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Ramblings

October 05, 2006

Every now and then I like to collect a few miscellaneous thoughts and compile them into a post, rather than trying to write an article about each of them. Today is one of those times, so bear with me as I ramble for a few moments.

Roaring?

Yesterday Mark Driscoll posted an email exchange that involved himself and John Piper. At one point Driscoll wrote “As a result of your correction of me there is a bit of a roaring debate as to our relationship in some circles that we both respect as if folks needed to pick your team or mine. I in no way expect you to defend me, but I also do not want the rumor to keep growing that we are somehow at odds. I want the men who are supportive of me to be supportive of you also and in my heart would be very grieved if there was an appearance that somehow we were at odds because it is untrue.” This caused Piper to respond “Good grief. I am glad I don’t read the web very much. I would sin with anger too much. ‘Roaring debate’ !— these people have too much time on their hands.” I went searching for this roaring debate and was really unable to find it. I found a few isolated comments from people wondering about the propriety of Piper publicly (though lovingly) chastising Driscoll without first doing so privately, but certainly nothing that could rightly be termed a “roaring debate.”

Now, I don’t mean to criticize Driscoll here (goodness knows the man takes a lot of criticism already!) but, presuming this roaring debate was actually little more than a few comments on my site and perhaps a few others, I think it points to a concern I have long had with blogs. When reading blogs, it is easy to develop tunnel vision and to assume that something has wider exposure than is actually the case. For example, it is not unusual for me to speak to people who mention an article I wrote about and furor that developed in the comments section afterwards. I can often go back and show the person that, in reality, there were only two or three negative comments and even then they were likely made by only one or two people. Yet these are the comments that are remembered. I saw this most clearly after I posted a certain book review several months ago. Within a short period of time there must have been 150 comments, only a very few of which could be considered in poor taste. Yet people remember the article and the subsequent discussion only in the terms of those commenters.

Similarly, a person can read about a particular subject on two or three blogs and assume that the whole world is discussing that topic. People like to speak of “blog storms,” but to have more than a handful of blogs discussing a single topic at the same time is really quite rare. I think of the recent situation with Ligonier Ministries. Many people questioned why the statements released by Ligonier announcing the withdrawal of the lawsuit were posted only within the blogosphere. The answer, it seems to me, is quite obvious: only bloggers and people who read blogs knew about the lawsuits. There was no need for a wider response because the situation was almost entirely unknown outside the blogosphere.

I say all of this to caution you (and to caution me). Let’s be certain that we keep a rational perspective when we think about blog storms, roaring debates, and the like. Despite all the press given to them, most blogs still have very narrow exposure and very little credibility.

An Interesting Lawsuit

You may remember Phillip Way as a recent King for a Week award recipient. I recently became aware that he is involved in what promises to be an interesting lawsuit. Way is a bi-vocational pastor who not only leads a church, but also works another full time job. He was, until recently, employed by Randall’s Food Markets Inc. According to Texas Lawyer, “filed a religious discrimination suit against the grocery chain for allegedly denying him promotions and terminating him because he could not work on Sundays.”

Way alleges in his petition that Randall’s hired him as a produce clerk at one of its Austin stores in May 2004 with the agreement that he would not be available to work on Sundays because of his religious beliefs.

“Honoring the Sabbath and not working at secular employment on Sundays is part of [Way’s] religious beliefs because he is a Reformed Baptist,” says Fiddler, Way’s lead counsel.

Fiddler says it’s part of Reformed Baptists’ church concession, or statement of beliefs, not to work on Sundays.

Way, who worked as an assistant produce manager, alleges in his petition that the management at three different Randall’s stores told him that he would never be promoted to produce department manager because he was not available to work on Sundays. As alleged in the petition, one store director demoted Way and reduced his hours because he could not work on Sundays and another supervisor gave him a poor performance evaluation to prevent him from getting a raise to “teach Way a lesson.”

Way further alleges that although he requested a transfer to another store when the store where he worked was closing in November 2005, Randall’s did not give him a job.

The defendants failed to reasonably accommodate Way’s religious practices and beliefs and his religious practices and beliefs were a motivating factor in the discriminatory treatment, according to the petition.

Way, who demanded a jury trial, is seeking unspecified damages for past and future lost wages and benefits, mental anguish and emotional distress. Way also seeks punitive damages, alleging that the defendants acted with malice or reckless indifference to his federally protected rights.

You can find the actual lawsuit here.

A Family Moment

In recent weeks my family has been memorizing Romans 12. The children are learning it as part of their Wednesday evening classes at the church and Aileen and I are learning it by default as we go over it with the children. A couple of weeks ago they memorized verse 12 which says, “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”

Yesterday was picture day at my daughter’s school. She wanted to look her prettiest, so chose her favorite dress and blouse. She also wanted her hair to be curled, so Aileen took her up to the bathroom and began to curl her hair. As always, my daughter, whose mouth never stops moving, was chatting throughout. Their conversation went something like this:

“Are we done yet?”

