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January 2009

January 31, 2009

Aileen is away for the day and I’m at home with some sick children. So we’re sprawled out on the couch and instead of doing my usual reading, I’m kicking back with an old favorite, With the Old Breed by Eugene Sledge. Sledge’s memoir is probably the best Second World War memoir I’ve ever read (and I’ve read a few). I first encountered it studying military history in university and have read it a few times since then. Once relatively unknown, Sledge’s name recently came up in Ken Burns’ excellent documentary about World War II and rumor has it that Sledge will also be a character in the sequel to the Band of Brother series. What I love about Sledge’s book is that it gives such a realistic and unglamorized perspective on the war in the Pacific. Sledge was not a hero (at least, not any more than any of the men who fought in the War) and came home with no medals for valor. Were it not for this memoir, it’s unlikely that anyone would remember his name. Yet because of it, his name is almost synonymous with the battle for the little island of Peleliu. His account is fascinating, not just for the history of the battles but for the account of what it is like to be a soldier under fire.

Here are just a couple of excerpts from his book to give you a bit of its flavor.

*****

We waited a seeming eternity for the signal to start toward the beach. The suspense was almost more than I could bear. Waiting is a major part of war, but I never experienced any more supremely agonizing suspense than the excruciating torture of those moments before we received the signal to begin the assault on Peleliu. I broke out in a cold sweat as the tension mounted with the intensity of the bombardment. My stomach was tied in knots. I had a lump in my throat and swallowed only with great difficulty. My knees nearly buckled, so I clung weakly to the side of the tractor. I felt nauseated and feared that my bladder would surely empty itself and reveal me to be the coward I was. But the men around me looked just about the way I felt. Finally, with a sense of fatalistic relief mixed with a flash of anger at the navy officer who was our wave commander, I saw him wave his flag toward the beach. Our driver revved the engine. The treads churned up the water, and we started in—the second wave ashore.

We moved ahead, watching the frightful spectacle. Huge geysers of water rose around the amtracs ahead of us as they approached the reef. The beach was now marked along its length by a continuous sheet of flame backed by a thick wall of smoke. It seemed as though a huge volcano had erupted from the sea, and rather than heading for an island, we were being drawn into the vortex of a flaming abyss. For many it was to be oblivion.

The lieutenant braced himself and pulled out a half-pint whiskey bottle.

“This is it, boys,” he yelled.

Just like they do it in the movies! It seemed unreal.

*****

Later, reflecting on the campaign, Sledge writes this:

None of us would ever be the same after what we had endured. To some degree that is true, of course, of all human experience. But something in me died at Peleliu. Perhaps it was a childish innocence that accepted as faith the claim that man is basically good. Possibly I lost faith that politicians in high places who do not have to endure war’s savagery will ever stop blundering and sending others to endure it.

But I also learned important things on Peleliu. A man’s ability to depend on his comrades and immediate leadership is absolutely necessary. I’m convinced that our discipline, esprit de corps, and tough training were the ingredients that equipped me to survive the ordeal physically and mentally—given a lot of good luck, of course. I learned realism, too. To defeat an enemy as tough and dedicated as the Japanese, we had to be just as tough. We had to be just as dedicated to America as they were to their emperor. I think this was the essence of Marine Corps doctrine in World War II, and that history vindicates this doctrine.

January 30, 2009

Some light-hearted fare for a Friday…

Among friends, family and perhaps even readers of this site, I have achieved the reputation of being something of an Apple-hater; that is, a hater of all things Mac. MacBooks, iMacs, Mac Pro’s—I have often spoken out against all of them. They are overpriced, underpowered, toys for yuppies or for people with thick-rimmed glasses and soul patches—people who just take themselves far too seriously. They’re computers for followers, not leaders.

And then I bought one.

