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December 2005

December 27, 2005

Today I will make a horrifying admission, one that might just cast a shadow of doubt over my life, ministry and masculinity. Ready for it? I enjoy Jane Austen movies. I don’t just enjoy them, actually, but really, really enjoy them. I hate chick flicks as much as the next guy, but thoroughly enjoy Austen movies. And no, I do not consider those to be contradictory statements.

Last night my sister and brother-in-law suggested that my wife and I join them for dinner and a movie. The options were simple: King Kong (which was deemed to be too long), The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (which I have already seen) or Pride and Prejudice. I eventually convinced the rest of the group that we should see the chick flick. And so we caught a 7:30 showing of Pride and Prejudice.

I thoroughly enjoyed the movie as I enjoyed Sense and Sensibility and Emma before it. I suppose you could just say that I’m a big fan of these films.

I don’t watch these movies because of the stories. Austen’s plots were adequate, I guess, but I find them quite unappealing. I care little for the love story that holds her plots together. Had the movie ended with Darby and Elizabeth standing before Judge Judy to contest ownership of an engagement ring (instead of the inevitable snuggling and spooning) it would not have made the movie much better or worse for me. You see, there are three things that especially appeal to me in Austen’s stories (and hence in the films): the characters, the setting and the dialogue.

It seems quite clear that Austen had a great and perhaps vicious sense of humor. She always includes at least a character or two in her stories that are pure comic relief. In Pride and Prejudice there is an Anglican rector who is just a pathetic specimen and Austen goes to great lengths to make him a laughing stock. There is also the mother of the main character, a woman who lives her life with only one goal: to see her daughters get married. She is a gossip and a busybody and will stop at nothing to secure relationships. But her mouth always runs away with her and she gets nowhere. These comical characters always leave me laughing.

I also love the Victorian setting. Most of the bigger-budget films are able to satisfactorily replicate the original setting. I enjoy seeing the interaction between the various strata of society. I enjoy the viciousness of the upper class and the disgust elicited by and towards the lower classes. I enjoy interpreting Austen’s own opinions towards those who were fortunate enough to rank higher than she did, and those unfortunate enough to rank lower. One need not look far to find some frank statements about Victorian British society.

And above all I love Austen’s dialogue. It is very difficult to do dialogue properly. I might go so far as to say that it is easier to create good characters and a good plot than it is to craft good dialogue. Yet Austen did dialogue very well. The quick back-and-forth, sarcastic, multi-levelled exchanges between characters is what makes the stories work. The strong female characters always manage to remain a step ahead of everyone else. They are rarely at a loss for words. I often find myself laughing out loud (to my wife’s chagrin) as the characters berate each other in a dignified, backhanded manner.

I suppose the reason I love Austen is that I love words. And Jane Austen was a bona fide master of the word. She was able to craft characters that were just believable enough and dialogue that said just enough but never too much. Learning from Austen is learning from a master.

And so I make this dreadful admission and look forward to the next big screen adaptation of one of Jane Austen’s novels.

December 27, 2005

Tuesday December 27, 2005

Media: The American Family Association is asking people to petition NBC over a new show entitled The Book of Daniel. The main character is Daniel Webster, a drug-addicted Episcopal priest whose wife depends heavily on her mid-day martinis. The show also includes lesbians, homosexuals and all the makings of a far-too-typical series.

Heretic: Christian Research Service has issued a challenge to the people of Fiji where up to 300,000 people are expected to attend a Benny Hinn crusade in January. “Put Benny Hinn to the Biblical test. If he fails, put him back on the plane!”

Pyromaniac: Kirk Wellum, a local pastor, has begun a series responding to Phil Johnson on the law.

Theology: The new issue of Reformation21 is available and this month it considers all things [David] Wells.

December 26, 2005

Whatever Happened To The Gospel of Grace?” is exactly the sort of book you might expect a traditional, Reformed pastor and theologian to leave as his final message to the world, for before this book was published, James Boice, long-time pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia went to be with the Lord. This book stands as a call to the church to rediscover the principles upon which the Protestant church was built. It was Boice’s conviction that much of what passes as Christianity today is anything but. The church will only be able to be an effective witness for God when it returns to the foundation of the five solas that defined the Reformation (Scripture alone, Christ alone, grace alone, faith alone, glory to God alone).

December 26, 2005

Monday December 26, 2005

Boxing Day: Today is Boxing Day in Canada. This means that Canadians are lining up outside the big box electronic stores much the same way as Americans do the day after Thanksgiving, though the sales are usually not nearly as good. Do American stores have sales today?

Religion of Peace: A father in Pakistan killed four of his daughters after the eldest married against his wishes. I wonder what religion he could have been part of? Surely not the Religion of Peace

Christmas: Carolyn McCulley has a quirky meditation on the first Christmas. She wants to know what happened to the shepherds’ sheep.

