David Westerfield

Theology, Culture, Technology, Reviews, and Other Commentary



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Freed to be Ordinary Because Being a Believer is Extraordinary

http://www.challies.com/christian-living/ordinary-christian-living-for-the-rest-of-us

“‘You can’t market a book like that. It won’t sell. Nobody wants to read a book on being ordinary.’ They are probably right. Nobody wants to read a book on ordinary living because nobody aspires to be ordinary. It is not likely to sell as a book or a theme. Crazy, wild, radical, more, greater, higher, this-er, that-er, the comparatives and superlatives, these are the themes that fly off the shelves. But once we’ve been crazy and radical and wild and all the rest, why do we still feel, well, so ordinary? Why do we still feel like we’re missing out?” – Tim Challies

I don’t believe this is an argument against excellence or being proactive in things that we should be more proactive in, but rather an argument that amongst all the talk in modern Christian literature of being “awesome” and “extraordinary” and “doing big things for God” (summed up, “radical”), most of us are, well, ordinary. I’d count myself in that category. I’m an average IT guy, working at a financial company, providing for my family, ministering to a group of high school guys, who loves Christ. And it’s freeing to know that that’s okay, because the Gospel frees us to be ordinary. Are there things I could improve? Sure, no doubt. But the pressure to do something or be something big is huge it seems. And most of us are ordinary people who don’t live an extravagant, radical life and feel grossly inadequate and out of place.

This doesn’t mean some of of us won’t be extraordinary though, or that in our ordinary living extraordinary things won’t happen. And it doesn’t even mean that we shouldn’t, should the opportunity arise, pursue extraordinary things in our lives. But not everyone can or should be pursuing that (a concept handed to us by celebrity culture I believe, that we must aspire to “be awesome,” “dream huge so you can do what I’ve done” and so on; think in terms of an Academy Award acceptance speech). If everyone is extraordinary, doing extraordinary things, no one is extraordinary; the word loses its meaning. In fact, I would argue that God mostly uses ordinary people in the church to accomplish His ends throughout the world. We only see the big, headlined, mega-marketed things that are broadcasted, not the ordinary pastor in a small town, consistently shepherding a small group of people under the teaching of the gospel for 40 years.

Now if they do extraordinary things it’s because of His work and it can and does happen from time to time. Most people who accomplish incredible things for God do so because of His multiplying effect though (like Jesus with the fish and loaves), not because they were trying to “be awesome.” Rather it was precisely because they minimized themselves and got out of His way that He then did big things. In other words, extraordinary things happen because of God, not us necessarily, though certainly He uses us.

I believe the antidote to a lot of this thinking that we have to do “big things” or “be big things” (as we millennials have defined it; I guess I’m a millennial?) is a re-recovery of the Reformed view of vocation.

http://www.modernreformation.org/default.php?page=articledisplay&var2=881

http://www.firstthings.com/article/2007/01/calvin-and-the-christian-calling-20

The Terror of Sola Studium (Zeal)

For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. (Romans 10:2 ESV)

Going through this verse recently with my high school Bible study, I remarked on how this verse, along with probably Matthew 7: 21-23, are some of the scariest verses personally. Why? They reveal it is possible to know of the things of God, be zealous for them even, and miss the mark in salvation, meaning you lack saving faith. As in the case of the verses in Matthew, people claiming to know Christ perform all kinds of works in his name and on the last day Jesus declares, “I never knew you.” As in the case of the Jews who, in the majority, had rejected the Messiah, they were zealous for the law, the prophets, the Shekinah glory, and all the privileges God had given them as His people. And yet Paul says they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge, and I take that to mean knowledge of the Gospel, namely, that Christ and His work is the fulfillment of all of the aforementioned. They missed the mark. A sad state of affairs for both groups as the end is the same. One group says, look at the works of our hands, is that not enough? Another group says, how zealous we are for the law and the prophets! How committed we are to the teachings! Yet they both miss the Gospel. Frightening. May this drive us to the foot of the cross and relinquish our works in favor of Another’s done for us.

The Weight of Trial and God’s Sovereignty

In response to the worldly “wisdom” going around these days that says entertaining doubt and questioning the Lord’s righteousness in trial and His infinitely sovereign wisdom and control of all things, something that is beyond comprehension in how and why He carries out or permits what He does, as something that should be encouraged, I present to you, Job.