I bought one of those nifty new MacBooks I had been hearing so much about. One of those unibody ones, carved from a block of aluminum. It was love at first sight. With my old Acer laptop on the fritz, I had to find a replacement of some kind before my spring travel schedule began. And as I looked at the vast number of laptops available today, something drew me to the Mac. I guess it’s probably that I’ve recently taken a “quality over quantity” approach to life (and technology in particular) and realized that this was not just a nice-looking little machine, but a very high quality one. And so I walked out of Best Buy with it tucked under my arm.

I guess my downfall began with my first iPod, a little Nano that I bought a couple of years earlier. It was a nice little piece of hardware, though one that was mostly without frills. This was, quite literally, my first Apple experience. I couldn’t help but notice how much care Apple took even in the packaging. It showed me that Apple wants to give its customers more than a product; they want to give them an experience. And the experience begins with the unboxing of the hardware. There is something kind of dumb about this. Who wants to pay extra for packaging that will soon be thrown out? Yet there is also something appealing about it.

A few months ago Aileen somehow got her hands on a very cheap iPod Touch and gave it to me for our anniversary. It is a gorgeous little gadget that does a lot of things very well. It is simple, elegant and very effective at what it does. This iPod was the next stage in my downfall.

Well, once I got the laptop, I found that I was committed. My desktop computer, the one that I rely on to make my living at web design, was failing fast. Even worse, the installation of Windows Vista was getting slower and slower. And so I jumped in with both feet, so to speak, and bought an iMac. At this point I think there’s no turning back. At this point, I don’t think I’ll want to.

What I’ve come to realize is that I don’t dislike Apple computers. No, I just dislike the people who use them! I’ll grant that there are some exceptions, some people who are humble Mac users. But far too often I’ve come across these Mac apologists, the kind who feel the need to disparage all things Microsoft and to boast in their own superiority. They are the ones who make you feel like you’re missing out, like you’d be so much better and more popular if you’d just become part of the in-crowd. I’ve never wanted to be part of that crowd. All along I’ve allowed the people to influence my perception of the product. Shame on me.

So I offer this brief article as my ipology to all of those humbly orthodox Mac users whom I’ve ever mocked or belittled or persecuted because of their choice in computers (you know who you are!). I admit it now: Apple really does do things well. I guess you were right all along. I was wrong. And I ipologize.

January 30, 2009
40 Years of MacArthur
Congratulations to Grace Community Church and John MacArthur who together are celebrating MacArthur’s 40th anniversary of ministry at Grace. They have a weekend of special events ahead of them.
Dawn Treader Docks at Fox
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader will go forward, having been picked up by Fox. They are targeting a holiday 2010 release.
Goodbye New Attitude, Hello NEXT
The New Attitude Conference has been renamed to NEXT. They have a great event planned for this May.
Win Bible Software
This site offers details of a giveaway of several Bible software packages.
With Al Due Respect, We’re Doomed
This article offers an interesting look at the reverence for Al Gore, especially among members of the government.
Liberals in Love
I enjoyed reading this interview with Bernard Goldberg, author of A Slobbering Love Affair: The True (And Pathetic) Story of the Torrid Romance Between Barack Obama and the Mainstream Media. “This is not the same old, same old. They jumped the shark this time. They really took sides and they didn’t care who knew it. That’s different from anything that happened in the past.”
Undiscovered Sampler
Some free music (of varying quality) for you to download.
Ted Haggard’s Facebook
This is an interesting article from someone who knew Ted Haggard well. “I was hoping — against hope — that The Trials of Ted Haggard would document his walking into the light. It doesn’t. It captures his attempt to reenter the limelight.”
Mohler on Those Who Have Had an Abortion
Paul excerpts some powerful words from Dr. Mohler as he speaks to those who have had an abortion.
Mohler on Abortion Q&A
Here is a great Q&A session with Dr. Mohler as he answers questions about abortion (What about women who are raped? What about pregnancies where the mother’s life is at risk? Etc…).
January 29, 2009

Today brings us to our final reading in C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity. We’ve gone through it quite quickly but this has worked well, I think, as the book lends itself to a quick reading. This week we come to the final pages—chapters seven through eleven of Book 4. There was not a whole lot of discussion last week, but the consensus seemed to be that this is not the strongest section in the book. Lewis has lost a little bit of steam. Having said that, I think this week’s reading improves upon the last one.

