OYB: January 4

Filed in ReligionTags: Christianity, Devotions, One Year Bible

Today's reading:
OT: Genesis 8, Genesis 9, Genesis 10
NT: Matthew 4:12-25
Ps: Psalm 4
Pr: Proverbs 1:20-23

Today's notable verse:

As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.

Genesis 8:22 (NIV)

The One Year Bible Blog notes:

In the remainder of chapter 9 we read about Noah's son's Shem, Ham and Japheth. Initially I asked myself, why is Noah so upset with Ham? The answer lies in verse 22 - "Ham, the father of Canaan, saw that his father was naked and went outside and told his brothers." The last 3 words of this sentence were the issue - Ham told his brothers his father was naked. Instead of discreetly just covering up his father on his own, he broadcast the issue to his brothers. Are there times in our life where we could discreetly take care of problems of others, or could confront the individual directly about the problem, but instead we broadcast what someone else's problems are? Is this right? Is this godly?

Actually, I think the implication here is that Ham did more than just see his father's nakedness. Genesis states that Noah's anger resulting from finding out "what his youngest sone had done to him." Noah cursed Ham because of what he had done, and Ham's descendants became some of the most sexually depraved pagan cultures ever to exist - quite possibly because Ham's curse was for his own sexual perversion.

Regardless, that Ham "told his brothers", and Japheth's and Shem's response, led directly to Noah's blessing just as the original act led to Noah's curse. We are presented each day with such choices, and each is an opportunity to respond to temptation by choosing holiness. We, too, are blessed when we choose holiness.

OYBB is right, however, that we are called not to emulate Ham's "broadcasting" of the issue to his brothers. When we have a problem with another, we are to go first to that person alone and attempt to settle the matter. We are also not to condescend to others concerning their own sins (the "speck" in their eyes) while we have unresolved sin in our own lives (the "plank" in our own eye). We are not to consider ourselves more highly than we ought, but in humility consider others better than ourselves. If we take a right attitude toward our own sin, then we won't have time to make hay over anyone else's. If we are humble with respect toward our own sin, then we can serve others in love as they deal with their sin as well.

EDIT (Wednesday, January 4, 2005, 18:15):

One thing I intended to comment on, but forgot:

The Lord smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart, "Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.

Genesis 8:21

What's interesting to note here is that the only humans on the earth at this time were Noah and his family - the very humans saved from the flood because of their righteousness. Yet these same humans constitute the entirety of those to whom God referred when he said, "every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood." This passage is one of the earliest examples of righteousness through faith, and not works. (Abel's acceptable sacrifice would be the first, as recorded in Genesis, and reiterated in Hebrews 11.) Even Noah, earlier commended for his righteousness, is included as one whose every inclination of the heart is evil from childhood. What does that mean? First, we have the ability - the responsibility - to choose to act contrary to the evil inclination of our fallen nature. Second, we are counted as righteousness because of our identification in Christ, through faith, no matter how often nor how badly we fall when we give in to those inclinations. Third, we have been given a very precious gift - the Holy Spirit living in us - to guide us and transform us into the image of Christ, who can overcome our sinful inclinations as we allow Him to work in our lives. Praise be to God!

Mao Tse Gates?

Filed in PoliticsTags: Internet

So I wonder what the man representing one-third of of the Times Persons of the Year has to say about political censorship of MSN Spaces blogs? As quoted by LaShawn Barber, Glenn Reynolds, Evan Coyne Maloney, and the Scobelizer, Rebecca MacKinnon explains the sordid details of her experiments:

As it so happens, in mid-December I played around a bit with Chinese language blog-hosting tools to try and get a better idea of how they censor blogger content. I haven’t posted about it yet partially because family business and vacation got in the way, and partially because I wanted to do a few more tests. But given what happened to Anti I think I had better not wait.

Back over the summer I wrote a post titled Screenshots of Censorship about how MSN spaces was censoring the titles of its Chinese blogs, but not posts themselves. According to my testing in mid-late December, they now censoring much more intensely.

