Thursday, August 21, 2014

One Christian Point

I have a lot of discussions about religion with a lot of different people, some Christian (as I am) and some not.

Both Catholic and Protestant Christian Bibles teach that Jesus Christ is the only path to God the Father. Though I believe that, I will never pressure someone to believe as I believe - belief is an intensely personal choice. The Bible also says that if you truly seek you will find, and I stand on that one.

In recent posts I raise questions that seem to dismay people:

Can Salvation, once accepted, be lost? (I don't know, and all arguments, for either side, seem circular to me.)

Why would a benevolent God allow such suffering? (I don't know. I think this world is under the control of Satan, though, and that the non-suffering is God's grace to us.)

Which do you believe: Pre-Trib, Mid-Trib or Post-Trib Rapture? (I don't know. I tend to lean toward No Rapture, but that is an upcoming book, so I'll leave it at that.)

What is the nature of God? (Most people would say God is Love, but that's not it. God is Holy.)

Is the Bible true? (Yes, absolutely, and if you pick and choose from the Bible what you want to be true, you're writing your own book, and Jesus took a dim view of that [jots and tittles sort of thing]. But some of the Bible is allegorical and some not, and I don't always know which is which.)

The theme in all my discussions is "I don't know."

HOWEVER, there is one point I cannot compromise as a Christian, and it really isn't about religion. It's about a relationship, and it is the key and cornerstone of Christianity. We can disagree on all else and I don't mind.

That one point is Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

All other things I will discuss and debate. Not this point.

There is no other focus for a Christian. Fighting about everything else is simply a way to obfuscate the simple truth that Jesus Christ died for our sins, that every time I do something evil in this world I cause Jesus more pain as he suffered and died on the cross.

I used to avoid doing wrong because I didn't want to be punished.

Now I don't want to do wrong because He took the punishment.

Jesus the Christ suffered for my sins willingly. He did it for me. He did it for everyone, whether you believe or not.

I believe it.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Some confusing words

Gutenberg press woodcut
from Wikipedia
A friend of mine was sweet enough to proofread part of my upcoming book, tentatively titled Zombie Apocalypse, Vampire Raiders of Las Vegas. Don't worry, I'm sure that won't be the final title (almost sure).

She had some issues with words I used and I had to do some investigation. I thought I'd share.

BLOND is an adjective describing something, man or woman. BLONDE is a noun meaning a female with fair hair (and not a male with fair hair). "The blonde picked a blond puppy from the litter."

FURTHER is a conceptual distance. FARTHER is a physical one. That usually works, but when in doubt you're safe using further. "As he went farther into the jungle his mind retreated further from reality."

My eldest son asked me a question about where I wrote the word averse - that maybe it should have been adverse. ADVERSE is something harmful and AVERSE is a strong feeling of dislike. "I am averse to adverse effects of drugs."

Affect is a verb and Effect is a noun. That doesn't help? If the word denotes influence or action, use AFFECT. If it is a result, use EFFECT. "The rain affected Tom's mood, but had no effect on Lucy."

You COMPLIMENT someone when you say something nice to them, so it is an admiring remark. When things COMPLEMENT each other, they go well together.

Please, oh please get this one right. If you can replace the word with "it is" then the correct form is IT'S. If the meaning of your word is possessive, use ITS. I don't even have a clever sentence for this one (though I was going to use "If it's possessive, use 'its'.")

Along the same lines, YOUR is possessive. YOU'RE is a contraction for YOU ARE. If YOU'RE sure it's possessive, use YOUR. (See how I tossed the IT'S in there, too? You can COMPLIMENT me in the comments.)

There are a lot of confusing English words. These simply touch the surface. For hundreds more, try The Grammar Monster's section for confusing words. I also like Grammar Girl (she's pretty famous and has a lot more than simply confusing words).

A few years ago I did a post on why English was hard, and these should have been among those confusing words. And they should not be confused with the other confusing word category - contronyms! I'll leave that for another post.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Opinel by Charlie

I have followed Charlie Sorrel and his articles for years. Before Cult of Mac, Charlie wrote for Wired. He's witty, insightful, and slightly irreverent. He has one of the keenest minds for reviewing things that I've ever followed - and that not only includes the software he reviews, but the hardware.

A few months ago Charlie reviewed knives.

He doesn't usually do that. Reviews written by Charlie almost always have something to do with computers or cycling. This one didn't. This was just about some of the best knives ever made - Opinel knives.

Now, to be frank (hi Frank!), I am a nut for knives. I have to keep myself from buying one almost every time I go to a store. I don't know what it is, but knives attract me. I even have a book on making knives and fully intend to do so in the next few years after I retire. So an article on knives? By Charlie? Oh, yeah.

I can't describe the knives better than Charlie can. Here's his article from May.

This one is beautiful
I pondered and dithered. I reined myself in and didn't buy the complete set of Opinel knives, blade sizes from No2 to the large No12.

I did buy the No6 and the boxed No8. I considered the Brazilian Rosewood handled No6 knife, but they were sold out. If they come back I might get one.

I received my two knives in the mail two days after I ordered them. So far I have only used the No6, but it is a beautiful knife, and extremely sharp, slicing through tomatoes liked they are warm butter (yeah, that's a cliche, but it's the only thing I can think of).

The little ring that locks the blade (closed or open) is very tight. I have a hard time moving it right now, but that will change with use.

So far I think these are my favorite knives, with the exception of my Swiss Army knife, which goes everywhere with me.

If you like knives, I'd recommend you take a look at the Opinel knives.

I think Charlie is right - they might be the best knives made in the world.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

For Us - a Romans 8 Sermon

Last Sunday, Pastor Dr. Denny Autrey (our interim Pastor at First Baptist Church Pearland) preached a familiar sermon on Romans 8:28 and a bit more.

