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January 2006

January 27, 2006

I read a lot of books last year. I didn’t bother to count them but I know it was well over 100. It is inevitable that, having read that quantity of books, some of them made little impact on me. Some of them were read and slowly (or even quickly) drifted out of my mind. But there are a few that have stayed with me. There are a few that stand out above the rest.

One of the best of the best I read last year was The Cross He Bore by Frederick Leahy. Here is the deliberately short review I posted of Professor Leahy’s book:

Sometimes I read a book that has come with such numerous and lofty recommendations that really it can only be disappointing. Having heard so much about how the book will change my life and cause my faith to grow in leaps and bounds, I have often found the reality to be disappointing. Conversely, sometimes a book comes unhyped and unheralded and takes my heart and mind by storm. Such is the case with The Cross He Bore by Frederick Leahy.

Truthfully, I do not remember where I first heard of this book. I was surprised one day to see it turn up in the mail and I soon realized that at one point I had added it to my Amazon wishlist. I knew nothing about it other than what the cover told me: “Meditations on the sufferings of the Redeemer.” Edward Donnelly writes in the foreward that this book has three virtues: it provides solid instruction; gives full play to a disciplined and sanctified imagination; and it recalls the neglected art of meditation. He says further that “in rereading these chapters, I found myself more than once compelled by emotion to stop - and then to worship. I cannot help feeling that this is exactly how they were written and that the author’s chief desire is that each of us who reads should be brought to gaze in fresh understanding and gratitude upon ‘the Son of God,’ who loved me and give himself for me.” As with Donnelly, I was often compelled to stop and worship, to stop and meditate, or to stop and dry my eyes, thanking Christ for His immeasurable sacrifice.

The book is comprised of thirteen chapters, each of which is a short meditation or reflection on a different aspect of Christ’s sacrifice, from the close of the Last Supper to the blotting of the sun from the sky while He hung on the cross. It truly strikes to the very heart of the Gospel.

But I hesitate to say more. Perhaps part of the beauty and significance of this book, was that it came unannounced. There was no lofty position for it to attain to. And perhaps it is best that way. And so I will leave it with merely my wholehearted recommendation and the knowledge that I will return to it often. This short book is an invaluable treasure and I am certain that the reflections it contains will stay with me and come to heart and mind whenever I meditate upon the cross of Christ.

The Cross He Bore is a powerful and beautiful book. I learned this morning that Professor Leahy died just a few weeks ago. He died only two hours after submitting the manuscript for his most recent book. An obituary in Lisburn Today says, “Rev. Leahy, who was 83, was accompanied on the walk from his home to the Post Office on Wednesday January 4 by his devoted wife Margaret. After passing the text of ‘The Hand of God’ over the counter at the start of its journey to publishers ‘Banner of Truth’ she suggested he purchase a new notebook to start work on his next manuscript.” Leahy’s response was simple and contained more truth than he knew. “Margaret, I think I’ve said all I want to say.” He entered his eternal rest only two hours later and finally came face-to-face with the Savior of whom he made so much during his lifetime.

“His minister, Rev Prof Robert McCollum paid tribute to Rev. Leahy describing him as ‘a dedicated servant and faithful ambassador of the Lord Jesus Christ. He fought the good fight, he finished the race and he kept the faith,’ concluded Rev. McCollum.”

The Cross He Bore is also recommended by Mark Loughridge and Jacob Hantla. Jacob writes, “I recommend that you read this book in a quiet place with little destraction with your Bible by your side. Read it one chapter at a time and then sit and re-read, and pray. Let the Spirit take you back to the foot of the cross where you gaze up at your only hope, the King of the universe hanging in misery, damnation, and ultimately victory. Look at the cross he bore and realize that with such a high price to secure our salvation, anything that we hope to add or to repay will only be an insult to His gift, diminishing its value and His glory. Let the Spirit take you to the foot of the cross where you realize who we are, we are all beggars.”

The book is available from Amazon. You can read Professor Leahy’s obituary here.

January 27, 2006

Friday January 27, 2006

Politics: Ron Gleason discusses illegal immigration. “I would also like to reach my fellow-countrymen and convince them that illegal immigration is one of the highest priority items for our national security. Our attitudes towards it defy common sense and reasonableness. You have to wonder if it’s actually going to take another devastating strike by terrorists against our country before we will come to our senses.”

Reading: Al Mohler posts some thoughts on the reading of books. I got a laugh out of this: “C.J., I took books to high school athletic events when I played in the band. [Heap coals of scorn and nerdliness here.] I remember the books — do you remember the games? “

Du Jour: Nathan Casebolt reflects on the testimony of a man he met while working at the church. The man’s story caused him to wonder what his legacy will be.