On December 16th I created a blog and attempted to make various posts with politically sensitive words. When I attempted to post entries with titles like “Tibet Independence” or “Falun Gong” (a banned religious group), I got an error message saying: “This item includes forbidden language. Please delete forbidden language from this item.”

However I was successful in posting blog entries with non-controversial titles, but with politically sensitive words in the text body. For instance, a blog post titled “I love you” had “Tibet independence” in the text body, and a post titled “I am happy” had “Falun Gong” in the body...

This was on Friday December 16th. By Monday the 19th, the whole blog had been taken down, just like Anti’s was on Dec.31st, with an error message: “This space is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.”

Now, It is VERY important to note that the inaccessible blog was moved or removed at the server level and that the blog remains inaccessible from the United States as well as from China. This means that the action was taken NOT by Chinese authorities responsible for filtering and censoring the internet for Chinese viewers, but by MSN staff at the level of the MSN servers.

(Emphasis added)

I'm trying to come up with some plausible explanation why Microsoft would be in the business of facilitating political censorship. My first thought was of the MSN Spaces Code of Conduct. But the only thing even close to a rationalization for political censorship is this item under "Prohibited Uses":

You will not upload, post, transmit, transfer, disseminate, distribute, or facilitate distribution of any content, including text, images, sound, data, information, or software, that...is illegal or violates any local and national laws that apply to your location; including but not limited to child pornography, illegal drugs, copyright material and intellectual property not belonging to you.

However, while such wording might justify - in the strictest adherence - to censorship of outlawed speech in China, Rebecca MacKinnon is in the United States, not China. At least the Scobelizer is trying to do something about it:

I’m copying this post to Christopher Payne, corporate Vice President over on MSN and will try to get his point of view on this.

Update: someone over on MSN Spaces just wrote me and said he hadn’t heard of this and that he’s raising this up the management chain too. I’ll report more as I hear more. he told me that Steve Liffick is the VP in charge of MSN Spaces and that he reports to Blake Irving. I’ve sent email to both of those guys on this issue.

I don't care how much money Microsoft stands to lose; shame on them for cow-towing to socialist dictators and for actively infringing upon freedom of speech.

OYB: January 3

Filed in ReligionTags: Christianity, Devotions, One Year Bible

Today's reading:
OT: Genesis 5, Genesis 6, Genesis 7
NT: Matthew 3, Matthew 4:1-11
Ps: Psalm 3
Pr: Proverbs 1:10-19

Today's notable verse:

But you are a shield around me, O Lord; you bestow glory on me and lift up my head.

Psalm 3:3 (NIV)

The One Year Bible Blog notes:

One other important point to make in Matthew 4:4 and the 2 other temptations in this chapter. We see the devil tempting Jesus with things that may look enticing to Jesus or to us. But they are lies. And note - this is important - how Jesus fends off the devil's temptations and lies - by quoting scripture! Jesus knew scripture (well, yes, technically he is scripture...:) But, the point is this. I do believe that we need to do more than just read the Bible. We need to memorize many portions of the Bible to protect us when the devil is attacking. If we have scripture memorized, when we are tempted, we can quickly call to mind a verse or two that will bring us back into right state of mind - focusing back on God, Jesus, and their love and strength available through the Holy Spirit. If we don't have scripture memorized, as Jesus clearly did in this chapter, we are at risk of falling prey to the deception and lies of the temptation. So - I am mostly preaching this to myself! 🙂 But, I really want to do more memorization of scripture in 2006. I have several verses down - but not enough. Proverbs 3:5-6 certainly comes to mind for me often when I am worried or stressed and it transforms my state of mind immediately! Actually - if anyone else out there memorizes scripture, please post up in the Comments section below? I would love to know which verses you have found useful in your life? And - if anyone has advice on how to best go about memorizing scripture, please post that up too! Are you memorizing scripture on a regular basis? Are you bringing scripture to mind when faced with temptation or sadness or whatever ails you? Will you join me in my plan to memorize more scripture verses in 2006?

