Thursday, December 10, 2009

Cheap Christian Ebooks - until the end of the week

I was blessed to receive an e-book reader for my birthday (and Christmas, etc.). It's really great. And I have a tendency toward fantastic fiction (lately it's been David Weber), but I try to temper that with some reading that's good for me, and not just junk food.

I found out Crossway was offering the ESV Study Bible in EPUB format for $15, and decided to get that. The nice thing about the electronic version is that if you choose to ignore the footnotes, you've got a regular Bible for reading, something you absolutely can't do with the print version of the thing.

Better yet, it turns out that my favorite ebookstore for fiction also carries a whole bunch of Crossway books. Who knew?

Fictionwise has 130 titles available from Crossway. They are distributed in multiple formats (abbreviated multiformat on the site), which basically means that any reader you have you can download a version of the book for it. You can download in one format, or several. Not only that, but through the end of this week, all of those books are 40%-60% off. So instead of paying $10.00 for Mark Dever's "The Message of the New Testament: Promises Kept," I paid $4.00.

In fact, I think most of the Crossway books are $4.00. Here's the link to a list of Crossway books on the site.

I don't know whether their week ends on Saturday or Sunday, so you'll have to act quickly.

P.S. They've also got Tim Challies book there. Don't know if I'll be getting it this time around, but it's nice to know it's available electronically. 

Sunday, November 01, 2009

John Piper on Hell (and more)

John Piper wrote a brief piece last week addressing how willingly people go to Hell. It was a good piece - a reminder that Hell isn't just a not-nice place - it is worse than the worst thing we could imagine, and no one will want to be there.

Here are a couple of excerpts:

...when a person chooses against God and, therefore, de facto chooses hell—or when he jokes about preferring hell with his friends over heaven with boring religious people—he does not know what he is doing. What he rejects is not the real heaven (nobody will be boring in heaven), and what he “wants” is not the real hell, but the tolerable hell of his imagination.

...What sinners want is not hell but sin. That hell is the inevitable consequence of unforgiven sin does not make the consequence desirable. It is not what people want—certainly not what they “most want.” Wanting sin is no more equal to wanting hell than wanting chocolate is equal to wanting obesity. Or wanting cigarettes is equal to wanting cancer.

Helpful reminder for believers of the absolute necessity and urgency of preaching the Gospel to those who are perishing. Those who, Jesus said, are condemned already (John 3:18).

Also in the John Piper vein, the audiobook for Desiring God is available at Christian Audio for free this month. Several of his other audiobooks are on sale for $5 each through Nov. 21. Here's the link for all this good stuff.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

What is NaNoWriMo?

What is NaNoWriMo?

A) A glorious and exultant writing experience.
B) One of the most hideous tortures invented by human beings.
C) A month-long contest in November wherein the challenge is to write a 50,000 word story.
D) All of the above.

This post is for Neil Shay, mostly, in answer to his question.

NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month. It is the brainchild of one Chris Baty, and happens every November. It's one of the craziest things you might undertake in your life which doesn't involve physical bodily injury.

The goal is to write 50,000 words of fiction, between midnight November 1st and midnight November 30th. That's it in its simplest form.

Your writing style changes when you write to a deadline like this. You forget about spelling every word correctly, grammar goes out the window, and (for many people) even those blind alleys you take when you're doing the creative thing end up staying in.

It's rather hard to describe. Baty has written a book, and even that really doesn't begin to cover it. At the end of the day (and I know it's cliche), you really do have to experience it for yourself.

2008 was my first real experience with it (I conked out in 2007 after a couple thousand words). It was, as I said in the opening, both a glorious, exultant experience and at the same time hideous torture.

And even if I thought I could psych myself up again for it, I just don't know where I would find the time. It's possible, but unlikely. But I will still probably sign up, and still root for others, if I know they are participating.