“No, not yet.”

“Will we be done soon?”

“It will be a few more minutes.”

“Mommy, I’m being patient in tribulation, right?”

I’m not exactly sure that this was the kind of tribulation Paul was writing about, but I guess it is as big a tribulation as a three year old can imagine. At least it shows that she understands what the verse is about!

August 03, 2006

I had a friend call me up this morning and ask if I’d like to get together for some breakfast. I’m always up for both eating and talking (and especially for both of them together), so I took him up on the offer. By the time we were done, the morning was well underway and my writing time had all but disappeared. But it was worth it. The book review I was going to post today will be held over until tomorrow or Monday. For today, I’ll ramble and get a few things off my chest.

Weather - It has been a long, hot week. On Tuesday the weather took a strange and nearly unprecedented turn with the heat index climbing up to 47 degrees Celsius. That, for my metrically-challenged American friends, translates to 117 Fahrenheit. My wife and I eventually surrendered to the weather. I packed up my computers and deserted my upstairs office, opting instead to setup in the kitchen immediately adjacent to the air conditioner. We dragged mattresses to the basement and all slept down there for the past three nights. It worked out quite well and no doubt saved us from several excruciatingly uncomfortable nights. I have been living in Toronto for all my life and, while I can remember some hot days, I don’t know that it has ever been this hot before. So much for “the great white north.” White hot north is more like it! Thankfully we had a huge thunderstorm come through last night, bringing with it rain and much cooler, less humid temperatures. And there was great rejoicing.

Co.mments - If you are like me, you enjoy posting comments on other people’s blogs, but soon forget where you posted. A new service, Co.mments, provides a solution. The site will track comments on any blog article. You can then use RSS or a page on their web site to keep tabs on the ongoing conversations. I’ve used it to great effect over the past few days. In fact, I’m even thinking of adding a button on my blog so people can automatically add conversations, though I will wait first to see how this service catches on. Either way, it is a great use of RSS and is a valuable little service.

Email - I got an email yesterday and thought I’d ask you if you can figure out what it describes. I’ll give two options and you can decide, based on this excerpt, what the person writing me was describing. Here’s the quote: “they will target the weakest, will keep her in the corner until she dies, then will pick the next weakest and do the same…” Was the person describing a) the behavior of a kind of fish I am hoping to add to my aquarium or b) his middle school aged daughters? It could go either way, couldn’t it?

Rap - I mentioned last week that I picked up Voice’s rap album (click here if you want to know what I said about it). I generally listen to pop or rock music and am comfortable driving around town listening to such music, even with the radio up and the windows down. It is, after all, just rock. But somehow I feel awfully self-conscious listening to rap when I drive. I can’t bring myself to roll down the windows. I guess I just feel like such a poser, like an old guy who’s trying to be cool even though he is completely out of his element. And so I still listen to Voice a little bit, but only with the windows rolled up. Sorry, Voice. It’s not you…it’s me.

And that’s it for me. The lease has just about expired on our car (minivan, actually), so I have to take it to the dealer today and figure out what’s next. I hate cars and hate putting money into cars. And yet they are a necessary evil.

June 30, 2006

A Discovery: Bob Cornuke and his Bible Archaeology Search and Exploration (B.A.S.E) Institute claim to have found Noah’s Ark. This is not the first time the ark has been found. Neither is it the first time Cornuke has claimed to find a biblical site or artifact. Styling himself as a real-world Indiana Jones, he has previously claimed to have found the Real Mt. Sinai (I reviewed a DVD account of this discovery) and anchors from the ship that was wrecked while the Apostle Paul was travelling to Rome. He has long been seeking the Ark of the Covenant, though to this point he has not claimed to have found it. Cornuke is generally regarded with some suspicion. While he makes great claims, he rarely adequately substantiates those claims.

His new venture, in which he claims to have found the ark, is sure to generate some controversy. An article at Worldview Weekend says this: “Led by explorer, adventurer, and featured Worldview Weekend speaker Dr. Bob Cornuke, a fourteen man crew returned this week from Iran bearing stunning evidence that theirs is the long-anticipated even coveted discovery of the remains of Noah’s Ark. Bob’s team consisted of a Who’s Who of business, law, and ministry leaders including Barry Rand (former CEO of Avis), the author and Christian apologist Josh McDowell, Frank Turek (co-author with Norm Geisler of I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist), Boone Powell (former CEO of Baylor Medical Systems), and Arch Bonnema (president of Joshua Financial)” (link). You can see a small amount of video footage here.

