Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Wednesday's Mini Codices

Today's featured blips..

  • Happy 156th birthday Honolulu, Hawaii!

  • My friend and former co-worker is engaged. Congrats!

  • Codex means a block of wood or a book in Latin

  • E-Catena is a great compilation of allusions to the NT in early christian writings.

  • I'm looking forward to getting a closer look the Dooyeweerd site some time.

  • The selection isn't very rich and its flawed text synthesized speech, but I plan to start listening to a few of the MP3 files from Free Christian Audio Books on my ipod.

  • If you haven't seen my cousin Nick's website, check it out: Life Without Limbs

  • Writely is neat and handy. If you are going to demo web-based office applications, start with this not Google spreadsheet.

  • The Shelter is likely one of the better Francis Schaeffer sites out there.

Internet Security

"Not having anything to hide" is not a good excuse for not taking strong security measures while using the Internet and submitting information to web pages. There are many good reasons why you shouldn't necessarily trust your Internet Service Provider's pledge to secure their services.

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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Making a Difference: Hospitable Evangelism

Back in 2005, the Washington Times had an article commemorating the 50th anniversary of L'Abri.

There is no question that L'Abri has had a great impact...just read that article and you will get a taste of that. This influence was present before and after Francis Schaeffer died. One example given in the Washington Times article is:

In the fall of 1960, Jim Hurley, a 16-year-old American agnostic studying at a nearby Swiss private school, dropped by "to laugh at the fundamentalists."
"He was talking about a God he knew," he remembers of Mr. Schaeffer. "He believed in people having honest questions and him giving honest answers. There weren't any unfair questions [or] unaskable questions."
Mr. Hurley became a Christian the next spring and is now a family therapist teaching at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Miss.

L'Abri's guest list is quite interesting and diverse. Some of the characters to have visit L'Abri over the years include: Jerram Barrs (speaker/author), Timothy Leary (counterculture figure), Rebecca St. James (musician), Mark Heard (musician, Larry Norman (musician), Nancy Pearcey (author), Irving Hexham (author), OS Guinness (speaker/author), Katherine Harris (U.S. House Rep), and Hans Rookmaaker (author). Some of these were athiest/agnostics/etc. when they arrived, and some left remaining as such. That L'Abri would be interesting enough to attract visits from both Timothy Leary and Katherine Harris tells you something about its diversity!!

The Schaeffer's were adament about insisting that people should NOT try to copy their methods and expect the same results. They always insisted that the idea was to be obedient to God's call, and find creative ways to reach people--not to try to reproduce a method that is supposed to work. The last thing needed, they reasoned, was to have throngs of people thinking L'Abri was a pattern to be applied in all sorts of other situations that may or may not fit well into other unique environments.

In reflecting on what I've read about L'Abri, I wonder.. do we ("we" being conservative western Christians) have a cold and clinical view of evangelism? Ie. Trying to win souls without caring for souls? Trying to win souls without wanting to even spend time with them? Trying to win souls without being concerned about any other aspects of their being? Trying to win souls, preferably at a distance and without getting our sleeves dirty? Trying to be an ambassador while living in what essentially could be symbolized by Alcatraz?

For those who are much like me (born and raised in a Christian environment and who are currently a professing "conservative evangelical" Christian, maybe we should consider the following questions...

1. When was the last time I've had someone over at my house that (a) I've known for less than 1 years, (b) is not a believer, (c) is from a radically different cultural context, (d) is not a family member, and (e) they stayed for more than an hour?

2. When was the last time I've had a conversation with a stranger that lasted more than a minute and which both parties would desire to continue? When is the last time I smiled and said 'hi' to a stranger?

3. When was the last time someone (other than a friend or family member or church member) asked you for advise on some issue in their life?

4. When was the last time I've went out of my way to be around or help a person who makes me feel uncomfortable?

5. When was the last time I did something for my next-door neighbour? Or even talked to them? How about the one that hasn't done anything for me?

