A Correct View of the Universe

Today's sermon was thought-provoking. My apologies to Jason Alligood who preached it, but I think I might have missed the main point which had something to do with missions. Actually, the point I got hung up on and the point he was trying to make were probably not so different.
What struck me was something he said about the purpose of missions. It wasn't the usual spiel about taking the Gospel to the poor heathens. To paraphrase him, he said that God desires to get the glory from our mission work. When he redeems people, it is for His glory and for His pleasure. To put it succinctly: God is selfish.

What a statment. True, yes, but so different from what we generally hear. Before I go any further, I would like to point out that God is the only entity in existence that has the right to be selfish. If you disagree just remember that without God, you would not have the ability to disagree.

So, God is selfish. I thought about that for a moment. It was so contrary to the image of Jesus that people usually have. You know, that "helping the poor" and "healing the sick" Jesus -- the great altruistic rabbi. While, it is true that he was those things, none of them were his main reason for being here. He came "to seek and to save" the lost. Why? To draw us closer to Him so that we might worship and honor Him. Selfish reasons.

That really struck me the wrong way. God wants us to come to Him, not so that we can have a wonderful life, but that we might honor Him by our lives. Do we benefit from it? Of course. Is God only interested in His glory? No, the Bible says over and over that God loves us. But first and foremost I think He desires adoration from us. The highest priority of mission work is His glorification.

Like I said, that thought rubbed me the wrong way at first. What pride, I thought! Isn't the point of missions to save poor sinners from eternal condemnation?

Then it occurred to me that my thinking was being shaped by an incorrect view of the Universe. A correct view of the universe begins with God, not man; the Creator, not the Created. I was not beginning with God. If your view of the universe starts with God, then you realize that God has the right to be selfish and prideful. He has the right to expect worship from His creatures and He has the right to judge His creatures. And He will exercise those rights.


Audio of the sermon that prompted this post can be found here.


Think Our Justice System is Messed Up?

Then just look at Nicaragua's. Apparently they don't believe in proving someone's guilt beyond the shadow of a doubt. I ran across this interesting story:

American Eric Volz is serving a 30 year sentence in Nicaragua for a crime he didn't commit. There were 10 witnesses putting Eric in Managua over two hours away at the time of the murder, and there was no forensic evidence linking Eric in any way to the crime. The prosecution's main evidence was the testimony of a co-defendant who exchanged immunity for stating that he saw Eric at the scene of the crime.



I stumbled across this site and decided to test our blog to see if it was blocked by China. I guess they didn't take too kindly to this post, because the result came back as blocked. Now, the site does say that URLs might be unavailable in China which would cause a 'Blocked' result, but our Google Analytics page showed 2 hits from China (before the test). I guess one of the hits was from a Beijing government building...but it seems strange that our lowly blog would be blocked.

Any thoughts? Can anybody vouch for the reliability of this site? From the map they show during the test, it looks like they are based in France. The map didn't come up during the second test I ran, so I'm not for sure if it was in France or Spain. Anyway, if they're telling the truth, then China is going way overboard with control. But, what would you expect from Totalitarian Communism?



Life goes on. Somehow, on some level, many of us will never be the same. Then again, maybe we all underwent that type of change after Columbine. Quite frankly, I think that few things genuinely shock a majority of the population anymore, or at the very least, there is some section of all of our hearts that is hardened to these things.

To study this phenomenon, I would like to bring up the Rodney King trial. The police officers were guilty of beating Rodney King to near death, that we all know. But they were found not guilty by a jury of their peers. Why? Because the defense attorneys, the ones defending the police officers, showed the video tape of the actual beating to the jury over 1000 times. By the end, the very evidence of the crime became the cause for the acquittal, just because the videotape had no effect on the jury anymore. They had become hardened to the violence. How much more, then, are we hardened to violence? Day after day, we are bombarded with a murder here, a rape there; a serial killer roams this town, a tsunami in this one. If it worked in a court of law, the very evidence of the crime working against the prosecution, surely we are affected.