The object the men found is “about 400 feet long and consists of rocks that look remarkably like blackened wood beams while other rock in the area is distinctively brown. And one visible piece is ‘cut’ at 90-degree angle. Even more intriguing, some of the wood-like rocks were tested just this week and actually proved to be petrified wood, and it is noteworthy that Scripture recounts Noah sealed his ark with pitch-a decidedly black substance. Upon being cut open, one of these ‘rocks’ also divulged a marine fossil that could have only originated undersea.” Also notable was the discovery of a great number of sea shells, noticeably out of place some 15,000 feet above sea level.

Only time will tell if this is truly Noah’s Ark. But as I suggested in my view of The Search for the Real Mt. Sinai, it should not much matter to Christians. We are to walk by faith and not by sight. If we allow our faith to be shaped by such discoveries, we will have little depth and will be easily swayed. It is “An evil and adulterous generation [that] seeks for a sign.” We know that the story of the flood is true, regardless of whether or not we ever locate the remains of the ark.

The Deck: I am quite sure that the rules of plagiarism do not apply to family members. Hence I am including today an account written by my biggest little sister of a rather terrifying situation that happened at their home earlier this week.

Tuesday afternoon, I had placed a sleepy Josh down for his nap, and had welcomed Anna’s friend, Macenzi over for a few hours to play. The girls promptly bolted for the playroom and I could hear them talking and giggling together, so I decided to throw in a load of laundry and clean the master bathroom. About 15 minutes into my chores, I heard loud sobbing- gauged it to be Macenzi, and found her, blotchy-faced and tear-stained, in my bedroom closet. She clutched her stomach and kept telling me: “I fell off the chair. I fell off the chair.” Upon further inquiry, I she told me that she had tumbled off one of the wooden chairs out on our back deck. Wondering what all the fuss was about (for a child who rarely cries), I laid her on the couch, fetched a blanket, and waited for the 5-minute restoration period.

Several minutes passed, and Macenzi started to sweat profusely. And the crying became more urgent, and the stomach-clutching more pronounced. After realizing that something was most definitely wrong, I called Macenizi’s mother, Luci, and had her come over in order to take Macenzi home.

As the door closed, I wondered to myself at the strangeness of a normally resilient child moaning over a minor tumble. When Anna looked up at me and asked, “Mommy, why did Macenzi fall onto the grass?” What grass? The deck has no grass. “What grass, Anna?” She explained: “The grass on the ground. Macenzi fell off the deck chair ONTO THE GRASS!” Oh God, I prayed. Call Luci. “Luci, Macenzi fell off the deck onto the ground. You need to call an ambulance right away. I’m coming over immediately to help.”

Ambulance arrives. As do paramedics: “Child has fallen from a 15-foot deck, onto her stomach on the ground below. She is sweating profusely. Her stomach is hard. We are concerned about internal injuries.” Luci sobbing. Maryanne sobbing. Anna sobbing. Josh saying :”Milk mommy. Milk and crackers.” (Nothing is sacred to that child). Firetrucks. Sirens. Lifelight helicopter landing.

And then, she is whisked away, I am left with Luci’s boys and my children, and we are left to wonder. Neighbors start dropping by, inquiring, worrying, and God bless the south- some to even pray in the garage and driveway with me.

A long afternoon and evening spent waiting for word from doctors as to the extent of Macenzi’s injuries. Finally, around 8pm, we receive word that doctors have run extensive tests…and there is NOTHING wrong with Macenzi’s body. ZIP. NOTHING. PRAISE GOD!

Yet the mystery: Macenzi had two compressed vertebrae in her back. Compressed vertebrae generally occur when a victim lands on his feet. But Macenzi, it seems, fell. Upon reviewing the situation for the hundreth time with Anna, she explains: She and Macenzi unlocked the back door, let themselves out on to the deck, whereupon Macenzi decided to JUMP off the deck, just for kicks. And actually wanted Anna to jump with her! Thank God Anna has yet to develop courage or the situation, already serious, could really have been very grave.

The old saying goes: “All’s well that ends well.” Luci called me yesterday morning and said: “I don’t know what happened Maryanne, but God or angels or somebody was watching over Macenzi yesterday.” And yes Luci, I could say with assurance, it was God. My God. If He is great enough to express concern over the fall of a sparrow, He is certainly concerned about the fall of your precious daughter.

So though the past few days have been drama to the nth degree, thanks to your prayers, I am coping and enjoying life…and even shakily laughing at the absurdity of a preschooler hurtling herself off my deck. And trying NOT to think too much about the might-have-beens. Because those are too terrifying. And reminding myself often that God sees. Always sees. Even when my back is turned.

