Monday, December 31, 2007
Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,
I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
The outline of the points was
1. Forget past failures.
2. Keep the goal ahead of you.
3. Work hard to reach the goal.
Although Paul's focus is on our heavenly goal, these are good ideas to ponder at a time of new year's resolutions.
Paul called this list "this one thing," and then listed three ideas. The grammar indicates that the "one thing" is to strive hard, and the other two verbs are participles, indicating the sub-parts of working hard to reach the goal.
I was reading a personal development website which talked about goals. The author said what we think about is what we bring about. In Paul's terms, if we keep thinking about the past failure, we won't be able to reach the goal. If we constantly talk about or think about bad things, we can't be thinking about the goal ahead, and our past becomes our future.
Forgetting is not easy, because real electrochemical things happen when we experience (and when we think about) anything. Dendrites are formed in our brains, and they never go away. But they grow stronger by rehearsing them, re-thinking about them. The only way to forget is to replace the thought with one more vivid and more well-rehearsed. Every day, we need to place the goal in front of us. The more time we spend looking ahead, the less time we will look back.
Learn from it; then put it aside. Focus on the goal of the upward calling of God in Christ Jesus. And then strive to reach the goal.
May we all have a blessed 2008.
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
All of us have experienced Rachel and Leah. We thought we were getting Rachel, but we actually got weak-eyed Leah.
What we need to focus on is God's purpose in giving us Leah.
Leah was, after all, the mother of Judah.
And it was the genetic material of Leah and Judah from which the Messiah was derived.
Jacob also got his Rachel, later.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
The DVDs include vignettes of life situations of young people in a college and city setting. They are glimpses into their culture as well as the language.
Here's hoping my Chinese improves. :)
Monday, October 01, 2007
One of the things I noticed was that my body continued to produce solid output even though I only had liquid input, and this continued the entire week.
My conclusion: I am full of crap. Maybe that is one of the best things I could have learned from this time of doing without.
I think that what I say is good and helpful to people because it is my gift from the Lord. But I need to temper that emotion with the reality that I am full of crap.
When you read my words remember that I am so full of crap. The Bible word for crap is dung.
Philippians iii. 7–10
“Howbeit what things were gain to me, these have I counted loss for Christ. Yea verily, and I counted all things to be loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of mine own, even that which is of the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is of God.”
1Hallelujah! Praise, ye servants of Jehovah, praise the name of Jehovah. 2Blessed be the name of Jehovah, from this time forth and for evermore! 3From the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same, let Jehovah`s name be praised. 4Jehovah is high above all nations, his glory above the heavens. 5Who is like unto Jehovah our God, who hath placed his dwelling on high; 6Who humbleth himself to look on the heavens and on the earth? 7He raiseth up the poor out of the dust; from the dung-hill he lifteth up the needy, 8To set [him] among nobles, among the nobles of his people. 9He maketh the barren woman to keep house, [as] a joyful mother of sons. Hallelujah!
Thursday, September 06, 2007
One woman was having trouble with the teaching. She said, "I never spanked my children and they turned out just fine."
Can we judge the word by the outcome of disobedience to it? God is free to bring about results without our obedience, but we are not free to disobey.
Is the word to be judged by our lives, or are our lives to be judged by the word?
The good news was that she acknowledged that the scripture did, indeed, say that parents should use corporal punishment if they love their children.
Sunday, August 19, 2007
Great insight! What are some of the things we can do to eliminate the toxic parts of the thoughts?
August 19, 2007 1:51 PM
Since the thought is real (both the emotional content and the information content), it cannot be eliminated. Instead, it has to be re-linked to more positive content, or negatively reinforced.
To re-link a thought, you must take the bad emotional experience and separate the informational content from the emotional content. You can only do this in your left brain, where you can logically think about the thought. As you think about the thought, visualize the bad emotions as bad, and bad for you. Then, (still in the left brain), think about something positive that has good emotional chemistry and resolve to link the old thought with the new feeling. After some time, the old information will bring the new emotion, automatically. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
For example, I knew a toxic person who would always say negative things and always make me feel bad when we were together. But this was a friend, someone I benefited from in many ways. And I wanted to save the relationship. But the toxic personality was more than I could take.
So I backed away from the situation and reviewed it in my left brain. I took the perspective that there was something cosmic in the relationship, and there were forces outside us that didn't want us to succeed in the relationship. I also knew that my goal was to be full of the Holy Spirit in this situation.