Anyway, back to the shooting. Some facts intrigue me. Maybe intrigue is the wrong word. Anyway, the first is that one person managed to kill 32 others. At Columbine, two gunmen killed 15 people. The record for deaths in a school shooting before VT (side note: aren't we as a nation obsessed with records?) was 16 people killed. 1 gunman perpetrated that act of terrorism. So, at VT, one gunman managed to kill double the previous record. This indicates that the maniac knew what he was doing. He seems to have been 'professional' about the killings, and he hit who he was aiming for a lot of the time. I wouldn't be surprised if we find out he was frequenting a shooting range.

Second is that apart from Professor Liviu Libresku, it seems from current accounts, few people tried to stop this guy. Professor Libresku, I suppose, recognized the face of evil from his days in a concentration camp during World War II, and saw it etched on this maniac's face. I suppose the reason these type of massacres make the headlines is precisely because no one stopped the shooter. If, for instance, a student had managed to overwhelm the shooter at the cost of his/her own life, I doubt it would have been covered with the same fervor being displayed now. But it would arguably not have merited such fervor, because we would be focusing on what could have been if the student had not overpowered him. Why now, must we focus on what could have been if the shooter had been stopped? I suppose because it reflects on the times that he wasn't stopped.

And last, the media's scrambling to pin the blame on everyone except the maniac who shot 32 people. They blame VT. They blame 'loose' gun laws (even though Virginia Tech was a gun free zone, and the shooter committed a crime just bringing guns onto campus). And now, in a bizarre twist, they blame eBay. This kind of attitude disregards the fact that even with guns outlawed, classrooms as secure as bunkers, and no internet, there are still psychos in the world. And, as is said all too often, when there's a will, there's a way. When an evil human being wants to kill people, he is going to manage somehow. All of the 'solutions' mentioned are only addressing the result of evil, not the cause, which is human nature.

Evil is an idea that is completely rejected in this society. One needs look no further than what is considered 'art' today. Somewhere, someone is calling this atrocity freedom of expression. All problems in this world are just an outworking of this fact: humans are evil. Without understanding this, there will never be an actual solution to any problem.

Postscript: You might notice I never mentioned the gunman's name. I believe that we should remove the names of people who do things like this from the public consciousness. That removes at least one of the motivations for doing something like this.


Clean up Blogger!

I was just surfing around Blogger, looking for something interesting. I started typing URLs in for Blogspot sites. Time after time, the blog had one post on it and was last updated 3-5 years ago. Come on. The blogs are just taking up space on the great Google's omnipotent servers, so why not just remove a blog after no new updates for 1 year AND less than 15 posts? Your thoughts?

Chances are the author has forgotten the name or username/password of his/her blog after that amount of time anyway. I know because I started several blogs and never got past a couple days with them. Just check out this one. Yeah, that's mine. Pretty embarrassed that it didn't get past the first day. Working on a team on a blog (e.g. this one) is great, because then you're accountable to someone for the lack of posts, or the stupidity of the posts when you do post.

Anyway, back to my main point. I've forgotten the username and password I used to open above blog, and I'd rather it just get taken off blogger then sit there for posterity to mock. It would be fairly easy to program a bot to look through Google's servers and clean up based on predetermined guidelines. I guess what I'm trying to say is that Blogger should be a place for meaningful and continuous discussion, not a one night stand.


Government & the Internet... Again.

Speaking of government interference with the internet, now internet radio is in danger. I'm not a huge fan or listener of it myself, but I oppose government control of the internet in general.

I received this email from an internet radio service I tried out. Since the email was for the purpose of getting the word out, I expect that Pandora Internet Radio won't mind me reproducing it here.

Hi, it's Tim from Pandora,

I'm writing today to ask for your help. The survival of Pandora and all of Internet radio is in jeopardy because of a recent decision by the Copyright Royalty Board in Washington, DC to almost triple the licensing fees for Internet radio sites like Pandora. The new royalty rates are irrationally high, more than four times what satellite radio pays, and broadcast radio doesn't pay these at all. Left unchanged, these new royalties will kill every Internet radio site, including Pandora.

