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July 2008

July 27, 2008

Today I continue posting memoirs (see here for more), little tidbits of my life experience.


Chaffeys Locks is one of the most beautiful spots in all of Ontario. Perched between two small lakes that are part of the Rideau Lakes system, it is a historic town founded by William Chaffey in 1816. He established a milling business there, at the swift-flowing rapids that separated Indian Lake from Opinicon Lake. Sadly, in 1827 he died of malaria, leaving behind a thriving business. His wife sold the land and businesses to Colonel John By, the man tasked with building the Rideau Canal that would connect Kingston, on the edge of Lake Ontario, with Ottawa, far inland, and beyond that to Montreal. This would avoid the perilous St. Lawrence River route that was constantly patrolled by American ships. In 1831 work was completed on a lock that raises boast almost 11 feet as they pass from one lake to the next.

By the turn of the century, with the canal no longer integral to Canada’s national defense, the lakes became attractive to tourists from local cities. Around mid-century, a man with the last name Challies purchased the better part of an acre of land along the shores of Indian Lake. A short ways away from the existing house he built a log cabin. Family lore has long insisted that the logs for this cabin were pillaged from Ontario’s stocks of telephone poles. Because of the long, beautiful vista looking west over the lake, he called it Sunset Lodge.

I spend my first summer at our cottage at Chaffeys Locks the summer before I am born. Because mom has lost two babies between my older brother and me, she lies on the sofa every afternoon and will not budge until she feels her baby move. The 1976 summer Olympics are on. Someone has brought a television to the cottage and somehow it picks up the CBC broadcast. She lies and watches the broadcast until I oblige and race around her stomach, doing twists and backflips and somersaults. Mom never has long to wait.

I spend every summer of my young life at the cottage. Sometimes we are there for only a week or two and other times we are there for weeks at a stretch. While my family moves with fair frequency and we live in house after house, the cottage remains a constant. Nothing ever changes there. The furniture inside is the furniture that has been there since the day I was born. The neighbors are the neighbors that have lived there for generations. It is always the same.

There is only one summer that I do not want to be there. I have fallen in love with a pretty brown-haired girl. We may not yet have formalized our relationship as boyfriend and girlfriend, but already I can’t imagine being away from her for two weeks. My parents, wanting to have Aileen and I keep a little bit of distance and knowing that we will not have too many more vacations together as a family, demand that I come with them. After two days at the cottage I take matters into my own hands. It is a move of desperation, I suppose. I go looking for things I’m allergic to—dust, pollen and whatever else I can find. I inhale whatever I can and rub it in my eyes. Soon I’m gasping for breath with tears pouring down my cheeks. I explain to my parents that my allergies are just too bad. They agree that I should catch a Greyhound bus back home and I do just that.

In 2005, with the cottage’s three owners (my father, his brother and his sister) scattering to the four winds and no longer able to visit often enough to justify the expenses of maintenance, they decide to sell it. I spend my last summer in Chaffeys Lock, enjoying the beautiful location with my wife and my children, the fifth generation of Challies’ to vacation there. And then I bid a fond farewell to that spot on earth I have come to love more than any other. I leave the property whispering a quiet prayer that when the new earth comes, maybe, just maybe, God would be so gracious as to grant me that same little strip of lakefront property on the shores of Indian Lake.

July 26, 2008

The Year of Living BiblicallyA.J. Jacobs, an editor at Esquire, must have a lot of time on his hands. Several years ago he decided to read Encyclopedia Brittanica from cover to cover, apparently in a quest to become the smartest person in the world (though a subsequent attempt to prove his knowledge on “Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?” showed that he had a long way to go (he missed the $32,000 question). He documented his year-long journey through the Encyclopedia in a bestselling book titled The Know-It-All. In his second book, The Year of Living Biblically, he dedicates a year to attempting to follow every rule and law in the Bible. Like its predecessor, this book has sold very well, quickly making its way onto the lists of bestsellers.

July 25, 2008

My children have been behaving a little bit strangely at bedtime in recent days. My son tends to be melancholy in the evenings at the best of times but recently has been getting worried as soon as we tuck him into bed. Two nights ago he was concerned that the Sith were going to attack him (how he even knows who the Sith are is beyond me) and last night he was worried that the Japanese were going to invade Canada (I guess he has been reading about the Second World War). I assured him that the Japanese were not going to invade our country but he replied, “Well, they snuck up on Hawaii without the Americans noticing!” This much is true. His little sister feeds off his worries and almost inevitably ends up creating her own.

