Monday, April 30, 2012

Quote of the Day - Sunday School edition

From my Sunday School teacher:
At my job, I primarily have two roles. I'm either 411 or 911. The more they use me as 411, the less they have to use me as 911.
You know, I can absolutely relate to that.

Friday, April 27, 2012

I just put this on my wish list

Han Solo iPhone/iPod cover

Yes, I am a geek.

Free John Piper book - today only

John Piper has made his book Jesus: The Only Way to God--Must You Hear the Gospel to be Saved? available free from, today only.

If you like serious Christian theological books, check it out. Piper is fast becoming one of my favorite authors.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Scripture of the Day - Philippians 4:11-13

In his epistle to Philippi, Paul writes:
11 [...] for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
 This verse is frequently quoted in lessons on being content, and rightfully so. Paul, the great missionary of the early church, faced many trials and tribulations. Stoned, shipwrecked, chased out of town, Paul had plenty of opportunities to learn about sufficiency and contentment.

The study notes in my bible add some interesting context to this verse. First, the word Greek term translated as "content" in verse 11 refers to self-sufficiency or satisfaction. It is the same word translated as "sufficiency" in 2 Corinthians 9:8: "And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work." Paul has learned that what he has is what he needs, that God can and will provide just what we need to meet our needs, if we but learn to trust in Him.

Second, verse 12 indicates that Paul faced both needs and prosperity. The phrase "facing plenty" referred to the feeding and fattening of animals. They were given such an abundance of food that they grew fat for the slaughter. Throughout all this, Paul learned to keep an even keel, to live in the moment and not worry or plan for tomorrow.

Finally, in verse 13 when Paul talks about the ability to do all things, he is literally talking about being strong and having strength from the Lord. And again, we see him refer to "all things", both the times when he has need and the times when he has plenty.

I have found that having this level of contentment is difficult. It's easy to say "I have a big enough house, and I have enough food", but I still struggle with materialistic longings. I want a bigger TV, a newer car, a faster computer. I even try to add a spiritual element to it. I want to make more money so that I can give more, so that I can donate to ministry, so that I can do things for God.

Instead, I need to learn to be content with what I have. I can donate time, and knowledge, and expertise. I can change my financial priorities and spending. Above all, I need to learn to trust more in God, and have faith that He will provide for my needs.

Yeah, it's hard.

It's all about learning your body

My weight loss saga continues. I finally broke the 180 pound barrier last week, making it all the way down to 179.0. However, over the weekend I promptly shot back up to 181.2 as of this morning.

Yes, I did have a few cheat meals, but I don't think that's what caused the big uptick, believe it or not. Instead, my activity level was lower (I only went walking once, and that just for a mile, and I did not mow the law as planned) and I did not drink near as much water as I usually do.

Those two things right there seem to be the key for me. If I'm not getting my exercise and I'm not drinking enough fluids, my weight tends to pop back up. If I do those things, even eating a bit more than usual doesn't seem to effect my weight as much as I would have thought.

I actually find it easier to keep my fluid intake up at the office than I do at home, for some reason. I keep a big cup at my desk, and just keep refilling it. For whatever reason, I'm not as good about that at home. It's definitely something I need to work on.

But, I'm making progress, and I've dropped 3" or so on my waist and ~25 pounds since February 1st.

New blog on the block - IT Security Mom

A friend of mine back in Texas is an IT security professional. She recently sat for and passed her CISSP certification. As a parent with teenage kids, she decided to enter the blogosphere and start talking all things computer security related, with a particular bent toward keeping families and kiddos safe online.

Read her bio, and then check out her blog. It seems she currently plans to update twice a week, on Mondays and Fridays.

I've added her to my blogroll and my reader. I recommend you do the same, especially if you have kids in the house.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Sunday Sermon Notes - 2012-04-22 - The Reversal

Today's sermon was the 5th and final installment of a series titled "The Outsider". This lesson was "The Reversal". Dr. Abney selected Luke 18:9-14 as his scripture reference for today. This is the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector praying in the temple.

The Pharisee and the Tax Collector
9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.' 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!' 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted."

As an aside, one of Dr. Abney's comments was that as Jesus got closer and closer to the day of his crucifixion, his parables and lessons became more intense, more controversial (to the Pharisees), or as I wrote down, more "in your face." He knows the time is short, and He is trying to get his message across any way he can.