In response to these new and unfair fees, we have formed the SaveNetRadio Coalition, a group that includes listeners, artists, labels and webcasters. I hope that you will consider joining us.

Please sign our petition urging your Congressional representative to act to save Internet radio:

Please feel free to forward this link/email to your friends - the more petitioners we can get, the better.

Understand that we are fully supportive of paying royalties to the artists whose music we play, and have done so since our inception. As a former touring musician myself, I'm no stranger to the challenges facing working musicians. The issue we have with the recent ruling is that it puts the cost of streaming far out of the range of ANY webcaster's business potential.

I hope you'll take just a few minutes to sign our petition - it WILL make a difference. As a young industry, we do not have the lobbying power of the RIAA. You, our listeners, are by far our biggest and most influential allies.

As always, and now more than ever, thank you for your support.

-Tim Westergren
(Pandora founder)

This is really entirely stupid. Why should internet radio have to pay a huge fee while terrestrial radio is totally exempt from it? Once again, government is proving how stupid and cumbersome it can be. They don't understand the technology, they just want the extra revenue. Like I said before. The government should keep its hands off of the internet. That means not scrapping it; preserving net neutrality, and letting internet radio live.


Scrapping the internet?

Sound crazy? It is. Yet that is just what scientists are suggesting.

They just want to delete the whole darn thing and start over. Well, wouldn't that just be perfect for the federal government. They could eliminate all dissent online. The biggest phrase in this article for me is, "with the federal government's blessing." What the heck does the government have to do with the internet? Let me rephrase that: why the heck does the government have to have anything to do with the internet.

Quoting the article, 'The Internet "works well in many situations but was designed for completely different assumptions," said Dipankar Raychaudhuri, a Rutgers University professor overseeing three clean-slate projects. "It's sort of a miracle that it continues to work well today."'

Okay. So far so good. They want to improve it, because the internet was designed for different assumptions.

'Guru Parulkar, who will become executive director of Stanford's initiative after heading NSF's clean-slate programs, estimated that GENI alone could cost $350 million, while government, university and industry spending on the individual projects could collectively reach $300 million. Spending so far has been in the tens of millions of dollars.

And it could take billions of dollars to replace all the software and hardware deep in the legacy systems.'

Wait. We'll be paying for it? If this new idea has such potential, why not let private institutions fund it? Why must I pay for something like this? If it's a good idea, then companies will step forward and invest capital.

'Construction...could start by 2010 and take about five years to complete. Once operational, it should have a decade-long lifespan.'

A billion dollars for something that should last a decade? No thanks. I'm not paying.

Alright. Back to my analysis. I guess it's just hard to imagine something that isn't really all that old being 'old-school' and in need of a complete overhaul, although it really happens all the time. I just am wary of letting the government get involved in the process, especially when it is something so critical to modern life. We don't want to be like China and the internet.

Abraham Lincoln

Today, April 14th, in the year 1865, President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. A year and a half earlier, he had given one of the most famous speeches in American history.

"Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

"Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

"But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

Those words, apart from the first paragraph, still hold true today for the conflicts in which we are now engaged. Read it, and remember why freedom is worth fighting for.

Healing Iraq

Happened along this blog on the Blogger home page. Wow. First, I'd like to give props to Zeyad for doing such a good job. Pretty powerful stuff.

This picture caught my eye. I had no idea that the Iraqi Parliament had failed to reach quorum since October of last year. Or that Iraqi members of parliament get paid $120,000 dollars in salary.

Anyway, just thought I'd point it out. I know I'm a reader now.


Banning Plastic Bags

So, as we all know by now, plastic bags have been banned in San Francisco. Los Angeles is contemplating doing the same. New York also has a growing movement for the banning of plastic bags. These movements are all being pushed by the various environmentalist groups.

The problem is, as strange as it sounds, plastic bags are actually better for the environment. They are easier to recycle, take less energy to produce, and are not dependent (at some point along the way) on the destruction of trees.

Chew on these numbers: a paper bag requires almost 5 times as much energy as a plastic bag to produce (2511 BTUs vs. 594 BTUs).

Paper bags, from production to decomposition, generate 70% more air pollutants and 5000% more water pollutants than do plastic bags.