Weekend: It is a long weekend up here in the Great White North, for tomorrow is Canada Day. We will celebrate the birth of our nation. Since the day falls on a Saturday, most Canadians will be taking Monday off as well. I will include myself in that crowd. But, of course, I’ll be posting on the weekend, so feel free to drop by!

May 31, 2006

Michaela is four weeks old today. Last night was the first time since her birth that I experienced the combination of a bad sleep followed by an early awakening. She and I sat in the way-too-hot living room (we’re in the midst of an early heat wave) for a few hours this morning as she tried to sleep and I tried to find something worth watching since my eyes were far too heavy to read the systematic theology book I’m working my way through. Needless to say, there are slim pickings in the early morning hours, but I did find some interesting religious programming. Here are a few mostly cynical lessons I learned this morning while watching the religious programming available to me (something I have not had opportunity to do since my three-year old was about Michaela’s age):

  • Beth Moore has the biggest, most expressive eyes I’ve ever seen. Her eyes are like dinner plates and are constantly changing with her always-impassioned preaching teaching. I think Moore is perceived to have more credibility than many other teachers because she uses terms like “the present participle.” She digs into the Greek and tries to do some level of exegesis on her texts. Unfortunately, as others have pointed out (see an excellent review of one of her books at Modern Reformation) and as I’ve seen in my brief experiences of reading her books and curricula, she tends towards the mystical and experiential. “Basically she says, don’t let theology and doctrine confuse you when you can figure it out with God for yourself in a way that works for you.” There are far worse teachers out there, but there are also better ones. And of course there’s the issue of her being a female preacher teacher.
  • When a church is composed almost entirely of white people, the cameras will continually zoom in on the one or two black people in the congregation. When a church is composed almost entirely of black people, the cameras will continually zoom in one the one or two white people in the congregation. And speaking of cameras, if you’ve ever been at a church where they record footage of the congregation, you’ll know how difficult it is to worship God while a camera is pointed in your direction.
  • The hosts of “Lifeline” affirmed that it is an evil generation that seeks for a sign, yet they spent their entire program asking some young preacher all about the signs he has experienced. There was no mention of the message he preaches. They spoke only about signs and wonders, often insisting that these have all been verified and documented. As they spoke to him, gold dust began appearing on his clothes. Apparently this is a common occurrence for him. A university in Scotland once tested this gold dust and found it was purer than 24 karat gold. However, it is a heavenly substance so although it usually looks like gold, it is often a different substance altogether, so don’t try testing it on your own. He also has emerald dust appear on or around him and this portends a financial miracle. Jewels falling from the sky (which don’t hurt when they hit your head) are also a common sign from God. God once even turned a cup of hotel water into “wine” which is actually a heavenly beverage he can only barely describe, though he did provide a photograph. And, of course, everything he does is directly commanded by the voice of God.
  • Some self-styled prophets think nothing of reading passages from their own books and concluding with “this is the word of God.” The mere thought of reading my own writing and announcing “this is the word of God” terrifies me! And well it should.
  • The King James Version of the Bible is the refuge of many of the most heretical teachers. It seems odd, but I suppose they feel this version lends a certain credibility to their ministry. I have a feeling that a person who sells gives away “miracle olive oil soap” has really worked his way through the issues surrounding the biblical texts and has determined that the King James is superior to other translations.
  • Joyce Meyer has reinvented herself. She no longer storms across a stage barking at the audience about their failures. She now sits sedately discussing issues of health and wellness.

I had to conclude that “Christian” television is no better now than it was three years ago even in the absence of Benny Hinn and Robert Tilton.

I was speaking with my sister this morning and were talking about having our daughters, both of whom are three, begin to send each other letters. They both love to dig the mail from our mailboxes, but there is never any mail addressed to them. Maryanne mentioned that she never gets personal letters anymore, and truth be told, neither do I. In fact, the only personal letters I ever receive are ones from long-lost friends asking me to support their most recent ministry venture. Email is a pretty poor substitute for a good old fashioned letter, especially when every letter I receive just asks me for money.

Denny Burk, who serves as assistant professor of New Testament at Criswell College in Dallas, has an excellent article at BP News. He writes about Brian McLaren’s statement about Da Vinci Code. McLaren said, “Frankly, I don’t think it has more harmful ideas in it than the Left Behind novels.” Burk responds: “The more I hear from emerging church leader Brian McLaren, the more I fear he is not competent to be a leader of God’s people…The problem with what McLaren says here is that he cannot (or will not) distinguish what is malignant from what is benign. No one goes to hell merely for believing dispensational premillenialism, a theology of the end times that is portrayed in the ‘Left Behind’ novels. Yet anyone who denies the deity of Jesus most certainly will, and this is precisely what is argued in ‘The Da Vinci Code.’ You don’t have to like dispensational premillenialism to see that its teachings about the end times do not come anywhere close to the damning heresy reflected in ‘The Da Vinci Code.’ Any pastor that cannot (or will not) see that isn’t competent to hold the office.” You can read the article here.