It generally happens that, by the time we tuck the children into bed, Aileen and I are ready to be done with them for the day. It may sound harsh, but by the end of a long day, we are more than eager to spend an hour or two by ourselves in the living room before also heading for bed. The last thing we want is a parade of children up and down the stairs and a chorus of cries asking us to come upstairs to mediate one problem or another.

Last night, a good hour after I put my daughter to bed, and as I settled into the couch to continue reading through Iain Murray’s biography of Martyn Lloyd-Jones, I heard a cry of “Daddy!” I went to the bottom of the stairs and asked what she wanted. “Will you come and cuddle me?” she called out. I thought about it for a moment and eventually told her that she should already be asleep and that I was not going to come up and cuddle her. Thankfully she soon drifted off and slept well.

As I thought about it a little bit more I realized that I did not want to cuddle her, at least in part, because I had to. I was looking at it as a “got to” situation: “I’ve got to cuddle her.” And I rebelled. It didn’t take me long to regret my decision. She is going to be with us for so few years and for many of those she will no doubt have no desire to cuddle me. And is it so bad for a five-year old to want a cuddle (or another cuddle) before bed? The more I thought about it, the more this seemed like a “get to” situation: “I get to cuddle her.”

It’s funny the difference made by that one little letter. Throughout my life I’ve struggled with the got to’s and the get to’s. Church can seem like a “got to” obligation, but it is so much sweeter when I face it as if it is a “get to” privilege. My morning devotions can often feel like a “got to” but I enjoy them so much more when I treat them like a “get to.” Rather than having to face the Bible and prayer in the morning, I see them as an enjoyable privilege. It often makes all the difference in a mind as feeble and sinful as mine.

When Abby stumbled down the stairs this morning, squinting through barely-awake eyes, her hair all askew, I grabbed her up in a big hug and settled onto the couch with her for a few minutes of cuddling. It is something I get to do, at least for a few more years. It was my privilege and my pleasure.

July 25, 2008
Friday July 25, 2008 Todd Bentley
An article at Baptist Press has some good background information about “revivalist” Todd Bentley.
Breaking Porn Addiction
David Powlison, writing at the CCEF site, has a very good article about overcoming addiction to pornography.
Media Donations
Here’s something to keep in mind while watching media coverage of politics.
What Did Calvary Look Like?
Justin Taylor interviews Leen Ritmeyer who was consulted during the creation of the ESV Study Bible. He is considered “the world’s leading authority on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount.”
Al Gore’s Doomsday Clock
A writer for WSJ says, “A more interesting question is why Mr. Gore remains believable. Perhaps people think that facts ought not to count against a man whose task is to raise our sights, or play Cassandra to unbelieving mortals.”
Teen Pregnancy
Dr. Mohler writes about the glamorizing of teen pregnancy.
July 24, 2008

Today we come to the second week of reading through The Religious Affections. You can click here to read more about this effort.

This weeks’ reading really marked my first significant attempt at plowing through a substantial part of Edwards’ work. While I began with some trepidation, I have to say that it wasn’t as bad as I may have feared. Sure the language was a bit obscure and sure Edwards often uses several sentences when he could probably get away with just one, but overall I didn’t find that it was too difficult. Tough, yes; impossible, no.

Summary

Our assigned reading for this week was nothing less than the entirety of Part 1. While the reading was long, I think it made sense to read it as a unit rather than dividing it into two smaller portions. This makes sense logically as well as in terms of timing since it will take a very long time to read this book if we do only 15 pages at a time. In this first part, Edwards writes about the nature of the Affections and their importance in religion.

Having said that, a reader who is participating in this reading challenge sent along this comic. I definitely feel some of this:


Edwards first seeks to define true religion, saying, “true religion, in great part, consists in holy affections.” He defines the affections in this way: “The affections are no other than the more vigorous and sensible exercises of the inclination and will of the soul.” He bases this definition on the understand that the human soul has two faculties, one of which he terms understanding. This is the faculty that allows the human soul to discern, view and judge. The second faculty he terms inclination or will or heart. It is this one that allows the soul not to just perceive and view things, but to incline or disincline it. Holy affections are those that are distinguished by “vigorous exercise of the inclination and will towards divine objects.”

The bulk of the chapter is given to ten biblical proofs that true religion lies much in the affections. It concludes with three inferences or applications from this doctrine.