The more I think about these questions, the more I feel like a hermit. Being an intoverted thinker may distinguish the way we interact, but it isn't an excuse for a totally disconnected life. I think many people living in North America (even very outgoing types) can feel a sense of failure on these matters. And as Christians, we need to be very concerned about this. Think about it, how many new people do you actually run into throughout the course of your day? And is that number increasing or decreasing as the years go by?

God definately uses different personalities and levels of outgoingness, but I don't think we can be ambassadors for Christ unless we are willing to sacrifice to connect with people. "Hit-and-run" may work in self-defense and baseball, but it seems to be a poor excuse for evangelism and probably to some degree has opened up the door for many to dismiss Christianity as a shallow, hypocritical religion influenced by marketing gimics more so than any deep commitment to truth in all of life.

Now.. where does one begin?

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Friday, August 25, 2006

More Condensed Book Reviews

Believe it or not, this is rather fun..

"The Stolen White Elephant" by Mark Twain
- Entertaining but not exceptional

"George C. Wallace: triumph of tragedy?" by Rodolphe J. A De Seife
- Sheer propaganda, a smear campaign in reverse

"Everybody's Business Is Nobody's Business" by Daniel Defoe
- A raging rant

"The Beekeeper's Apprentice" - Laurie R. King
- At last! A highly creative Sherlock knock-off

"The Gospel According to Rome" by James McCarthy
- Nice!

"Free Software, Free Society: Selected Essays of Richard M. Stallman" by Richard Stallman
- Good introduction to Stallman, eccentricities to be expected

"We the Media : Grassroots Journalism By the People, For the People" by Dan Gilmor
- Excellent

"KJV 1611: Perfect! A Conviction, Not a Preference" by Roy Branson
- Rubbish, and mean/uncharitable rubbish at that

"On Jesus" by Douglas Groothis
- Excellent

"Spirits In Bondage: A Cycle Of Lyrics" by C.S. Lewis
- Lewis in Angst mode

"Python Cookbook" by Alex Martelli
- Tasty

"L'Abri" by Edith Schaeffer
- Excellent

"Art and the Bible" by Francis Schaeffer
- Wonderful

"The Believer's Conditional Security" by Dan Corner
- A misguided rant in every regard, more bold type than good sense

"Diary of a Nobody" by George Grossmith
- Seemingly unsophisticated, but good!

"The Friendly Dictatorship" by Jeffry Simpson
- Not without faults, but interesting!

"The Negro revolt" by Louis Lomax
- Interesting

"A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court" - Mark Twain
- Wonderfully humorous

"Behold the Man" by R. Kent Hughes
- Good

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Thursday, August 24, 2006

Condensed Book Reviews

I got this idea from Doug Wilson's book log. The idea is to give a review of a book in a few words or less.

"The Kingdom that Turned the World Upside Down" by David Bercot - Has a few good points, but also some rubbish.

"Fables For The Frivolous" by Guy Whitmore Carryl
- Hilarious.

"In the Presence of My Enemies" by Gracia Burnham
- Fascinating

"Easy Chairs, Hard Words: Converstions on the Liberty" of God by Douglas Wilson
- Brilliantly simple defense of Reformed theology

"Opposing Viewpoints Series - Technology and Society" by Auriana Ojeda
- The pinacle of editorial laziness, cut and paste with no interaction

"The Language of God" by Ron Julian
- Creative, but tedious and generally a failure

"Golden Booklet of the True Christian Life by John Calvin"
- Outstanding

"The Dust of Death" by OS Guinness
- Outstanding

"The Winds of December: The Cuban Revolution of 1958" by John Dorschner
- Oustanding and well rounded

"Exploits of Sherlock Holmes" by Adrian Conan Doyle
- Good spinoff

"A Lifetime Of Church" by Tom Speicher
- Rather long, but great!

"Tiananmen Diary: Thirteen Days in June" by Harrison Salisbury
- Short and fascinating

"The Rise, Corruption and Coming Fall of the House of Saud" by Said K. Aburish
- Outstanding

"Secure Architectures with OpenBSD"
- Good not great, title is a bit deceiving

"The Holy War" by John Bunyan
- Outstanding

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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Putting Someone/Something Down With Dignity

There was once a day when the art of insulting someone was actually quite a refined art. The idea back then was not necessarily to find a despicable noun or verb to associate a person with, but rather to discover a humorous witty quip that may take more than a few brain cells to parse.

