Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Another Quick Update

Gah! Another week has gone by, and no post. I asked Cathy what's new with her, and that's "nothing."

For me, I finally broke down and bought a desk for me to use while studying. Ikea had a sale, so I bought a desk and chair for $150 (pictured, kitten not included).

The photo also gives you a clue as to why I'm so busy... it's been 12 months since I took my first Hebrew class, and I've resumed lessons yesterday. The class is starting at chapter 17... I've only re-read chapters one through ten. *sigh*

Oh, and I installed Vista Ultimate on Monday. It only took 40 minutes. I'll say more about that tomorrow. Gotta review my pronominal suffixes...

Monday, January 22, 2007

Need C-C-Coffee!

Wow, what a weekend! So, our new tenants/neighbors moved in. We share so much in common that they actually feel more like neighbors, which is a great joy for me.

Sunday morning I started my new part-time job at church. I'll be taking over all computer maintenance and networking, administering the phone, alarms, and sprinkler systems. I'll also be helping out with the technical side of worship, so I get to be at church for both services from seven A.M. to one P.M. Wee! It is a strange sensation, knowing that I am going to receive a paycheck periodically for doing things I have volunteered for for years.

I have an eighteen page paper due Tuesday evening, so I stayed up late Saturday, got up early Sunday, and worked late into Sunday evening. Still have to work for a living, though...

Here's some Lee trivia for you: I drive regular coffee with a little sugar and a lot of non-dairy creamer.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Anniversary Rings

I hunted for some diamonds at Blue Nile and I learned a lot. I ended up taking Cathy ring shopping last week and she picked out the ring she wanted, and I got her a nice center stone, too.

Just let me say... I'm glad I got that part-time job. Anniversary rings can be awfully expensive! The center stone is as much as the setting... but Cathy's worth it, and much more. After all, this anniversary ring is a symbol of our love, right?

Update on the Joneses

OK, finally, an update on Lee & Cathy. My class, recovering from the cold, my internship, and preparing for the new part-time job is taking up most of my time. So, quick update!

We had a great time over New Year's Eve down in San Diego. Cathy is feeling much better, apparently, as she was able to walk the entire time at Sea World. This last week, she suddently started decorating the house and has taken up beading again. In about four weeks, Cathy will get the second (and final?) blood test to make sure the Hepatitis C is complete gone.

I caught a cold on New Year's Eve and it took me about 10 day to overcome the major symptoms, though I still feel some lingering effects. Cathy caught something as well, but she had a cough instead and got well faster than I.

I am taking a three-unit elective class on prayer; very practical! Regular semester classes start in February, right before our anniversary. We've been married ten years (in three weeks)! I got a new part-time job which should cover the cost of the ring.

And... I got a webcam for Christmas. I'd like to set up a "kitty cam" but I should buy a second cam, I think...

Monday, January 15, 2007

A Day on Hotline

Here's a time elapsed video of me at work. Fun with webcams...

The God Who Hears - Chapter 6 - Good: Why Pray To One Who Lets People Hurt?

The silence of God, especially in the face of pain and death, is deafening. People tend not to become atheists become of some intellectual argument; it is the emotional insult of a seemingly uncaring God in the face of suffering and pain. Can we pray to a God who lets people hurt?

Because Christans are not atheists, it is perplexing when God does not is silent in the face of our suffering. Where is God when it hurts? Theologically, sin and suffering find their genesis in the Fall, and it does no good to wonder what the world would be like without sin (until Jesus returns). We must, then, learn to live with evil.

It is a common misconception that God turns all things into good. There are things which simply are evil, things which are bad. God does not make evil into good; no matter how much good God may reveal eventually, evil remains evil. Therefore, confidence in God's goodness does not require us to deny the reality of evil or the pain it causes us.

Jesus endured the cross. Jesus prayed very hard in the garden before that fateful day. If Jesus had to face suffering by enduring it, what makes us think we can pretend that it doesn't really hurt?

Whatever God permits in our lives, it is safe to assume that God is going to (my words) redeem it and use it for some purpose. It seems, however, that our response to suffering should be to question our holiness and justice, rather than God's. So, we must be honest about our pain in our suffering, and honest about our pain when it seems that God is silent. Without honesty, we cannot face God in prayer and truly seek him.

Where is God when it hurts? Biblically, he is on the cross, taking to himself the sin and suffering of the world. His goodness is not measured by how our pain could be reduced "if he really cared," but by how much agony he has already endured for us.

The question "Can we pray to a God that lets people hurt?" must instead be "Can we pray to a God who died for people who hurt?" Yes, we can.