Finally, I apologize to those of you who do not enjoy book reviews. My wife pointed out to me that I have posted quite a few lately. That is true and yet I have a couple more to do. I’ve been reading a lot lately and have accumulated a list of books that I need to review while I can still remember what they are about!

May 12, 2006

Alex Chediak - Alex Chediak has a pretty new web site (AlexChediak.com). I should know because I made it. Alex, who authored (edited?) 5 Paths To The Love Of Your Life (my review) is anticipating the imminent release of his second book, this one co-authored with his wife. It is titled With One Voice and should be available within a week or two. Why not root around Alex’s site and, if you feel so moved, order his new book? I haven’t read it yet, but it promises to be a good one. Rumor has it that I will receive a copy of it shortly.

Mormons - Wouldn’t you know it. This is the last day of one of the busiest weeks I can recall and the Mormons chose today to come a-calling. I never turn down an opportunity to tangle with Mormon’s (always two young, well-dressed, white men) or Jehovah’s Witnesses (usually older, recent immigrant minorities) when they come to the door. I don’t invite them in, but will always engage in some discussion through the doorway. This year, Elder MacNiel and Elder Hunter wanted to help me live a more fulfilled life. Genuinely nice kids, my heart aches to see them spreading such awful, godless beliefs in this neighborhood. I was glad to see that every address on their list had an “X” through it, suggesting that they had not been able to convince anyone to do invite them for a return visit. By the end of our visit, I noted that Elder MacNeil had drawn a circle around my address.

My strategy, which I had to think up on the spot since I was not expecting this visit, was to convince them that their works-based salvation is inconsistent with Scripture. I got them to agree that Scripture confirms that we are spiritually dead and that dead men cannot in any way reach out to God. I got them to agree that the passages in Scripture affirming our spiritual state and our need for a Savior are not some of those passages that were apparently corrupted, necessitating the “Book of Mormon.” What they could not see was the logical inconsistency of dead men beginning to do good works and pleasing a holy God. They admitted that they were baffled by how this could happen and promised, as they always do, to study it and pray about it. They said they would come back, but if I had a dime for every time a Mormon has failed on that promise, I could, well, buy a newspaper anyways. They left me with a nice little card asking “What is the purpose of life?” I already know the answer to that one.

To my shame I have to say that I know very little about the best strategies for evangelizing Mormons. It is entirely possible that my strategy was not a very good one, though I trust that, by God’s grace, He may see fit to stir their hearts to see His glory. If anyone wants to give me some tips in this regard, please feel free.

Spam - My site is experience a brutal, ongoing, concerted spam attack. I have had thousands and thousands of spams hit the site. The majority of these comments, most of them dealing with all manner of perversion, have been safely filtered. Quite a few have still gotten through. So if you happen to see strange comments, please bear with me. I am doing the best I can. I will attempt to integrate some new countermeasures this weekend. It is a constant battle to stay one step ahead of these horrible purveyors of perversion.

Weekend - And just like that, the weekend is just about upon us. My plans involve reading, hanging out with the family, changing my brake pads and sharing lunch tomorrow with some good friends. It sounds to me like we’ve got the makings of a pretty good weekend here!

May 05, 2006

The day after the birth of a child is clearly not the time to be doing serious writing. Thus today I will only ramble, posting a compendium of things that have been on my mind this week.

While I managed to get a fair amount of sleep yesterday (never have I been so thankful for a spare bedroom), Aileen did not and had to hand me Michaela long before I was ready to crawl out of bed. Still, we knew that this was coming and we are not anticipating getting a lot of sleep for the next few days at least.

I received an email today which linked to an interesting article from the Orange County Register. The paper reports that a huge local church was unable to convince city officials to approve a $19 million expansion that included a three-story parking structure. Local residents protested the building plan, saying that the project would intrude upon their privacy and greatly increase traffic in their neighborhood. I can only imagine what it would be like having a three story parking structure erected directly across the street from my home. What a strange animal these mega-churches are as they attempt to grow and expand just like big businesses. Not that there is anything necessarily wrong with it—it just strikes me as odd that a church has to fight this type of battle when the vast majority of us go to churches that can only wish for such parking woes!

I noticed a few days ago that Christianity Today has listed their “10 Most Redeeming Films of 2005.” “What do we mean by “redeeming” films? They’re all stories of redemption—sometimes blatantly, sometimes less so. Several of them literally have a character that represents a redeemer. And with some of them, the redemption thread is buried beneath the surface; you might have to look a bit harder for it, but it’s most certainly there. Some of them are ‘feel-good’ movies that leave a smile on your face; some might leave you with more of a contemplative frown, asking, ‘How should I process that?’”