It is written... What an amazing testament to power of the Word! Jesus - the author and perfecter of our faith - resisted Satan with these three, simple words. How important is knowing the Word? This passage should answer this question definitively. Satan tempted Jesus' physical cravings, tempted Jesus to "put God to the test," and tempted Jesus' obedience to God's will for his life. In each case, Jesus resisted and refuted Satan with the Word. God will not let us be tempted beyond what we can bear, but when we are tempted, He will provide a way out, so that we can stand up from under it - but what is that way He provides? His Word! But to be useful, Scripture must be memorized, internalized - lived.

I started memorizing Scripture practically as far back as I have memory. My church, and especially Sunday school classes, encouraged it. My parents reinforced it. The short-term youth mission organization I worked with required daily Scripture memorization on all mission projects. By the time I was in high school, I was memorizing entire books of the Bible for Bible Bowl competitions. (My freshman year, I memorized Matthew; Sophomore year, I memorized I Kings; Junior year, I/II Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians; Senior year, Exodus.) Now, I can't still quote all those books; to do that requires daily recitation. But, it's amazing how the Spirit will bring back something from a part of the Bible I've memorized at just the right time, to answer a question, provide a word of wisdom, or otherwise help in a given situation. Several of my favorite scriptures will show up in the daily verse (CB.Word) script in the left-hand sidebar.

I'm sure others have myriad means of memorization, but I have always just used rote memorization and repetition. In high school, I could memorize a chapter or two a week, just memorizing one line at a time. I think, though, there would be great benefit in choosing a verse each day from the daily reading, and memorize it. Today, I have chosen Psalm 3:3.

OYB: January 2

Filed in ReligionTags: Christianity, Devotions, One Year Bible

Today's reading:
OT: Genesis 3, Genesis 4
NT: Matthew 2:13-23, Matthew 3
Ps: Psalm 2
Pr: Proverbs 1:7-9

The One Year Bible Blog asks:

Maybe it is verse 4 that really stands out to me about John - "John's clothes were woven from camel hair, and he wore a leather belt; his food was locusts and wild honey." I think this is really saying that John lived a simple life. He did not "major in minor things" - he "majored in the major thing" - Jesus! Is there something we can learn from John the Baptist in our lives today? Are we perhaps focusing too much on things of this world and not enough on God and Jesus? Are we truly loving God and loving people like John did? Or are we spending our life "majoring in minor things"? Will we instead "major on the major thing" that John is calling us to even today - complete passion and love for God, Jesus, and other people?

I think it's a matter of perspective. John the Baptist had an eternal, rather than temporal, perspective - the same perspective to which we Christians today are called. I don't think it coincidental that most of the Old Testament prophets were idiosynchratic with respect to the culture of the day. That such people were outwardly set apart from their contemporaries was also indicative of an inward attitude of being set apart for God. The same was true for John the Baptist, and the same can still be found to be true today. (And I don't just say that because I'm a strange character myself. 😉 )

I think John the Baptist exemplified what Jesus later taught, that our God, who feeds the birds and clothes the plants, will provide. The less we concern ourselves with the details of what God has already promised to provide for us, the more we can devote ourselves to discerning and fulfilling the amazing purpose God has for our lives. The less we concern ourselves with what others think of us, the more we can devote to pleasing and glorifying our Creator.

I read that Proverbs chapter 1 verse 7 is basically the foundational mission statement for the entire book of Proverbs. So, I guess we ought to pay attention to this one! "Fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge. Only fools despise wisdom and discipline." What does this proverb say to you? Do you believe we should fear God? Zondervan's NIV Study Bible defines this fear of God as "a loving reverence for God that includes submission to his Lordship and to the commands of his words." Do you believe that fear of God is the beginning of knowledge in our lives? Will you embrace wisdom and discipline in your life? Will you make wisdom and discipline top priorities in your life in this new year of 2006?