After some time, I was able to do the spirit-filled things (singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, count self lower than other, love, etc.) when the events that formerly caused the bad feelings happened. I re-associated the bad event with new spiritual content, and saw it was just one more battle in the spiritual war. Now, I (almost) look forward to those times, because they link me to the higher plane.
The new associations must be practiced over and over, so those real thoughts overpower the original ones, by sheer numbers of the new emotions that have been linked to the old events.
Saturday, August 11, 2007
Something that is getting through to me is that thoughts are real. I.e., they make measurable, actual changes in the chemistry and electronics in our brains. Dendrons (dendrites) grow. Peptides flow. Connections are made.
In the past, I have observed that, when reading a book multiple times, we get more out of it in each successive reading. All I have said before is that "we have been changed by what we read, so that the person viewing it the next time is not the same person who read it the previous time."
Leaf's book has added some quantitative information to my model, by describing the biochemical changes that take place when we experience events, and when we think thoughts.
Thoughts are real. When we think, connections are made in our brain and other organs. Along with the physical growth of neural connections, the stress-related chemicals (peptides, etc.) are stored and associated with the memory of the event.
A memory consists of both the information content and the emotional content of the event, and both sets of associated information are stored together in our brains. I.e., the thought is something real.
When we remember (have a thought about--retrace the neurons that make up the memory of) the event, we remember (and re-experience) the emotion, as well.
Sometimes, the emotional content is so strong that we repress the memory, to avoid re-experiencing the negative emotions mixed in with the thought.
This is how we cope with bad experiences.
Leaf's book ends with a list of things we can do to eliminate the toxic parts of the thoughts.
Wednesday, August 08, 2007
It pointed out the inconsistency of the thought patterns of people "on the right."
The question asker is asking the right question pair. Should abortion be illegal? and If so, what punishment should be appropriate for the crime of abortion?
There are a pair of meta-questions that should also be asked. Who should determine whether abortion should be legal? and Who should determine what punishment is suitable for the crime?
There are three possible answers, which are really two.
First, we can say, I should determine it. Then we can say, WE (society) should determine it. Finally, we can say, GOD should determine it.
The first two are equivalent to saying a person or group of persons should determine laws. Having a person or people make the determination is simply Humanism. The alternative is Theism.
Unfortunately, right-wing conservatives are largely humanists. At least, those who were interviewed in the blog, above are humanists. They are probably not self-conscious humanists, and they would probably be offended if you called them humanists, but they are not consistent Christians.
A consistent, Christian, theistic point of view is that only God can determine what should be legal, and only God can determine what punishment is suitable for which crimes.
In this case, the crime is murder. The punishment is life given for life taken. It fits the crime.
Fortunately for us, God allows mitigating circumstances to mitigate the punishment. Those who unintentionally take a life have an opportunity for mercy.
But how many right-wing conservatives know their Biblical Law?
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
The main place we see the application is in the book of Ruth. Naomi, Ruth's mother in law, had gone with her son to Moab where he had married two Moabite women. When Naomi's son had died, Ruth determined to stay a part of Naomi's family when they had no way to provide for themselves in Moab.
Naomi knew the details of the scripture and the law of gleaning. They went back to Israel and found the field of Boaz and depended on God and the law of gleaning for their provisions.
There were other laws that came into play: the kinsman/redeemer and the jubilee year.
Though their obedience to these seemingly meaningless, miniscule details in the law, God brought about the union of Ruth and Boaz.
Where do we next hear of Boaz? In Matthew 1, in the geneology of Jesus.
God's providence and their obedience were used by God to add Ruth's genetic material and maternal heritage into the constitution of the baby Jesus, the savior of the world.
How do we regard the details of Leviticus 19? Jesus used several of these details in his teachings. Perhaps, we should pay them more attention.
The law of gleaning describes the Bible's form of welfare: give the poor an opportunity to work; leave your excess for them; don't take everything that is rightfully yours, but leave something for the poor and the aliens. The only reason given is because God is the Lord, i.e., it is his nature to give graciously of his bounty to others who do not deserve it.
Giving an opportunity to work also enables the recipient to maintain his dignity. He labors just as hard for his food as the landowner and his hired workers.
Many of us don't have fields and vineyards, today, so we must find other ways to implement this law. On a personal level, we can share what we have with everyone in need. For example, share that smile and your "How are you?" with the clerk who serves you. Leave a nice TIP for the waitress who serves you.
