The Christian Hedonist Takes a Wife

Our God has made another way To put his glory on display. His goodness shines with brightest rays When we delight in all his ways. His glory overflows its rim When we are satisfied in him. His radiance will fill the earth When people revel in his worth. The beauty of God’s holy fire Burns brightest in the heart’s desire.

I am a Christian Hedonist Because I know that if I kissed My wife simply because it’s right, And not because it’s my delight, It would not honor her so well. With pleasures I will praise Noël, And I will magnify my wife By making her my joy in life.

So may this blazing, God-like flame Ignite in us for his great name A holy passion, zeal and fire That magnify him with desire.
I hail him as my joy in life, And take from his pure hand my wife.

John Piper, Velvet Steel, pg.22-23.

Charles Leiter in Louisville: September 26-27

Charles LeiterThe Christian Life is not easy. Christians wrestle with the demonic forces of the devil, they feel the sinful desires of the flesh, and they are squeezed by the influences of this world. One of these problems would be enough to overwhelm a person, but all three can really tie a believer up in knots and seriously rob their joy

On Saturday, September 26th and Sunday, September 27th Pastor Charles Leiter will speak to the difficult issues we all face in the Christian life at Immanuel Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky. If you are just exploring Christianity we hope these messages will give you an accurate picture of the Christian life. And if you are a believer we hope that these meetings will restore your joy, and give you practical help for difficult days.

  1. Saturday Sept.26 evening @ 7:00pm – Nursery will be provided
  2. Sunday Sept.27 morning @ 9 & 11am – Nursery will be provided
  3. Sunday Sept.27 evening @ 6:00pm – Nursery will be provided

Charles Leiter is the Pastor of Lakeroad Chapel in Kirksville, Missouri, a frequent conference speaker, and the author of the book Justification and Regeneration. He is married to Mona and together they have five children.

Immanuel Baptist Church is located at 1121 S. Clay St. Louisville, KY 40203.

The Secret Letter From Iraq

From TIME Magazine Friday, Oct. 06, 2006:

Written last month [Sept 2006], this straightforward account of life in Iraq by a Marine officer was initially sent just to a small group of family and friends. His honest but wry narration and unusually frank dissection of the mission contrasts sharply with the story presented by both sides of the Iraq war debate, the Pentagon spin masters and fierce critics. Perhaps inevitably, the “Letter from Iraq” moved quickly beyond the small group of acquantainaces and hit the inboxes of retired generals, officers in the Pentagon, and staffers on Capitol Hill. TIME’s Sally B. Donnelly first received a copy three weeks ago but only this week was able to track down the author and verify the document’s authenticity. The author wishes to remain anonymous but has allowed us to publish it here — with a few judicious omissions.

All: I haven’t written very much from Iraq. There’s really not much to write about. More exactly, there’s not much I can write about because practically everything I do, read or hear is classified military information or is depressing to the point that I’d rather just forget about it, never mind write about it. The gaps in between all of that are filled with the pure tedium of daily life in an armed camp. So it’s a bit of a struggle to think of anything to put into a letter that’s worth reading. Worse, this place just consumes you. I work 18-20-hour days, every day. The quest to draw a clear picture of what the insurgents are up to never ends. Problems and frictions crop up faster than solutions. Every challenge demands a response. It’s like this every day. Before I know it, I can’t see straight, because it’s 0400 and I’ve been at work for 20 hours straight, somehow missing dinner again in the process. And once again I haven’t written to anyone. It starts all over again four hours later. It’s not really like Ground Hog Day, it’s more like a level from Dante’s Inferno.

Rather than attempting to sum up the last seven months, I figured I’d just hit the record-setting highlights of 2006 in Iraq. These are among the events and experiences I’ll remember best.

Worst Case of Deja Vu — I thought I was familiar with the feeling of deja vu until I arrived back here in Fallujah in February. The moment I stepped off of the helicopter, just as dawn broke, and saw the camp just as I had left it ten months before — that was deja vu. Kind of unnerving. It was as if I had never left. Same work area, same busted desk, same chair, same computer, same room, same creaky rack, same… everything. Same everything for the next year. It was like entering a parallel universe. Home wasn’t 10,000 miles away, it was a different lifetime.

Most Surreal Moment — Watching Marines arrive at my detention facility and unload a truck load of flex-cuffed midgets. 26 to be exact. We had put the word out earlier in the day to the Marines in Fallujah that we were looking for Bad Guy X, who was described as a midget. Little did I know that Fallujah was home to a small community of midgets, who banded together for support since they were considered as social outcasts. The Marines were anxious to get back to the midget colony to bring in the rest of the midget suspects, but I called off the search, figuring Bad Guy X was long gone on his short legs after seeing his companions rounded up by the giant infidels.

Most Profound Man in Iraq — an unidentified farmer in a fairly remote area who, after being asked by Reconnaissance Marines if he had seen any foreign fighters in the area replied “Yes, you.”