I guess you wouldn't necessarily call them "insults" persay, they were more literary sabre rattling. Men who had a way with words, tended towards having a way with clever jabs too.

For instance, mark the following jab which Mark Twain documents in "Roughing It":

'Once, while editor of the Union, he had disposed of a labored, incoherent, two-column attack made upon him by a contemporary, with a single line, which, at first glance, seemed to contain a solemn and tremendous compliment--viz.: "THE LOGIC OF OUR ADVERSARY RESEMBLES THE PEACE OF GOD,"--and left it to the reader's memory and after-thought to invest the remark with another and "more different" meaning by supplying for himself and at his own leisure the rest of the Scripture--" in that it passeth understanding.'

And lest we misappropriate these colorful jabs exclusively to frontier ruffians, let's consider the exploits of the noble and pious preacher Charles Spurgeon. He had a way with words too. And one would prefer not to be on the business end of his witticsms. In his "Commenting on Commetaries", he executes some most creative assesments:

"The author professed to offer his work with great diffidence, and he had just cause to do so: he had better have burned his manuscript."

"This book reads to us like utter nonsense. We question if anyone except the author will ever be able to make head or tail of it, and he had better be quick about it, or he will forget what he meant."

"It is easy to divide an egg by letting it drop on the floor, and in this fashion this author divides texts."

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Monday, August 21, 2006

New Template!

Well, here it is. A new template!

I thought it would be a matter of 5-10 minutes to pick one of the available templates and slap a few custom things on.

Way too much time later, I'm finally satisified with one of the simpler templates blogger offers, with some heavy modification.

Sigh! That took waaaaaaaay too long. One of the biggest headaches was to get some of the spacing work properly in CSS.

The design is a bit picture heavy, but perhaps there are enough large monitors and fast connections to make that a non-issue.

Feedback, anyone?

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Sunday, August 20, 2006

Manna Like They've Never Seen Before

Today I listened to a wonderful sermon on the "Bread of Life" porition of John 6. Rather than commenting on it or on the passage in question, I just want to quote part of that chapter here.

This passage is so interesting and rich with imagery. And it contains a lot of good application points as well.

John 6:35-49

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me— not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”


Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Saturday, August 19, 2006

Remembering Pascal

For those of you who don't know, today is the day that philosopher and mathemetician Blaise Pascal died. On this day in 1662, the great genius died. When I say "Remembering Pascal", two things come to mind: Pascal as an individual, and Pascal as a programming language named after him.

As a programmer, my earlier years were mainly spent working with the Pascal language, usually working in the Borland Pascal environment. Pascal was really a good match for me at that time. I was good enough to be somewhat stiffled and insulted by the simplicity and occasional absurdities of the Basic language. However, I wasn't nearly knowledgable enough to master C or Assembly. So, Pascal seemed to be an obvious choice: it was simple enough for me to learn easily, but at the same time it was complex enough for me to see it as a useful tool. Now I probably wouldn't touch Pascal with a 10 foot pole, but I still have some fond memories of it and I believe it helped me learn how to program.

Moving along to Pascal the person, there is much to be remembered. He certainly didn't live very long, maybe at most 40 or so years? He made a lot of contributions, especially to natural sciences, probability, and study of fluids. His name has been attached to a theorem, a programming language, and a unit of measurement.

This is not intended to be a biography, but I would like to list some other interesting things about Pascal that you may have not known:

  • Before Pascal turned 13 he had proven the 32-nd proposition of Euclid and discovered an error in Rene Descartes geometry.

  • He wrote letters against the Jesuits

  • He claims to have had a mystical vision

  • He wrote criticizing the prevailing ethical philosopies of his day

  • He used a lot of satire in his writings

  • He died of a brain hemorrhage

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Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Curious Book

I try to keep an eye open for interesting and cheap books on EBay.

One book definately caught my eye, it is entitled "Albert Camus & The Minister". I don't really know much about Camus, but given what I do know about him, this book kind of tickles my curiosity.

