Sunday, February 26, 2006

Personal Peace & Affluence - Part One

Much of our life is spent trying to build a fence around ourselves. The one who can build sufficient security and stability around their physical lives is seen as having a full life. Going through a risky situation is seen as an occasional necessary evil, but something which generally speaking is avoided.

We call it "the good life" or "personal peace and affluence". This is what we are taught to strive for. It is idealistic, and those who do not live up to it will often live with guilt about not attaining to it. We as a society, as Francis Schaeffer noted, that is sometimes interested only in our personal peace and affluence. We don't care how much other people suffer. We don't care how unproductive we are. We don't care about morals or philosophy or theories. We don't care about social justice. We DO care about our standard of living and we do care about being comfortable.

One of the most notable casualities in an unchecked pursuit of personal peace and affluence is Truth. The Truth must be worth something, it is reasoned, but not to the extent that I would be willing to endanger my personal peace and affluence for it. Hence, this pursuit overshadows the truth, and consequently becomes an idol held at the expense of what is true.

Along with truth, social justice falls. Social justice is important, it is reasoned, but only as long as it plays as a secondary goal that in some way benefits the primary goal, personal peace and affluence. Then social justice no longer becomes a fair thing, but rather a very narrow means of furthering one groups needs only in so much as they play into the benefits of a higher class.

According to the Bible, no temporal thing should usurp eternal truth. And also, it teaches that truth and justice will always be costly, will always involve some sacrifice (John 15:18-20, Luke 14:27-33). If we chose to follow truth only when it leads us within our norms of personal peace and affluence, we are doing a great disservice to the world and secondarily are estranging ourselves from any sort of connection with the truly radical Biblical vision of discipleship.

While the specifics vary from person to person, ultimately you will be required at some point to chose between preserving your personal peace & affluence and going in a path you know is right. Sometimes these two ways can become contradictory.

One particular example comes forward in my mind. In my denomination in the 1960's, an individual left North America to bring the gospel to a particular tribe in Papua New Guinea. His decision was foolish from any perspective which highly exalts perosnal peace & affluence. Nobody in the denomination had done that before, would this be well received? What would his church think? He was a well-to-do nuclear engineer. What would he do if he cut off his income? He had 4 young kids and a wife he was providing for. Moving to another country with 4 kids and a wife, the reasoning goes, would not be wise, especially when you are taking them into an environment that is dangerous, to a people who are essentially still living in some sort of "stone age". There is no way this decision could be wise when evaluated only on the basis of whether it was good for his personal peace and affluence. But there was something else in operation here: The idea that truth, a mission, a vision, etc. were more important than some of the finer details of personal peace and affluence. The individual decided that God could provide some of these temporal things, if only he would be willing to go out on the limb.

It turns out that this was the beginning of an amazing work. A work that still lasts today. God used this individual to reach a tribe with the Christian gospel who hadn't even been reached with just about anything modern yet. They literally were untouched by civillization as we know it. This gospel not only transformed their hearts, but some social practices that were unhealthy and destructive. He was also used to not only translate the New Testament into their language, but actually invent a written form of their language! Now they are a large group of churches with hundreds upon hundreds of believers and all native leadership!

This individual, Victor Schlatter is his name, said the following, and I think it is a good way to conclude this part: "My mother, a hard-pressed widow, taught me that there is a real Jesus. And if He is real, He is worth believing. His principles are worth following--beyond run-of-the-mill church morality and what is comfortable to twentieth century affluent evangelicals." We need to think long and hard... are we willing to pay the price? What is more important: our personal peace and affluence, or Truth, Justice, and Purpose? While I have focused on religious matters in this post, this concept really applies to the whole of life. Are you just going to seek out what makes you comfortable and safe, or are you willing to take risk when necessary?

To be continued..