Worst City in al-Anbar Province — Ramadi, hands down. The provincial capital of 400,000 people. Lots and lots of insurgents killed in there since we arrived in February. Every day is a nasty gun battle. They blast us with giant bombs in the road, snipers, mortars and small arms. We blast them with tanks, attack helicopters, artillery, our snipers (much better than theirs), and every weapon that an infantryman can carry. Every day. Incredibly, I rarely see Ramadi in the news. We have as many attacks out here in the west as Baghdad. Yet, Baghdad has 7 million people, we have just 1.2 million. Per capita, al-Anbar province is the most violent place in Iraq by several orders of magnitude. I suppose it was no accident that the Marines were assigned this area in 2003.

Bravest Guy in al-Anbar Province — Any Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician (EOD Tech). How’d you like a job that required you to defuse bombs in a hole in the middle of the road that very likely are booby-trapped or connected by wire to a bad guy who’s just waiting for you to get close to the bomb before he clicks the detonator? Every day. Sanitation workers in New York City get paid more than these guys. Talk about courage and commitment.

Second Bravest Guy in al-Anbar Province — It’s a 20,000-way tie among all these Marines and Soldiers who venture out on the highways and through the towns of al-Anbar every day, not knowing if it will be their last — and for a couple of them, it will be.

Worst E-Mail Message — “The Walking Blood Bank is Activated. We need blood type A+ stat.” I always head down to the surgical unit as soon as I get these messages, but I never give blood — there’s always about 80 Marines in line, night or day.

Biggest Surprise — Iraqi Police. All local guys. I never figured that we’d get a police force established in the cities in al-Anbar. I estimated that insurgents would kill the first few, scaring off the rest. Well, insurgents did kill the first few, but the cops kept on coming. The insurgents continue to target the police, killing them in their homes and on the streets, but the cops won’t give up. Absolutely incredible tenacity. The insurgents know that the police are far better at finding them than we are — and they are finding them. Now, if we could just get them out of the habit of beating prisoners to a pulp… Greatest Vindication — Stocking up on outrageous quantities of Diet Coke from the chow hall in spite of the derision from my men on such hoarding, then having a 122mm rocket blast apart the giant shipping container that held all of the soda for the chow hall. Yep, you can’t buy experience.

Biggest Mystery — How some people can gain weight out here. I’m down to 165 lbs. Who has time to eat?

Second Biggest Mystery — if there’s no atheists in foxholes, then why aren’t there more people at Mass every Sunday?

Favorite Iraqi TV Show — Oprah. I have no idea. They all have satellite TV.

Coolest Insurgent Act — Stealing almost $7 million from the main bank in Ramadi in broad daylight, then, upon exiting, waving to the Marines in the combat outpost right next to the bank, who had no clue of what was going on. The Marines waved back. Too cool.

Most Memorable Scene — In the middle of the night, on a dusty airfield, watching the better part of a battalion of Marines packed up and ready to go home after over six months in al-Anbar, the relief etched in their young faces even in the moonlight. Then watching these same Marines exchange glances with a similar number of grunts loaded down with gear file past — their replacements. Nothing was said. Nothing needed to be said. Continue reading

After 6 years: A Few Reasons Why it was Worth It

A U.S. soldier examines an Iraqi girl while on a medical mission in Balad, Iraq, June 2, 2009. The 532nd Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron is responsible for providing security around Joint Base Balad and continuing an established relationship with the local citizens of the villages and farms. U.S. Army photo by Capt. Michael R. Vincent

U.S. Army Spc. Joe Belton from Mesquite, Texas, of Echo Company, 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas, takes pictures of Iraqi boys in the village of Ka bashe in Kirkuk, Iraq, May 31. U.S. coalition forces partner with Iraqi police to inspect irrigation systems and meet with local farmers that have agriculture concerns in and around the Kirkuk province of Iraq.

A U.S. Soldier from Echo Company, 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas, tosses a soccer ball to a group of Iraqi boys in the village of Ka bashe in Kirkuk, Iraq, May 31. U.S. coalition forces partner with Iraqi police to inspect irrigation systems and meet with local farmers that have agriculture concerns in and around the Kirkuk province of Iraq.

U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Bryon Clark listens to an Iraqi farmer voicing his concerns in the village of Ka bashe in Kirkuk, Iraq, May 31, 2009. U.S. coalition forces partner with Iraqi police to inspect irrigation systems and meet with local farmers who have agriculture concerns. Clark is assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division’s Company E, 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Bobby Allen

Staff Sgt. Kristen Poe, an Intelligence Analyst assigned to the 4th Special Troops Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division ‘Long Knives, delivers a school bag to an Iraqi girl at the UR Primary School, located in the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah Jan. 13. Poe, along with fellow Soldiers assigned to the battalion’s personal security detachment, handed out more than 200 school bags and supplies during the visit. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Damian Steptore)

A group of Iraqi children look on as a U.S. Soldier from 1st Brigade Combat Team, 6th Infantry , assigned to Task Force Regulars practices balancing a plate of bread on his head in the Jameela market area of the Sadr City district of Baghdad, Iraq, May 31, 2008. DoD photo by Tech. Sgt. Cohen A. Young, U.S. Air Force. (Released)