Paper bags do not decompose at a faster rate than do plastic bags.

Finally, recycling a plastic bag takes 91% less energy than recycling a paper bag (17 BTUs for a plastic bag, 1444 BTUs for a paper bag).

And, to prove one of my first points: in 1999, 14 million trees were cut to produce the 10 billion paper grocery bags used by Americans that year alone.

So, all of these bleeding-heart environmentalists are getting the whole thing backwards. Admittedly, neither type of bag is recycled in mass quantities, but plastic is easier to recycle and reuse. Give incentives for recycling, and more people will, but don't regulate the type of bag people can use.

Sources: Bankrate, Reusable Bags, EPA


I am NOT a contradiction in terms!

When asked (or provoked), I like to describe myself as a cynical idealist. Several people have pointed out to me that this seems to be an oxymoron. I beg to differ. The definitions of these words do not dictated that the two traits must be separate. In fact, I believe there are Biblical grounds for being both.

1. A person who believes all people are motivated by selfishness.

1. One whose conduct is influenced by ideals that often conflict with practical considerations.
2. One who is unrealistic and impractical; a visionary.
3. An artist or writer whose work is imbued with idealism.

So there! How is that a contradiction in terms? I believe in the inherent sinfulness of man and yet I want to follow ideals which are in disregard with this fallen world. Cynic. Idealist. They're totally compatible! Okay... so maybe they don't co-exist. I have days when I feel especially cynical and days when I am a hopeless romantic. So far, I haven't been both simultaneously. That would be very interesting.


Politics, part 1

Anyone notice that not a heck of a lot goes on in Congress? I mean, it's been 3 weeks since this funding bill was shot down after the Democrats bought votes with pork. Why aren't they working on a bill every day? Okay, they'd get federal holidays off if I were in charge. But that'd be it.

And don't tell me they need time with their families, time for illegal land deals, or whatever else big-shots do these days. Public service is supposed to be a sacrifice. In fact, I'm pretty sure that Public service is a synonym of Self-sacrifice. Looked it up in Webster's once...

Shout Out

Happened along this post on Technology News Flash. Got to love the Chinese. They pretend to be loosening up and then all of the sudden they do something like this.

I liked the quotes in the story. Of course online gaming is a fake. Clue is fake. The Game of Life is as fake as Second Life.

Gimme a break.

Update: Sounds like the doctors who invented RLS moved to Beijing. The Internet Addiction Treatment Center? See above paragraph.


I saw this...

...and I just had to post it. Hope you get a kick out of it.


Happy Easter

Real quickly, I just wanted to wish everyone a Happy Easter or Resurrection Sunday: whichever you want to call it.


The Need for More "Love"

My dictionary gives 16 definitions for the word "love."
I often think to myself that the word love is abused. It's overused and misunderstood. It crops up in pretty much ever pop song ever written and I wonder which definition the artist means. Usually I just assume the singer's talking about his girlfriend and leave it at that.
But seriously, I am often annoyed that there aren't more words for the different kinds of love, as there are in Greek. In Greek there are four loves.
This obviously factors into Biblical translation. In fact C.S. Lewis wrote the book The Four Loves as a result of misunderstanding "God is Love." And come think, he had a good reason for being a bit confused. What does the "love" there really mean in English? Further, what do people mean when they use it in everyday speech.
Yes, I am aware: you are supposed to ascertain the meaning through the context. But I think having the single word "love" having some many different meanings bound up in one word has harmed it--has taken away its punch and its meaning. At least that's what's happened for me.
Lewis discovered the meanings of the Four Loves. They are: affection, friendship, eros (romantic love), and charity (aka agape).
I just wish there were more effective ways of communicating this in English. Sometimes I bemoan the ambiguity of the language; sometimes I love it for what it is. Ah! There! I just used "love" when I could have been more descriptive about it!