Discussion

Then again, though I think that this week’s reading was better than last week’s, it was not without it’s troubling portions.

In these five chapters, Lewis focuses on sanctification, on putting aside the old man and on becoming sons of God. I found a lot of great quotes that were worthy of some highlighting. Because there were so many, I think I’ll focus on simply sharing a few of them today. Here are some favorites:

“We begin to notice, besides our particular sinful acts, our sinfulness; begin to be alarmed not only about what we do, but about what we are.”

“Surely what a man does when he is taken off his guard is the best evidence for what sort of a man he is? Surely what pops out before the man has time to put on a disguise is the truth? If there are rats in a cellar you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly. But the suddenness does not create the rats; it only prevents them from hiding.”

“[Putting on Christ] is not a sort of special exercise for the top class. It is the whole of Christianity. Christianity offers nothing else at all.”

“Christ says ‘Give me all. I don’t want to much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want You. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it.’”

“As long as Dick does not turn to God, he thinks his niceness is his own, and just as long as he thinks that, it is not his own. It is when Dick realises that his niceness is not his own but a gift from God, and when he offers it back to God—it is just then that it begins to be really his own.”

“If you are a nice person—if virtue comes easily to you—beware!”

“We must not suppose that even if we succeeded in making everyone nice we should have saved their souls. A world of nice people, content in their own niceness, looking no further, turned away from God, would be just as desperately in need of salvation as a miserable world—and might even be more difficult to save.”

But there were some areas of the chapter that were not so good. for example, in the final pages he writes about evolution and seems to have drunk deeply of that explanation to man’s origins. I find it hard to believe that a man of his insight could have believed in evolution without seeing that it is almost a religion unto itself. And yet he seems to have believed in it wholeheartedly. It certainly puts a damper on the book to have all of that in the final chapter.

There is more. I realize that this statement could be taken two ways, but from what I know of Lewis, he may mean exactly what it seems he means here: “There are people in other religions who are being led by God’s secret influence to concentrate on those parts of their religion which are in agreement with Christianity, and who thus belong to Christ without knowing it.” Lewis seems to have believed that other religions could lead people to enough of God’s truth that they could be saved. He does not articulate much further in Mere Christianity but apparently does so elsewhere. Obviously we need to set aside such unbiblical talk, realizing that it simply cannot be supported by Scripture.

So I guess in this last chapter we see again Lewis at his best and his worst. For every five or ten great insights (and many of them truly are great) there is one or two strange and unbiblical beliefs. And it’s too bad, really. I can see why Mere Christianity is regarded as a classic but it seems to me that this must depend largely on Books 2 and 3. It is here that we see Lewis at his finest and it is here that he is at times unparalleled. While there are moments of brilliance in the rest of the book, there are also quite a few moments I think we could do without.

Having said all of that, I am glad that we took the time to read this book and to read it together. It has fed both my mind and my soul.

Your Turn

The purpose of this program is to read these classics together. So if there is something you’d like to share about what you read, please feel free to do so. You can leave a comment or a link to your blog and we’ll make this a collaborative effort.

Next Up…

I guess we will wait just a couple of weeks and then start to think about the next classic we will read together. Feel free to share your suggestions in the comments.

January 29, 2009
That’s My King!
Yes, you’ve probably heard/seen this before. But it’s worth listening to again. Don’t watch the slides—just listen to the words.
What Are They Buying?
A wise article from Thomas Sowell looks at the bailout package. He says ” Using long, drawn-out processes to put money into circulation to meet an emergency is like mailing a letter to the fire department to tell them that your house is on fire. ”
Deidox
Deidox seeks to bring compelling stories to life through short documentary films. “Our hope is that these short films will inspire you to realize anew how big and active God is, how He is reaching and changing lives in all countries and using His people to accomplish His work.”
Driscoll on Nightline
Nightline recently did a feature on Mark Driscoll. You can watch it here.
Pragmatism over Principle
Chuck Colson looks with some alarm at a number of Obama’s early decisions and shows how he is already choosing pragmatism over principle.
Deal of the Day: Practical Works, Vol 1
Reformation Heritage Books has greatly reduced the price on Richard Baxter’s Practical Works, Vol 1: The Christian Directory.
January 28, 2009