Discussion

This was a long and dense chapter but one of uneven importance, meaning that there were some portions that were more important than others. I’m grateful for this since otherwise I don’t know that I could have absorbed very much! I am going to provide thoughts on just a few areas that jumped out at me.

After providing his ten biblical proofs that true religion requires true affection, Edwards summarizes by saying, “It is evident that religion consists so much in affection, as that without holy affection there is no true religion; and no light in the understanding is good which does not produce holy affection in the heart: no habit or principle in the heart is good which has no such exercise; and no external fruit is good which does not proceed from such exercises.” All of this to say that an affectionless Christian is no Christian at all. While the presence of affection does not necessarily prove a person to be a Christian, the complete absence proves that he cannot be one. Just last night my son asked how he can know that he is a Christian and here Edwards gives us a mark to look for. Is your heart stirred by these affections? If it is, that may point you to the reality that you are saved; if it is not, it will point you to the sad reality that you are unsaved. Affections are too close to the heart of the faith to be completely absent. At one point Edwards says, “I am bold to assert that there never was any considerable change wrought in the mind or conversation of any person, by anything of a religious nature that ever he read, heard or saw, that had not his affections moved.”

Edwards’ second inference about the affections is a logical one. If true religion lies in the affections, we must pursue those things that tend to move our affections. Here he points to prayer, preaching and praise. True Christians will necessarily wish to pursue such means of grace to stir our hearts and to grow in our affections. The application is obvious: do you find that your affections are tied to such means of grace? Is listening to a sermon a delight or a chore? Is prayer a duty or a delight?

The chapter’s final exhortation is one worth pondering. “So has God disposed things, in the affair of our redemption, and in his glorious dispensations, revealed to us in the gospel, as though everything were purposely contrived in such a manner as to have the greatest possible tendency to reach our hearts in the most tender part, and move our affections most sensibly and strongly. How great cause have we therefore to be humbled to dust that we are no more affected!” And really, what excuse do we have for being so little affected by the great things revealed to us? What a hard-hearted people we are…

Next Time

Our reading for next week will take us from the beginning of Part 2 up to the end of the seventh (VII) point. So stop when you hit point VIII and see “Nothing can certainly be determined concerning the nature of the affections by this, that comforts and joys seem to follow awakenings and convictions of conscience, in a certain order.” In my book (the Banner of Truth edition) this will take us from page 54 until page 78.

Your Turn

I am eager to know what you gained from this part of the book. Feel free to post comments below or to write about this on your own blog (and then post a comment linking us to your thoughts). Do not feel that you can only say anything if you are going to say something that will wow us all. Just add a comment with some of the things you gained from the this week’s reading.

July 24, 2008
Thursday July 24, 2008 T4G Slideshow
Together for the Gospel has released a great slideshow from the T4G 08 Conference. It is set to “How Sweet and Awful Is the Place.”
The Spirit of Revival
At the Ligonier blog we’re serializing a great bit of writing from R.C. Sproul. He writes about revival and how we can distinguish between true and false revival. It is a great read when so much talk about supposed revival is in the news.
Faith-Based Currency
A good article by Ron Paul addresses fiat currency. “Some are blaming the recent shakeup in the markets to “whining” or financial fear-mongering, which misses the whole point. History has shown that fiat money, or “faith-based currency” always fails, because when governments claim this power, they always behave irresponsibly.”
Rick Warren’s Presidential Forum
Rick Warren is defending his decision to hold a Presidential forum at his church despite the fact that it is co-sponsored by “the liberal social justice group Faith in Public Life, whose board president is Meg Riley, a Unitarian Universalist minister who previously ran the denomination’s homosexual advocacy office.”
Watching Joel Osteen
Sean Michael Lucas gives some good reflections on what makes Joel Osteen so popular.
July 23, 2008

Kirk Cameron totally stood me up. “Come to a screening of my new movie,” he says. “I’ll be there and it would be fun to meet up.” So off I went yesterday, along with Aileen and our friends Julian and Stacey (yes, I think all of my friends have their own blogs), to attend a pre-screening of Fireproof in Buffalo, New York. But conspicuously absent was Kirk. He was a no-show. It hurt. (Though shortly after the movie ended, while I was drowning my sorrows in Dairy Queen, he called to apologize and say that his flight from L.A. had arrived late. I guess that’s a pretty good excuse.)

Here is a photo I snapped of Kirk and me outside the theater (Note: in this photo the role of Kirk is being played by Julian):

fireproof.jpg

On to the film.