It was almost familiar, but it got me thinking. You'll see what I mean.

First of all, Romans 8:28 is a verse a lot of Christians hold on to during bad times, that God will knit all these bad times into something good. I have no doubt that God does this, but it is good according to His purpose, and sometimes I just don't see it.

If you're like me, you know what I mean. You've known people who got hurt, died, suffered horribly in their lives and you have to wonder. Maybe you ARE that person. My heart goes out to you. Most of us have seasons in our lives when there is more pain than we think we can endure. Christians grab 8:28 like a life preserver. (There were also many times I cried out because life was too hard, and it was, but those are different stories.)

Romans 8:28-39 (NKJV)
28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.
30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.
31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?
33 Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.
34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
36 As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”
37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.
38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come,
39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I don't normally keep the verse numbers when I quote, but since Pastor Dr. Denny referenced them, I have to this time. (I tried to do color coding, too.)

Verse 30 is often called The Golden Chain of Salvation. Look at the order of the words: Predestined to Called to Justified to Glorified. Dr. Denny mentioned that we don't see Sanctified in the list because the people God Justifies will be Sanctified - in other words, the sanctification is implied. I notice that verse 29 says God Foreknew us before the Predestined bit. I guess that goes without saying. Accepting God is God means you have to accept that God foreknew us all, I suppose. That seems trivial, doesn't it. I'm sure I'm not thinking deeply enough for that one.

Just from this verse, I think that the entire question of predestination is now answered. How sad that seems to me, and I have a hard time with it. Not for myself. I know where I stand. I'm ignorant and (though not proud of it) I can accept that state of being and work to better myself.

Dr. D also said that Salvation cannot be taken from us. His logic is remarkably simple (which suits me). If you did nothing to earn your Salvation, since it is a gift from God/Jesus, then you can do nothing to lose it. I have to ponder that one. Most Baptist preachers will point at a person who once acted "saved" but now doesn't as someone who never really accepted Jesus in the first place, rather than as one who has fallen away.

In 1 COR 5:11 Paul says that "if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat...Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person." That sounds like "kick them out because they don't really belong."

Just a few verses earlier though (v 5:5) Paul says to take the immoral person and "To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus." That sounds like "once accepted, always accepted." It's all a bit confusing, so deserves further thought.

I like the idea that I can't give back a gift that was freely given - sort of like when Arwen in LotR doesn't let Aragorn give her back her ring. Yeah, that's a nice visual.

In verses 38-39 Paul makes it personal, saying I am persuaded. It certainly sounds like Arwen (sort of).

Verse 31 is famous, too. If God is for us, who can be against us? That's the same argument Gamaliel used with the Synagogue.

Martin Luther died in 1546 and his lifetime friend and co-worker Melanchthon preached his funeral using Romans 8:31. Philipp Melanchthon died in 1560 with Romans 8:31 on his lips.

Dr. D said that 100 years later, in 1660, a young man named John Bunyan was rescued by the same text. (Bunyan wrote Pilgrim's Progress.)

I guess that makes it a pretty good verse.

So what is my summary of the sermon?

I know where I stand with Jesus; it's a personal relationship, not a religion. As one brother tells me, if Jesus were here on Earth today, we'd go out for a beer. Well, I don't drink beer. I'd order water and ask Jesus to remove the fluorides.

I haven't really changed my mind about anything. God is God. Check. He died for me (even though I don't deserve it.) Check. I don't understand most of what He does. Check. Someday (and soon in geological concepts) I'll be in Heaven and see a lot of people. Maybe I'll see some I didn't expect. That would be nice.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Movie Reviews

The 100-Foot Journey
I liked it. When movies show scenery of France my heart almost stops, as if a great hand wraps around it and tugs it from my chest. (If I believed in reincarnation, I'd think I came from France.) The cinematography of this movie had that hand squeezing my heart - there was so much beauty that I think I actually gasped a few times (but I won't admit it if I did).

The plot is good, though I won't say it is superb. I will say the acting was superb. The story fleshed each character out, but the actors brought them to life perfectly. I won't even pick out a favorite actor/actress (but I will say I have a hard time believing that Dame Helen Mirren is English and not French now!).

Oh, and there was food. I do love food.

I owed Darling a movie that wasn't all explosions and superheroes.

For once, I chose wisely. I can give it an easy eight of ten stars. (I don't buy these kind of movies, but if I did, this would be one I'd buy - if only for the cinematography!)

Guardians of the Galaxy
Green is good
I had high hopes for this movie, and the hype that surrounded it only made me expect more.

I was disappointed, and I wish I could point at one or two specific things that made me think less of the movie, but I can't. (SPOILER: Perhaps the Howard the Duck thing … I don't know.)

If I'd been expecting a little less I would have been fine, I think. GotG was certainly non-stop action from start to finish. The plot was good, not great. The dialog was funny, though I think a lot of the humor was borderline potty-humor (which still makes me laugh, so it counts). The characters meshed well, and I'll go see Zoe Saldana in anything now, regardless of what color they make her. She is a great actress, too.
Blue is good

I did like it. I think I expected too much. Well, they are making a sequel, so I can look forward to that one, too.

I can only give it a seven of ten stars, and I wouldn't buy it for my collection, even though it is the right genre. I would watch it again, though.

I'm so confused.

I think I liked it. I'm not sure.

What exactly happened? Why was I watching an antelope?

I loved watching Scarlett Johansson kick butt and prove she can act. Really. Contrast her character from the first part of the film to the end. She can act.

I'm still confused.

I can only give it five out of ten stars and I don't even want to watch it again. Well, maybe I do.