It seems that life is filled, at almost every turn, with trials and difficulties. Some of these times of trail are light while others are terrible and weighty. Strangely, some of these trials are caused by times of great joy while others are caused by great pain. The birth of a child can prove to be almost as great a trial, despite being brought about by such joy, as the loss of a job or another occasion of pain. It is during times like this that I am particularly grateful to be a part of the church. In these times we see and feel God’s wisdom in bringing His people into this type of community.

I am one of those people that loves to help (most of the time, anyways). While I am a shamefully selfish person in many ways, I do derive joy from helping others, even if that help is expressed in something as simple as lending my back to help a family move, lending my van for hauling a crowd of people from place to place, or lending my time to help out at some occasion or another. Whether I always do this from a pure heart, deriving my joy from obedience to God in helping these people, is debatable. It is a strange and unique fact of the Christian faith that, as far as God is concerned, motives matter more than actions. God values a pure heart and one that seeks His honor above all. Far too often I know that I do things from the desire to be seen, known and praised. It’s pathetic really. Shameful. Yet it is all too human.

But while I love to help, sometimes from pure motives and sometimes from impure, I am not the type who likes to be helped. I assume that this is primarily an outworking of pride in my life. I am convinced that it is also a product of my upbringing. Despite not having any recent Dutch heritage, I was, in large part, raised among second generation Dutch-Canadians. I went to Dutch schools and churches and no doubt absorbed much of their culture and many of their values. The Dutch are, in so many ways, a noble group and, when saved, make some of the strongest, most committed Christians I’ve known. There are few groups I have seen that do a better job of taking care of and ministering to their own. While these Dutch Christians value hard work, they also take very good care of those who are unable to work because of age, infirmity or circumstance. These Dutch churches put to shame many congregations I have come across since where those who fall upon hard times are considered burdensome and are shunned rather than honored, left to their own rather than ministered to.

Yet while the Dutch people I knew took very good care of those who were unable to care for themselves, they still placed great value on self-sufficiency. Charity was something to be extended only to those who had a genuine need for it. While it was not generally considered shameful to need or accept charity, it was considered most shameful to request it when it was not absolutely necessary. Embedded deep in the Dutch culture is the value of a person pulling himself up by his own bootstraps, being strong, and showing no weakness. Those who were considered weak, especially when young, were often trampled underfoot. The Dutch schools I knew were full of weak, frightened people who feigned strength simply to survive. The churches were probably not much different.

It is a strange dichotomy, I suppose, but this desire to be self-sufficient was as much part of the culture as was the desire to help those who had genuine needs. Charity was valued as highly as self-sufficiency. This was the culture I absorbed as a child and teenager. It was the culture that, in some ways, I carry with me today. I am usually glad to extend charity, but am rarely as eager to express need or to accept help from others. I hate to feel weak.

It is only over the past few years that I have come to see the value of expressing weakness when I am weak. I have seen the value in asking people to come in to my life and to minister to me when I have needs. But then in my honest moments I see that I still hide in my pride too much of the time, not wishing to be a burden on others even in my weakness.

I have come up with a list of three reasons that Christians need to be honest about expressing weakness and need.

First, expressing weakness is an expression of humility. Conversely, it is only pride that keeps me from making my needs known and asking others to minister to me. When I am filled with pride, a strong and ever-present foe, I would rather suffer silently than humble myself and allow others to extend help to me. Far too often I have feigned strength when I am filled only with weakness. Far too often I have allowed pride to overwhelm humility and have suffered in my sinful silence.