Camus is a existentialist philosopher. The book is a Christian minister recollecting his friendship with Camus. Camus was in a church to hear an organist, and eventualy connects with the author, who was a visiting minister. Interestingly, it appears that Camus requested a re-baptism, but Mumma (the minister) denied his request.

Apparently this book demonstrates one sort of response to existentialism that some Christians have taken.

I really know nothing about this book other than that it sounds interesting. Some readers have heavily thrashed this book in the reviews, but that doesn't reduce my curiosity about it.

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God's Attributes Work for Good to the Godly

-- Exerpt from A Divine Cordial by Thomas Watson --

God's power works for good, in supporting us in trouble. " Underneath
are the everlasting arms " (Deut. xxxiii. 27). What upheld Daniel in
the lion's den? Jonah in the whale's belly? The three Hebrews in the
furnace? Only the power of God. Is it not strange to see a bruised
reed grow and flourish? How is a weak Christian able, not only to
endure affliction, but to rejoice in it? He is upheld by the arms of
the Almighty. " My strength is made perfect in weakness " (2 Cor. xii.

The power of God works for us by supplying our wants. God creates
comforts when means fail. He that brought food to the prophet Elijah
by ravens, will bring sustenance to His people. God can preserve the "
oil in the cruse " (I Kings xvii. 14). The Lord made the sun on Ahaz's
dial go ten degrees backward: so when our outward comforts are
declining, and the sun is almost setting, God often causes a revival,
and brings the sun many degrees backward.

The power of God subdues our corruptions. " He will subdue our
iniquities " (Micah vii. 19). Is your sin strong? God is powerful, He
will break the head of this leviathan. Is your heart hard? God will
dissolve that stone in Christ's blood. " The Almighty maketh my heart
soft " (Job xxiii. 16). When we say as Jehoshaphat, " We have no might
against this great army " ; the Lord goes up with us, and helps us to
fight our battles. He strikes off the heads of those goliath lusts
which are too strong for us.

The power of God conquers our enemies. He stains the pride, and breaks
the confidence of adversaries. " Thou shalt break them with a rod of
iron " (Psalm ii. 9). There is rage in the enemy, malice in the devil,
but power in God. How easily can He rout all the forces of the wicked!
" It is nothing for thee, Lord, to help " (2 Chr. xiv. 11). God's
power is on the side of His church. " Happy art thou, O Israel, O
people saved by the Lord, who is the shield of thy help, and the sword
of thy excellency " (Deut. xxxiii. 29).

(2). The wisdom of God works for good. God's wisdom is our oracle to
instruct us. As He is the mighty God, so also the Counsellor (Isa. ix.
6). We are oftentimes in the dark, and, in matters intricate and
doubtful know not which way to take; here God comes in with light. " I
will guide thee with mine eye " (Psa. xxxxii. 8). " Eye, " there, is
put for God's wisdom. Why is it the saints can see further than the
most quick-sighted politicians? They foresee the evil, and hide
themselves; they see Satan's sophisms. God's wisdom is the pillar of
fire to go before, and guide them.

(3). The goodness of God works for good to the godly. God's goodness
is a means to make us good. " The goodness of God leadeth to
repentance " (Rom. ii. 4). The goodness of God is a spiritual sunbeam
to melt the heart into tears. Oh, says the soul, has God been so good
to me? Has He reprieved me so long from hell, and shall I grieve His
Spirit any more? Shall I sin against goodness?

The goodness of God works for good, as it ushers in all blessings. The
favours we receive, are the silver streams which flow from the
fountain of God's goodness. This divine attribute of goodness brings
in two sorts of blessings. Common blessings: all partake of these, the
bad as well as the good; this sweet dew falls upon the thistle as well
as the rose. Crowning blessings: these only the godly partake of. "
Who crowneth us with loving-kindness " (Psalm ciii. 4). Thus the
blessed attributes of God work for good to the saints.

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Thursday, August 10, 2006

Here, There, and Everywhere

1. For those who haven't heard, I've left the ACC, primarily over two doctrinal issues. I'll dearly miss worshiping regularly with the congregation that has been my home for almost my whole life. I'm seeking to join a local church that has a strong commitment to the gospel and has a strong Biblically sound preaching ministry.