For more info on NaNoWriMo, you can visit NaNoWriMo.org. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Obligatory Blog Post - September 2009

I had a post halfway written, but unfortunately, it was killed because it was in an unsaved buffer (ah, the joys of learning a new software program), so instead I'm settling for notifying everyone that I've added a countdown timer to the right-hand column of the blog which gives the time until NaNoWriMo 2009 starts.

I doubt I'll be doing NaNo this year--too busy--but I think one of the kids is going to do it. And I'll be happy to root for anyone who does try it.

P.S. Here's a link to the suggested word counts for students doing the Youth Writing Program.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Assigning Drive Letters in XP

I had previously assigned a drive letter to my thumbdrive in XP to help facilitate syncing files. That letter somehow got reassigned.

This page let me fix it. Now my files are synced again.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Special on John Calvin audiobooks @ Christianaudio.com

To celebrate the 500th anniversary of John Calvin's birthday, Christianaudio.com has put three of their Calvin titles on sale for $2.98 each for downloads. (The fourth title from this search is a free John Piper sermon on John Calvin.)

I picked up Calvin for Armchair Theologians, and have listened to about an hour of it. The narration is excellent - very easy to follow. In fact, I may review it later in more depth, but for know, I'll settle for saying that because the fellow reading the book has an English accent, it adds a bit of gravitas to the work that I don't think is in the original.

Act quickly if you're interested. The sale only runs through July 11th.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Rearrange Windows Taskbar Buttons

I have been wanting something like this for a long time now. It's a small utility that lets you rearrange the buttons on your taskbar. Very handy, small, and standalone.

From Elias Fotinis.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Facebook

Ok, so I finally caved, and I'm on Facebook. So far, my impression of Facebook is that it's great for people who like the social interactions of blogs but without all the time-consuming reading and writing required.

Which, given the fact that I'm now averaging about two posts a month, prolly makes it perfect for me.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Death of a Non-celebrity

In the midst of the "notable" deaths that occurred last week, there was one which will not receive much attention. A small plane crashed. The lone passenger, the pilot, was killed--burned beyond recognition.


Authorities identify pilot in Southern Utah crash

Published: Thursday, July 2, 2009 9:55 p.m. MDT

The Washington County Sheriff's Office identified the man who died Tuesday in a small plane crash as Gary Logan, 54, of Las Vegas.

Logan was flying from North Las Vegas Airport to Cedar City when his single engine plane went down and crashed at Utah Hill, near the Utah-Arizona border.

He was supposed to arrive at his destination by 11 a.m. Tuesday. The Cedar City airport alerted the sheriff's office that a plane might have gone down in their area when he still hadn't arrived by 2 p.m. The Civil Air Patrol located the crash site a half hour later, said Chief Deputy Rob Tersigni.

There were no other passengers on the plane. The National Transportation Safety Board began its investigation of the accident Wednesday.

— Michael R. McFall


Gary Logan was a long-time friend of our family. He loved to golf, and was one of Gramps's favorite golfing buddies. He came all the way to Phoenix to see Grandma and Grandpa when they were both recovering from illnesses a year ago.

His family have our sympathy at their loss.

Jesus asked a crowd once, "For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul?" (Mark 8:36-37, ESV). We would all do well to dwell on that question while we are alive, because death will come for each of us. Fame, money, and looks desert us, even in this life; they are certainly of no value in the life to come. I don't know if any of the celebrity triumvirate which passed on last week knew Jesus as Savior; some have hopes, but I have my doubts.

In contrast, Gary knew Jesus as his savior, and he came to know him in part as a result of my grandpa's witness. Grandpa preceded him in death by just a few months. I'm thankful that we can rejoice that they are truly in a better place, and we will have the opportunity to see them again. That is real hope - a hope that comes out of a personal relationship with the savior, Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Under the Wire

Ok, so my blog stats have hit an all-time low this past week, and I'm in danger of having nearly missed another month of blogging. So in order to stem the tide, I'll at least throw something out there before July 1st.

