Thursday, June 30

Prayer Service

Washington in Prayer
Washington in Prayer,
originally uploaded by Gileskirk.
Christ Community Church (Presbyterian Church in America) will host a community prayer service for our military servicemen and women, our leaders, and our magistrates at 3:00 PM on Sunday afternoon, July 3, at its downtown Franklin chapel, 3rd Ave. and Church St.

In light of the downing of a chopper earlier this week in Afghanistan with Ft. Campbell and Franklin servicemen aboard as well as the intensifying conflicts with Afghan and Iraqi rebels, the pastors and congregation of Christ Community felt that Independence Day Weekend afforded our community an ideal opportunity to gather together both to give thanks for the sacrifices that have been made by our leaders and our men and women at arms and to supplicate the good providence of the Lord to guard them, protect them, and give them wisdom.

The prayer service will be open to the public. While cameras and microphones will not be suitable inside the chapel, pastors and family representatives of servicemen will be available for statements to members of the media immediately prior to the service.

For more information, contact Pastor Scott Roley at 615-468-2260

Monday, June 27

The Officially-Atheist Regime

On July 4, 1837, the 61st anniversary of American independence, John Quincy Adams offered his perspective of that great historical turning-point during a celebration at Newburyport, Massachusetts:

"Why is it that, next to the birthday of the Savior of the World, our most joyous and most venerated festival returns on this day, the 4th of July? Is it not that, in the chain of human events, the birthday of the nation is indissolubley linked with the birthday of the Savior? That it forms a leading event in the progress of the Gospel dispensation? Is it not that the Declaration of Independence first organized our nation's social compact on the foundation of the Redeemer’s mission upon earth? That it laid the cornerstone of human government and freedom sirmly and surely upon the first precepts of Christianity?"

Alas, under our current officially-Atheist regime, as imposed by the Supreme Court of the United States, such pronouncements would not simply be deemed politically incorrect, they would be in direct violation of the conveniently-invented, newly-minted, and oddly-ahistorical notion of "the separation of church and state."

A New Storm in Tehran

Storming the Embassy
Storming the Embassy
originally uploaded by Gileskirk
The surprising election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as Iran's new president this week has elicited a great deal of hand-ringing analysis by Western journalists. As a result, we have learned that Ahmadinejad, currently the mayor of Tehran, is a Shi’ite fundamentalist, that he is a hardliner socially and politically, that he is an ardent believer in Ayatollah Khomeini's revolution of 1978-9, that he wants to return his nation to the Ayatollah's radical Islamicist principles, that almost no one in or out of Iran expected him to win the election, that almost every one in and out of Iran now suspects sweeping electoral fraud, and that none of this bodes well for the rest of the world.

What the media has failed to tell us though is perhaps the single most telling fact about Ahmadinejad’s past: he was one of the founders of the powerful Abadgaran. Not familiar with the Abadgaran? You should be. Part student activist group, part political party, and part terrorist cell, they were the young radicals who swarmed over the wall of the American embassy in Tehran in 1979 and then held the diplomats and embassy workers hostage for 444 days. In one sense, the Abadgaran held the whole world captive then. But, in a much more terrifying sense they have held the people of Iran captive ever since—they are the Islamicist extremists who set up roving militias, answerable only to the Mullahs and Ayatollahs, who have plagued the lives of ordinary Iranians right up to the present day.

Dressing alike, with their dark suits, their scruffy beards, and their dingy open-necked shirts as well as thinking alike with their passionate anti-Americanism, anti-Semitism, and mis-Anthropism, the Abadgaran are the most frightening movement within Islam since al Quaeda and the Taliban.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was one of the early leading lights of the Abadgaran. He was one of their spokesmen in the heady days when the Ayatollah Khomeini still reigned supreme from his throne in Qom. He was their champion. He was their most vehement visionary. And now, he is their president.

