Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Someone in my family has often told me "You are blessed, and you deserve it," but I respectfully disagree.

The covenant (promise) that God made with us through Jesus is simple: "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die." (John 11:25-26) That is to say, the promise between me and God is simple: I believe that Jesus died for my sins and I have made him the Lord of my life, and in return God will forgive my sins (which Jesus paid for). Yes, there is much more to it than that, but that is the Matthew's Quick Bible Translation version.

At it's core, it is as simple as "believe and you will be saved." You don't have to physically DO anything to be saved. You don't have to volunteer at soup kitchens once a month, or go to church every Sunday morning, or read your Bible on a regular basis, or even tithe, "for it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9, emphasis mine)

So why do I do the things listed above, like volunteer, go to church, and tithe? There is nothing in the covenant that says I have to, so why do it? It is because I want to. I have made Jesus the Lord of my life, which means that my only desire is to advance the kingdom. (I never did like the phrase "advance the kingdom", it always sounded churchy to me, but it best describes what I mean.) I want to glorify Jesus and God, I want to bring others to know the happiness that I know, so I focus my life on glorifying God. But I do these things with no strings attached. I don't do them so that God will give me blessings, I don't do them so that God listens to my prayers, and I don't do it so that I can get into heaven. I do it because I want to.

Similarly, there is no fine print in the covenant that says that God has to bless my life. No where in the promise does it say that God will make my life easy, or that the more I believe the more money I will have. (This is called the "Prosperity Gospel", and it is preached by many well-known Evangelical pastors and televangelists such as Joel Osteen and Pat Robertson.) This view is simply not biblical, as for every verse you can show me that supports it, I can show you two that argue against it. (The page linked to above has good for and against Bible verses.)

So if God doesn't have to bless my life, why does he? Because he wants to. He desires for my life to be amazing and blessed. But there is no guarantee of this, there is no promise that God will bless me.

This is the beauty of the relationship between me and God. We don't HAVE to do anything for each other outside of the covenant. Remember, the covenant simply says that I will always make him Lord of my life, and He will forgive me of my sins. Outside of that, everything that we do for each other is a gift, a voluntary blessing on the other.

On a side note: this argument could also be made for marriage. Too often people get married with conditions, for example: "I will love you as long as you love me and show your love to me." That sounds innocent, but the "show your love to me" is really a condition. It means "I will love you as long as you do things for me, as long as you cook for me and rub my feet at the end of a hard day." One person will often do things voluntarily out of love (say, give flowers), but when they do it they expect the other person to give something back. So the other person will do what is expected (a good foot rub, maybe), but then they expect something else back. (I will stop this story at the foot rubbing.)

The problem is that when things are done because it is expected, it is no longer done due to love. Love is not based on conditions or requirements, it is free from all small print. Instead of expecting a spouse to bring you flowers once a week, show true love and be grateful the few times that they do. And do things out of love, voluntarily, not because it is expected of you.

Back to the earlier topic: Just as I work for God because of my love for him and just as he blesses my life because he loves me, we don't do these things out of condition, we work free from any obligation. So no, I don't deserve to be blessed by God. I have spit in his face and gone against his will many times over, I have broken his laws and broken his heart, why do I deserve anything but for him to adhere to the strict letter of our contract? I don't deserve to be given anything except forgiveness. But he does bless me, many times over, because he loves me and he wants me to lead a joyful life.

So while Stephen picks apart the theology of this post, remember that God loves you and he doesn't bless you because of anything you have done or because you deserve it, but because he loves you and he freely shows this love with his blessings.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.9For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
~1 Corinthians 13



Tuesday, January 27, 2009
I feel like screaming... we have been watching the commercials for SIX MONTHS about the upcoming TV transition to digital, and now the date is being pushed back ANOTHER four months...

Do they really think that people are going to suddenly rise out of their arm chairs and leap for the chance to plug in a digital tuner? Does this prove that 6 months of daily advertising that the transition is coming didn't work? Or is this just some political ploy? Tune in at 10 for these answers, and a look at your 10view Forecast... that is, only if you have the right box plugged into your TV.


A great day...

Sunday, January 25, 2009
Last week I was stressful for me. I was working on a video for church that had many problems, most of which were out of my control. I finished the video but wasn't crazy about the quality, both of the video I shot (it was grainy) and some video that was shot remotely, in California. But I did the best I could with what I had, including using some amazing music from Russel Martin called "Angelise", which I have recommended before. On top of that, I wasn't going to run the service, and with a specialized DVD I made for playing two videos with a pause in the middle, and seeing as I always get worried when a volunteer runs the service, I was stressed out big time.

