Thursday, December 30, 2010

Pants and Homosexuality in the Sidelinks

The article by Chuck Burke on why it's Biblically incorrect to prohibit pants on women "Let My Women Go" has been there a while, this part of the post is to hopefully grab some Google indexage since Google doesn't index Dropbox...

Likewise, a new article has been added "Is Homosexuality a Sin?" by David Emerson Root, Jr., formerly on layhands.com, revived from the dead with the help of the Wayback Machine.

Both of these articles are excellent, yet dead on the web and nowhere to be found... except for here! ...and the Wayback Machine, if you know the original URL!

Related terms: culotte, culottes, katastole, arsenokoites, arsenokoitai

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Tax Changes

As I mentioned before, I am eligible for EIC. Which essentially means, I don't pay federal income tax, when all is said and done. But with the phase out of Advance EIC in the paycheck, how can I make sure no federal income tax gets withheld?
The new tax bill just passed and early release percentage tables are available on the IRS website.

So how to figure this up? Two first questions:
What is your pay period,
What is your taxable pay,
and What is your filing status?

I get paid bi-weekly, and my taxable pay is typically 925. However, I purchased cheaper health insurance, and sometimes I get a little overtime, so I am going to bump this figure to 1075. I will be filing married.

Look at the percentage table, for a married filer being paid bi-weekly, withholding doesn't kick in until my post-allowance taxable wages reach $304. The trick is to get your post-allowance taxable wages under the threshold that applies to you.

As a married filer, I also notice that each withholding allowance is worth $142.31. Now let do the math:

$1075 taxable pay - $304 withholding threshold = $771 dollars that I need to reduce by claiming withholding allowances. More math:

$771 / $142.31 = 5.41. So I need to claim 6 allowances to avoid withholding up to at least $1075.

DISCLAIMER & WARNING: I am not a tax lawyer or professional. This advice is intended to help those of you whose tax situation results in -zero- tax liability at the end of the year. Please review your past returns and current pay stubs and consider other sources of income when making a final decision on allowances you claim. If you underpay your taxes you could be hit with significant fines and penalties.

Tech Support Gripe

We are not responsible for incidental or consequential inconveniences or damages arising from issues with our software and hardware.
This includes the guy I spoke to who purchased our software on the very same day he needed to get a project done with it, or else he was going to lose thousands of dollars. I'm sorry sir, but you should've given yourself more than 24 hours if that much money is on the line.
This includes the other guy who brought his computer in to be worked on, the one he used to do payroll for his employees. It was payday, and he had no backup computer system. When he learned that his computer would not be ready that day, he got upset and wanted me to come outside and tell one of his employees that they weren't going to get paid because of it. Sorry dude, you should have a second backup computer for your business, and a paper-based, manual way to cut checks for payroll. I mean, what if your electricity went out?
I hate it when customers back themselves into a tight corner and then lash out at me when they can't make some deadline. If I was their consultant, being paid $100 or more per hour, it might be different. When I am getting paid less than $15 per hour by my employer and you are one of many, many, customers, I just am not in a position to work miracles.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Personal Asceticism

"True humility is an excellent grace; it is the clothing and ornament of a Christian; nor is there anything that makes a man more like Christ, than this grace; but in these men here respected, it was only the appearance of humility, it was not real; it was in things they devised and willed, not in things which God commanded, Christ required, or the Scriptures pointed at; they would have been thought to have been very lowly and humble, and to have a great consciousness of their own vileness and unworthiness to draw nigh to Christ the Mediator immediately, and by him to God..."
-John Gill commentary on Colossians 2:18

" I have applied all this to Apollos and myself for your benefit, brothers and sisters, so that you may learn through us the meaning of the saying, 'Nothing beyond what is written,' so that none of you will be puffed up in favor of one against another."
- I Corinthians 4:6 NRSV

When one thinks of "asceticism" one thinks perhaps of severe physical treatment in pursuit of closeness to God. It is this physical aspect that springs to mind for many people. However, I want to point out what I will call "soul asceticism." This is quite simply where you put yourself down, or intentionally foster a low-self image, as a means of spiritual advancement. The core theological error in this is quite simply that as a redeemed child of God, we have been renewed in Christ. We are called to live joyfully and creatively for His glory.
"Soul asceticism" is quite another level from what Paul describes in Galatians 2:20 when he says "not I, but Christ"(KJV):
"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."
- Galatians 2:20 NRSV

Instead of "daily crucifixion" as advocated by some, Paul represents a once for life crucifixion and then our life is hid with Christ in God. Paul speaks directly to this topic in Colossians 3:
"So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory." (1-4)

Who we are as Christians is tied up with who Christ is because we have been raised with Christ. This is the reality of the kingdom today, here and now. We are to seek first the kingdom of God (things that are above) and not earthly achievements. When He comes back in glory, we will also be glorified with Him.

"Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient. These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life. But now you must get rid of all such things—anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator." (5-10)

Worldliness stands as the direct opposite to seeking the kingdom. This passage is probably one of the clearest in Scripture on what worldliness is. As an ex-fundamentalist, it seems a bit too simple! :) But here we have it, what Paul considers antithetical to the kingdom of God. What is interesting for our discussion here is how Paul starts off: "Put to death," which is very much crucifixion language. We know from Gal 2:20 that we were crucified once, then raised to live in newness of life. Paul's use of "put to death" doesn't represent a theology of daily crucifixion, but a theology of the resurrection life. "As we have been" put to death in Christ once, so these worldly things ought be dead with our old selves. Paul is making much the same point as he made in Romans 6: "How can we who died to sin go on living in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life." (2b-4) These passages are a reminder of Whose we are and Whom we serve. So ought we to remind ourselves of this daily. The same understanding can be applied to Romans 8:13, where we are told to put to death the deeds of the flesh.

"Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And before him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account." - Hebrew 4:12-13

The Christians actions in this life, whether worldly or Godly, are no longer effect His relationship with us, but we will be held accountable before the Lord at the judgement. We either walk with the Lord or we don't. We seek His kingdom or we don't. We walk away or we remain close. Sin doesn't break the fellowship of a Christian with His Savior for the same reason salvation can't be lost. (We either believe the gospel or not.) What APPEARS to be a break in fellowship is really our wandering off in the woods of worldliness away from where God is. We ALWAYS have the wonderful privilege of being able to come and ask boldly at the throne of grace.

The idea that "sin breaks fellowship," is extremely destructive to the Gospel of Christ. No matter how bad you are, or how far you stray, think of God as your owner with you tethered to His almighty hand by one of those retractable doggie leashes. You may fall down the sewer drain. You may get so far you can't see Him. But He's got you, He loves you, and He's in control. One day you'll come back for dinner when your soul is so withered you can't stand it anymore. Or you'll get harshly yanked back!

The idea that "sin breaks fellowship" puts the pressure on YOU to make sure you are acceptable in His sight. Rather we ought to rest in the truth that we are adopted and grace flows from the Father to us on the mere account of our being in Christ:
"He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved." - Ephesians 1:5-6

So it is with the concept of "daily crucifixion." You've been crucified once in Christ. The task that remains to you each day is to seek the kingdom of God in the power of the Spirit. Calling this type of drawing near to God's heart another crucifixion is irresponsible since His grace is upon us as sons continually. It is not in vain that we are told:

"His divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Thus he has given us, through these things, his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of lust, and may become participants of the divine nature. For this very reason, you must make every effort to support your faith with goodness, and goodness with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with endurance, and endurance with godliness,
and godliness with mutual affection, and mutual affection with love. For if these things are yours and are increasing among you, they keep you from being ineffective and unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." - 2 Peter 1:3-8

Our escape from the corruption in this world is made possible by his promises of divine power--power that's available to the Christian 24/7 as we claim his promises by living out our lives in faith in His commands. We see here in this list many opposites of the worldly attributes we found in Colossians 3. These are all characteristics of those advancing His kingdom.

Instead of "daily crucifixion," Paul calls us to keep ourselves under subjection to Christ:

"Athletes exercise self-control in all things; they do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable one. So I do not run aimlessly, nor do I box as though beating the air; but I punish my body and enslave it, so that after proclaiming to others I myself should not be disqualified." - I Corinthians 9:25-27

We are to make a conscious decision to place our beings at Christ's service:

"I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect." - Romans 12:1-2

Scripture tells us to do everything for "the glory of God." (I Cor 10:31)

This co-opting of our beings for Christ service, the subjection of ourselves to Christ, indicates not crucifixion but renewal. Our old man is DEAD once for all. The question is whether we will ACT like the old man or live up to our calling in Christ.

(Paul's "I die daily" in I Cor 15:31 is in reference to the peril he encountered in his work for Christ, not a renewed death to sin.)

And finally, we have the parable of the talents. God has gifted each Christian with certain drives and abilities that may or may not be used in an overtly spiritual way, but which can help advance the kingdom.