Emergent: Mark Driscoll has a harsh, irreverent and somewhat rude reply to Brian McLaren’s non-position on homosexuality. This post summarizes both what I admire about Driscoll and what makes me uncomfortable - he speaks the truth but is often a tad rude and irreverent.

January 26, 2006

Invisible ChildrenIn the spring of 2003, three young Americans set out for Africa, in search of adventure and a story. They found what they were looking for. They found a tragedy that changed their lives and has since changed the lives of many who have heard the story. They found the invisible children of Uganda.

Jason Russell, Laren Poole and Bobby Bailey headed to Africa with a desire to have their lives changed. Armed with camera equipment they had purchased on eBay, they set out for Sudan, a country that has been rocked with continual war and strife. Unable to find anything in Sudan that could capture their short attention spans they set out for Uganda and soon found themselves in the northern part of that nation. It was there that they found their story.

What they found were children who were being abducted and forced to participate in one of the meaningless, brutal wars that rage in Africa. Young children, even just six or eight years old, are taken from villages and the countryside, are indoctrinated, and forced to bear arms against their own people. They are subjected to unbelievable horrors. They watch their friends and siblings being killed and dismembered simply so their captors can destroy their innocence and shock them into subjection. They are warned that any attempts at escape will end in a brutal, violent death. Those who do escape are hunted like dogs.

Every night the large towns in this part of Uganda fill with children - children who flee the surrounding villages lest they be abducted. Thousands of children migrate to bus parks and hospitals to spend the night in relative safety. Largely unsupervised and with little more than a blanket and the clothes on their backs, these children return night after night. They have no choice. They are desperately poor and suffer terrible abuses. It truly is a tragedy the likes of which is foreign to the mindsets of North Americans.

Invisible Children is a fast-paced MTV-style documentary designed to appeal primarily to young people. The filmmakers say, “This wonderfully crappy rock-and-roll documentary is something truly unique. To see Africa through young eyes is funny, and heart breaking, quick, and informative - all in the very same breath.” While it is not the quality of some of the better documentaries I have seen, I found it well-made and well-produced. In fact, the only real problem I had with the quality of the film was the narrating and voice-overs. They were stilted, unnatural and unsuited to the format of the film. What I watched was only a rough cut of the DVD and I do hope they address the narration before releasing a final cut.

Having brought the story of these invisible children before a North American audience, Russell, Poole and Bailey have great plans for aiding the children. Their plan has three parts. First, they wish to expose the effects of a 20 year-long war on the children of Northern Uganda by telling their stories in a relevant way. Second, they wish to empower the individual viewer towards action (volunteering, donations, the bracelet campaign, political pressure, etc.). Finally, they would like to use the proceeds to provide aid to the invisible children on the ground, in Uganda. “Our dream,” they say, “is to inspire the young and young at heart, to challenge their thinking, and empower them to ‘be the change they wish to see in the world’ through action.” To this end the organization encourages individuals to host viewing parties, to be creative, and ultimately to donate money to the cause. According to the extra features on the DVD, the young men have partnered with World Vision to design communities in Uganda that will provide safe housing and education for the children. These projects can begin only when there are sufficient funds available.

The story this DVD tells is powerful and convicting. It is heart-breaking. I admire the young men for finding this story and for their passion in telling it. Unfortunately I would be hesitant to donate funds to their campaign. I have every confidence that these people are sincere in their desire to help the children of Uganda, but I am less convicted that they will be able to make the impact they desire. Sincerity is not enough: they must also have credibility. I felt that the apparent obsession with South Park, Dave Chappelle and Family Guy along with the immature activities recorded at the beginning of the film (blowing up termite hills with gasoline, chopping snakes into pieces with an axe, and close-in shots of vomitting) damage the credibility of the young men and thus their organization. This may appeal to their target audience, but it will surely prove a hindrance to those who are older and are likely to have more resources available to them.

I should note that the organization does have an active board of directors and that my fears may be unreasonable. “Invisible Children has an active board of directors made up of local businessmen and women who are passionately committed to growing and expanding the effect of Invisible Children both domestically and abroad. They meet on a bi-monthly basis and have the ultimate legal control over Invisible Children. The filmmakers of Invisible Children have creative authority over the film. Their vision is the driving force behind the movement of Invisible Children. The staff at the IC office takes the vision and facilitates action. They are in charge of setting up screenings and events, organizing volunteers, budgeting/financial record keeping, communication with IC representatives in Africa and coordinating the international campaigns.”

My other concern was that, while the three filmmakers are professed Christians, Invisible Children is not a Christian organization. I do hope that those who help the children will do more (and certainly not less) than provide the necessities of life, but also share the Gospel which brings eternal life.