And what is the message in today's parable?

Just because you are religious, it does not mean you are righteous.

In most parables, the targeted audience is mentioned at the end, or the primary object lesson is saved until the last. Not so in this parable. The message is so controversial, such a reversal of the perceived right of it all, that Luke prefaces the parable with the warning that it was targeted at those "who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt." (vs. 9).

The first point Dr. Abney made is that they prayer of the Pharisee is not the problem. It is theocentric. He starts out by thanking God, and then praising God for the blessings (or lack of bad things) in his life. The problem is best seen by comparing it to the prayer of the tax collector.

The tax collector is in a state of utter humility. He cannot even lift his eyes to the heavens. Instead, he beats his breast and asks God for to be merciful to him, a sinner (vs 13). Dr. Abney pointed out two key linguistic elements of this verse. First, the "a sinner" is a definite article, probably better translated as "the sinner". It is an absolute acknowledgement of the tax collector's condition, and his separation from God. Second, the word "mercy" used in this verse is used only one other time in the New Testament, in Hebrews (I cannot remember the precise word used). It is referring to a mercy of atonement, of a blood covering that removes all sin. This same word is used in the Old Testament to refer to the Mercy Seat on the Ark of the Covenant. This is where the priests would sprinkle the blood sacrifice once a year on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

The tax collector does not compare himself to anyone else other than God. He acknowledges his condition, that he is a sinner separated from God. He recognizes that his righteousness comes solely through the atoning mercy of God. The Pharisee, on the other hand, finds his righteousness in his religion. He fasts twice a week, and tithes on everything he receives (vs. 12). The study notes in my bible indicate that this level of fasting is above and beyond anything ever required in Scripture. This Pharisee is not just doing the minimum required by his religion, he is going above and beyond.

Besides missing the mark on God's plan, there is another problem exposed by the Pharisee's prayer, and mentioned in Luke's introduction to the parable. This focus on process or works leads to an attitude of contempt. In his prayer, the Pharisee went so far as to single out another person there in the temple to say "God I thank you that I am not like [...] this tax collector" (vs 11). Because his focus is on his works, and his ability to comply with the law, it hardens his heart against those who cannot do the same as he.

In what areas of our lives are we guilty of that same contempt? In our work, are we "thankful" that we're not a temp employee, or a contractor, or on a foreign visa? Are we "thankful" we can afford to eat out every day, or wear the newest fashions, or drive the latest car? In our communities, are we "thankful" that we don't go to that school, or shop at that store, or live in that neighborhood?

If your relationship to God is characterized by what you do or don't do, that is not the Gospel. An honest relationship to God is characterized by our recognition and acknowledgement that we are sinners and separated from Him, and that our only righteousness comes through His atoning mercy.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

This describes my day

} while (1 == 1);

Oh, and this:

    Console.WriteLine("I love my job!")
} while (1 == 1);

Yeah, it's one of those days.

Sponsor a Rider - Ride 2 Recovery

Ride 2 Recovery is an organization that works with wounded soldiers. Their stated mission is "[t]o improve the health and wellness of injured veterans by providing a life changing experience that can impact their lives forever."

A family friend back in Texas sends in this request for sponsorships:

Dear Patriot,
I am writing you to ask for your support. I have committed to complete the 350 mile bicycle ride “Ride2Recovery –Texas Challenge” from San Antonio to Arlington Texas in support of the Soldiers who have been injured while serving the country we all love so much.
Since its inception, Ride2Recovery has helped thousands of veterans in their healing process, in turn, these veterans have ridden thousands of miles in their effort to recover from severe physical wounds.
Although I was not physically injured from my 15 month deployment to Iraq, I will be riding with hundreds of Wounded Warriors to include my close friend and Purple Heart recipient Staff Sgt. Kenny Griffith. Kenny was shot 3 times with an AK-47, has undergone 13 surgeries and this will be his third Texas Challenge in as many years. In addition to riding with Kenny, I will also be riding in the memory of Staff Sgt. Shawn McNabb who was killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan while serving as a flight medic.
These two great Americans have more in common than their Sacrifice, Valor, and Courage Under Fire. I recruited boththese young men right out of high school at a time when our country was already at war. Please help me honor them by supporting me in my Ride2Recovery.
All Combat Wounded Warriors participate in this six day event for free. However, able bodied Soldiers like myself need to fund raise $1,500 -$3,000 in order to participate. I need your financial support through sponsorship in order to be apart of the Ride2Recovery Texas Challenge. Your contribution of any amount will make a difference in the lives of the same men and women you have been lifting up in prayer since this war began almost a decade ago. 
Thank you and God bless.
-Mike Nasche
You can mail a check directly to us or donate online at:
There are lots of worthy causes out there for us to support, and finances are certainly tight, but I humbly ask that you consider donating. Support Mike, or just make a general contribution to the program. Either way, it's going to a good cause and supporting those who've made quite the sacrifice in service to our country.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