The mainstream media has failed to focus on any of this information. Thus far, only the BBC has even mentioned it—and then only in passing. Makes you wonder doesn’t it?

Wednesday, June 22

Working Smart

I have always found Michael Hyatt's insights into balancing life and work extremely helpful. Mike seems to know more about everything than just about anyone I have ever met. And he gets more done than just about anyone too. It just isn't fair! I honestly can't fathom how he does it all--he reads everything, writes prodigiously, runs a major corporation, stays active in his church, and still has a vibrant family life! His very helpful blog, Working Smart reveals at least a few of the secrets to his rather astonishing balancing act. I highly commend Mike's insights into how to maximize time, energy, resources, technologies, disciplines, callings, and giftedness.

Now the trick for me is going to be whether I can actually apply his wisdom--this week I have three major articles to write, a sermon to prepare, and a conference to attend and speak at, a board meeting to participate in, and two annual budgets to pour over in hopes of finding essential cost-saving measures for our ministries (and that is to say nothing of the stacks of books I dragged along with me to read during odd spare moments). I think I'm going to need every bit of Mike's management magic that I can possibly get!

PCA GA Tapes

Tapes and CDs of the messages and seminars delivered at the Presbyterian Church in America's General Assembly are now available online at PCA GA. I particularly recommend Sinclair Ferguson's stunning sermon from Romans 8, The Heart of the Gospel and Ligon Duncan's very insightful seminar on body life, The Marks of a Healthy Church. I am just now beginning to listen to several of the other seminars and am once again humbled by the rich stores of grace and truth the Lord has afforded us in this day and time.

Tuesday, June 21

Covenant Succession

I am in Memphis for the annual ACCS classical school conference. This is always a great opportunity to renew vision for covenantal succession and substantive discipleship. But this year I am also witnessing the reality of covenantal succession in a whole new way--several of the administrators from our schools in Indonesia will be here with one of my former students who has committed to go back with them to Jakarta to serve as a teacher. I could not be more grateful to the Lord for the way He has magnified our impact around the world--and for the way He has begun to raise up a whole new generation of leaders. To read all about Laura's preparation for her great Indonesian adventure, visit her blog: Asia and Chocolate.

Monday, June 20

Ruth: The Song of the Covenant

The Song of the Covenant
The Song of the Covenant,
originally uploaded by Gileskirk.
CDs of the wonderful musical, composed and directed by Greg Wilbur at Christ Community Church (PCA) this past spring, are now available. It is all too rare to see such rich theology, beautiful orchestra and choir arrangements, and dramatic Biblical narration so artfully combined in a single performance. You really do not want to miss this delightful aesthetic feast.

Just go to the Gileskirk curriculum site to order your own copy today: Gileskirk.

Biblical Preaching

At both the Presbyterian Church in America's General Assemby and the pre-Assembly conference sponsored by Reformed Theological Seminary this past week, Reformed Baptists took prominent roles. John Piper, pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis preached during the final worship session of the Assembly. Likewise, Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, preached at the final session of the conference. Both men made impassioned pleas for Biblical fidelity. And both men stood foursquare on the doctrines of sovereign grace.

I was greatly encouraged and profoundly challenged--not just by what these brethren said, but how they said it. Both men ably demonstrated the beauty and power of expository preaching. Leave it to the Baptists to remind us Presbyterians of the vital import of the sacred desk!

Dr. Mohler's message, which dealt directly with the Biblical mandate to "preach the Word in season and out," was particularly striking: "what passes for preaching in all too many Evangelical churches today--and even in Reformed churches today--is actually sub-Christian." He explained:

Numerous influential voices within Evangelicalism suggest that the age of the expository sermon is now past. In its place, some contemporary preachers now substitute messages intentionally designed to reach secular or superficial congregations--messages which avoid preaching a Biblical text, and thus avoid a potentially embarrassing confrontation with Biblical truth.