The blog has had to take 2nd fiddle to several things, not the least of which was work. I took and passed my test for my certified general appraiser's license, which means that, beginning tomorrow, I am officially licensed to work as an appraiser (previously I was a trainee).

I was quite concerned about passing the test, and I give God at least as much credit as myself for getting me to this point, because He has intervened at several points along the road to achieving this milestone.

More later.

Monday, June 08, 2009

55 Fiction Contest - ends today at 5pm PT

I'm gonna try to get a story in by then. Here's a link to the rules, and the submission info is below (note that you can e-mail your story). Make sure to include your name and location (city & state).

It’s time for our annual 55-word short story contest. Send us as many stories as you’d like by June 8 at 5 p.m. We’ll choose the winners and publish them in our July 2 issue. Send your entries to 55 Fiction, 1010 Marsh Street San Luis Obispo, CA 93401 or email to 55fiction@newtimesslo.com

Update: I got my story written and submitted, but the autoreply from the Arts Editor at The New Times said this: "I am currently on vacation in Morocco and will return Thursday, July 2." Looks like my submission won't be considered until next year. Oh, well.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Just got home from seeing the new Star Trek

Absolutely brilliant.

It's been a long time since a movie lived up to the hype. This one did.

J. J. Abrams & Company have rescued the franchise.

Monday, April 27, 2009

All My Good Works Are Crap!

More than that, I now regard all things as liabilities compared to the far greater value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things – indeed, I regard them as dung! – that I may gain Christ, and be found in him, not because I have my own righteousness derived from the law, but because I have the righteousness that comes by way of Christ’s faithfulness – a righteousness from God that is in fact based on Christ’s faithfulness. (Philippians 3:8-9, NET)

Last year, Al Mohler had a radio program entitled Bad Language in the Pulpit? In it, he discussed linguistics, and whether there are bad sounds (letters) vs. bad words. Lots of helpful discussion here. He affirmed something many Christians might have a problem with: that it is OK to use strong language where the Bible uses strong language. The example he cited was when Paul says that all of his good works are "dung," it is acceptable for us to do the same.

Dr. Mohler's exact wording is: "I will say that if the Apostle Paul is our model here, then we can talk about our efforts at self-righteousness in some of the strongest, most scatalogical terms." He goes on to say that the Apostle Paul doesn't use that kind of language "casually, carelessly, or strategically just to shock, or about, for instance, other human beings."

The Greek word referenced, σκύβαλον, is defined by BDAG, the standard reference work for Koine Greek, as "useless or undesirable material that is subject to disposal, refuse, garbage (in var. senses,'excrement, manure, garbage, kitchen scraps')" (emphasis in the original). Toward the bottom of the entry is a note that says "to convey the crudity of the Greek...: 'It's all crap'," presumably referring to the Scripture passage I referenced above.

The NET Bible, which I quoted, translates the word "dung," and the footnote reads: The word here translated "dung" was often used in Greek as a vulgar term for fecal matter. As such it would most likely have had a certain shock value for the readers. This may well be Paul’s meaning here, especially since the context is about what the flesh produces. (An extended argument from Dan Wallace about why "dung" or its like is a better translation of σκύβαλον that "rubbish" or "garbage" is available here.)

I agree with both Mohler and Wallace, though not out of any desire to exercise a perverse potty-mouth; quite the opposite. I agree with them because when I look at my own life that's what I see.

The good works that I bring to Christ aren't just garbage. They aren't only a "loss," or a writeoff. To God, they are offensive. They are like that smell I remember when it was my turn to pick up dog stuff in the back yard on a 100+ degree summer day in Phoenix - a wretched stench so overpowering that it induces the gag reflex almost immediately. That's what my good works were before I became a follower of Jesus.