Collectively, we may be able to form Co-ops where the poor can trade their time for products. For example, the cooperative may arrange for pickups from local groceries or bakeries of their out of date products. The poor could glean through the products in exchange for making pickups or serving the other customers, pulling off the outer leaves and brown spots, etc.
You may be able to think of other ways to leave gleanings so others can have some work and some income.
Wednesday, July 04, 2007
Then the officers uncovered the elements and I divided the wafers (which were all in one serving dish) into the two platters, set the platters on the top of the juice serving trays and prepared to give them to those who would be serving them.
Then, the unthinkable happened. I had a stack in each hand and the plate of wafers started slipping off the tray of juices in my right hand. The deacon did not notice it and my other hand was full. I tried to set the stack back on the communion table, but the tray had slid off and clattered onto the floor, upside down. I had just dropped the broken body of Jesus on the floor!
I set the trays back on the table, picked up the upside-down tray from the floor, divided the wafers that were in the other tray in half and put half into the picked up tray, and then passed the stacks, one-by-one, with two hands, to the servers.
Once the servers were headed down the aisles, I dropped to my knees, and with the other ministers, picked up the broken pieces with humility and contrition, placed them into the inverted lid from the wine-serving container and resumed my place behind the table while one of the other ministers took the pieces reverently to the kitchen and disposed of them.
Upon reflection, this is a lot like life situations. We make mistakes. Even big ones that appear to trash Jesus and our testimonies. But life must go on. We must confess with humility and contrition on our knees, but then, we get up and make the best of what is left of our lives.
I mustn't let the one mistake in the past determine the course of the rest of my future. Yes, it was bad. If we were Roman Catholic, it would have caused a major ordeal, because of their doctrine of transubstantiation. (After the blessing, the wafers become the real flesh of Christ, not just a symbol.) So I can count my blessings that I am a Protestant and only made a symbolic error.
I could spend days trying to figure out what went wrong. Was one of the wine-cups too high, keeping the tray from being level? A manufacturing defect I could sue them for? Was the server at fault for not being ready to take the serving trays from my hands. Should I not have tried to hold the stacks in one hand? Was there something on the bottom of the tray that made it uneven? Et cetera, et cetera, etc.
Maybe that paragraph was written to try to take the blame away from myself and find someone else I could blame for it.
But it happened and I was a participant, so I must accept my share of the blame. But it is over. It is behind me. I must not let it continue to affect my thoughts and my life, except for trying to learn life's lesson for the next time.
Then I must realize the effect this mistake had on the other ministers and the congregation, and try to be the best example of confessing and repenting I can be. And then moving on. Really believing Romans 8:28, that God will work it all together for good. Really trusting. And moving on.
That means there is a purpose for the mistakes, a reason behind it all, even if all I can see now is "through a glass darkly." Some day, I will see "face to face." (I Corinthians 13:12)
Life, after all, goes on. It must go on.
Monday, July 02, 2007
Last night, after the Bible study, I was asked a question about why it is taking so long to read through one letter of six chapters. It is a good question. :)
My answer had many parts. The first is that we aren't just studying the one book. For example, last night, we referenced chapters in Genesis, II Timothy and Galatians, in addition to the passage in Ephesians 5. In fact, we are looking at the whole Bible from the perspective of the letter to the Ephesians.
In order to understand the letter, we need to know the mindset of the Apostle who wrote it. Since he was Jewish, his background understanding is that of the Old Testament. So we need to read some of the concepts of the Old Testament to understand what he is saying.
The second part of my answer is that many of the Bible study members are hoping to improve their English language skills, as well as their Bible knowledge. Every week we examine several English words that occur in the text we are studying. This practice improves our English vocabulary, as well as our Bible knowledge.
Monday, June 18, 2007
One of the major topics in the first two chapters of Ephesians is the concept of adoption. Paul appears to be answering the question of a predominantly gentile audience as to how gentiles can be part of the church.
Adoption is a way that a family grows by adding an unrelated person as a member of the family. Adoption is normally an act of love. It is often a way a family who is not able to have their own children is enabled to show love to a child by adding the child as a family member. Sometimes, families who have their own natural children also adopt children. These people are often motivated by love. They adopt children who have been abandoned by their birth parents, or whose birth parents do not feel they are able to raise a child, for whatever reason.