Fireproof is a product of the team who brought us Facing the Giants, a film produced with a budget of merely $100,000 that went on to gross $15,000,000. In this new film Kirk Cameron plays Caleb Holt, a fire chief in Albany, Georgia. While he is loved by the men who work for him and regarded as a hero in his town, Caleb struggles in his relationship with his wife, Catherine. After seven years of marriage it seems that the relationship is growing cold. Caleb finds solace in looking at pornography on the Internet while Catherine finds herself in a growing relationship with a colleague. As the couple begins to steel themselves for a divorce, and as they begin the process of ending their marriage, Caleb’s father presents him with a book and challenges him to begin a 40-day experiment he calls “The Love Dare.” Caleb decides to give it a shot, though he does so more to respect his father than to salvage his failing marriage. Struggling to show love for his wife even as she continually rejects him, Caleb calls his father and asks, “How am I supposed to show love to someone who constantly rejects me?” This gives his father an opportunity to share the gospel with him and, armed with the reality of a new love, Caleb sets out to win back his wife’s heart.

I can be excused, I think, for entering the theater somewhat apprehensively. After all, Christians do not have the greatest track record when it comes to combining great spiritual truths with sound art. But in the case of Fireproof I was pleasantly surprised. The film, though produced with a limited budget compared to most of what we see on the big screen, is very well put together. There are really no occasions where I feel a bigger budget might have improved the film, and this despite a couple of extended action sequences where I would almost expect to see quality compromised by budget restrictions. This is clearly not the case.

This is not to say the movie is without blemish. There are a few occasions when the dialog becomes just a bit stiff or stilted and this is especially true in the film’s opening moments. There are a couple of times when I feel that portions of the script could have done with just a little bit more tweaking or when a scene could have benefited from just one more take. Also, I feel that a handful of the minor characters are too weak, either through lack of development or through sub-par acting. But these are really the only downsides worth mentioning. (Is it worth mentioning that everyone in the town has a good Georgia accent except for Caleb? How is it that his father and mother both have that southern drawl and he doesn’t?)

Kirk Cameron is very solid in the lead role and was a great choice for it. He is strong throughout and at key moments, when given the chance to shine, is outstanding. Erin Bethea, who plays opposite Cameron as Catherine Holt is also very good, and this despite Fireproof being her first major movie role (and only her second role overall). Caleb’s father is excellent as a wise, loving, pastoral father. The prominent characters develop well and I found myself genuinely drawn into the story. While the movie deals with difficult and serious themes, it does not take itself so seriously that it cannot pause for a few laughs now and again.

One thing I like to evaluate in Christian movies is whether the film inserts faith themes subtly or blatantly. In the case of Fireproof the person who watches this film will walk away with absolutely no doubt that it is a Christian movie. Faith figures prominently and the gospel is clearly presented. Sinful actions and decisions are shown to have negative consequences and are eventually rebuked. While “The Love Dare” is used to draw Caleb back to his wife, it is clear that this is merely an instrument used by God to do His work. This movie is Christian by any measure. It sweeps to an ending that is powerful and emotional, stirring to tears at least several of the people in the theater with us.

I enjoyed Fireproof and am excited to know that, come September 26, a film with such a good message will be debuting on hundreds or thousands of screens across America. It is a refreshing film with a refreshing message that speaks boldly to a culture infatuated with immorality and convinced that divorce is freedom. I am grateful for this film and pray for its success.

Here is the film’s trailer:

July 23, 2008
Wednesday July 23, 2008 The Father of the Fatherless
The Desiring God blog features a guest post by Jason Kovacs who writes about glorifying the Father of the fatherless.
What God Should Have Said?
byFaith Magazine, the web magazine of the PCA, has a good review of The Shack. “Writing an unfavorable review of The Shack, then, is like criticizing your Aunt Martha’s macaroni casserole. Sure, it’s fattening, but everyone else in the family loves it, so why not just shut up and eat your Waldorf salad? Any critic risks stumbling directly into the book’s own well-worn stereotype: a strident religious nitpick.”
The Audacity of Vanity
“Barack Obama wants to speak at the Brandenburg Gate. He figures it would be a nice backdrop. The supporting cast — a cheering audience and a few fainting frauleins — would be a picturesque way to bolster his foreign policy credentials. What Obama does not seem to understand is that the Brandenburg Gate is something you earn.”
Gen Xers Unhappy at Work
Sean Michael Lucas offers ten reasons that Gen Xers are unhappy at work.