Now we are ready to address the topic of "soul asceticism." Most fundamentalists would be against monasticism and especially against physical self-punishment as a way to draw close to God. However, in these churches it seems you get a steady diet of things you need to "die" to:

-Yourself
-Your dreams
-Your desires
-Your ambitions
-Your plans
-Things you enjoy (music, food, movies, etc.)
-Whatever else YOU are "holding on" to

You can't be you because if it's you then it's not God. If you want it, especially if you want it badly, you'd better die to it--unless it is ministry related. Your desires will only get you into trouble. Any personal initiative rooted in what you think is best for your life is suspect, unless you can say "God told me," and even that can be suspect if it matches too closely with what you say YOU want. I perhaps exaggerate a little, but not much. It all goes back to the concept of "daily crucifixion."

The Biblical method is not to rip your soul--your humanity--out and leave it in a box, but to subject it to Christ. In everything you do, remember that you will give account one day. Invest your talents!

"Rejoice, young man, while you are young, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Follow the inclination of your heart and the desire of your eyes, but know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment." - Ecclesiastes 11:9

Do what you will but live with the judgement in mind.

The fundy will say, but, the heart is desperately wicked! I stand in awe of their distrust of the Spirit's renewing and sanctifying work.
The solution is not to lock your humanity in a cage, but to continually submit to the Lord in subjecting your mind, body and soul to Him, by giving Him the final say in whatever you do.
If you try to deny yourself without truly submitting to the Lord, you don't get anywhere anyway.
You are what God made you to be. Be what God made you to be, only in Him. This is the meaning of taking up the cross. To put ourselves at the service of a crucified and risen Christ whom the world hates. Not denying the abilities and drives that God has allowed you to have, that make you who you are.

Finally, in Colossians 2 we see how such false humility is useless and prideful:

"Do not let anyone disqualify you, insisting on self-abasement and worship of angels, dwelling on visions, puffed up without cause by a human way of thinking, and not holding fast to the head, from whom the whole body, nourished and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows with a growth that is from God.
"If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the universe, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world? Why do you submit to regulations, "Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch"? All these regulations refer to things that perish with use; they are simply human commands and teachings.
"These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-imposed piety, humility, and severe treatment of the body, but they are of no value in checking self-indulgence." (18-23)

This is precisely what fundamentalists do. They "disqualify you" because you don't play along with their insistence on "self-abasement" (soul asceticism) and following "regulations." They themselves "appear wise" in their PIETISTIC ways, but it is worthless in keeping ourselves in check.

In contrast, Paul tells us that true holiness is an outgrowth of Christ in us, and not something that we can arrange.

But, the fundy says, there has got to be a standard, some way to measure people! No there doesn't:

"Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgment on those who eat; for God has welcomed them. Who are you to pass judgment on servants of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall. And they will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make them stand.
"Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written, 'As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.' So then, each of us will be accountable to God. Let us therefore no longer pass judgment on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of another." - Romans 14:1-4, 10-13

All of the above errors put a barrier between us and God because they invite us to throw up a facade instead of coming to Christ as we are. We become the problem, requiring the make-up of works and the mask of false humility to be acceptable. And so we never change into what we ought to be.
To be real before God is to invite God to change you as you really are. To come to God in make-up and a mask is asking God to expose you. To be real before God is for God to mold the dreams and affections of our hearts into that which is pleasing to Him. Those who come to God hiding something will find a God intensely interested in what you are hiding, like a young child with a stolen cookie behind his back.

I'll end with some of John Gill's commentary on Ecclesiastes 7:16,
Ecclesiastes 7:16
"Be not righteous over much
This is not meant of true and real righteousness, even moral righteousness, a man cannot be too holy or too righteous; but of a show and ostentation of righteousness, and of such who would be thought to be more righteous and holy than others, and therefore despise those who, as they imagine, do not come up to them; and are very rigid and censorious in their judgment of others, and very severe in their reproofs of them; and, that they may appear very righteous persons, will do more than what the law requires of them to do, even works of supererogation [going beyond the call of duty] (...) and many there be, who, by an imprudent zeal for what they judge right, and which sometimes are mere trifles, and by unseasonable reproofs for what is wrong, expose themselves to resentment and danger.
[...]
"neither make thyself over wise;
above what is written, or pretend to be wiser than others. So the Arabic version, "show not too much wisdom"; do not affect, as not to be more righteous than others, so not more wise, by finding fault with present times, or with the dispensations of Providence, or with the manners and conduct of men; setting up for a critic and a censurer of men and things"

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Most Hurtful Customer

As Tech Support "dude," people do some stupid, nasty, mean, idiotic, brain-dead, self-serving, circular stuff. But at the end of the day, it's just part of the working environment. Tech Support is deceptive. Inside, at a cubicle (most times your very own), fluorescent lights, office environment, semi-comfy chair. Then the s--t starts to batter you as you deal with unaccountable customers all day every day. And the phone becomes an anchor, your headset like the tentacles of the Borg assimilating you into the system... but that's Tech Support. Take it or leave it. I can and have put up with all of this. It doesn't mean I stop seeing it for the crap that it is, but I deal with it as a professional.