The way the Christian church had its beginning in the Old Testament was that God called people to serve Him. One of the major characters in the Old Testament was a man called Abraham. God called Abraham out of the Chaldean city of Ur, and told him to go to the area called Caanan, now known as Israel. God made a promise to Abraham.
“Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” Genesis 12:1-3
The focus of the Old Testament from that time forward was on Abraham and his descendants. Isaac was the son of Abraham upon which the focus continued, and then Isaac’s son, Jacob (and his twelve sons), was the major figure in the Old Testament, through the end of the Book of Genesis. God changed Jacob’s name to Israel, and the rest of the Old Testament is the story of Israel and his descendents.
Being a member of the family of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob meant that a person was a part of the family of God, and also, a recipient of the benefits of the promise God had made to Abraham.
It was a natural question for the people of Ephesus to be asking, “What am I, a Greek, doing in the church of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?” Paul’s answer was that they had been adopted. The same answer goes for Chinese and Americans. How can we become a part of the church of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? By adoption. We become part of the continuing Old Testament church by being adopted into the family of Abraham.
“[God] predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 1:5
One of the benefits of being in a family is that family members are blessed with an inheritance. Paul continues in Ephesians 1, describing more about our adoption and inheritance.
“And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession—to the praise of his glory.” Ephesians 1:13-14
Paul describes that their adoption was marked by their hearing the gospel and believing it. When they believed in Christ, they received the Holy Spirit who changed their lives. The Spirit is a guarantee that we have been adopted and that we will receive the inheritance promised to all the descendants of Abraham.
When a person becomes a Christian, he or she receives the current blessing of God’s Spirit, and the future inheritance that goes with being a part of the family of God.
The remainder of chapter one is a prayer of Paul that the Ephesians would grow in their understanding of what God was doing in their lives. Verse 19 repeats the promise about the inheritance, “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.”
Being a Christian means being adopted into the family of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Being in that family guarantees that we will receive an inheritance from God.
As we continued through the letter to the Ephesians, our English Bible study group studied about living as a Christian and about marriage and family life, and trying to please God in everything we do.
Thank God for the wonderful message from God to us!
Sunday, June 17, 2007
Thursday, June 14, 2007
Monday, June 11, 2007
The promises are given unconditionally by a sovereign to his subjects.
The mediator of the promises is the Holy Spirit.
The promises have blessings contingent on the believer's faith or acceptance.
The curse for unbelief is not receiving the promised results.
The sacrifice was Jesus' death.
The sign is Love.
Sunday, June 10, 2007
Unilateral: Sovereign to Subjects
Given through a Mediator
List of Responsibilities
List of Blessings for Obedience
List of Curses for Disobedience
Sealed by a Sacrifice
Remembered by Signs
The New Testament Covenant has the same form, but is spiritual, in our hearts.
Thursday, June 07, 2007
It is not a premarital book, per se, but it is an excellent companion to
Why Marriages Succeed or Fail: And How You Can Make Yours Last by John Gottman. Gottman's book is from the perspective of a psychologist and is good at describing the things that successful couples do and the things that unsuccessful couples do, in marriage.
Gottman's book is only a little prescriptive, because he is attempting to be philosophically neutral. His intended audience is mainstream people and psychological researchers.
Eggerichs, on the other hand, writes from an evangelical Christian point of view, starting with scripture and declaring how to behave in marriage in light of Gottman's results.
Both are 5-star selections.
Tuesday, June 05, 2007
"Indwelling" is another word for "being lived in." That is the normal state of a Christian, someone whom Christ's spirit lives in.
"Being filled" refers to us as vessels. Sometimes, we we are more full than other times. Paul describes how to be filled with the spirit in Ephesians 5. It involves four parts:
1. Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,
2. singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;
3. Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;
4. Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.
Ephesians is full of things we put off (habits from the old nature) and things we put on (i.e., the new nature's habits). To be spirit-filled is to live a life engaged in these new habits to the exclusion of those old habits.
Thursday, May 31, 2007
I tired to answer her, but couldn't talk well with the screws in my mouth. Anyway, I satisfied her, got the wires connected, and put the covers back on. But . . . No screws! I looked all over, and finally, concluded that I had swallowed them.
I went to church and taught the lesson but told the people to pray for the safe passage of the screws to their ultimate destination.
More than ten days passed, but the screws didn't. :) I started having indigestion and feeling something was "in my craw."