A subtle shift visible at the onset of the twentieth century has become a great divide at the onset of the twenty-first. The shift from expository preaching to more topical and human-centered approaches has grown into a debate over the place of Scripture in preaching, and the nature of preaching itself.

Two famous statements about preaching illustrate this growing divide. Reflecting poetically on the urgency and centrality of preaching, the Puritan pastor Richard Baxter once remarked, "I preach as never sure to preach again, and as a dying man to dying men." With vivid expression and a sense of gospel gravity, Baxter understood that preaching is literally a life or death affair. Eternity hangs in the balance as the preacher proclaims the Word.

Contrast that statement to the words of Harry Emerson Fosdick, perhaps the most famous (or infamous) preacher of the last century's early decades. Fosdick, pastor of the Riverside Church in New York City, provides an instructive contrast to the venerable Baxter. "Preaching," he explained, "is personal counseling on a group basis."

These two statements about preaching reveal the contours of the contemporary debate. For Baxter, the promise of heaven and the horrors of hell frame the preacher's consuming burden. For Fosdick, the preacher is a kindly counselor offering helpful advice and encouragement.

The current debate over preaching is most commonly explained as a argument about the focus and shape of the sermon. Should the preacher seek to preach a biblical text through an expository sermon? Or, should the preacher direct the sermon to the "felt needs" and perceived concerns of the hearers?

Clearly, many Evangelicals now favor the second approach. Urged on by devotees of "needs-based preaching," many evangelicals have abandoned the text without recognizing that they have done so. These preachers may eventually get to the text in the course of the sermon, but the text does not set the agenda or establish the shape of the message. Focusing on so-called "perceived needs" and allowing these needs to set the preaching agenda inevitably leads to a loss of Biblical authority and Biblical content in the sermon. Yet, this pattern is increasingly the norm in many Evangelical pulpits. Fosdick must be smiling from the grave.

Earlier Evangelicals recognized Fosdick's approach as a rejection of Biblical preaching. An out-of-the-closet theological Liberal, Fosdick paraded his rejection of Biblical inspiration, inerrancy, and infallibility--and rejected other doctrines central to the Christian faith. Enamored with trends in psychological theory, Fosdick became Liberal Protestantism's happy pulpit therapist. The goal of his preaching was well captured by the title of one of his most popular books, "On Being a Real Person."

Shockingly, this is now the approach evident in many Evangelical pulpits. The sacred desk has become an advice center and the pew has become the therapist's couch. Psychological and practical concerns have displaced theological exegesis and the preacher directs his sermon to the congregation's perceived needs.

I have to say that Dr. Mohler's strident exhortation to take seriously the Westminster Confession's three-fold mandate to uphold the "reading, preaching, and hearing of the Word of God" Sunday-by-Sunday in our churches struck me as perhaps the the most telling--during an entire week brimming with vital exhortations. And you can be assured that it will not be lost on me as I approach the sacred desk this coming Lord's Day.

Saturday, June 18

RC-Moon Pie 10-Miler

At the Finish Line
At the Finish Line,
originally uploaded by Gileskirk.
The weather was perfect. A record field turned out. And one of the most beautiful settings anywhere provided all the inspiration any of us could have ever asked for. Thus, this morning I ran--with nearly a thousand other intrepid souls--in the tenth annual RC Cola-Moon Pie 10-Mile Run.

Coinciding with Bell Buckle, Tennessee's famous summer festival, this is one of the best-run, most fun road races I have ever had the opportunity to participate in. Alas, due to my travel and speaking schedule I had been unable to train since the Country Music Marathon at the end of April so I was not really ready for the stresses of a long race like this--to say nothing of the infamous hill at mile four. So, I just took my time and enjoyed myself.

And enjoy myself I did. What a blast! I've already reserved a B&B for next year so that Karen and I can do it again!

