Archive for July, 2008

What is the Purpose of your Church?

July 29, 2008

The church I attend has a simple mission:

1) Know what the Bible says

2) Do what the Bible says

3) Help others with #1 and #2

Sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it? Turns out it isn’t. I think it is easy to get caught up in just hanging out together and not put much thought into God’s plan. It is easy to want what you want, and not think too much about what He wants.

I’m not saying that I, or my church, have all the answers. But we are trying and we do have a clear plan.

What’s your church’s plan?

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What’s the Meaning of Life?

July 26, 2008

I’ve become a big fan of Tim Ferriss. He’s got a lot of interesting things to say, and his book The 4-Hour Workweek has significantly influenced me.

Though I don’t know if he’s a Christian, he has a lot to say about fully living life. For example, here he’s talking about trying to answer the big questions such as “What is the meaning of life?” or “What is the point of it all?”:

I am 100% convinced that most big questions we feel compelled to face – handed down through centuries of over thinking and mistranslation- use terms so undefined as to make attempting to answer them a complete waste of time. (There is a place for koans and rhetorical meditative questions, but these tools are optional and outside the scope of this book. Most questions without answers are just poorly worded.) This isn’t depressing. It’s liberating.

Before spending time on a stress-inducing question, big or otherwise, ensure that the answer is “yes” to the following two questions:

1. Have I decided on a single meaning for each term in the question?

2. Can an answer to this question be acted upon to improve things?

“What is the meaning of life?” fails the first and thus the second. Questions about things beyond your sphere of influence like “What if the train is late tomorrow?” fail the second and should thus be ignored. These are not worthwhile questions. If you can’t define it or act upon it, forget it. If you take just this point from this book, it will put you in the top 1% of performers in the world and keep most philosophical distress out of your life.

Sharpening your logical and practical mental toolbox is not being an atheist or unspiritual. It’s not being crass and it’s not being superficial. It’s being smart and putting your effort where it can make the biggest difference for yourself and others.

— from The 4-Hour Workweek, p. 268-269

This is related to a recent post of mine where I try to make the point that if you can’t do anything about something, don’t worry about it.

Of course, I do believe there is an answer to the question “What’s the meaning of life?” and it is to devote that life to God – learning what he has to say to me, and then adhering to that to the best of my ability. Some of you out there will disagree about that, and that’s fine. But whether or not you are devoting your life to God’s service, I think Tim’s advice is valuable.

Absorbing Bible Knowledge Daily

July 21, 2008

Bible knowledge is not something you can force in a few long study sessions, every once in a while. It is best accumulated day by day, and accompanied by prayers for understanding.

You will be much more successful with a defined reading plan than with randomly opening the Bible and trying to read. And unless you are a super human discipline machine, you don’t have to try to read it an hour a day. You almost certainly won’t be able to keep that up, which increases the chances of you quitting altogether.

Just get in the habit of reading (or listening) over and over. Start with 5 minutes (say one chapter of Luke, then move on to Acts) each day. If you do that you’ll find that you often keep going. But don’t feel bad if you don’t – just get started every day. Create a regular place and a time and stick to it.

Get a good Bible that you can understand (I recommend the ESV) and be careful of using a paraphrase (here’s an interesting article on that subject).

You can also read online at BibleGateway.com – it makes it very easy to read and compare different translations.

However you get your regular portion of the Bible, try to get it daily.

[If you would like to be more consistent in your Bible reading but just aren’t sure how to start, or how much to read, or what parts to read, or whatever – just email me and I’d be happy to help you get started.]

Don’t Take Offense When None is Intended

July 12, 2008

This is a pet peeve of mine. Do you ever spend time around people who are always mad? Who constantly analyze everything they hear, looking for some reason to take offense?

  • “We should be too big to take offense and too noble to give it.” – Abraham Lincoln
  • “Whenever anyone has offended me, I try to raise my soul so high that the offense cannot reach it” – Rene Descartes
  • “Never ascribe to malice that which can adequately be explained by incompetence.” – Napoleon Bonaparte
  • “Love is always patient and kind; it is never jealous, love is never boastful or conceited; it is never rude or selfish; it does not take offense, and is not resentful. Love takes no pleasure in other people’s sins but delights in the truth; it is always ready to excuse, to trust, to hope, and to endure whatever comes. Love does not come to an end.” – 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, ESV

I believe the message is this: this isn’t about me. The Christian isn’t helping by taking offense. It is hard to love our enemies if we’re mad at (or offended by) them.

