Category Archives: Wisdom

Is God Constant and Unchanging?

Ever heard the phrase, “All change is not improvement but all improvement requires change”? I see God wanting to bring about a new creation on planet Earth. I don’t see the current world as the culmination of perfection, so I think there is room for improvement.

I hear people occasionally say that God is constant and unchanging. But is this so? If God is 100% constant to the point that he will not or cannot change, then how do we as Christians explain away Exodus 32:14 (quoted here in context)?

7 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt. 8 They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.’

9 “I have seen these people,” the LORD said to Moses, “and they are a stiff-necked people. 10 Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation.”

11 But Moses sought the favor of the LORD his God. “O LORD,” he said, “why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand? 12 Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out, to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people. 13 Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self: ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever.’ ” 14 Then the LORD relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.

“Relented” in verse 14 sounds like a “change” word to me. Moses even violated God’s direct commandment to leave Him alone to accomplish His divine wrath in verse 10, but God does not hold it against him.

There are other nebulous passages too like Abraham’s pseudo-sacrifice of Isaac. God told Abraham to kill his son, but stopped him at the last moment. So I don’t think God is 100% constant and unchanging in every situation. God certainly let Moses sway His opinion of the Israelites – though some bible scholars see this as more of a test of Moses than a reflection of God’s personality. Personally, I fail to understand why it must be one or the other. I think this beautifully illustrates both the character of God and Moses’ love for his people. God brought this out by putting Moses in this situation. Thus, I think it’s clear that God is more complex than a mere description of His being constant or unchanging accurately reflects.

Furthermore, until Jesus’ return, I believe God uses human beings to accomplish His will and it is God’s will that I consider improvement. He in fact chose us to partner with him in transforming and restoring our world for Him and to Him. We can do nothing apart from Him, however, but he does use us. Therefore, until Jesus’ return, we are the vessles of change in our world.

Warren Buffett: The Rich Need to Pay More Taxes

Billionaire Tells Congress the Tax Code Is Unfair to Lower-Income Americans
ABC News
http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/story?id=3869458&page=1

An honest rich man! On national news, no less! Jesus talked about these kinds of people as being extremely rare in Matthew 19:23-26:

23 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. 24 And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. 25 When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved? 26 But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible. (KJV)

Do you think you’ll ever hear about someone like this again? And regardless of your political persuasion this IS a commentary on the current political situation. It seems to me that the American people, particularly those of faith, have a very difficult decision this election.

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing” – attributed to Edward Burke

Cell Phone vs Bible

Gadget Bag January 2006

I wonder what would happen if we treated our Bible like we treat our cell phone?

  • What if we carried it around in our purses or pockets?
  • What if we flipped through it several times a day?
  • What if we turned back to go get it if we forgot it?
  • What if we used it to receive messages from the text?
  • What if we treated it like we couldn’t live without it?
  • What if we gave it to kids as gifts?
  • What if we used it when we traveled?
  • What if we used it in case of emergency?

This is something to make you go: “Hmm. Where is my Bible?

Oh, and one more thing. Unlike our cell phone, we don’t have to worry about our Bible being disconnected because Jesus already paid the bill! And no dropped calls!

Makes you stop and think “What are my priorities?

Photo courtesy of www.flickr.com/photos/41894168820@N01/84294702

‘The World Is Flat’ Book Summary and Review

Introduction

First, a Disclaimer: I didn’t READ The World Is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman. I LISTENED to it in audio book format. That said, my concept of chapter divisions won’t be the same as everyone who read the words. Let me also say that I loved it! The author brings together a number of seemingly disparate concepts and technologies and makes them one big continuous, homogeneous whole. It was a great ride!

That said, there are some hand-written notes inside the front cover of my book. They aren’t my notes, but I’ll share one of the best here:

Teach the 4Es instead of the 3Rs
1) Expose Knowledge
2) Employ Information
3) Express Ideas Compellingly
4) Engage in Ethical Practices

Isn’t that a great list? I’ve been saying we teach the 4Rs for a while – Reading, wRiting, aRithmetic, and computeRs, but I like this list better.

Chapters One – Four

The world got flattened. Now, everyone can compete with everyone else. Natural talent now trumps geography.

I loved his comparisons of important dates like 9/11 and 11/9 although I think that is in a later chapter. It really brings home the disparity. And the metaphors used are equally fantastic. The title of the book alone is very intriguing. The first flattener is about walls and windows. What brilliance! I’m sorry, but there’s a creative writer in me that’s just loving this!