  1. Do you think the existence of pain and evil is a difficulty for most praying Christians? Explain. Do you know anyone who has stopped praying because of suffering?
  2. "The results of love seem work the risk of pain." Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Why or why not?
  3. Do you think Christians feel they have to put on a happy face and have a nice day (every day) in order to be spiritual? Do you think your church or Christian community lets people "hurt" in prayer?

The God Who Hears - Chapter 4 - Sovereign: Can Payer Change God's Mind?

Prayer is based on knowing God’s omnipotence and sovereignty. To be worth praying to, God has to have the power and the authority to do what he wants. Power and authority doesn’t mean benevolence, though; however, we have a heavenly Father who is good. Omnipotence, sovereignty and goodness are the basis for providence.

God doesn’t change. If he is eternal and immutable, why bother praying? In part, we have the example of Isaiah, Paul and Jesus to follow. Each one were driven to pray before the eternal God. Does that mean prayer changes God’s mind? No, Hunter thinks (and I think) that God’s immutability means that references to God “changing his mind” are figures of speech to help us understand him.

Prayers must matter, or we wouldn’t be commanded to pray. The question, then, is not “does prayer matter” but “how does prayer matter?” God will do what he has sovereignty chosen to do. He chooses to bring about his purposes by responding to prayer. (Lee’s comment: this is a means/ends issue. If we understand that the end is God’s glory, and the means he chooses to use is our prayer, then prayer matters because it is how God glorifies himself, through us.)

Wait: if God is sovereign, and we must pray according to his will for prayer to change things, do we pray as free agents? This is the apparent paradox; can a sovereign, unchanging God create creatures who pray as a matter of free expression? The answer is yes; we must pray as free agents. Hunter uses two illustrations: how a mother cat moves her young by carrying a kitten in her teeth, and how a mother monkey moves her young by having the young cling to her neck. “Cat theory” makes us impotent in prayer; “monkey theory” has us following God’s will in prayer. (I find the illustration unsatisfying, but it’s something.)

OK, so why don’t we get what we pray for? Christians pray in conflict (please be sunny/cloudy), shortsightedly, and often selfishly. Logically, infinite wisdom often has to refuse what ignorance insists upon. Theologically, only prayer according to God’s will is answered. God is a kind Father who knows what is best. Arrogance, not faith, insists on God responding in a particular way.

Besides, if you got 100% of your prayers answered the way you want, it would be like “magic” to you, and it would result in vanity and pride (if not worse). Prayer is mostly a matter of attitude with priority of God’s will.

OK, if only prayer according to God’s will is answered, how do I know God’s will?
  1. Beware of the media; chances are, whatever is on TV caters to your will, not God’s. Go back to reading the Bible.
  2. Make Bible reading and study a priority. You don’t need to be a professional scholar, but you must regularly read the Bible and study it.
  3. Commit yourself to doing God’s will.
    Therefore I exhort you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a sacrifice — alive, holy, and pleasing to God — which is your reasonable service. Do not be conformed to this present world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may test and approve what is the will of God — what is good and well-pleasing and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2 NET)
  4. Don’t determine God’s will for you by looking at God’s will for others.
  5. Learn from other, older Christians.
  6. Pray for others and ask them to pray for you. Be specific about your request, set a realistic and short period of commitment, and follow up with feedback for each other.
Some days, God will simply answer “no” to your prayer. At those times, your attitude matters most.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

The God Who Hears - Chapter 2 - Holy: How Can I Approach Him?

God's moral purity, his holiness and righteousness, is symbolized in Scripture as light. But understanding holiness is difficult, and life-changing.

We commonly misunderstand holiness as the merely the absence of moral darkness (sin). While it is correct that the biblical concept of holiness means "to be separate," Christians misunderstand holiness as a purely negative notion. This has caused many to consider being holy as a long list of "don'ts" "no's" and other negative things. This kind of "holiness" is repulsive, and so we don't.

But it is so easy for Christians to be unholy. Why?
  1. We are too willing to accept an overly negative definition of holiness. (Hunter goes on to say that holiness is also making wrong right, but he conflates God's holiness with his mercy and love.)
  2. We have gotten used to being holier than non-Christans, but do not actually attain to being holy.
  3. We have, in general, lost our holy terror of God. Confidence in prayer has become flippancy, boldness in approaching God has become arrogance.
Speaking of fearing God... without a right fear of God, there is no Christianity. Ultimate fear is reserved for the object of ultimate reverence, rightly belonging to the Creator. Fear of God would be reverence, respect, and regard for God. Too often, we do not understand God's holiness, and we replace his power and authority with our selves, or some material thing.