I think the Zondervan definition of fear is pretty appropriate. Unless we know who God is, respect his holiness, and understand how utterly lost we are on our own, we will have no desire for the knowledge He wants to give us: knowledge of how to be reconciled to him, and how to live the life He would have us live: purposeful, prosperous, and abundant - zoe life. To the fool, "ignorance is bliss." Not knowing the nature nor the inevitable outcome of one's life may allow one to live a life free of guilt, but, as this verse tells us, such a path is truly a fool's errand.

OYB: January 1

Filed in ReligionTags: Christianity, Devotions, One Year Bible

Today's reading:
OT: Genesis 1, Genesis 2
NT: Matthew 1, Matthew 2:1-12
Ps: Psalm 1
Pr: Proverbs 1:1-6

The One Year Bible Blog asks several questions today:

Today we read this in Genesis chapter 1 verse 27 - "So God created people in his own image; God patterned them after himself; male and female he created them." Do you believe that you are made in the image of God? Is this a powerful thing to reflect upon? What might this mean for your life in 2006, knowing that you are made in the image of God? Does this give you a sense of possibility for your life? A sense that you are made for a great purpose in this life?

Am I made in the image of God? The Bible says it; I believe it. But what, really, does that mean? God clearly created humans uniquely from the rest of all creation - spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically. I believe, at its most foundational meaning, that we are created in the spiritual image of God - something we will not fully grasp until Christ returns, and we are transformed in the image of our glorified Lord. It is that spiritual likeness that enables our reconciliation and relationship with God, when we are made a new creation in Christ, and are given His spirit. That idea, alone, is a powerful thing upon which to reflect; however, I believe our likeness with God is not limited to our spiritual nature.

God has created us uniquely intelligent, self-aware, and willful - all aspects of His character. We have the ability to love as God loves, and we seek out purpose for our lives and - whether or not we recognize it - we seek out our ultimate purpose: relationship with our Creator.

What does this knowledge mean for my life in 2006? Does it give me a sense of possibility and purpose? Absolutely it gives me a sense of possibility and meaning. It means that I must recognize that each day is a gift and privilege, and that I must make the most of every opportunity. I have never doubted that I was created for a purpose, that God formed me with a plan for my life, and that it is up to me to rely on God working in and through me in order to accomplish that purpose. And never before has God's purpose for my life been more clear that it is at the commencement of 2006.

God has brought a beautiful woman and a precious child into my life. He has placed me in a body of believers with an amazing vision for uniting our city for Christ. He has placed me in an occupation in which I can be a light, shining the example of Christ in me, in my work ethic, my integrity, and my attitude.

Today we read this reflection on the godly in Psalm 1 verse 2 - "But they delight in doing everything the LORD wants; day and night they think about his law." How well does this verse ring true with your life today? Do you delight in being obedient to God? Do you think about God's Word, the Bible, day and night? Should you? Will you?

Well now, this verse really gets right to the very heart of living a life of holiness. Do I intend to think about God's law day and night, in everything I do? I think I do. Am I successful? Of course not; I'm human. If I could, I would have no need for a savior. As it is, I am just another hypocrite: preaching one standard, and failing to live up to it. I think this realization is the reason Christians are called to humility, for it is only in our recognition of our own weaknesses and failures that we can allow the saving and transformational power of Christ to work in us.

I think that meeting the standard - keeping God's law on our hearts and in our minds, day and night, is a growth process. It requires preparation - reading, hearing, writing, speaking, and discussing the Word, in order for it to take root in us. It requires practice - consciously deciding to act according to that Word as we are presented with each decision in our lives. It requires patience - accepting that we are still human, and will still make mistakes (and even wrong decisions) despite our best intentions. It requires perseverance - realizing that with each decision, each time we submit our will to God's, we are building upon each previous decision, and allowing the Spirit to transform us into the likeness of Christ for which we were created, and to which we are called.