2. Having to leave a church is not easy.

3. Especially the ACC.

4. I'm upgrading from SuSE Linux 10.0 to 10.1. I want to do a clean install, so I've spent a lot of time backing up loads of stuff. Unfortunately, I accidentally deleted something I didn't want to, so I am missing some older files :(

5. The weather is great! How is it that in the last couple of weeks I've hardly been able to get outside and enjoy it!? That definately has to change.

6. If you are a pastor and haven't read "Reformed Pastor" by Richard Baxter, do yourself and your congregation a favor and please read it ASAP.

7. Foxmarks is very useful and cool. And now its a company! Its a service which allows you to sync bookmarks remotely in your various installations of Firefox. And beyond that, it gives you a private web interface to access your bookmarks from anywhere and any browser.

8. I need to stop ordering books until I've read more of them.

9. Israel is not joking about marching through Lebanon.

10. Random books from my wishlist:

"The Gospel and the Greeks: Did the New Testament Borrow from Pagan Thought?" by Ronald Nash
"The Bolivian Diary: Authorized Edition" by Che Guevara
"John Owen on Christian Life" by Sinclair B. Ferguson
"1776" by David McCullough
"The Birds Our Teachers" by John Stott
"Letters of Francis A. Schaeffer: Spiritual Reality in the Personal Christian Life" - Lane T. Dennis
"Rats: Observations on the History and Habitat of the City's Most Unwanted Inhabitants" by Robert Sullivan
"Fugitive Game" by Jonathan Littman
"The Savage My Kinsman" by Elizabeth Elliot
"Finished Work of Christ" by Francis Schaeffer

11. I'm rediscovering BibleTime (a KDE client for the SWORD engine). It is actually not as bad as I initially thought it would be. I still feel its not as good as E-Sword (free product for Windows), but I think I'll be using it because Linux is my OS of choice.

12. I'm very ignorant about eschatology.

Well, well. I don't normally post like this. But it did feel good!

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Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Castro Swap

According to LA Times and many other sources, Fidel Castro is stepping aside momentarily in anticipation of ongoing surgery, and handing the reins over to his brother, Raul Castro. This should not be a huge suprise, as Fidel is nearly 80 years old. Raul, however, is not much younger--75 years old.

Ruthlessness aside, Fidel actually does have a lot of popular support. How else could a Latin American head of state remain in power since the late 50's / early 60's? An iron fist will keep you in there for a long time, but probably not that long.

The transition of power to the next leader of the country and how it will happen has been a topic of much speculation over the past decade or two. There are many factors working against a peaceful transition.

To tell you the truth, I think the best bet is to have someone from Fidel's inner circle (ie Raul) replace him as opposed to just about any other possible scenario. I think that is the only way that Cuba could be propolled to some greater future--gradually. And the disappearance of the "Fidel" persona, will probably do a lot to take away some of the antagonism that exists. However, if some US-supported exiles from rich beach homes in Miami install a future head of state (some of them have been itching to do this for a LONG time), I can only image what sort of chaos will abound on this island.

The current residents of Cuba (to generalize a bit..) are likely mixed in their support for Castro. Some love him, others hate him, with many in between. But many of those that hate Castro, hate the Miami-exiles even more. I imagine that many Cubans who would welcome attemps to depose the Castros would fight even harder to ensure a Miami-based solution never happens.

Anyways, I'm no expert, but this subject fascinates me and I have read quite a bit about it.

To conclude, I think sometimes we need to consider that the best thing we can do to promote democracy and freedom is to fascilitate gradual and peaceful changes with popular support, not embargoes or violently installing new heads of state. Many of the regime changes and "pressure towards democracy" that we have supported ('we' being North Americans) have been nothing but a successful apologetic for Marxism (or whatever else may be the competing politic/philosophy of the day). Imagine how a quick and thorough revoking of the embargoe would take the wind out of much of Fidel's stance. He then would be forced to stop blaming the U.S. to some degree and would be more obligated to show what he is doing for his people.

Never underestimate the power of a strong vocal Miami lobby in all of this.

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