The bad part about all this is that, years down the road, many of my works still seem like this. I lead family worship because it's the right thing to do, and not because of my overwhelming love for God and desire to see my family become fully devoted followers of Him; I find my Bible where I left it the previous Sunday because I haven't looked at it the entire week; all too often I find myself arrogant when I'm in the right, and defensive when I'm in the wrong. It feels like so much of what I do even as a believer is still just dirty rags and smelly garbage.

God doesn't describe our works after Christ in that way. Instead He gives us a picture of gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or stubble. Some of it endures, and some of it burns up. But manure burns, too...and it stinks.

So I find myself looking once again at "the great exchange" - where Christ is made sin for me, and his true, pure righteousness is credited to me, and I'm humbled once again to rely on him to do anything that is worthy of his name.

Which I guess is OK, since Paul himself doesn't stop at simply acknowledging that all his works were dung. Instead, he goes on and affirms that this was "in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own, based on law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith."

Praise God for that.

Scripture quoted by permission. Scripture quotation was taken from the NET Bible®, and footnote was taken from the NET Bible® footnotes, both copyright ©1996-2006 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved. The NET Bible® is freely available at www.bible.org/ .

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

"Windows - R" - The Magic Windows shortcut I don't know how I lived without

Don't know how I managed to miss this before. You can drop shortcuts into your C:/Windows file, and then run them from the "run" box, using the Windows - R combination. You're only limited by your imagination.

I had been using QTray for this sort of thing, but it is limited on the number of shortcuts, and some shortcuts are mnemonically similar. The bigger problem is that it starts the programs in the QTray folder group in the Programs file, which renders some programs, including some text editors, virtually worthless. I also recently discovered that it is no longer available as a free download (unless you do a ton of searching on Internet Archive). It has re-emerged with other freeware programs from the same author as a set of shareware power tools. I'll probably keep the free version, but slowly transition my shortcuts to Win-R.

Less mouse = oh, happy day!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Behold, The Lamb That Was Slain

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, "Here is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29)

But in the sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. ...Now every priest stands day after day ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this man, after offering one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God. He is now waiting until His enemies are made His footstool. For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are sanctified. (Heb. 10:3-4, 11-14)


Today is Good Friday. Last year at this time, Todd Bolen from the BiblePlaces.com blog wrote a post about a video of any animal sacrifice in Jerusalem. He also posted a link to it. It is graphic - the real deal. But the reasoning behind posting it was good.

We read about sacrifice in the Bible but we don't really understand what that means. We read passages that talk about the "life being in the blood," but those are just words that we don't really consider. We "know" that the wages of sin are high, but we don't get the life lesson that the ancient Israelites received every year.

The point of sacrifice was simply this: you deserve to die because of your sin. This animal is dying in your place. Watching the priest slice his throat and watching the blood drain out drove the point home much better than reading a chapter of Leviticus.

Today New Testament believers know that the blood of bulls and goats is not enough to take away sin. But I think that we can often just take for granted Jesus' death in our place. We don't think about his innocent blood draining away because we can't conceptualize it. We don't always appropriate the idea of substitute because we've never seen a living object die in our place. But our loss can be this: sin is easy because forgiveness (we think) is cheap.

Christ's blood, not the blood of bulls and goats, took away our sin. Perhaps this little reminder will help all of us, myself included, count the cost...of discipleship, and of sin.

Todd's final warning is a good one: Don't watch this video while eating, and if you're thinking about showing your children, watch it yourself first.

Update: I wasn't the only one who thought of linking to the video today. Justin Taylor linked to it, and Dan Phillips from Pyromaniacs links to Justin and makes some observations of his own.

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible® Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

In Honor of April Fool's Day

For spiritual fools

For those who say in their heart that there is no God, and those who reach out to them, here's a link to a series Fred Butler did last year entitled 20 Ways to Answer a Fool. It's a series answering 20 of the most common questions from atheists, and definitely worth a read.