Tuesday, June 14

Wren's Masterpiece

Wren's Masterpiece
Wren's Masterpiece,
originally uploaded by Gileskirk.
The Great Fire of 1666 destroyed more than a third of the city of London including the famed St. Paul’s Cathedral overlooking the Thames. The earliest sanctuary on the site had been erected sometime in the first decade of the seventh century. It had been substantially refurbished and expanded at least four times—in 675 following a devastating fire, in 962 following the rampages of the Vikings, in 1087 following the Norman conquest, and in 1561 following storm damage to the nave and cloister.

But it was obvious to all that the seventeenth century fire was so devastating that mere repairs would simply not be sufficient. The cathedral would have to be entirely redesigned and reconstructed. King Charles II appointed his friend Christopher Wren (1632-1723) chief architect of the vast project.

Although he had no formal training as an architect, Wren was renowned as an engineering genius. He had already made significant contributions to sundry practical sciences and built a wide variety of public works. He had been educated at Wadham College, Oxford where he joined a group of brilliant scholars, who later formed the core of the Royal Society. As assistant to an eminent anatomist, Wren developed skills as an experimental, scientific thinker. With astronomy as his initial course of study, Wren developed skills in working models, diagrams and charting that proved useful when he later tried his hand in engineering, art, sculpture, and architecture. In 1657, when he was still just twenty-five years old, Wren was appointed the Gresham Professor of Astronomy in London. Four years later he became the Savilian Professor of Astronomy at Oxford.

But his greatest contributions would not be made as a mentor of students at the university or as a pioneer in the fledgling new science of astrophysics. Instead, in 1663, he discovered his true calling when his uncle, the Bishop of Ely, asked him to design a new chapel for Pembroke College, Cambridge. This was his first foray into architecture, but it proved to be such a stunning success that it was quickly followed by a flurry of new commissions.

Following the Great Fire, Charles II appointed Wren the Surveyor General of the King's Works. In that capacity, the young visionary presented a utopian scheme to rebuild the entire city. Political intrigue, petty jealousy, and substantial theological disputes caused the royal oversight committee to set the grand plan aside and to focus solely on a handful of special projects—including the cathedral.

Wren's simple and elegant proposals were fiercely contested by the committee, which countered with an overwrought, graceless, derivative design. Wren, a patient, practical man, reluctantly agreed to the committee's plan with the stipulation that he be allowed to make such modifications as might prove necessary during the actual construction. Thus, he was able to modify the plans continuously. And modify he did. The finished work was, in fact, almost identical to his own original design. Of course, Wren’s wry machinations hardly endeared him to the committee—despite his obvious brilliance, they determined to remove from consideration for any future royal commissions.

Controversy dogged the architect from beginning to end. The jealous magistrates boycotted even the groundbreaking and cornerstone ceremonies. Only a handful of bored officials were present to observe as Thomas Strong, a master mason, lowered the first stone deep into the earthen mound at Paternoster Square. There was no special service. There was no fanfare. There was no dedicatory speech. There was no citywide ceremony. It was almost as if a warehouse or even a theater was being constructed, not the city’s cathedral.

Nevertheless, Wren’s project was imminently successful. Few cathedrals are built in a lifetime—the previous Norman renovations of St. Paul’s had taken some two centuries to complete. But Wren was able to complete the project in just 35 years. As in so many of his other projects—the Greenwich Hospital Chapel, St. Clement Danes in London’s Strand, St. James at Picadilly, St. Mary Le Bow at Cheapside, and St. Stephen’s Walbrook—the preaching of the Gospel was the primary focus of the design. As a result, he designed the interior so that the pulpit would be the center of attention. He paid close attention to lines of sight and acoustic efficiency. The great dome, which weighs some 65,000 tons and rises nearly three-hundred and fifty feet above the cruciform nave, amazingly never distracts—rather it bestows the entire building with dignity, grace, and gravitas while providing it with a rich acoustic resonance.