His list of flatteners could probably have been tweaked a little. I’m sure that the actual number is not 10 and that the particular 10 he included are certainly important but are not necessarily the most important. In short, he’s using literary techniques to list 10 of the most important so that they are easier to remember and have a sense of finality since we’re only counting up to 10.

Of particular interest to me is the information about Netscape. Now, being in a computer field I already knew about Netscape and the browser wars. It’s a kind of fascinating thing to follow. But I was not aware of the particulars with regard to business that Friedman points out. He connected a lot of dots and pulled in a lot of loose strings here.

All in all, the 10 flateners were impressive. Advances in software, collaboration, communication, and more. It’s a breathtaking list and, somehow, they all fit together. I wonder if the contents of this book are essential parts of the minds of the great business companies and it took Friedman to put that into words? I remember a year or so back hearing about some fantastic new book stating that nature employs fractal patterns that can be reproduced with computers. Breathtaking? Not really. Those in the sciences had known this for years. It took this writer writing about it to bring it to the knowledge of the general public. And they RAN with it! Only after reporters started getting an “Eh!” from scientists that this wasn’t news, did it drop.

That’s a problem I have with society in general. It seems a pervasive problem particularly in the US. It’s that people are not scientifically minded and don’t recognize how that could help them or how that has benefited the US for many years. It’s our science that has helped us to rise to be the planet’s foremost nation. And we’re losing that. People today are more interested in entertainment than attainment. As Friedman wrote somewhere, in the US Britney Spears is Britney Spears. In China, Bill Gates is Britney Spears.

Moving right along we come to the Triple Convergence. Now, I think Friedman could’ve organized this better since technically the first convergence is the combining of the 10 flateners but I digress. It’s still a very effective presentation of the content. Also, unlike most writers who introduce a concept and then stop, Friedman has gone to the next step. He introduced these new concepts and then showed how they came together. That’s a whole additional level off observation and thinking! No wonder this book was on the national bestseller list!

I don’t know how to summarize chapter four. It’s really an extension of the triple convergence in chapter 3. Friedman talks about how these flateners are going to reshape wealth, knowledge, everything. I must confess I did not get much out of the book at this point.

Chapters Five – Eight

Arguably, Part II of the book begins with chapter 5. And it’s a very important chapter for the average American because it deals with the current free trade crisis. Many Americans are upset over Homeland Security, open borders, NAFTA, and other related issues. Freidman published his book in 2004 so he was unaware of how these issues would morph recently in light of the presidential election.

That said, I must say that I was against NAFTA and free trade in general until I read his book. I wasn’t an extremist or anything, I just thought that we should protect our American jobs. I had no idea what was happening! I think Friedman is correct in saying that no one can stop free trade without great damage to our country and for that reason, I think he is correct in saying we must march on.

Chapter 6 on the untouchables was a great comparison. The Indian untouchables are heartbreaking and it’s good to see what technology can do for them. It is equally sad that the generations currently living will not likely get the benefits of the flat world but I suppose that is one of those family things. Parents always want better for their children and can live with less if their children have more.

Chapter 7 on the quiet crisis was disturbing. I’ve known we had problems for years. As a teacher, I unfortunately see it every day. My students by and large are not interested in learning anything that we have to teach them. They want their cell phones, their entertainment, their music, and for us to leave them alone. They haven’t got a clue! And in light of this book, they haven’t got a chance for a good life either! AND THEY DON’T CARE! It is one of the hardest things to try to teach a student to care.

I tried to instill caring in my students this semester like I usually do. With my first period, I ran smack into a brick wall called Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Many of my students were not getting enough sleep at night, some had family problems, and none of them really cared to learn the material or put forth any additional effort. After Spring Break (and it came early this year) the students all got Senioritis and more or less decided to quit doing any work. Working through that has been a challenge to say the least and I have not always been nice with them. And at least one of them keeps complaining to a parent who calls my principal to have a chat with me. <sigh> Of course, it’s never about how their child can learn the material better. And the only thing related to my principal are my faults. None of my motivations or positives are related. At least my principal does understand and he’s gentle with me. I don’t think I could continue teaching with a hard-liner for a principal.

Chapter 8 concludes what I have dubbed part II. “This Is Not A Test” does seem to describe the problems we’re facing in America. This is for real and we need to take these challenges seriously. Now, if only Friedman had included a list of strategies to use with a predominantly rural, manufacturing background population in western North Carolina we’d be all set.

Chapters Nine – Thirteen

I really did read this book. Or rather, I really did finish listening to the audio book version. A lot of the material in this last part really didn’t apply to me, but I heard it and got a lesson in global economics at the same time.