For the rest of us fools

April Fool's Day has always had a special place in our heart because each year my grandfather, when he was alive, would call us and try to put one over on us. The word is that this started with my aunt and something about a pony. I'll have to verify the details and put them down one day.

I'm committing to the public record that my mother is taking up Grandpa's mantle of April Foolery, and got us rather well this morning.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Limited Atonement Debate on Debate Blog

Frank Turk is debating a Lutheran Pastor on whether one's view of the extent of the atonement changes the Gospel.

Phil Johnson gave a message on the nature of the Atonement at The Shepherd's Conference a bouple of years back. Here is the link to the audio, and here is the outline.

I also appreciated Rebecca Stark's post from a few years ago. I liked her analogy to some people's "transactional approach" to the atonement. Her post also provides a few links to other blogs which have dealt with the issue.

The question that I'd like the answer to from anyone who rejects a view that the atonement is limited is this: if all the sin in the world is atoned for, then on what basis does God condemn sinners?

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Scandal of the Gospel

In these days of almost perpetually recurring scandals, it's good to remember that the biggest scandal of all is the scandal of the Gospel, which punishes God for man's sin, and sets sinners free. The Gospel changes men, and it is the only way that men can truly change.

That's what this post reminded me of. Thanks, Carla.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Here's a Little Job Hunting Tip

A public service announcement from this blog...

If you're going to go to the trouble of signing up for Jobs.com to get new job listings, you should make sure you use the right e-mail address, and not one belonging to someone else. Otherwise, your job listings will go to them instead of you, making me them mad and you still unemployed.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Monday, March 23, 2009

My Thoughts on "The Cult of Done"

Charlie mentioned The Cult of Done Manifesto recently, and his post does a good job of framing that philosophy as it applies to his work and life. As I've thought about how it might apply to me, I've come to the conclusion that there are places where it would work well, and places where it probably shouldn't be used.

I think that the approach would work well in areas where there is more than one right way of accomplishing a task. Writing comes to mind immediately - things like blogging & writing stories. NaNoWriMo was an extreme exercise in "getting it done." For me, an approach like this would lessen or eliminate those posts which seem to be in perpetual edit mode.

But I can't imagine a medical doctor pretending to know what he or she is doing, because "pretending to know what you're doing is almost the same as knowing what you are doing. Nor would I anticipate very many successful medical practitioners adopting the approach that "failure counts...so do mistakes." Similarly, for the work I do - appraising a property, arriving at an opinion of value, and then reporting that value in a proper manner - this approach probably wouldn't work well.

That said, there are times when I've used elements of that approach within my job. The notion of setting aside the idea that there will be a finished product and just getting things down, for example, has come in handy several times when I've hit a certain point where I am stuck.

Like so many things in life, it seems there are two extremes. The two extremes to avoid here are working so hard to achieve perfection that you never accomplish your goal, and cutting so many corners to get finished that your final product is worthless. Each of us will tend to one extreme or the other, depending on our personality and what we're doing. Avoiding these two things will allow us to be both more productive and more pleased with the outcome of our labors.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Battling With Unbelief

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (2 Peter 3:9, ESV)

"Question everything" seems to be the keystone of the modern manifesto. You see the attitude (if not the actual phraseology) all around us. This is the era of the "noble skeptic," where the one who doubts is exalted above the one who believes.

There is probably room for a discussion of the interplay between doubt and unbelief, but I'm going to limit the current discussion to unbelief. It occurred to me recently that many of the problems people face with God can be boiled down to this simple premise of unbelief. "Did God really say..." was good enough for the snake in the Garden, and it has been dogging the human race ever since.

The companion to this is the negative side of the notion alluded to in the Bible quotation above. God hasn't punished me yet, therefore He is either a) incapable of doing so; b) indifferent to doing so, or c) unwilling to do so.