Invisible Children was a chilling DVD and made me profoundly grateful to live in such a safe and innocent part of the world. It truly is a blessing to live in a land of freedom and safety. It made me aware of horrors that are almost unimaginable. I have little doubt that it will stir and motivate many young people to look beyond their comfort zones and see the importance of extending help and comfort to those who are in need. I hope it does. Ultimately I hope God uses it to bring the Gospel to those hurting, abandoned, invisible children, for they are not invisible to Him.

To read more about Invisible Children or to order a DVD, visit invisiblechildren.com.

January 26, 2006

Thursday January 26, 2005

Politics: A member of the Conservative Party who narrowly lost in Monday’s election claims there were voting irregularities. Oh boy. “We feel the election was stolen,” he said. “We’re going to be appealing…”

Blogging: My friend David (aka The Thirsty Theologian) has moved to a new stomping ground. You can now find his blog at thirstytheologian.com.

Theology: The new issue of Reformation21 has been posted. The topic this month is, once again, peraching. Justin Taylor has the details.

Interview: If you haven’t yet listened to Hugh Hewitt’s interview with Joel Stein, you really ought to give it a listen. Stein wrote a column against the war and Hewitt unmasks this guy’s complete ignorance. Stein reminds me of a lot of people I’ve heard discuss the war!

January 25, 2006

I enjoy Ingrid Schlueter’s blog, Slice of Laodicea, and not just because I designed it and it is still near the top of my list of favorite designs I’ve made. Ingrid keeps on top of the trends in Christianity. Her blog is an ongoing source for what is happening in the church. By keeping up with her blog you’ll keep up with some of the worst of what is being introduced to the church under the guise of “Christian.” Often times this is absolutely revolting. You’ll also be informed by the wisdom of great Christians of days past.

Just a few minutes ago Ingrid posted a link to a new product called “The Original Love Song.” Here is an excerpt from a press release dealing with the product:

“Yes, it is sexy,” exclaims Guy Bickel, V.P. of Book 22, Inc., a new independent record label in Tampa, Florida. “It’s also romantic, compelling, sensuous, spiritual, and most importantly, it’s word-for-word from six different translations of the Bible. In addition, the music is so cutting-edge, that it’s tuned to natural Earth harmonics and not the 17th century instituted A-440Hz standard. We think ‘The Original Love Song’ is the most innovative achievement in scripture-based entertainment and enlightenment that’s come down the pike since ‘Jesus Christ Superstar.’”

Released in November of 2005, “The Original Love Song” is the first-ever dramatic and literal interpretation of The Song of Solomon. It features a top-notch, movie-style soundtrack, vivid aural imagery, and is already being hailed by some notable Christian scholars as a must-hear for every Christian couple. For those of you unfamiliar with this particular book of the Bible, it deals entirely with love, romance, virtue, and sex.

Dr. [Norman] Geisler sums it up best with his quote, “ ‘The Original Love Song’ is passion at its purest level. It is literally God’s guide to a Godly, sexual relationship.”

“Isn’t this what we’re all looking for?” concluded Bickel.

Ingrid says, “no, Mr. Bickel, that’s not what we’re “all” looking for. Why do we need Christian porno to titillate? I really believe that we’re going to see a day when there will be an evangelical version of temple prostitutes in our churches, acting out the Song of Songs. People are justifying absolutely everything these days by misusing the Bible and worse, for financial gain. That Dr. Geisler would be so excited about this is really disturbing.”

You can read about the product here. You can also listen to audio samples (you may wish to turn down your speakers a little bit if you are at work at the moment).

My first reaction - my knee jerk reaction - to this product was, like Ingrid, one of disgust. But then I began to wonder why that is. There is nothing wrong with “Song of Solomon.” There can’t be - it is part of the sacred Scripture, it is inspired by God and is meant for our edification (and perhaps even titillation). There is nothing wrong with hearing the Scripture read aloud. There can’t be - God intended for the Scriptures to be read aloud. There is nothing wrong with hearing the Scripture read with expression and emotion. There can’t be - God doesn’t intend for His Scripture to be read in a way that is deliberately boring. So now the question is, is there anything wrong with dramatizing the reading of Scripture? And further, is there anything wrong with adding a musical soundtrack behind the reading of Scripture?

For example, listen to this clip which is a minute or so long. If you want to hear a clip that is a little more suggestive or sensual, listen to this one. Having listened to them I have to respectfully disagree with Ingrid that there is anything pornographic about this. But I will admit that this is not to say that such a recording is wise or good. Still, I do not feel this is pornographic or dirty.