No, this won't be abused at all

The WSJ has an article about a new "stolen phones" database, that the major telecom vendors will use to keep from activating stolen phones. It's being created in cooperation with the Federal Government, apparently after the Major Cities Chiefs Association pressured the FCC to do something about stolen phones.

According to the article:
Thieves can sell pilfered devices to local merchants or street-corner middlemen—or hawk them on sites such as, or, where a used iPhone, for instance, can fetch several hundred dollars.
I don't see any way at all this could be abused or misused.

There's no way someone might sell a legitimate used phone, but have it reported as stolen just to be a jerk. Or there's no way that a spited significant other might report a phone as stolen to get back at their ex.

Registries don't work. They don't accomplish their initial purpose, and they merely serve as a vehicle to get further governmental intrusion into our lives. How big of a step is it from a stolen phone registry to a phone registry. Telecoms couldn't activate a phone, or provide service to it, unless it validated against the database.

After all, criminals and drug dealers use pay-as-you-go phones to conduct their business, so the tool must be intrinsically evil, right? And it has to be controlled by the government, right?

Any similarities to my thoughts on gun control and gun registries are not incidental AT ALL.

In which I empathize with Biggest Loser contestants

One of the things I like about Biggest Loser is watching the contestants hit major milestones. Whether it's a certain total weight loss, or simply crossing a weight threshold, the joy the contestants evince is motivational. Even more compelling are those moments when a contestant comes up just short of a goal. The anticipation of "Today's the day!!" followed by the frustration of just missing out is captivating.

Well, today was one of those days for me. As I've mentioned before, my current target weight is 170, but I've been secretly longing for the day when I break the 180 barrier, and my weight simply starts with 179, even if it's 179.9. I haven't been below 180 in longer than I care to remember.

After two weeks or so of plateau, hovering right around 185, I got serious about the diet again and started trending downward. I was feeling really good that today would be the day I broke that barrier.

I stepped on the scale this morning and felt that little pang of disappointment as I weighed in at 180.4. I was half a pound away from my milestone.

As frustrating as it was, though, there is still a great sense of achievement in knowing that I've dropped 25 pounds or so the last 9 weeks, and I'm only 10 pounds away from my goal.

Oh, and as a side note to the makers of the BMI: I am really frustrated with you guys. According to the BMI calculator, for my height I have to get below 155 pounds to be in the "normal" category. I haven't seen that weight since my freshman year at Texas A&M. I don't think losing a total of 50 pounds is in the cards for me, but we'll see.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

QOTD - Green Energy Edition

ASM826 over at Random Acts of Patriotism discusses ROI on wind energy, and hits the proverbial nail on the head:
They are not energy producing machines. They’re totem poles to a belief system.
Truth so painful it hurts.

Free books, get your free books!!

With the upcoming release of SQL Server 2012, Wrox is running a contest where you can win their entire SQL Server 2012 library (5 books total, it appears). I think they deliver them in e-book format, but all of their e-books are DRM-free and available in all 3 major formats.

You can enter the contest here.

The official contest rules are available here.

Full disclaimer: Wrox is one of my favorite tech resource publishers, and I own several of their titles.

Note to the FTC: Hey guess what? I entered the contest, and I thought friends would like to as well. Wrox hasn't given me anything whatsoever for this post, but if they wanted to send some items for T&E or review, I probably wouldn't turn them down. Likewise, if they felt absolutely compelled to send me some swag or gear, I'd probably wear it. Now please stop wasting my taxpayer dollars on silly stuff like this.