Part of our Scripture passage today was the parable in Luke 20:9-18. It centers around tenants who will not acknowledge the owner's authority over them - a message from Jesus to the Pharisees and Scribes. The lunacy of their thinking is made clear by verse 14, where after they see the landowner's son they say to themselves "This is the heir. Let us kill him, so that the inheritance may be ours." They are completely deceived, both about their own standing, and about the landowner's future reaction. "...What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others" (vs. 15-16). They didn't believe the landowner capable of taking the actions he did.

Whether people reject God's judgment of them based on the idea that "He doesn't exist, therefore I have nothing to fear," or "a loving God would never do this," the outcome is the same: they are wrong, and they will pay a heavy price for it.

That type of unbelief leads to greater sin, and the idea that "if God hasn't done anything to me yet, He never will." We talked about this briefly in Sunday School today, and one comment I thought particularly insightful was that although a person say this outright, it is still in their hearts, and by their actions it is evident that this is exactly what they think. I would surmise, although I haven't read it yet, that this was what Stephen Charnock was referring to in his treatise on "practical atheism."

For our own part as believers, if we believe that God will judge, we must act on that belief, and do everything we can to save others from their judgment.

And for those who question God in unbelief, consider the message of Scripture over and over: the wrath of God has not yet arrived, not because He is lacking in ability, but because He is kind and patient, and wanting everyone who will to repent. Even now, despite your blaspheming, your utter rejection of Him, He provides you with daily needs - air to breath, your heart beating, and all the rest. Even now, He still invites you to come. Consider what the punishment will be for the complete refusal to even acknowledge His goodness in providing everything down to the very basic needs.

Paul's call to the men of Athens still applies today: The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead. (Acts 17:30-31, ESV)

Repent of unbelief, before it is too late.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Frank Turk

For those who don't know Frank Turk, or haven't had the opportunity to meet him in person, I'll just tell you that you're missing out. As much as you get from the web and his blogs, you just don't know the half of it.

We had lunch on Friday, and it was such a treat. It is a privilege to call him a friend.

The Counterfeiter's Tale - BBC Radio 4

Story about a Nazi plan to counterfeit British Sterling - as much as a third of the currency in circulation at the time. The British responded by fazing out everything above a 5 Pound note, a policy which continued until the 1960s.

Audio available on BBC's iPlayer until Friday, March 20th, 11:32am GMT.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Library at Alexandria - BBC Radio 4

Three scholars are interviewed about the Library in Alexandria. According to them, literary criticism, textual criticism, and the organization of knowledge into different topics were just some of the things which came out of the Library. Like most scholars, it sounded like there was more than a little conjecture included. Worth a listen nevertheless. (The website also includes some external links on the subject.)

Audio available on BBC's iPlayer until Thursday, March 19th, 9:47am GMT.

Monday, March 16, 2009

What Texting Owes to the Literary Enlightenment - BBC Radio 4

Haven't had a chance to listen to this one yet, but I'm intrigued by a perceived link between the 18th Century Romantics and modern day texters.

This has audio available on BBC's iPlayer until tomorrow, March 17th, 12:02pm GMT.

BookletCreator

I just remembered that I used this site in conjunction with PDFTK Building to make the Spurgeon sermon booklet. It reorders the pages in your PDF so that you can print it double-sided and make a booklet with it.

With tools like this, what you can accomplish is only limited by your imagination.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Nifty Tool - PDFTK Builder

Every once in a while something comes along that is so cool and/or so useful that you just have to sit back and say, "wow."

PDFTK Builder is that tool for me. It is a pretty simple program. It allows you to rip apart PDFs into individual pages, and also reassemble them. You can set permissions and a whole host of other options from the rather easy to use graphical user interface. For someone who doesn't have (or want to pay for) Adobe Acrobat, it rocks.

I had used it in the past on a download from Google Books of a Spurgeon sermon collection to split out an individual sermon.

But it really came in handy this week when I needed to reproduce a report in PDF which had a combination of text and spreadsheet values that were printed out and collated by hand. I exported all of the material to PDF, separated it into individual pages, and then reassembled it just like the hard copy of the report. All without Acrobat.