So this morning I got to sleep in, and I went to the late service. I rarely go to AUMC when I am not running a service (something that I am trying to change), so I am not used to sitting in the pews for an hour. It is amazing how different a service is when you aren't running it. And the volunteer (David) did a great job, both overall during the entire service, and during the confusing video portion. I don't know why I ever worry about my volunteers, they always do amazing!

And the response to the video was amazing! I have never had so many people stop me and tell me how great the video was. God was able to use my talents, the talents of others for writing the script, the people in California that worked on it, God was even able to use the technical difficulties that we had last week to make it better this week. I realized that all of the stress was A) pointless, because God had it in his hands, and B) worth it, because in my service alone I saw five people crying during the video, and I was sitting in the second row, and the only people I could see were the choir! Kory (our pastor) said that he even cried the second service, even though he knew what was coming.

In thinking about writing this, I remembered the "memory verse" that Kory gave the congregation to memorize today: "We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose." ~Romans 8:28

It always amazes me how God continues to work in our lives. Thanks for your prayers and support last week when I asked for prayers; God obviously heard your prayers, and he answered them.



Thursday, January 22, 2009
So, seeing as I moved, I had to come up with a new route to follow when I go running. Here it is:

Apparently, I can't draw a straight line (unlike at my last place).

Oh, and Wall-E was actually really good... no kidding, I thought it was great! I laughed at a lot of it (just like most Pixar movies), and the "environmental message" wasn't that bad.



Wednesday, January 21, 2009
So I just watched Wall-E, and all I have to say is: O. M. G.! The story, the humor, the graphics, the love interest between an old robot and a new robot... just wow!

I will be surprised if it doesn't win Oscar for Best Movie of the CENTRY! (Behind "Crash", that is...)

OK, I will admit, I lied... I haven't seen it yet, I just said the above to make Stephen angry (he never did like it when people disagreed with him). But I am about to sit down and watch it, so wish me luck?


Almost Grandma's Chex Mix

Tuesday, January 20, 2009
So, my grandmother makes some amazing Chex Mix... she cooks up a bunch and keeps them stored in the freezer in gallon zip top bags. Over Christmas I asked her for the recipe, and she looked it up out of some old dusty Church Fundraiser cook book (aren't those the best!), and she gave it to me. In the book it is listed as "1/2 batch".

But this "1/2 batch" calls for 8 boxes of cereal of various kinds. I wanted to make some of the chex mix, but 8 boxes is a bit much, so I had my recipe program print up a "1/2 batch" (of the 1/2 batch) recipe... that is to say, I made 1/4 of a "batch".

Here are the results:

Ya, it made A LOT! Enough for several parties. I figure it cost about $25 for everything.

Anywho, while the mix is cooling on the stove, I thought I would post the recipe that I used... that is my 1/4 batch recipe, not the recipe that I got from my grandmother (which you can get from her if you ask).

Almost Grandma's Chex Mix:
1 box corn chex
1 box rice chex
1 box Cheerios
1 box Kix
2 cans (4 cups each) mixed nuts
slightly less than 1 bag of pretzel sticks, broken into 1 inch peaces (I didn't use the whole bag)
1 tablespoon celery salt
1 tablespoon onion powder (I couldn't find onion salt)
1 tablespoon garlic salt
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper (keeps it pretty spicy, should keep my brother away from it)
1 bottle (10 oz) worcestershire sauce
about 8 oz butter (to note, the original recipe used less worcestershire sauce and more butter, but I rounded up to a bottle of sauce and rounded down to what was left in the tub of butter)

Melt the butter, sauce, and seasonings together and sprinkle over the chex mix. Bake at 200 or 250 for "several hours", IE: 2-3 hours



Saturday, January 17, 2009
I am annoyed-gry tonight... which is, of course, somewhere between annoyed and angry. Someone asked me to do a project, and I have been doing everything I can to get this project done, but the party who wants it done has been dragging their feet and creating roadblocks for me.

I am trying to sympathize with the problems that they are having, but their actions are causing half of the problems in the first place, and now I am put in a spot that I don't want to be in.

Please pray with me that this project will end well, and that my reaction to this project is God centered.



Friday, January 16, 2009
So I am not usually a fan of random Web videos, and this one starts off thinking "this is going to be lame", but ten seconds later I was laughing very hard... Even mom may like this!?!

Star Wars: Retold (by someone who hasn't seen it) from Joe Nicolosi on Vimeo.



Thursday, January 15, 2009
It is 27 degrees outside, 60 degrees inside, and I just made piƱa coladas.