Second, expressing weakness allows others to plead for me before God. There are times when my prayers are weak and filled with doubt. There are times when I don’t even know what to pray or how to pray for myself. In these times it is comforting to know that others are praying for me and holding me up before the throne of grace. What a blessing it is to be part of a body where we can express the needs of others and bring these before God.

Finally, when I refuse to express my weakness I refuse to give other people the opportunity to minister to me. I withhold a blessing from them. It is a strange fact that, while I am always eager and willing to help those who reach out to me, I am far less eager to reach out to others. I cannot count the number of times that I have been blessed by having the opportunity to help others. While I attempt to see extending help and charity as a selfless act, an act primarily for my own benefit, it is sometimes difficult not to! I have had my faith challenged and strengthened and have been greatly blessed in helping others. When I have heard expressions of gratitude by those I’ve been able to help I have often had to say, with honesty and humility I think, that it was surely a greater blessing to be able to help than it was to receive assistance. Why is it, then, that I am so hesitant to allow others the opportunity to be blessed by helping me? It seems to me that I must be as sinful in refusing to help those in need as I am in refusing to allow them to bless and minister to me when I have need.

We are in the midst of difficult economic times. While my country of Canada has been insulated against the downturn (at least when compared to our neighbors to the south), as 2009 dawns we are beginning to see greater evidence that we will not emerge from these times unscathed. In the past few weeks we’ve begun to see friends and neighbors lose their jobs and are beginning to hear of needs within our community. The stories from Canada are beginning to sound an awful lot like the stories I’ve heard from the United States and elsewhere.

None of us know how long these times will last and none of us know just how bad things will get. There are those who would argue that the worst is behind us; others argue that the pain has only just begun. I think we can be certain that before this is over churches will see an large numbers of brothers and sisters in Christ face financial crisis. And this will be a prime opportunity for the church to be the church. It will be a time for those people who are affected by the times to express need; it will be a time for those Christians who have weathered the storm to be a blessing to others. This is not a time or occasion for pride and bravado. It is not a time to withhold a blessing from another Christian by refusing to express need, to express weakness. As these times unfold, let’s let the church be the church, functioning just as God intends it.

January 28, 2009
Sovereign Grace Sale
As they did last year, Sovereign Grace is having a sale in February. Books, CDs and even shipping will be heavily discounted.
Rites of Passage
The Point has a good article on pop culture and the hyper-sexualization of young girls and new rites of passage.
ECPA Book Award Nominees
“The Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA) announces the finalists for the 2009 Christian Book Awards. Presented annually to the finest in Christian publishing since 1978, the Christian Book Awards honor titles in six categories: Bibles, Bible Reference & Study, Christian Life, Fiction, Children & Youth, and Inspiration & Gift. ”
Rick Warren Goes Quarterly
“He has written one of the best-selling books in history. But can pastor Rick Warren sell a magazine? The test starts this week, with the debut of Purpose Driven Connection, a quarterly publication from Reader’s Digest Association to be sold as part of a bundle of multimedia products its backers hope will connect Christians to each other and God. A subscription includes access to a Facebook-like Christian social-media Web site and DVD guides for leading a prayer group.”
The Good Book Company Goes American
“We are pleased to announce the launch of a new, Bible-centered, Christian resource provider in North America. From the 2nd February 2009, The Good Book Company will make available its full range of resources to churches and individuals in North America from its new US-based website.”
Children are not an Economic Burden
Matt Perman interacts with Nancy Pelosi’s comments indicating that she feels children are a burden on the economy.
What the Web Knows About You
“She had me at hello … or just about. Our conversation had barely started when privacy activist Betty Ostergren interrupted me to say that she had found my full name, address, Social Security number and a digital image of my signature on the Web….”
January 27, 2009

Fearless PilgrimFaith Cook is beginning to make her mark as a Christian biographer. While she has compiled short biographies of hymn writers and other noteworthy believers, more notably she has completed several lengthy biographies of such subjects as Selina, Countess of Huntingdon; Lady Jane Grey; and William Grimshaw. And now, in her latest book, Fearless Pilgrim, she chronicles the life of John Bunyan.