Theology: John Samson points out, correctly of course, that the doctrine of hell is under attack from within the church as much as without. He suggests we all study the doctrine of hell and provides a brief essay to help kick start us.

December 25, 2005

There’s something a little bit silly about Christmas, isn’t there? After all, we have no real evidence that Jesus was born on December 25. Sure there have been plenty of people who have attempted to prove some link, but in the end we just have to accept that there is really only a small chance that Jesus was born this day.

Until recently I thought it was silly to remember Jesus in a special way on Christmas.

There’s something a little bit silly about Mother’s Day, too, isn’t there? My wife is no better or worse a wife and mother on Mother’s Day than she is any other day of the year. Yet I love to celebrate her for that day. It provides myself and the children an opportunity to set our thoughts on her and to focus our affections on her in a special way. While the holiday sometimes seems a little contrived, there is great benefit in remembering all she means to me and giving her at least one day of the year when we honor her just for being mom.

The fact is that I need very little incentive to set aside a special day for my wife. It is an honor and a joy for me to give honor to her.

And that is what I’ve come to realize about Christmas. It doesn’t matter if Jesus was born on December 25 or not. Even if Jesus was born in mid-July it benefits me and it benefits Him that I remember Him in a special way on this day. It is a joy and a privilege to bless Him in a special way and to pour out my thanksgiving to Him for assuming human flesh and beginning His life so that He might end His life for me.

And so today I pray that you and I will remember our Lord who, though He was God, became man that he could die for us. I hope and pray that God will extend His richest blessings to you and that you would know His presence this day. God bless you and Merry Christmas.

December 24, 2005

Of the several hundred books I have read in the past few years, there is one which I have recommended more often than any other. I recently revisited this book and decided that I would post a review of it, though I did so several years ago on this site. It was a groundbreaking book in my life and know that God has used it mightily in the lives of other believers.

Putting Amazing Back Into Grace is the first book I have read by Michael Horton. It will certainly not be my last. On the cover of the book J.I. Packer declares the book “a breaktaking workout” and his praise is justified. This book points us back to the Reformation and ultimately to the Bible itself as the source of an amazing grace that much of modern Christianity seems to have lost. He presents timeless truths as being as relevant to us today as they were when they were first discovered.

December 23, 2005

Just about everyone who reads web sites does so at work. It’s a strange and shameful fact, isn’t it? In fact, you are probably sitting at work right now as you read this. Shame on you. My experience with working the Friday afternoon before Christmas tells me that you’re probably not doing much today anyways. This is the day where most people have already taken the day off and the office is half empty to begin with. Throughout the day more and more people drift away. If you look around you’ll probably see that you’re one of the last people left. What you need to sustain you through the rest of the day is some frivolity.

The Notes to Netflix Pool It seems that when people return movies to Netflix they often feel the need to attach a sticky note with some type of message to the good folks at Netflix. This site documents some of the funnier and more bizarre examples of this phenomenon. This is a personal favorite. As of the time I wrote this I had checked to ensure that none of the notes were off-color. However, with more being added routinely I can’t vouch long-term.

Complaint-Letter Generator If you are working today and feel you deserve the rest of the day off, why not use Scott’s handy complaint-letter generator. It will help you form a letter of complaint against a company or an individual. Here is a complaint I generated against Phil Johnson:

The nature and extent of our current national crisis, as well as its causes and cures, are the subject of intense political struggle. I offer this letter as a contribution to that struggle and debate in hopes of helping to force Mr. Phil Johnson into early retirement. What follows is a series of remarks addressed to the readers of this letter and to Phil himself. I would like to go on, but I do have to keep this letter short. So I’ll wrap it up by saying that Mr. Phil Johnson contributes nothing to society.

Take that!

2005 - The Year in Pictures MSNBC has two incredible galleries of photographs that will take you back through 2005. While the first (Editor’s Choice) is a little bit graphic (as it features photographs from Iraq and other areas of extreme violence) there are several shots that are just stunning. You can view the galleries here.

And Finally… I am having a grand time enjoying my vacation. I trust this time, when most of you will also take time away from many of life’s usual responsibilities, will be as great a blessing for you as it already has been for me. It feels good to do just about nothing!

December 23, 2005

Friday December 23, 2005

Audio: For those interested in the audio series I mentioned in yesterday’s ramblings, you can purchase it here from Sovereign Grace Ministries.

Politics: American military chaplains are fighting for their right to pray according to their faith. A petition is being delivered to Washington asking that Christian chaplains be allowed to pray in Jesus’ name.

Blogspotting: Justin Taylor shows another interesting link between the Osteens and airlines.

Theology: This year’s Alpha & Omega National Conference will feature a debate between James White and John Shelby Spong on the topic of “Is Homosexuality Compatible with Authetic, Biblical, Orthodox Christianity?” It is a sign of the times that there is anything to debate!