missed it: today, all across the globe, libraries, bookstores, universities, publishing houses, village schools, and missions stations are participating in various World Book Day festivities. The events are being coordinated by UNESCO--in hundreds of communities in over 30 countries. The idea for the celebration originated in Spanish Catalonia, where roses and books have traditionally been given as gifts to friends, neighbors, and loved ones on St. George’s Day--much as candy and flowers are given on St. Valentine’s Day here. I for one think that book-giving is a great tradition--very much worth perpetuating, even if it is the UN doing it!

So, in the spirit of this day and in honor of St. George, I present here a few of my favorite quotes about all things bookish:

"A broad interest in books usually means a broad interest in life." Lyman Abbott (1835-1922)

"The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them." Mark Twain (1835-1910)

"Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body." Richard Steele (1672-1729)

"You can’t get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me." C.S. Lewis (1898-1963)

"Where is human nature so weak as in the bookstore?" Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887)

"If a book is worth reading, it is worth buying." John Ruskin (1819-1900)

"When I get a little money, I buy books; and if there is any left, I buy food and clothes." Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536)

"A bookstore is an earthly elysium. In some strange way, it seems to represent so much of what man aspires to and it embodies so much of what man yearns for. Like a well-stocked library, a good used bookstore can be a sort of nexus of piety and sensuality, of holiness and seduction. Such sanctuaries from the hustle bustle of everyday life are in some sense cenacles of virtue, vessels of erudition, arks of prudence, towers of wisdom, domains of meekness, bastions of strength, and thuribles of sanctity as well as crucibles of dissipation, throne rooms of desire, caryatids of opulence, repositories of salaciousness, milieus of concupiscence, and trusses of extravagance." Tristan Gylberd (1954-)

So, with all that in mind, keep the feast of St. George today: give someone a really good, fat, tantalizing book!

Wednesday, March 5

Media Propaganda

The "martyrdom" death of 12-year-old Palestinian Mohammed al-Dura at the hands of Israeli soldiers, which received widespread international news coverage and spurred on the current intifada, inspiring countless "suicide bombers" to attack Israel, was actually a "staged" piece of street theater, according to an in-depth report in the current issue of World Net Daily's monthly magazine, Whistleblower (

The world was horrified last year as news broadcasts played the sensational video footage of the 12-year-old Palestinian boy and his father, pinned down in crossfire between Arab snipers and Israeli Defense Forces in Gaza's remote Netzarim junction. The image of the boy crouching in terror behind his father, both of them struggling in vain to protect themselves from Israeli gunfire, only to be shot, the boy apparently dying in his father's arms, became immortalized in posters that were later plastered up and down the streets of the West Bank and Gaza.

Although the Israeli military initially assumed responsibility for the incident, it now appears that the Palestinian Authority and their French media consultants actually created the entire spectacle. The boy is alive and well--but that fact, verified many months ago, has not been reported. Why? Because that little bit of reality does not serve the media agenda particularly well.

Gee, what a surprise! Media propaganda! From the Palestinians and the French! Working in cahoots! Who'd a thunk it?

Tuesday, March 4

The Poe Connection

In the course of researching my book on the life and work of Thomas Chalmers, I’ve had the opportunity to take a short diversion into the literary arcanae of Edgar Allan Poe--in large part because apparently Poe was reading a Chalmers book at the time of his death and many believe that the theology of Chalmers greatly influenced Poe’s tales.

The life of Poe was as haunting, as mysterious, and as provocative as his stories and verse. The master of the psychological thriller, the inventor of the procedural mystery, and the progenator of subtle horror was a man who lived a conflicted life and left a controversial legacy.

Much of the accepted lore surrounding this remarkable literary personality--that he was a drunkard or a drug addict, that he was a tormented and despondent soul, that he was a failure and a pauper, and that he died in dissipation and dispair--is probably entirely false. Contemporary historians have probably debunked each of those lingering myths. But only probably. He wrote mysteries. But his life contained even greater mysteries. Perhaps the only thing we can say with certainty is that Poe was an intriguing man, who led an intriguing life and wrote intriguing work.

Knowing this, even just this much, does help us unpack the density of his writing. He was undoubtedly, a master of the grotesque. But because of his moral tone--albeit ambiguous and heterodox--he was able to accomplish eerie effects and haunting tone without ever resorting to gross manipulations of violence, gore, or profanity. His prose was invariably dense with allusions to both classical and Biblical symbolism. Indeed, part of the key to understanding the power of Poe to evoke a sense of strong premonitions and intruding powers of woe is learning to notice and identify those allusions.

While the Fall of the House Usher, the Pit and the Pendulum, the Gold Bug, and Murder at the Rue Morgue all afford excellent examples of this redolent style, perhaps the best story to begin unpacking Poe's dense literary mastery is Masque of the Red Death. The story is a vivid retelling of the fall of Lucifer from Isaiah 14. Prospero, a prince of a mythical Italian kingdom, has imperial ambitions--evidenced in his amazing pleasure palace. His pretensions are not entirely out of place, after all, he is wise, courageous, and gracious. When a plague afflicts the land, Prospero--whose parallels with Shakespeare's hero of The Tempest are clearly intentional--invites the best and the brightest to a kind of eat-drink-and-be-merry-for-tomorrow-we-may-die masquerade. The seven ballrooms, each decorated differently to remind us of every aspect of life and culture, comprise a substitute community--like a quarantined Tower of Babel. Ultimately, the tolling of the great ebony clock dominating the palace prophesies the end of the revelry. And of course, in the end the angels all fall.

Almost every detail is significant. Almost no words are wasted. Pay attention to the details and Poe's brilliance offers up layer after layer of meaning. Though an enigma himself, his writing still delights.

Monday, March 3


Inspired by a feature on the website of author William Gibson--as well as intermitent requests from visitors to the King's Meadow site for more personal recommendations and comments--I have decided to create this somewhat daily online journal or weblog (from whence the name "blog" is derived).

My plan is to post random musings, recommended book lists, commentary on current events, recommended book lists, observations from my travels around the country, and of course recommended book lists.

I probably ought to start at the start, with the book that got me thinking about this notion in the first place: William Gibson's PATTERN RECOGNITION (Putnam). It is far and away his finest work since the groundbreaking NEUROMANCER. I found it haunting, disturbing, fascinating, profane, creative, and stunningly insightful. Though clearly written from a non-Christian worldview, I find Gibson's perspective in this novel about modern advertising, internet communications, logo design, global product placement, and cultural tipping points, particularly valuable. This is not the sort of book I would recommend to the faint of heart--it is often promiscuously vulgar and brazenly perverse, but then so is this poor fallen world in which we live. This is the sort of book that I really think cultural leaders need to interact with--even if I cannot whole-heartedly endorse it.