I have learned to exercise caution with my snap judgments. A few months ago I heard of The Light Speed Bible, a Bible that teaches speed reading and allows a person to read the entire Bible in twenty four hours (which is to say twenty four hours of reading). I laughed. But then I got one in the mail and tried it out. I have to admit that I very much enjoy the Bible (even if it is in a translation which is not my favorite). I have found it very valuable being able to read an entire book, such as Genesis, in a single sitting. It provides a high level view of the Bible (or a book of the Bible) that has allowed me to see patterns and nuances I have missed in reading the Bible more slowly. Of course one cannot meditate at Light Speed, but the creators of this version of the Bible have taken that into account and suggest that, after reading a book quickly, the reader go back and read at a devotional speed of just a few lines or verses at a time. It is quite a good product and one I have enjoyed a lot. If you are interested, you can read more about it here.

The point is that I’ve been wrong before. I have allowed my judgmental nature to form an opinion on a product before I gave it a fair evaluation. I wonder if I didn’t do the same with The Original Love Song. So I am going to go out on a limb and say that I do not see that this product is necessarily wrong.

Feel free to voice your agreement or disagreement in the comments area. I am willing to be corrected if I am wrong.

(Please do not take this as a knock against Ingrid or her site. I am merely respectfully disagreeing with her and asking for others to help me understand whether or not I am wrong).

January 25, 2006

I have had a terribly chaotic week, the reason for which I’ll tell you tomorrow. Added to the chaos has been illness and a general lack of sleep, so despite my best efforts I just couldn’t put pen to paper this morning. I have learned the hard way that it is best not to write than to write when I’m only half awake!

However, after I watched a particularly moving DVD early this morning (a DVD I will review soon) I began to reflect on fatherhood and my children. I soon found something I had written a couple of years ago when my son, who is nearly six, was only three. This is one reason I love blogging: I am able to freeze moments in time and turn back to them and relive them, even a couple of years later. I thought I would post this article once more - one that still causes tears to cloud my eyes.

My son is three years old and has recently begun to become aware of the existence of death. At only three he has far greater capacity to wonder and to ask questions than he does to understand. This makes it difficult and as his father I struggle to try to share with him what death is and how something so terrifying and so final can be made an occasion of wondrous joy.

January 25, 2006

Wednesday January 25, 2005

Design: Mike Bryant (known in the forums around here as mikbry24) has a new blog which was designed by yours truly. Take a look deep inside the The Mind of Mike.

Blogging: Phil Johnson has now retired from blogging. Sort of. He has decided to begin a sort of group blog. As if one Centuri0n presence on the web isn’t enough! Still, at least we can still look forward to the occasional post from Phil.

Canadiana: Ian who blogs at Ruminations By The Lake reflects on the bittersweet results of the election here in Canada. “I do believe that God was gracious to us in allowing a party whose values reflect a Christian worldview more than the others to assume the helm in Ottawa.”

Review: Tom Ascol watched The End of the Spear and came away disappointed. “The acting was too noticeable throughout and the music score was too unrelenting in its intensity. I hate to be so negative in my comments, but I found the movie to be lacking in many of the qualities that makes a film worth seeing.”

January 24, 2006

Stephen HarperWe have a new Prime Minister here in the Great White North. After thirteen years of the Liberal Party reigning in Canada, the Conservatives have fought back. Thirteen years of corruption and mismanagement left Canadians angry and disillusioned with a party that seemed as intent on destroying Canada as they did on protecting it. Now it is the Conservative’s turn to prove that they can do better.

There is much reason for hope. For the first time in far too long a Prime Minister has been elected who hails from the Western part of Canada - the area of Canada that is much more conservative socially and spiritually - the part of Canada that so rarely has a voice in our nation. For the first time in far too long the Prime Minister will not be from Quebec. And that is a good thing. And, in fact, for the first time in a long while the Prime Minster will not be Roman Catholic. And that is also a good thing. I don’t know if Stephen Harper is a Christian. He was raised Presbyterian, I believe, and attends Christian and Missionary Alliance congregations in Calgary and Ottawa. I hope and trust that he is a believer. But even if he is not, he represents a conservative perspective that is far different from what has driven Canada for the past decade.

Yet he will have to tread carefully. Those hoping that he will make radical changes to abortion policy or policies regarding homosexual marriage probably hope in vain. He holds only a minority government and it is rare that a minority government last out its mandate in our system of government before it is toppled in a vote of non-confidence. He has promised free votes in parliament on a variety of important issues and these will go a long way to showing what Canadians really want. The Conservative government will have to prove itself to skeptical and disillusioned Canadians and will have to exercise great judgment and discernment in doing so.

Today is a big day for Canadians. It is a big day for Canadian Christians who have, for the first time in quite a while, been given just a glimmer of hope that perhaps the moral decay that has pervaded our country and that has been encouraged by the Liberal government, will be tempered, at least for a little while. And so please join with me today in praying for this country. I love Canada. I truly do. I want the best for Canada and plead with God that He will take what is largely a pagan nation - a nation that has been declared a mission field by the Southern Baptists and other denominations - and begin a fresh work here by and through His people.