Here is the list of films:

  • Cinderella Man
  • Batman Begins
  • Murderball
  • Crash
  • The Exorcism of Emily Rose
  • Munich
  • Dear Frankie
  • Pride & Prejudice
  • The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe
  • Millions

Of those I have only seen the last three. Pride & Prejudice and The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe were both excellent. Millions was awful. I was disappointed to see a movie like Crash make it to the list. Now I have not seen the film, but judging by what I know of it, I wouldn’t even if I wanted to. It is rated R and apparently for good reason. The following warning is provided by PluggedIn Online: “THIS FILM FEATURES GRAPHIC VIOLENCE AND LEWD SEXUAL CONTENT. THIS REVIEW REFERENCES THAT CONTENT AND IS NOT APPROPRIATE FOR CHILDREN.” The review mentions that there is intense, explicit wildly inappropriate sexual content, plenty of brutal violence and a lot of bad language. “Like the rapid-fire shots of a drive-by, the f-word is sprayed about 100 times (several times it’s used with “mother”; it’s also used in a sexual manner). The s-word is said at least a dozen times, while God’s name is misused almost as frequently and is often combined with “d—n.” Christ’s name gets abused four times. More than 30 other milder profanities further mar this film, including several sexual slang terms.”

But I’m sure it’s a wonderful tale of redemption. Maybe I’ll rent it tonight and watch it with the kids so we can all be blessed together. Or not. Every now and then I’m tempted to wonder if Christianity Today can stoop any lower. And yet somehow they always manage.

On that note I am going to get back to work. I am busier than I’ve ever been and this is an awkward time to have a little bundle of joy intrude into my busy schedule. But I love her anyways. I will hope to get back to reading, reviewing and writing over the weekend.

April 24, 2006

Some of the people who read this site love the book reviews. Other people hate them. Those poor souls must be frustrated as I have posted an awful lot of reviews over the past few days. I can’t bring myself to apologize for this. I have had a long and strange week and somehow found myself reading even more than usual. That has resulted in a large number of book reviews (including a few that have not yet been posted). I will try to find something else to post for tomorrow and then, beginning Wednesday, I hope to begin live-blogging the Together for the Gospel Conference (featuring John Piper, John MacArthur, R.C. Sproul, etc).

Speaking of which, I’d like to thank all of those who have been praying for my wife. I was quite successful in keeping her offer her feet last week. Over the past seven days I have made 28 breakfasts (7 breakfasts for 4 people), 28 lunches, 28 dinners and 28 after-dinner snacks. I’ve done the shopping, washing, cleaning, walking, bathing, banking and a whole lot of little-kid-bum-wiping. I’ve also managed to work a 40-hour week up in my office. I have seen clear evidence of God’s grace in my life in that I have not resented this work, have not complained about it, and have not been seeking validation in Aileen’s expressions of gratitude. It has been a blessing to be able to serve and I’ve enjoyed taking care of her. I can’t help but think that this would not have been the case a year or two ago. Humble service has always come hard to me, but it seems that God has been working on this with me.

Tomorrow at noon she has another midwife appointment and we’ll get the final word on her blood pressure. If it is above a certain threshold, she will have to consult some experts and they will take over that area of her care. Depending on the obstetritian they consult, this could require Aileen just going home and continuing on as-is or being immediately induced. It is that subjective. So we’re just hoping (Aileen even more than me) that she’ll check out just fine, she’ll be able to return home and wait another few weeks for the baby to come, and I’ll be able to head to Kentucky for the two-day conference. My sister will be arriving tomorrow to spend the week with Aileen.

So please continue to pray. There is no great likelihood of harm to mother or baby, but depending on the circumstances, it could prove to be a very difficult, inconvenient three weeks before that due date rolls around.

In other news, I am going to make a major announcement tomorrow about a project I have been working on for a long, long time. Be sure to check in and see what all the fuss is about.

And now, it is just after 5:00 PM and I have got work to do. Dinner has to be made, dishes have to be washed and the cupboards need to be restocked…

March 22, 2006

There are a few topics I have collected over the past week that do not merit an article of their own. So I thought I would compile a few of those into a single article today.

Blue Like Jazz: Matt Redmond sent me an email letting me know that he had reviewed Blue Like Jazz. One particular thing caught my eye in his review. He asked, “Since when is autobiography an acceptable genre for Christian Spirituality? This may be the most distrurbing and dengerous part of the book. It only makes sense that a book on Christian Spirituality would look closely at the best resource for such a subject…the Bible. Whip me, beat me and call me a fundamentalist but I am stickler for looking to the Bible for help in these matters. Anecdotes of a personal nature might be helpful but they are shifting sand. Perhaps it would be easier to understand this book as one Christian’s Spirituality instead of Christian Spirtuality.”