Until one day at Sony Tier 2 support a customer brutally ripped into my psyche like nothing I had never experienced before. Seriously. What he was upset about I could not recall. What he wanted I was forbidden to do and there was no escalation path. My management basically told me to shoot him down without being willing to take the call. At the end of the call, the customer uttered something like the following:

"I hope when you go home and lie in bed tonight, that you remember this and feel like really terrible inside about the way you treated me."

Forget that giving into his demands would have resulted in disciplinary action being taken against me. The customer condemned my conscience to the type of guilt that robs you of a good night's sleep. Perhaps it wouldn't have hit me so hard had I not already spent most of the day absorbing the customary beatings from other unhappy customers. It still hurts a little to think about it. Sorry guy. I wasn't going to lose my job for you. You are a douche-bag.

Worst Part of Tech Support

Me: "In the address box, type in w, w, w, dot, tinyurl, t, i , n, y, u, r, l, dot, com, slash, 2, l as in larry, s as in sam, 3, 3, 2"

Customer: "That was tiny, r, c, l, dot, what?"

Me: "tiny, u, R, l, dot, com, slash,"

Customer: "Forward slash?"

Me: "Yes... slash, 2, l as in larry, s as in sam, 3, 3, 2. Then press enter. You should get the XP Codec Pack page."

Customer: "I got 'Your search did not match any documents.'"

Me: "Did you put that in the address box or the search box?"

Customer: "I don't know, I put it in the box at the top."

Me: "All the way at the top, what does it say in the box all the way at the top of the screen..."

Customer: "h, t, t, p, colon, slash, slash, w, w, w, dot, google, dot, com..."

Me: "OK, click in there and delete all that."

Customer: "ok"

Me: "type w, w, w, dot, tinyurl, t, i , n, y, u, r, l, dot, com, slash, 2, l as in larry, s as in sam, 3, 3, 2"

Customer: "It says welcome to qstr.us..."

Me: "okay. go up to the address bar, and take out whatever is there, and type w, w, w, dot, tinyurl, t, i , n, y, u, r, l, dot, com, slash, 2, l as in larry, s as in sam, 3, 3, 2. That should take you to a black XP Codec Pack page."

Customer: "Ok, it says XP Codec Pack. It says 'Download Codec Pack here'..."

Me: "No don't click that! Look for where on the page it says 'You may download using the following link:' and then it has a link. Click there. It should then give you an option to run or save the file."

Customer: "I can only choose Save."

Me: "You are running Firefox?"

Customer: "Yes."

Me: "Click Save and let me know when it is through downloading."

Customer: "OK it is through."

Me: "Go to the Downloads window and look for where it says XP Codec Pack."

Customer: "I don't have a Downloads window."

Me: "Click on the Tools menu, then choose Downloads."

Customer: "Tools menu..."

Me: "It is up at the top..."

Customer: "OK. and downloads..."

Me: "Do you see XP Codec Pack?"

Customer: "The window is empty."

Me: "Close the downloads window. Then choose Tools then Options."

Customer: "OK."

Me: "Under Downloads, next to Save files to, what does it say?"

Customer: "My Downloads"

Me: "OK. Close out of Firefox, then click on Start, then My Documents."

Customer: "There is no My Documents."

Me: "Check your desktop..."

Customer: "Ummm................ ok there it is."

Me: "Now double-click on My Downloads."

Customer: "OK."

Me: "Look for XP Codec Pack?"

Customer: "There it is."

Me: "Double-click on that."

Customer: "OK. Now it is asking me for an installation language..."

Me: (Thinking to myself- FINALLY!!!!!)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

God and Dog

Holiday Cheer

My medical premium at work is going down $100/mo, offsetting my Advance EIC loss and resulting in a net increase of $6 per paycheck,
My department got $50 gift cards to Target,
There was lots of holiday food and eggnog,
And the CEO sent out an email last week saying that they are going to be looking to partially restore our pay-cut early next year.

Merry Christmas everybody!