Finally, I went to the doctor. He made X-rays. They showed no screws, but they didn't image near my prostate, so they could be headed out. He prescribed some expensive antacid ($83.00) and I went home, expecting to be rid of the screws, shortly.
Unfortunately, they didn't come out. I finally went to my mother-in-law's, again and started searching for the screws. I took the covers off, and found both of them, thrown into the far dark recesses of the panel.
I felt stupid and that I had wasted a doctor visit and $83.00, but began thinking about something I have always kind of believed, about faith and healing. I had demonstrated clearly that what I believed could make me sick; what was to stop me from believing that what I believed could work towards my healing, just as well?
I have had prostate cancer for 8 years, now. So far, I have had confidence that the prayers of the people I talk to, plus the vitamins, herbs, and changed diet, make a difference. They have.
When I chose my treatment path (i.e., no conventional treatment), my family and friends, after discussing PCa with their medical friends/practitioners, were genuinely concerned that I had chosen a death sentence rather than treatment. That was 8 years ago.
I tried to get them to come up with some reports showing that there was a difference in outcomes based upon treatment (including watchful waiting). No one could find such information. I did refer them to the side effects associated with each treatment.
The bottom line: Ten year survival rate (whatever that means) is the same, but quality of life differs drastically between treatment vs. non-(conventional)-treatment. And most of the suffering comes from iatrogenic causes, i.e., the cure is often worse than the disease.
In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. -- Proverbs 3:6
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
Monday, May 28, 2007
"When you know they know what "No!" means."
Ultimately, we want to raise children who are able to copy Jesus' words and say, "Not my will, but Thy will be done" to the Heavenly Father.
If they haven't learned to say it to their earthly father, how can we expect them to say it to God?
Discipline trains children like the Law trains Christians. When they are older, their character will have been shaped the way a Christian's heart gets shaped by the Law. Then, as mature people, that Law written on their hearts constrains their behavior from the inside, out.
Sunday, May 27, 2007
Since I can read very few Chinese characters, producing these slides takes a lot of time. Since I am frequently making them the day before preaching, I don't have time to get them proofread before displaying them on the overhead projector as I preach.
I use Babelfish to help me make the translations. First, I type in my English phrase, then have it converted to Chinese. Then I copy the Chinese phrase that is generated, and paste it back into the input of the translator, and have it translate that phrase into English.
If I get out the same English I began with, I paste that Chinese into the PowerPoint slide I am making. This procedure gives surprisingly good results.
I found out a weakness one time when I accidentally typed the homonym of the word I thought I was using, principal for principle. What I typed in was what was returned by Babelfish, so I used the phrase. Unfortunately, the Chinese phrase that was produced was nonsense!
The person who was translating my sermon into Chinese asked me to explain in different words, and, as I did, he smiled a big smile and told the congregation what I should have said.
It all works out for good!
Saturday, May 26, 2007
Friday, May 25, 2007
Thursday, May 24, 2007
There is a weakness in this method. Because computer programs are supposed to have a start and stop case and not be running infinitely, these cases must also be examined, individually, so, in addition to the proof in the first paragraph, we must also demonstrate that the algorithm handles the first case and the last case.
There is another special case that messes up many computer programmers: the zeroth case, i.e., the case where there are no records to process. Many programmers assume there will be an input, so their programs do stupid things, such as initialize counters at 1, rather than initializing at zero and allowing an increment only when the input actually happens.
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
It is about time. No, I mean, it is about the topic, Time.
In the Bible we learn that before Time began, God already was. And we also learn that, "Time shall be no more."
This means that time has a beginning, and time will have an end.
In science, we typically assume that time extends from minus infinity to plus infinity, i.e., it has no beginning and no end. But the Bible says God has that attribute, not time.
This means that some of our scientific thinking needs to be challenged, especially those things with a time component.
Take "C" for instance. C is supposedly a constant, the speed of light in a vacuum. But C is given in terms of time, e.g., meters per second or miles per hour.
The next major paradigm shift in science will come when it is recognized that time is not a continuous function. E = mC^2 will need to be changed to E = mC(t)^2, where C(t) is a function/variable, depending on time, and not a constant.
If time is not a continuous function (because it doesn't go to minus infinity and doesn't go to plus infinity), many formulae will need to be reconsidered. Many things that depend on rates will need to be reevaluated. For example, take radioactive decay. What happens if we try to extrapolate a time line based upon an "inifinite time" assumption vs a "beginning/ending time" assumption?
Then, I got out of the shower.