I think that is a good point, though one that merits further reflection. I know that biographies can be presented as Christian Spirituality and I have greatly benefitted in my Christian walk by reading about the lives of other great believers. But it seems that perhaps autobiography is not the best genre for this type of writing. What say you?

ASSIST News on Brian McLaren: I posted in A La Carte this morning about an article dealing with Brian McLaren that was published by ASSIST News Service. McLaren made some comments about Christians who disagree with the Emerging movement:

It’s true there has been a lot of criticism. And, of course, when a group like this is raising very deep questions, such as do we have the Gospel right? - and you don’t get much deeper than that – people who feel we do have it right already have to criticise what we’re doing.

And we have to listen, because maybe they’re right. So for people who feel, for example, that the Westminster Confession perfectly contains Christian theology the kind of conversation we’re having is a waste of time.

But for people who feel that the Westminster Confession arose at a certain time, addressed certain concerns of that time, then we have to be as faithful to our time as the framers of the confession were to their time.

In the US you see a very strong polarisation, where the religious right has had a strong monologue, and it’s been a kind of retreat, a feeling that the good old days are back in the 1940s or 50s or 70s.

One of the effects of this emerging church conversation is a sense of hope and enthusiasm about the future and the need to engage, and less of a feeling of defeatism and retreat and nostalgia.

I don’t know of anyone, Presbyterian or otherwise, who believes that the Westminster Confession perfectly contains Christian theology. I do know of many who feel that it is a sound, Scriptural understanding of particular points of Christian theology, but none who believe it is inerrant. McLaren often engages in this type of senseless attack, throwing out barbs of this nature. It goes without saying that a person who believes Christian theology has been perfectly encapsulated by the Westminster Confession would reject the Emerging movement. But since nobody actually does, this is little more than a red herring. People who love and respect the Confession reject the Emerging movement because it tampers with the very gospel, which is contained not in the Confession but in the Scriptures.

Allah Junk: It seems that Christians do not have the market cornered on ridiculous products designed to somehow enhance our spirituality. A company in Italy has now designed a pair of jeans created specifically for Muslims.

I am AL QUDS jeans, the jeans of choice for Islam as the inspiration comes from here and it is to this world that they refer.

The precious stimuli and suggestions that come from the sacred Arab World and from ordinary, every day life are captured and brought to fruition in AL QUDS jeans satisfying the needs of a couture fashion line which arises from the most “cultural” gesture of the street: jeans made to pray in, jeans for those who choose a different path. It is a wider concept because it is a step made for the World, seductive original and distinguished.

This line is therefore serious, looked for with discretion, natural elegant and not ostentatious. This is reflected in the care and attention to detail, from the denim material to the design which offers the comfort necessary for everyday wear.

A new expression for an old tradition; a way to express your origins and show them.

I wonder if they make them for women…

Jesus Junk: And while we are on the topic of junk, Slice of Laodicea points to a new product by Zondervan. WorldNetDaily describes True Images Bible, a Bible created specifically for teenage girls. It includes “profiles of fictional teenagers discussing oral sex, lesbianism and ‘dream’ guys. The publisher insists that the Bible merely deals with issues that teens face on a near-daily basis. Those who disagree with the product feel that it introduces topics that are unsuitable for young girls. It seems to me that many girls do face these issues, and parents do need to deal with them, but that a Bible is not the appropriate way of doing so. Unlike what the article suggests, though, homeschooling is not the final solution for dealing with this kind of issue. We can and should have this type of discussion and deal with how we will equip teens to deal with issues they will face at some point in life. Not every child can or will be schooled at home.

December 22, 2005

I am now officially on vacation. Every time I take time off I wonder in advance if I will spend more or less time researching and writing articles, reading good books and the like. I always have great ambitions but usually end up spending lots of time just being lazy. And isn’t that what a good vacation is all about? So for the next week the posts around here may be the result of lots of hours spent reading and researching or they may be the product of hours spent snoozing on the couch and visiting local tourist attractions. Either way I assume the majority of the readers of this site will also be taking time off so it’s unlikely very many people will even notice! Late-December traffic on the Internet is rarely worth writing home about.

I listened to the first couple of messages in what promises to be an excellent audio series produced by Sovereign Grace Ministries. Entitled In the World But Not of the World, the series examines worldliness and warns against allowing it to infiltrate our lives. C.J. Mahaney opens the series with some initial thoughts about worldliness and then hands the reins to Josh Harris who preaches two messages on the impact of media in the lives of believers. He relates one humorous story in which he went to Blockbuster to rent a DVD and, as he was walking towards the counter, thought to himself, “I sure hope no one from the church sees me.” That’s never a good sign, is it? As Josh says, this is usually a good indication that you should just put that movie right back on the shelf. I think we can probably all relate.