What a cool title for chapter 9! And what a good illustration of the extent of the challenge. If we in America are upset that the Mexicans have been taking our job, we should be alarmed that the Mexicans are now losing their jobs to the Chinese!

Chapter 10 on coping companies was sad. It almost makes me want to go into a business that can’t be outsources like fast food. The sad thing is, when presented with these challenges many of my students would just accept things and work at McDonald’s for the next 50 years. It’s like a blanket PLAGUE! There is no inspiration! No energy! No interest for the things that really matter! It’s like every student has poverty syndrome and there’s no way to knock it out of them and make them wake up, shape up, and do what needs to be done.

Chapter 11 was the most revealing chapter of all. I’m glad Friedman wrote this book and I hope has been translated into the Arabic languages and widely distributed. He explained more about the motivations of Osama bin Laden in one chapter than I had amassed watching the Iraq war unfold on CNN for SEVEN YEARS. That’s sad. Why wasn’t CNN telling us what he told us?

Chapter 12 seemed out of place somehow. It was an illustration, yes, of this process but that was best explained back in chapters 3 and 4. This chapter probably should have gone there. Nonetheless, it was kind of interesting (and boring) to listen to where all the parts for his computer came from. It reminded me of reading the genealogies in Leviticus and Numbers in the bible. (There is a little gem in there, though, called the Prayer of Jabez – look it up!) Anyway, it showed how the economics have a stabilizing factor on political systems. And that will be, I think, by and large a good thing.

Although, if America is currently losing out because we’ve grown complacent what will happen to China, India, and the rest of the world in the future when they are all like us? Won’t they become complacent too?

Lucky #13 was a great place to finish. (Although, as I said, chapter 12 doesn’t fit where it’s at and this chapter would fit perfectly after chapter 11.) It was a challenge to the reader to choose wisely. I liked that. Friedman clearly has a strong belief system beneath his writing. He is concerned about the US. And he has children. I’m about to be a father and I could almost hear what he was saying about the future. Am I happy about some of these things that have happened? No, of course not, but I can’t change them.

I consider my as yet unborn daughter to be a gift from God and He doesn’t make mistakes. Since He has blessed Rebecca and I with a child I’ve had a lot of time to do a lot of thinking. Have you heard the saying that a new baby is God’s way of telling us that life should go on? Well, I kind of internalized that in this last chapter. I’m not exactly overjoyed about what I foresee the future holding, but I am calm about it. I trust that God has made a good decision. Now, the ball is in my court and I choose to be the best father I can be and help guide my daughter as she grows up into what she will become. I’m looking forward to it.

The Prayer of Jabez

About the 6th of April, I began praying the Prayer of Jabez each day. I learned about the prayer from a book by the same name. I must say that my life has been enhanced from making the decision to pray this prayer. It’s not the words, of course, it’s the meaning behind the words that makes the difference. The Prayer of Jabez is a commitment to God and to a higher way of living. It’s that commitment that is the subject of this post.

The Prayer of Jabez: Breaking Through to the Blessed Life by Bruce H. Wilkinson explores the relationship that this man Jabez had with his God. The prayer naturally divides into four parts and the book provides a commentary for each part. I think, however, that the last part when Jabez prayed that he might not cause pain should stand on its own as perhaps a fifth part. For me it is just as important to include this in the prayer as the four main parts.

You see, the only thing some people have is their reputation. Consider the story of Ruth. She had no possessions, but she did have a good reputation and it was this reputation that allowed Boaz to love her and ultimately redeem her and Naomi. Therefore, it matters a great deal whether a person causes pain to another whether intentional or not. Memories of past pain or the expectation of pain caused by the reputation of an individual will most certainly have a negative effect on both concerned. To leave out the part of the prayer asking God to not allow oneself to cause another pain is to leave out an equally important part of the complete prayer of Jabez.

The Mayonnaise Jar and Two Cups of Coffee

When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day are not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar and the two cups of coffee.

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar, and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full.

They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly so that the pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full.

They all agreed it was full.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full.

The students responded with an unanimous “yes.”

The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty spaces between the sand. The students laughed.

“Now,” said the professor as the laughter subsided, “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things – your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favorite passions, and if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house, and your car. The sand is everything else – the small stuff.”

“If you put the sand into the jar first,” he continued, “there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you.”

“Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your spouse out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the disposal. Take care of the golf balls first – the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.”

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represented. The professor smiled. “I’m glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend.”