I know this is easier said than done. But when you come right down to it, no one can offend you or make you feel bad without your permission. Work toward withholding that permission.

Quick Quote on Loving God

July 10, 2008

A friend emailed this today:

“God, help me to love you enough to obey.”

What else can I say?

Why use a Mac?

July 6, 2008

This is a little off my normal subject material, but what the heck – when ya get religion, whether theological or technical, you want to share it! A few months ago I got a Macbook. I know several smart people who have moved to Macbooks in the past couple of years, and they have urged (OK, made great fun of) me to do the same. So I decided to see what all the fuss was about.

I started with a used Macbook from Ebay because I have a history of having a cool idea, spending a bunch of money to get started, and then not using what I bought (Gail will be happy to vouch for this). I thought doing this would allow me to cheaply find out whether the Mac would increase my productivity and if it did, I could then spring for a newer, better one. Which I plan to do soon – my only decision now is whether to get a 15″ or 17″ Macbook Pro.

Here are a few things I love about my Macbook, compared to the Windows desktops and laptops I’ve used for more than a decade:

  • The hardware is better. Sure it is a lot more expensive than a Windows notebook. But it isn’t throw away stuff – it is meant to be used by serious professionals (whether or not that’s what you are) and it is built to last. This has been my experience, and from what I read, that of a lot of people.
  • The support is better. Apple really stands behind their products. I’m sure there are always some bad experiences, but mine has been similar to this: My friend Ryan walked into the Apple store in Huntsville recently and said “I was playing with my son and dropped my iphone (that I didn’t buy here) on the sidewalk and now it is having problems.” Their response? “Here’s a new one.” If you are getting this kind of support from Dell or HP or Verizon, that’s great, but that hasn’t been my experience.
  • No viruses. Maybe there are some out there, but they haven’t bothered me, and I spend zero time buying, configuring, managing, or upgrading virus software. And no time messing with the viruses themselves. I wonder how much money that adds to your Windows PC cost and how much of your valuable time is wasted messing with that stuff?
  • No (OK, very little) rebooting. I have always had to reboot my Windows PCs all the time. Things hang up, quit working, or just get slow. I rarely have to reboot my Macbook.
  • It is Unix. I first started using and writing software for Unix around 1986 or 1987 at Intergraph when they came out with CLIX. While there are some pretty technical Windows fans for who I have a great deal of respect (my old Intergraph buddies John Allen and Tony Dye come to mind), my personal experience is that Mac OS X and Linux are a lot more stable, easier to use, and cheaper to administer than Windows. And with Apple continuing to make inroads with their Mac sales, the days of having to use Windows because that’s where all the software is are coming to a close.

Like most religious wars, this one won’t be solved in my lifetime. I’m not trying to convert anyone to the Mac. And this guy says it better than I can anyway. All I’m saying is that I’m much, much happier and more productive with a Macbook – maybe you would be too…

Do you know when to quit?

July 1, 2008

I recently wrote an article on persistance. Today I want to look at the other side of that.

A friend sent me an interesting article (Knowing When to Quit) that was particularly meaningful to him because of his own experiences in the coffee business.

As I think about this I realize that in past businesses I’ve very much NOT known when to quit. I’ve spent literally hundreds of thousands of dollars and seriously endangered my family’s financial position because I couldn’t see past the emotion.

Readers of this blog know that I try to be a positive, can do kind of person. I think the “whether you believe you can or believe you can’t, you are right” line of thinking is true.

But here’s the thing – sometimes you just don’t have the resources or ability to do this thing. You need to know the difference between blind optimism and justified optimism.

In On Writing, (the best book on the subject I’ve ever read) Stephen King said that there are 4 kinds of writers: bad, OK, good, and genius (I don’t remember his exact labels but for the record he considers himself in the “good” category). He said that with a lot of work you can make an OK writer good but that you can never make a bad writer good. You either have it or you don’t.

No matter how hard I try, or how much I practice, or how many lessons I take, I won’t be playing in the NBA. Some businesses aren’t going to work – they just can’t – the math isn’t there. Some careers or jobs just aren’t ever going to pan out. The trick is to be wise enough (or look hard enough) to know the difference. I recently read a short little book called The Dip that might give you some insight into how to do that.