Google Reader

Despite Strong Bad's insistence that "the Internet is a place where absolutely nothing happens," everyday new content is uploaded, downloaded, and changed. I'm currently subscribed to about eight or ten RSS feeds. It depends on how you count them.
Anyway, it's easy to keep track of all these feeds through FireFox's Live Bookmark feature, but currently my Bookmark Toolbar is beginning to get crowded. In comes Google with another awesome idea that I never would have thought of (or, at least Yahoo wouldn't have thought of.)
Google Reader. It gathers and displays your various feeds all in one email-like web app. So instead of subscribing to and checking all these feeds, you can simply add the feed URLs to Google Reader. Google Reader will then act like an email server. When you login, it will alert you of any updates to your feeds. Neat, huh? If you have a Google account, I recommend you check it out. If you don't have a Google account, why not?

I Remember that Show!

Oh my goodness. Old Carmen Sandiego episodes on YouTube. I used to watch that show! Wow... TV in the 90s was horrid.


Good Friday

I just wanted to wish everyone a good Good Friday! It just so happens that I stumbled across an interesting post on the subject. Read it here. Here's what I commented:
I stumble onto this site by randomly hitting the "next blog" button on the nav bar and wow... I wasn't expecting to find something like this.
Very interesting post, though. I have wondered about this myself on occasion. Personally, I'm horrible at counting days. What you say here makes sense, but I don't think we're going to get the church at large to change to a more accurate view. I'm not even sure that's important. For example, historians and Bible scholars tell us that the Birth of Jesus was probably in spring, but nobody's going to want to change Christmas now. I think the important thing is to remember and observe the holiday for what it is.

"Puh-owned! Or however you say that..."

Josh A. and I were having a completely pointless argument about the pronunciation of the internet slang word "pwned." He says it's "pooned" while I like to say either "owned" or "poned" or sometimes "pawned". In fact, there isn't even general agreement on how to spell it. Well I've found the "definitive" answer to the question: Wikipedia's entry on "pwn". Includes the etymology of the word and all the pronunciations and spellings. As if anyone cared. So there's your answer Josh! I so "pwned" you!


Trick Out Your PC: Free Programs

Don't you hate expensive software? I do. That's why I'm hunted down some really good free software over the past couple of years and have been using them since. I've compiled a list of awesome freeware I use and recommend. You don't even have to create an account to download them!
  • The GIMP - an image editor. Basically a free version of Adobe Photoshop. Works great. I use it for some amateurish graphical design. If Photoshop scares you, there's GIMPshop, a beginner's version with more user-friendly interface. Josh A. uses Paint.Net which is free also and more simplified for the everyday user.
  • Blender - a 3d rendering program. Make your own CGI! Seriously. It's powerful, professional grade and free. You absolutely must see what people have made with it to believe it.
  • Mozilla Firefox - if you don't know what this is, let me enlighten you, friend! Firefox is simply the best internet browser out there. It's faster and more secure than Internet Explorer and the name rocks more. Seriously, though, try Firefox. Alternately, you could use Opera which is also an excellent browser, but Firefox seems to have a bigger following and thus gets more fun plug-ins made for it.
  • Mozilla Thunderbird - also from the Mozilla Foundation is Thunderbird an email client. It's essentially a free version of Microsoft Outlook. This is the only program on the list that I do not personally use, I do my email online. However, Mozilla makes great stuff, so I'm certain it's an excellent program.
  • Mozilla Sunbird - Sunbird is a nifty little scheduling program that works like the Calendar and Tasks sections of Microsoft Outlook. It's a newer program so it's not quite all the way there, but I'm sure with a bit of time it will shape up. It's great to use if you want Outlook without the email part.
  • OpenOffice - You'll totally pwn Microsoft by downloading this. It's a software suite that includes equivalent programs to all those found in Microsoft Office. Plus, it's compatible with Microsoft Office formats and can export your files as PDFs!
  • Picasa - Google's free photo organizer. It kind of bothers me on occasion with some of it quirks and assumptions about your filing system, but it's a great program for viewing and doing basic edits on your photos.
  • Trillian - Sick of having friends on different chat clients? Maybe some friends use AIM and some use Yahoo? Fix that problem with Trillian the all-in-one chat client. Supports AIM, Yahoo!, MSN, ICQ and the upcoming version looks absolutely gorgeous.
  • Audacity - a sound editor. It's not flashy, but it certainly gets the job done. Nice for making basic recordings such as podcasts.
  • Google Earth - Search the Earth! It's not the most productive program, but it is fun!
Happy downloading!