U.S. Army 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Military Policeman Sgt. Thomas Dwyer of Ft. River, N.J., laughs and claps with Iraqi children while on a patrol in the Muhalla 513 neighborhood just outside Mudafra Square in the Sadr City district of Baghdad on July 28, 2008. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Cohen A. Young/Released)

A young Iraqi boy strikes a muscle pose while standing next to a passing U.S. Soldier from Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 35th Armor Regiment as he provides security outside a recreation center during a patrol in the in the Thawra 1 neighborhood of the Sadr City district of Baghdad, Iraq, June 6, 2008. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Cohen A. Young/Released)

U.S. Army 432nd Civil Affairs Battalion Capt Jeovanny Rodriguez is followed by neighborhood Iraqi children while conducting a joint patrol with Task Force Regulars 1st Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, Renegade Company and Iraqi soldiers from the 11th Iraqi Army Division, 42nd Brigade through Thawra 2 and Jameela Market areas in the Sadr City district of Baghdad on Aug. 13, 2008. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Cohen A. Young/Released)

The fine print:
I hate politics. I hate war, but in the midst of all the hatred and tyranny in this world, it often becomes unnecessarily inevitable. I don’t know what that makes me, but I am above all else pro-peace and I support our troops (Canadian, US, NATO, UN). Since it is all pretty much done and finished with, we can spend all the time we want debating the legality of the invasion and the success or failure of this endeavor. However, I found these photos recently and they reminded me that after 6 years, why it was all worth it.

The benefits of Caffeine (esp. Coffee)

If you love coffee, here’s some of the latest good news.

• A study of 90,000 Japanese by the National Cancer Center in Tokyo found that people who drank one to four cups of coffee daily had half the liver cancer risk of those who never drank coffee. Researchers aren’t sure why, but they speculate that antioxidants may play a role.

• A study by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health that followed more than 125,000 men and women for more than a decade found that regular coffee drinkers had a significantly lower risk of developing type 2 (or late-onset) diabetes. Studies in Sweden and Finland also concluded that coffee consumption offers protection from type 2 diabetes. Again, researchers aren’t sure why.

• A half-dozen recent international studies showed a positive relationship between drinking caffeinated beverages — including coffee — and lower rates of Parkinson‘s disease and Alzheimer‘s disease.

• Other research links coffee consumption with reduced risk of cirrhosis of the liver, colon cancer and asthma.

• A cup or two of coffee can improve endurance in activities such as running, cycling and swimming, according to other research. Coffee has a strong ergogenic effect, meaning it helps people work harder and longer, explains Lawrence Spriet, an exercise physiologist at the University of Guelph who has researched the effects of caffeine on athletic performance for more than a decade. “Even small amounts of caffeine can be quite powerful,” he says.

Source: Canadian Living

My Faith Being Tested: The Greatest Trial I Have Ever Faced

Through meditation on the Scriptures, personal reflection, and much discussion and consultation with brothers in Christ, I have come to realize that I am facing the greatest trial of my brief 25-year life.  It is in times like these when my faith is being stretched to its intended end — Psalm 73:25-26:

Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Do I truly trust the Lord God?  Is God himself — apart from his blessings — actually sufficient for life?  Is God enough?  Is God enough for you when my circumstances don’t change?

Such questions are the bread and butter of the Christian pilgrimage.  We all want to say, “YES!”  I look back on the various kinds of sufferings I have faced this past week, last month, this past year, and even the sin I struggled through back in 2005, and in all these things, they are incomparable to the testing of my faith right now.  God is not looking you and me to just say “Yes”, but to actually mean it, because we are living it.

I have realized that I am currently the greatest time of spiritual testing I have ever faced.  There is no doubt about it.  When everything is fine, when all the dominoes are in place; when I have studied and applied what I learned to myself... And yet nothing happens; and I have to “wait” on God to act. This is what faith is all about.  Patiently waiting on the Lord to move. Trusting that God is sovereign over all things, and that there is nothing I can do to make it happen.  Compatibilism in its fullest meaning.  It is a very painful experience, a struggle, and through this my true colors will show.  As John Wesley once said,

Complete weakness and dependence will always be the occasion for the Spirit of God to manifest His power.

Maybe, when I can truly mean it and live “Yes” to such spiritual questions, maybe it will seem that God hasn’t acted and it appears as if He is quiet.  And I will have to wait, actively and patiently wait on the Lord… and faithfully continue doing all that God has called me to do.

This, brothers and sisters, is the time for the Holy Spirit to show me His power.  And in so doing, I hope to be a great testimony to the truth that God can and does do miracles.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

–James 1:2-4

Snow Storm #1

We’re being hit by lots of snow, here in Toronto. Here’s a few videos and photos of this memorable day of snow 🙂

Video 1:
Snow Storm 12-19-2008a from Alex Leung on Vimeo.

Video 2:
Snow Storm in Toronto 12-19-2008b from Alex Leung on Vimeo.

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