For Wren, the Reformational doctrines of grace and an incumbent emphasis on primacy of preaching—which he determinedly and diligently wove into the his practical designs—was apparently the direct result of his understanding of several passages of Scripture inscribed in his notes, journals, and plans (including Hebrews 4:12, 10:19-25, 13:7-8, and 13:14-17). It was almost as if like Moses before him, Wren somehow had caught a glimpse of God’s eternal purpose and then attempted to make it manifest “on earth as it is in heaven” (Hebrews 8:1-5; Matthew 6:10). As if to underscore that notion, he often was heard to say that at best St. Paul’s would serve only as “a mere shadow” of the more glorious “heavenly things.”

After his death Sir Christopher Wren was interred in an honored beneath the soaring stones of his magnum opus. The inscription on his grave simply reads, “Si monumentum requiris, circumspice. If you would see his monument, look around.” Indeed, the rocks and stones of St. Paul’s Cathedral resound with the jubilant “Hosannas” of Wren’s Reformed credo.

Sunday, June 12

Home Again, Home Again Jiggidy Jig

I arrived home from my various European adventures yesterday. My, how good it is to be home!

Following the tour of London and Cambridge, I journeyed to Holland where I was doing a bit of research on Indonesian history. I know that sounds rather convoluted--until you realize that the archive of the Dutch East Indies Company is the single richest resource anywhere in the world for information on that vast archipelago nation along the South Pacific rim. I found some great information that I am hoping to work into a curriculum for our schools in Jakarta.

Alas, there is no rest for the wicked: right after church today Karen and I head off to Chattanooga where we will be attending the PCA's annual General Assembly. GA is our denomination's big hubbub every year--a great time to reconnect with friends, conduct the important work of the church's life and mission, sort through our sundry plaguing difficulties, and celebrate our common covenantal commitments. I am particularly looking forward to a pre-GA conference on the Westminster Confession at my good friend Mike Milton's church, First Pres. We'll hear an all-star line up--from Sinclair Ferguson, Doug Kelly, and Ligon Duncan to Derek Thomas, Phil Ryken, and Al Mohler.

And then of course, there will be the bookstores--one at the conference run by Reformed Seminary in Jackson and another at GA run by the denomination's education and publication ministry! I've been saving my pennies for this feast!

Pensive Discernment

Amy Shore, a beloved Bannockburn grad who runs the King's Meadow office and teaches at FCS, is currently visiting my daughter Joanna in Peru--they are dear, dear friends. Amy has been keeping a blog journal of the trip. Visit it at Pensive Discernment.

Friday, June 3


While I am out and about here in Europe, I am likely to be more than a little irregular in my blog posts--it will be catch-as-catch-can at internet cafes along the way. So now is the perfect time for you to begin gleaning from the brilliant insights of my friend and co-laborer at King's Meadow, Greg Wilbur. Greg is an expert in aesthetics and he is a fine composer--but as you will soon discover, he is a wonderful writer as well. I think you'll want to return to his blog (right here on the King's Meadow site) every day from now on. I do.

Merry England

I am currently sitting in a little internet cafe just off Leichester Square in London. I am still basking in the glory of last night's Evensong service at King's College in Cambridge. Tonight our little tour group will attend a Baroque concert at St. Martin's in the Fields just off Trafalgar Square. It is a marvel to be able to behold so much of the great legacy of Christendom in a land where that legacy is no longer cherished--except, it seems, by us tourists.


There is just about no better place to buy good books than here in England. Yesterday, I took our little tour group to Cambridge where two of my favorite Antiquarian book dealers have shops. I was able to find four rare valumes of Q's works--one of which I had actually never seen before at any price. I also got a wonderful first edition of T.S. Eliot's essays on poetry. I'd been looking for a good reading copy for a few years because it includes a very opinionated discourse on what constitutes a "classic."

Best of all, I got all of these for less than fifteen dollars each! And I've not yet had a chance to spend any serious time at Cecil Court, Foyle's, or Hatchard's (the most beautiful bookstore in the world and the supplier of the royal family)! Hoi poloi!