You can't please everyone...

...because there are people like this. I stumbled on this site on a forum discussing World War II. I think it's pretty amusing. What kind of people are so driven to 'protect the environment' that they would advocate human extinction? I thought that species diversity was a good thing.... Good thing is, they seem to know that they don't have much of a chance.

Orwellian Irony

Oh the irony! George Orwell's house is now surrounded by about two-dozen close circuit TV cameras. Full story here.


If You Get This, You're a Real Geek

Well, I get it at least. I guess by my own standards I'm a geek. Now that's some kinda tattoo.

Are You Willing to Die?

The Muslims have the right idea. I'm talking the radical, warring jihadists. No, I don't mean I support them or that what they doing is right, but they've got the right idea. They're willing to die for their religion -- for their God. Here's question for all who call themselves Christians: are we willing to die? In the West we have things to live for -- stuff, material possessions, a comfortable way of life; but no real ideals, no larger more imminent objective than pleasing our own hedonistic desires. In the words of Ford Prefect (I can think of no more hedonistic person), "They care, we don't. They win."
We have things to live for; nothing we are willing to die for. The people who founded America are a prefect example of what we should be. They were driven by the ideals of liberty, of the defense God-given rights. For this they gave their blood.
On a more personal level I think of yesterday's posting. Derek Webb's "A Love That's Stronger Than Our Fear" goes like this:

What would you do if someone put a gun to your head
And asked you to tell them a lie?
What would you say if you were pushed that way
To betray yourself to keep yourself alive
Is life worth so much?
There's got to be a love that's stronger than our fear

In other words, would you be willing to stand up for you beliefs even to the point of death? Sure, it sounds drastic, through it happens everyday to Christians living in places like China or Africa. And it does happen here. Remember Columbine?
The point is we must be decide how much stock we are willing to put into our beliefs. If life worth so much that we would deny Christ if faced with mortal danger? Even Peter did so.
I have the feeling that most people, most Americans, would justify a betrayal of their beliefs. Whatever happened to "Give me liberty or give me death!" Are we willing to die? Are you? Am I?


The Ringing Bell

Derek Webb is an artist I really admire for his honesty and willingness to speak out on issues that most Christian artists either ignore or shy away from. That doesn't mean I necessarily agree with everything he does or says, of course. But the guy definitely has an interesting perspective on things and causes me to think. Derek's new album The Ringing Bell is due out May 1st. You can preview it in its entirety by following the link.
Particularly though-provoking songs are "A Love That's Stronger Than Our Fear," "Name," and "This Too Shall Be Made Right."


...and then there's Google...

In case you haven't already figured it out, that last post was an April Fools joke. Not a very good one, but the best I could come up with. I really enjoy fake news stories, provided, of course, they're hilarious.

Of course, there's always Google's April Fools joke. This year it's TiSP -- Google's free WiFi service. Naturally it's in beta.

The Next Bestseller

Mitch Albom, bestselling author of The Five People You Meet in Heaven has announced that his next book, a sequel, will be released this Fall. The book is titled The Five People You Meet in Hell. The third and final book in the “People You Meet in the Afterlife” series entitled The Five People You Meet in Purgatory, will be released in May 2008.

Mr. Albom missed the “third in series” rush by a year. That’s really too bad. I was really looking forward to another trilogy conclusion this May.

The publisher, Hyperion, has expressed interest in doing more in the series depending on the success of the books.

“I think a prequel would be interesting,” said Chuck Saber, head of the publishing company’s marketing department. “Maybe it could be called, ‘The Five People I Met on Earth’.”

Welcome/A Filler Post

This is an experiment. I have never been a good blogger before even though I like to write, so we shall see how well this goes. This blog is intended to be an arena in which I, a very unhealthily over opinionated person, can share/force my thoughts upon all who will read. So you may want to stay away.