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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

A Few Quotes

I don't really have much else to say right now, so a few curious quotes will have to suffice for now:

"Your work is both true and original. Unfortunately, the parts that are true are not original, and the parts that are original are not true" - Edgar Allan Poe

"I think the universe is a pretty hefty inspiration for anyone who aspires to be a creator." - Larry Wall

"It is a mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." - Aristotle

"There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale return of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact" - Mark Twain

"The internet is like the gold rush, the only people making money are the ones selling pans." - Will Hobbs

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." - Mark Twain

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Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Reaching out on February the 14th

Yesterday, Carolyn McCulley posted a link to a thought provoking article of hers regarding why singles need to change their focus on February 14th from self-centeredness and self-pity to ministry (serving the poor and needy). She writes mainly for a female audience, but this article along with much of her other posts are very far-reaching and of interest to both genders.

Here are a couple of quotes worth thinking about:

"To encounter loneliness through the eyes of faith is to see opportunities to minister love. Grace translates singleness into outreach. There are plenty of people on Valentine’s Day or other holidays, parties or weddings – single and married – who need someone to carry God’s love to them. With this perspective, let’s resolve when we next feel lonely or awkward, to use those emotions to remind us that others nearby may be feeling the same way."

"There are three spiritual benefits to serving the poor and needy around us: 1) it glorifies God and blesses others, 2) it builds our local churches, and 3) it’s a great antidote to self-pity."

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Saturday, February 11, 2006

Firefox safer than IE?

According to this article, those who use Mozilla Firefox to browse the web are less prone to spyware and other bad things than those who use Internet Explorer.

The article begins by saying: "Internet Explorer users can be as much as 21 times more likely to end up with a spyware-infected PC than people who go online with Mozilla's Firefox browser, academic researchers from Microsoft's backyard said in a recently published paper."

The individuals, employees of Microsoft, go on to carefully qualify this statement and suggest that it doesn't necessarily mean that Firefox is more secure, but the numbers they provide do suggest that.

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Thursday, February 09, 2006

A New Look at the Proverbs

I've been studying the Proverbs lately. I've found some new proverbs that almost appear to be new to me and I've also found that the Proverbs, aside from its primary goal of teaching wisdom, can actually be quite humorous and entertaining!

One vivid image is the image of the slothful man who lays down, rests his hand on his chest, and has to make a great strain just to bring his hand to his mouth.

Anyways, another thing I've noticed is the extensive usage of the Proverbs in the New Testament. When I think of New Testament books that are frequently quoted in the Old Testament, I think of the Psalms, Isaiah, Genesis, etc. However, Proverbs, especially chapters 25 & 26, are heavily utilized in the New Testament text.

Pro 25:21-22, for example, is quoted by Paul in Rom 12:20. A couple other examples are as follows: Jude 1:12 seems to be referencing Pro 25:14. In 2Pe 2:22, Peter refers to Proverbs 26:11.

Normally my mind gravitates to the writings of the Prophets and Apostles, but I think reading the Proverbs (I plan to read through them twice) which can be so easily applied to many areas of life will be very useful for me.

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Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Google Reader!

I spend a lot of time on the computer for work, to communicate with many people, and also many of my hobbies and interests involve computer usage to some extent. I also read a number of blogs.

This can all be time consuming. However, I found a little-known service that helps a bit! Google has a (still beta) service which basically gives you a nice interface to keep track of various XML site feeds. These feeds basically provide "Google Reader" with a list of content, and then Google Reader determines whether anything is new since you last checked. In Google Reader you define a list of sites you want to have on your list (in my case a list of blogs), and it combines all of their articles into one place. I can read them right from Google Reader and when I view any one of them, they are marked as "Read" and are hidden. You can also "Star" articles to give them some persistence (works the same way that "Stars "work in Google Mail).

So, instead of going to 15-20 Blogs to determined whether there are any new articles, I go to one place (Google Reader) and see my list of articles. This, in my mind, is very nifty.

Of course, this doesn't only apply to blogs, but basically any site that is syndicating its content through an XML feed. Unfortunately, some blogs may not offer an XML feed--but most do, even when run by people that are not very technologically savy. The reason being, most large blogging services provide it by default (ie., by default, provides a feed with each blog at the path

The service isn't exactly bug-free or refined, but it really has a lot of potential!

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