God is holy. He cannot respond positively to unholiness in his creatures. Sin is the failure to live in accordance to God's holiness. For Christians, failure to do the good we know can also be sinful (cf Romans 3:12). Somehow, Christians tend to forget, or at least behave like they forget, that we still struggle daily with sin in our own lives.

Why do we find it easy to live with personal and corporate sin?
  1. We, again, do not really understand God's holiness.
  2. We fail to see how destructive sin is and how imminet judgment is, because someone else died to atone for our sin.
  3. We misunderstand repentance and contrition, essential to confession and cleaning, and do not mourn over sin.
  4. We take for granted God's daily cleansing of our sin; it has become trite and mechanical. The blood of Jesus no longer grieves or amazes us.
How do we raise our consciousness of God's holiness? We should spend more time in the Old Testment (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the Psalms) passages which emphasize his holiness. Some Psalms to try: Psalm 26:2, Psalm 139:23-24, Psalm 51:1-12. Holiness is not merely "not being unholy." Effective prayer begins with confession.

In conclusion, we must pursue holiness by increasing our awareness of God's holiness, resulting in a desire to repent and confess our sins, and with God's help hunger after righteousness, faith, love and peace.

  1. Can you think of illustrations that either prove or disprove the author's idea that Christians tend to think of holiness as primarily negative?
  2. How do you explain that Jesus was holy yet had friendships with drunks, gluttons and prostitutes?
  3. Why is it hard to repent of a sin?

The God Who Hears - Chapter 1 - Who Does God Hear?

I've begun reading The God Who Hears by W. Bingham Hunter for an elective class. I figured I would blog my "notes" as I went along... I'm several chapters in already, but I figured I would play catch-up. I'll probably post out of order, and not every chapter.

People have a hard time praying. Some people don't feel like God hears their prayer.

Why is that?
  1. Prayer was never a heresy in the early church, so it was not carefully defined like other doctrines. So, we have all been doing what seems right in our own eyes.
  2. Modern science and technology argues that God is irrelevant, and our pace of life leaves us little time to think about prayer.
  3. Most teaching and preaching on prayer distorts Scripture. We are told to use promises, encouraged to claim things the Bible never mentions, and well-meaning peopled tell us "maybe some day you'll have enough faith" (it's your fault, right?).
  4. Finally, when we pray we don't know what we're doing. People don't seem willing to define what prayer is. Too many people think prayer is a way to get things from God, and fall prey to misleading methods and strategies that have nothing to do with prayer.
Hunter, instead, says that Christian prayer, as explained in Scripture is something else:
Prayer is a means God uses to give us what he wants.
The problem is primarily a theological misunderstanding. So, we need to know who we're talking to, who we are, and we need to know Jesus (who understands both God and man).

It is not unusual to wonder about unanswered prayer, or about having enough faith. But God doesn't respond to our prayers; God responds to us, to our whole life. Praying more effectively is maining learning to know him as the desire of our heart.

  1. Why is it so hard to be honest with others about our struggles with prayer?
  2. What can be done to create an atmosphere among Christians in which such feelings could be discussed openely?
  3. What do you think interferes with our prayers? Make a list. Do men and women have different kinds of difficulties?

Monday, January 08, 2007

Free "An Inconvenient Truth" DVD

Speaking of weather... Regardless of what you may think of Al Gore's position on global warming, you have probably seen the DVD "An Inconvenient Truth" laying around grocery stores and video outlets. Well, you can get the DVD for free at Share the Truth.
Official Site of the movie:
The free DVD of "An Inconvenient Truth" at Share the Truth

Interesting Things I Saw While Sick

I didn't do much on January 1 to 3, but the evening of January 3rd I began to feel better and browsed the web a little bit. I saw some interesting things while I was under the weather, so I figured I would share.
  1. First, I saw some armor for my cats (see this previous post).
  2. Second, I saw this video of a cool minicar/trike/what-is-it called a Carver. I would love to get one, but they'd be about $40,000 imported... :-(
  3. Third, I saw this video of a man playing piano with juggling balls.
  4. Fourth, I saw this time-elapsed video of Picasso painting. Way cool.
  5. Finally, I saw the perfect diamond for Cathy's anniversary ring. Unfortunately, it is a giant diamond 50 light years away from earth.

Armor for your Cat

I do not know much about Jeff Deboer, but he makes suits of armor for cats and mice. I'm not sure they're functional, but I could see my three adult cats in these:



via MAKE

Sorry, I've been sick

Sorry, both Cathy & I came down with the flu over the New Year. Oddly, while you would expect us to have the same symptoms, she has a cough while I had more of a head cold.

I'm mostly back now, and Cathy is back on her feet (coughing).