In our local video store, Rogers Video, the kids at the counter recite aloud the movies you are renting. “Madagascar is due on Friday and To End All Wars is due on Saturday.” I have found that a useful guard against renting movies that have no business being in my house. It also guards against me renting chick flicks. I would be far too embarrassed to stand in line and hear a teenager chant, “Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants” is due back tomorrow…”

Harris also relates a story of a young man who went to see a popular movie. After he saw it another man asked him how much bad language there was in the film. The young guy said, “there were five.” So the man took his children to see the movie and found that there were actually closer to eighty. Later he called the young man to task. The young guy, in his defense, said, “There were only five, but they were each said several times.” Harris then asked who is the greater fool - the young man, who feels the movie is acceptable because there are only five bad words (though each is repeated many times), or the father who feels that five bad words are acceptable for his children but eighty are not. Food for thought.

In the subsequent messages Bob Kauflin will discuss music in two sermons before Mahaney returns with a final message dealing with modesty. It promises to be a very good series.

Has anyone else noticed that there is now a Victoria’s Secret commerical that has Switchfoot music playing in the background with little more than a scantily-clad female in the foreground? I suppose this highlights the danger of “selling” your songs to a record label. I am guessing that the band would not have agreed to this. And no, there is nothing wrong with lingerie (I hope) but I do object to nearly naked women strutting their stuff on my television screen.

Speaking of which, Aileen and I have tentatively agreed on a plan of action to get rid of our cable. We’ll keep the television and focus instead on renting and buying good DVDs that are appropriate for the whole family. It’s not the shows on TV that drove us to this. It’s the commercials. We can control what we watch and what the children watch but it is much more difficult to control the television commercials that play six times every hour. So to cable I say, “Goodbye and good riddance. I wash my hands of you!”

I had a lot of time to reflect yesterday and am wondering if I should not have posted the link to the article about Victoria Osteen and her ejection from an airplane. On one hand it may serve to highlight the apparent diva-like nature of the wife of one of America’s foremost pastors. Victoria is also actively involved in Lakewood Church and I do believe that she preaches at some times and so it is appropriate to hold her to a high standard. On the other hand I know that anyone can have a bad day and that we are all sinners desperately in need of grace. Had it been the wife of a pastor I respect who had done something like this I would, I think, have given her the benefit of the doubt and would not have posted the link. Of course I’d say the likelihood of this type of incident happening with the wife of those pastors I much admire is far lower. Still, I am not sure if this is the type of story that is more based on gossip than a story that is important to highlight. What do you think?

December 17, 2005

It is 2:30 on Saturday afternoon and I have accomplished very little today. I guess that’s not entirely true. It’s just that I have accomplished very little of any great significance. I usually try to make Saturdays a profitable time where I spend a good bit of the day reading, writing and putting in some quality time with the family.

For a couple of months now Aileen and I have been batting around the idea of getting a laptop. Aileen’s eBay business continues to increase and the tired old computer she has been working with has begun to wear her down. At the same time I’ve been given opportunities to live-blog some conferences and have not had a laptop to take with me. So this morning I decided we would just bite the bullet and go mobile. I dragged out all of this week’s flyers (Future Shop, Best Buy, Staples, etc) and did a bit of comparison work. Eventually I found what I was looking for at The Source (aka Circuit City and formerly known as Radio Shack). I decided to try my hand at haggling and managed to talk them down a significant amount. So here I am, posting my first entry from my new laptop. Life is good. Having a good computer almost makes it worth blowing most of the day!

Note to self: shopping on a Saturday morning in late-December is a bad idea. Staples wasn’t in terrible shape. The Source wasn’t even all that bad. But Future Shop and Best Buy? Oh my. There were just wall-to-wall people.

While we are on the subject of Aileen’s eBay business, her endeavours have given me opportunity to think about a modern day phenomenon dealing with online communication. She had a client who purchased an item and he felt it did not arrive at his home soon enough (even though Aileen’s terms clearly spell out how long items take to arrive). He sent her an absolutely awful email. He was angry, offensive and just plain mean. Only a few minutes after sending the email he called her and was perfectly nice and respectul (though not at all apologetic about the tone of his email). That emphasized to me the dangers inherent in non-personal communication such as we find on the Internet. It encouraged me take a look at myself to ensure that I am being consistently respectful and Christ-like in my communication, whether I am speaking face-to-face or firing off a quick email. I intend to write about this in greater detail at a later date.

Anyways, I am going to sign off and spend a little bit more time setting up this computer. And then I hope to find some time to write a couple of book reviews and to write the Challies family annual newsletter. It’s going to be a busy afternoon!

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