It was the first time I had done something like this. I am certain that it won't be the last.

You can get it here. I downloaded the PortableApp version so that it would be standalone.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Simple Yet Profound

I'm woefully behind on all my blog reading (and writing has slowed to a trickle), yet amidst all of the stuff I find a gem or two that I simply must share.

This one is especially appropriate, because it talks about personal busyness, physical and mental clutter, and the real (simple) solution to it all. "Blessed are the poor in spirit..."

Lens Cleanse: Poor in Spirit or ADD

I'm intrigued by the idea that perhaps we don't let ourselves be poor in spirit and accept help, but rather look to fix our own problems with anything and everything but the one thing that can really fix them.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

DTV

I'm sure there are plenty of people out there who are thinking that the switchover from analog to digital is a good one. I'm just not one of them.

I'll be the first to admit that the picture quality is better. But if I cared about picture quality so much, I wouldn't still be watching VHS tapes, and I would probably have an HD TV, along with cable or satellite. The truth of the matter is, I probably watch too much TV as it is, and it wouldn't kill me to stop. But I'd hate to have no television access, particularly when there are tornados and things like that.

I'm not one of those who waited until the last minute to buy a box; we've had ours for months. But it turns out you have to have more than a converter box to get channels; you've also got to have an antenna. And not just any antenna--the right antenna.

Which brings me to my beef with the switchover. Unfortunately, the government hasn't been altogether, um, complete in their information campaign about digital TV. The literature says that you'll receive the same channels you currently get if you use an antenna or rabbit ears.

That may be true for cities, but not for the rest of us. Most channels don't come in. A couple are mostly watchable, but even those are like watching a RealPlayer video on dialup, the thing starts buffering, and the picture disappears. Or the sound is garbled, like that old fast food restaurant that's too cheap to update their drive-through equipment. And it inevitably happens at the most inopportune moments. "And that's why I tell you that the killer is ... myplxltmged." Or something like that.

So pity us country folks. With analog, we could get most stations, though with varying degrees of quality. With digital, the few stations we get without a fancy antenna are barely watchable because they are so garbled. I'm tempted to just junk the TV and read the piles of books in my house! (Either that, or upgrade my internet and just stream Netflix to my TV.)

In any case, now you know why I for one am for today's delay. My motives aren't that noble, but then, I don't think that the folks pushing the whole DTV initiative have demonstrated pure motives either.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Powell's Books Coupon - today only

$5.00 off any online order. No minimum (nice!).

Use code WELU at checkout. Good until 11:59 PM Pacific Time tonite.

Happy shopping.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

John MacArthur 1st Edition

It is John MacArthur's 40th year at Grace Community Church, and 40 years of Grace to You. Today's radio broadcast was of John MacArthur's first message, entitled "How to Play Church."

And it will come as little surprise to those familiar with him that, barring the youthfulness of the voice and the lesser audio quality, it was a theme and variation of the message he preaches almost every time he speaks. Gospel.

I've always admired his boldness, particularly in public venues. It is interesting to see that he was the same way at the start with his own congregation - speaking to a need he perceived they had.

Here's an excerpt:

And our text is such a warning this morning. Our text is a warning to those who are comfortably entrenched in the church are who think they're comfortably entrenched in the church but who in reality are not. This is not a warning to outside people. This is a warning to us who are involved in the church to be sure that it's real. And I think it only fair to begin our ministry here that we stop and really approach this with a sense of sobriety and earnestness, to understand how we stand in view of God right now as individuals.

I'm sure that in this church right here there are people who come who do not know Jesus Christ in a personal vital way. I am convinced that because of the size of the congregation this morning there are some sitting right here in this audience who have come to church many times but who do not know Jesus Christ. And perhaps they even have religious sensations and perhaps they even have sanctimonious emotions but they do not know Jesus Christ. And it is my conviction that before we as a church can move together as a body, as a unit, we must become a unit and the only way we can ever be united and become one as Christ prayed that we might be is that when we are all are real in Christ. And so I want us to carefully examine our lives this morning.