Today we read in Proverbs chapter 1 verses 2 through 4 a great overview of why we should read and study the Proverbs - "The purpose of these proverbs is to teach people wisdom and discipline, and to help them understand wise sayings. Through these proverbs, people will receive instruction in discipline, good conduct, and doing what is right, just, and fair. These proverbs will make the simpleminded clever. They will give knowledge and purpose to young people." Do you want wisdom? Do you want discipline in your life? Do you want to do what is right, just and fair? Do you want purpose for your life? Do you believe this journey through the Bible in 2006 will move you forward in these areas? Will you cling to the wisdom of the Proverbs this year?

Yes, please, and all the more! Wisdom and discipline: these virtues are the cornerstone of a life of integrity. They are prerequisites to fulfilling a life of purpose. May the Lord help me build the discipline to stay with this study throughout the year, and give me the strength to cling to the Word each day.

One Year Bible Blogging

Filed in ReligionTags: Christianity, Devotions, One Year Bible

Last year, I started reading the One Year Bible mid-way through the year. I finished the year with reasonable success, but want to be even more persistent this year. I would also like to use the blog as an avenue to comment on what I read each day. So, for each day, I'll include the referenced Scripture readings, and any thoughts or comments I have on what I read.

I will also try to participate in the One Year Bible Blog discussions related to the daily readings.

And, I know, I'm starting a day late; all the more reason to use the blog to hold me accountable. 🙂

An Inspiring Witness

Filed in Religion, SportsTags: Christianity, Colts, Indiana, Indianapolis, NFL

The Colts' 17-13 JV win over Arizona was meaningless in the Super Bowl hunt, but for the mostly backup players on the field, it meant a great deal. Hunter the Punter eloquently describes the sentiment:

"Coach Dungy has a heart that beats in all these players,'' punter Hunter Smith said. "This game is about money and entertainment and all those things, but every once in a while, you come across a special person. His heart comes through in every part of his life. And now I see it coming through in us.''

That Dungy is a man of faith is well-known, and it is the foundation of the near-universal respect he garners. But it is in times of trouble that one's faith truly becomes both a source of sustaining strength and an inspiring witness. Tony Dungy's faith exemplifies both:

"There's a story in the Bible,'' Dungy said, speaking to a small group of reporters after his news conference. "David's son is sick, and they're praying for him. The whole time, he won't eat, won't do anything. The son ends up dying. What David says, basically, is 'I've got to go to temple and worship. I've got to get back to work.'

"Everybody asked him how he could do that. And he said, 'Now that my son is in heaven, there's nothing I can do.' As Christians, we believe the future is in God's hands, and we have eternal life.

". . . More than anything, I had to make a statement that, if I'm a Christian, if I feel like God is in control of my future, I've got to move on, as tough as it is. My wife (Lauren) and I discussed it and (returning Thursday) was something we felt was necessary. We're still healing, but it's important to move forward."

At one point, he was asked how sorely his faith was tested.

He took a long pause.

"You always have those questions,'' Dungy said. "But I never felt like God dealt us a bad hand. I've heard from so many people and we're not the only ones who experienced the death of a child. . . . The Lord has a good plan for your wife and family, even if it doesn't seem like it now.''

Amen.

Pardon The Dust

Filed in Web DevelopmentTags: Web Site, WordPress

I just upgraded to WordPress 2.0. It will probably take me a while to get the kinks worked out with style and what-not. I apologize if things look a bit funky for a while, or if RSS feed links are broken.

EDIT (Mainly to test trackbacks): Others are upgrading as well.

Happy New Year!

Filed in Personal

And a very happy start to the new year, indeed!

Of most immediate importance, Anna and I are back together again; taking our time, to figure everything out - but, together. I'm sure I'll have much more to say later; but for now, I'm just relieved and couldn't be happier.