Spiritually Handicapped - 21 Guns

I realized the other day that the music video "21 Guns" from Green Day very much matches my life of the last few years, regarding religion/finding my wife Sarah. I wrote an entire interpretation of the lyrics but that misses the point. Just watch it.

If only they would listen...... :(

I'm not sure about much anymore but I am sure that I love you, sweetheart!

Hiding the new GMail ads

For some reason, Adblock for Chrome is not yet blocking the new pink GMail text ads at the bottom of the message view. Below is a manual filter that can be used to block them:

mail.google.com##div.MI

[I changed it... thanks to the commenter Roberto... my original string stopped working this morning]

You will need to edit the filter list in the Adblock options.

You may need to restart your browser for it to take effect.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Monday, December 06, 2010

Baptist Killers!!

There is a segment of Independent Baptist Fundy-land that is getting high on Baptist history. Call it a "Trail of Blood" renaissance. But before I go any further, it must be noted that they absolutely don't want to be called fundamentalist. No way, no how. Fundamentalist=ecumenical, they say. But their highest level of ire and vitriol is reserved for the reformers like Luther and Calvin. They killed Baptists!
I might respect this crowd if they weren't so schizophrenic. Actually no I wouldn't. The whole "Trail of Blood"/"Landmark" position is nuts, which is what it boils down to, no matter how tightly you wrap it in the American flag. But back to the schizophrenia. These people, who were quick to call themselves fundamentalists not so long ago, now detest the term. And yet guess what... they are still fundamentalist as ever. Once you get past the semantics of it, it's the same old fundamentalism that has been around for decades. They'll fellowship with a non-denom church that is KJVO and high on standards before they'll stand with any contemporary Baptist church. No love for the Southern Baptists here. (Cue the arcane historical reasons why Southern Baptists aren't REAL Baptists.... no seriously I don't know how they feel about the SBC but I wouldn't be surprised.)
Ultimately this whole movement, to me, is just an exercise in circling the wagons. "Baptist history" is a means, not the end. What's the end? Separation. Being KJVO and no pants on women and conservative worship style and no rock music, etc, etc, etc, "Baptist History" provides a fresh new way to separate from lesser Christianity.
The ugliest hypocrisy of it all is their insistence on King James Only-ism. I quote Bob Ross:

"...the ONLY PERSON who had 'authority' in England to burn anyone in the early 1600's was KING JAMES! The Puritans couldn't have burned anyone if they had wanted to!
[...]
"Not only did James have the only authority to burn people, he did that very thing. In 1611, the year the 'King James Version of the Bible' was published, King James burned a BAPTIST by the name of EDWARD WIGHTMAN at Litchfield. This fact of history is recorded in many Baptist histories, the first being that of THOMAS CROSBY, who authored the first history of English Baptists. Crosby was a member of John Gill's church, the church later pastored in the latter 1800's by C. H. Spurgeon.
"I herewith quote from Crosby: 'The other one [burned] was Edward Wightman, A BAPTIST, of the town of Burton upon Trent, who on the 14th day of December [1610] was convicted of diverse heresies before the bishop of Coventry and Litchfield; and being delivered up to the secular power, was BURNT at Litchfield the 11th of April following.' (Vol. 1, pages 108, 109)."

These decidedly fundamentalist Baptist neo-historians KNOW this, but ignore the implications. If you are prepared to admit that something good can come from a Baptist-burning king, then you also should be prepared to admit that good things can come from Baptist-killing reformers. Otherwise, why in the world would you use the KJV?
Such lack of integrity is not isolated. This Baptist neo-history, for example, has nothing to say about Free-Will Baptists, nor are its purveyors interested in speaking about it beyond the confines of a crowd that has traditionally been KJVO IFB. Additionally there is a complete inability to engage Baptist history on Bible versions (see my sidebar link) which would end up (if one were honest) denying KJVOism, at least as a Baptist particular.
Again, it just seems to prove that such "Baptist history" is a means rather than an end. Increased separation, and yeah I'm going to say it because I also am no longer fundamentalist :) -- increased legalism. That's the thing with legalism. It knows no excess. Sort of like hedonism. Ditch on one side, ditch on the other.

[P.S. I am no fan of Jack Hyles, but as a "man of God" who is revered by such people it seems important that he understood that one could be both fundamentalist AND Baptist with no contradiction. (The link goes to chapter 11 of his book "Enemies of Soulwinning," titled "Let's Be Baptists.") He also is much kinder to those who don't somehow properly fall in whatever Baptist line of succession is deemed true.]