(You can read or listen to the rest of the message here.)

His first week on the job, and rather than worrying about making nice with the congragation, he makes sure that the Gospel message is front and center for all those who need to hear.

Congratulations, sir, on 40 years of faithful service. May God continue to find you useful to His kingdom.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Online Education Tools

Trolling through my drafts, I came across this site that was link to by Lifehacker. It was a page entitled: Massive Resource List for All Autodidacts. (Alas, secular education only, unfortunately. They left out my favorite place: Biblical Training.org.)

It looks like the link automatically redirects to a new page, and the new page doesn't seem to have the "massive" quality that the original had. However, thanks to the magic of the Internet Archive, you can still access the original.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Talking To Kids About Abortion

Our state's annual Walk for Life is this weekend, I'm anticipating questions from the kids, particularly our oldest, about what we're doing and why. But in a broader sense, I'm trying to figure out just how to (or if I even should try to) explain something like that.

I'm particularly interested in hearing from those of you who have kids - what did you decide to tell them (or omit) and why?

Thanks.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Goodbye, W. W. Gumm

In this first post of the new year, I say goodbye to my grandpa, Wilford Warren "Dad" Gumm. He passed away on December 28 at the age of 89.

He was a man of God for over 50 years.

One of the things about him that made the greatest impression on me was how he knew and understood the value of work. He knew that he was working for his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and he was working not for something as mundane as money, but for the reward, his inheritance, which he would someday receive from Jesus.

He was the epitome of Colossians 3:22-24. "Slaves, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ."

As citizens of the heavenly country, we are called to live lives free of ungodliness, including greed, which is the root of all kinds of evil. My grandpa was one of those increasingly rare individuals whose life was indeed free from the love of money. He was a generous man. But I think he was that way because he understood where his treasure was, and where his true home was.

I don't think that was ever more evident than when the house where he and my grandma had lived for over 50 years had burned down. I remember this vividly, because I was the one who got the phone call. Grandpa and Grandma were on vacation, and my mom and dad were out of town as well. My wife and I were also planning a trip, but by God's providence had not left yet.

As we sifted through the charred contents of the house, we were absolutely stunned. Many of us thought that Grandpa probably was handling the situation better than we did. His reaction was to state simply that he was just passing through, and that this was not his home. His simple statement demonstrated a profound belief in God's providence, His provision, and His promises. I haven't forgotten it, and like many others who heard it, I pray that when a test like that comes upon me, I will be found as faithful, out of a similar understanding of where my true home lies.

In preparing to say something at the funeral, I came across this excerpt from Richard Baxter's "Directions at the Grief at the Death of a Friend." It was in the Teaching Resources issue about The Death of Believers.

Yet your grief for the death of friends must be very different both in degree and kind.
1. For ungodly friends, you must grieve for their own sakes, because if they died such, they are lost for ever.
2. For your godly friends, you must mourn for the sake of yourselves and others, because God has removed such as were blessings to those about them.
3. For choice magistrates, and ministers, and other instruments of public good, your sorrow must be greater, because of the common loss and the judgment thereby inflicted on the world.
4. For old, tried Christians that have overcome the world and lived so long till age and weakness make them almost unserviceable to the church, and who groan to be unburdened and to be with Christ, your sorrow should be least and your joy and thanks for their happiness should be greatest.


Goodbye, Grandpa. Our sorrow is great, but God is good, and He has given us the Comforter. Our joy is greater, because you are out of pain, and present with your Savior. Our thanks is greatest, to God for allowing you such a long and productive life, and to you for your love, your generosity, and your testimony, both to your family and to countless others throughout your life. You are already missed, yet we are confident that one day we will be reunited with you in the heavenly city.