=: >



Thursday, January 08, 2009
This is simply egregious: Adult Entertainment Industry Wants a Bailout

I am just warning you now that if the US government gives a dime to the adult industry I will be moving to New Zealand... or Canada, at least. This is an industry that SHOULD die out, so DON'T keep it afloat! I can just see the next headline: "Drug runners petition Congress for a bailout because it is harder to cross the border these days."




"It is impossible to be held accountable for something that is kept a secret." ~Me



Wednesday, January 07, 2009
I am listening to Dave Ramsey talk about goals and resolutions (who isn't this time of year?). He was talking about how important it is to write down your goals. Then he said:

"Goals that are not written down are wishes... they're dreams." ~ Dave Ramsey

How true that is!

What are your goals for 2009? Have you written them down?



Tuesday, January 06, 2009
Here is the recipe for Almost Kelling Family Minestrone Soup:

1 pound of ground sausage
2 cans of Progresso Minestrone Soup
1 can of Rotel Tomatoes (get the spicy level you want)
1 can of beans of your choice, preferably black or kidney
1/2 can (or 1 small can) of corn

Brown the sausage, drain. To the sausage add all other ingredients, bring to a boil then lower the tempature and simmer for 10 minutes.

Serve with a bread product (such as crackers, chips, or tortillas) and a dollop of sour creme on top.

This is a great recipe... the only problem is that the noodles from the can of soup get overcooked... but then again, I like slightly undercooked (IE: "al dente") noodles. Enjoy!



Great news! Scientists just recalculated the size of the Milky Way, and we are bigger than we thought!

This is great because we should always be re-evaluating science! I get excited every time we up and change the fundamentals of how we understand the universe. Lets look at some great examples of the past:

() Making one of the planets not a planet any more (R.I.P. Pluto)
() Realizing that the earth isn't flat, and the sun (and stars) don't rotate around us
() After proving that "life" (AKA: proteins) could be made from the "primordial soup" of earth, realizing that the mixture of gasses was wrong (mainly it had oxygen where the early Earth had none)
() Suddenly realizing that our calculations were off and that our galaxy has 50% more mass than it did yesterday

We should make these changes more often! How about we say that Proxima Centauri is no longer the closest star to the sun? (BTW, contrary to popular belief, Alpha Centauri isn't the closest star to the sun, Alpha Centauri is a star system.) I like the idea of the Earth having three moons... science, can you take care of that? Ohh, why don't we fix "global warming" by shrinking the sun a bit, would 10% do the trick?

*sigh* This has always been one of my main complaints about "science": it is always changing. What we call "truth" now will most certainly change in a few hundred years, so why even try to keep up with it?

But doesn't religion do the same thing? Just as the world around us never changes, just our understanding of it, God never changes, just our understanding of him. God is constant, but we are constantly reevaluating our understanding of him, always trying to draw closer to his truth. I guess the thing that makes me so mad about science changing is that they always claim that "What I just came up with today is true" where they should be saying "These are my findings, this is my understanding of what I see." To contrast, the core of my religion has always been "There is a constant God out there, I am simply trying to find his truth."

I guess the two are much more alike than I thought.


Christmas Letters and Underwear

Sunday, January 04, 2009
Just so that it is known, I sent out my Christmas letters a few weeks ago. I don't want to post it here, so if anyone who is reading this didn't get one just ask and I will e-mail it to you.

On a completely unrelated note: underwear. Lately, my sock drawer has been getting shaggy. My black socks aren't black any more, my white socks have lots of holes, and my underwear... lets just say they are going the way of my white socks.

A few months ago I was talking to a friend of mine. We were shooting the breeze, and the question came up: what would you do with $1 million? His answer? "Wear a fresh pair of socks every day." If you think about it, you don't have to be a millionaire to do this ($2 per pair of socks X 365 days = $700 a year), but I still like the idea: such a little thing could make a big difference in your comfort level on a day-to-day basis.

So, paring together that conversation and the condition of my sock drawer, I decided to buy all new underwear and socks. I am not going to take it as far as wearing a fresh pair of socks every day, but at least for now, everything in my sock drawer is fresh and clean, without any holes that aren't supposed to be there.

So all of my older socks and underwear are going to Good Will, and I am going to be walking on fresh socks for a while.

What things do you do whose cost is small but makes a big difference in your life?


PS: I never thought I would write a post that uses the word "underwear" 6 times. Oh well, live and learn. And no, I am not going to post pictures.


Thursday, January 01, 2009
Yea! I am moved in!

It took two days, but all of my stuff has found it's new home. All of the boxes are broken down and in the trash, and all of the little things have been put away.

But I still have a few boxes in the kitchen yet...