Up to this point, Elihu has just finished rebuking Job and his friends. He then exhorts Job to glorify the Lord. Previous to Elihu’s response, Job had just finished taking up his own defense and questioning God in light of the very weighty trials permitted in his life, by essentially asking, “Why God? What is it I’ve done to deserve this?” (Indicated by the fact he tries to draw conclusions from his own works that he lists) This is just a portion of God’s response in Job 38-40:1-2 (I’ll just quote portions):

“Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me. Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” (Job 38:2-7)

“Have you commanded the morning since your days began, and caused the dawn to know its place,that it might take hold of the skirts of the earth, and the wicked be shaken out of it? It is changed like clay under the seal, and its features stand out like a garment. From the wicked their light is withheld, and their uplifted arm is broken.” (Job 38:12-15)

“Who can number the clouds by wisdom? Or who can tilt the waterskins of the heavens, when the dust runs into a mass and the clods stick fast together?” (Job 38:37-38)

“Do you give the horse his might? Do you clothe his neck with a mane? Do you make him leap like the locust? His majestic snorting is terrifying. He paws in the valley and exults in his strength; he goes out to meet the weapons. He laughs at fear and is not dismayed; he does not turn back from the sword. Upon him rattle the quiver, the flashing spear, and the javelin. With fierceness and rage he swallows the ground; he cannot stand still at the sound of the trumpet. When the trumpet sounds, he says ‘Aha!’ He smells the battle from afar, the thunder of the captains, and the shouting.” (Job 39:19-25)

Finally the Lord says:

“Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty? He who argues with God, let him answer it. (Job 40:1-2)”

Job’s response?

“Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth. I have spoken once, and I will not answer; twice, but I will proceed no further.” (Job 40:4-5)

God then responds again:

“Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me. Will you even put me in the wrong? Will you condemn me that you may be in the right? Have you an arm like God, and can you thunder with a voice like his? “Adorn yourself with majesty and dignity; clothe yourself with glory and splendor. Pour out the overflowings of your anger, and look on everyone who is proud and abase him. Look on everyone who is proud and bring him low and tread down the wicked where they stand. Hide them all in the dust together; bind their faces in the world below. Then will I also acknowledge to you that your own right hand can save you. (Job 40:7-14)

Job finally responds with a final expression of his complete submission to the fact that “all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, ‘What have you done?'” (Daniel 4:35)

Job’s response that submits and rests in the fact that God’s wisdom is enough, though it may not be comprehensible:

“I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. ‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you make it known to me.’ I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:1-6)

Humility. One of the points for trials in our lives is for the formation of humility. Job exhibits it here as a result of wrestling with God. There are tons of unanswered questions about why things happened the way they did for him. But it all comes down to resting in the truth that it is enough for God to be God, for His choices to be in the right and know that in spite of the pain, He is for you and knows what’s best to make you into His image as His child. Questioning God, shaking your fist at Him is easy. Trusting that He’s for you in spite of what you see and feel that’s faith, and opposed to all doubting.

Interestingly enough, as it relates to the aspect of God’s sovereignty (particularly as it relates to election and predestination), Paul follows a similar pattern of God’s response to Job in Romans 9:19-24. Paul has just laid out the truth that God chooses some to become children of God and not others, not based on works but on His own purpose and will, and that He’s perfectly righteous in doing so. So Paul begins verse 19 by preemptively asking a seemingly logical question from a fictional human questioner:

“You will say to me then, ‘Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?’ But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, ‘Why have you made me like this?’ Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?” (Romans 9:19-24)

In both of these contexts, both with Job and the readers of Romans, the response should be the same: put your hand over your mouth. Stop questioning (in the rebellious sense). Submit to His sovereign rule and grace. It is counterintuitively comforting (from the world’s standpoint). The world’s answer these days, especially in our liberal democracies (or what’s left of them) is to “question everything.” Faith doesn’t question, it submits in humility. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t probe to understand, but the type of questioning I’m referring to is asking God to give an account of Himself, putting him in the dock of human courts and thinking. As you can see, He doesn’t take too kindly to our sinful human questioning.

Now in dealing with people in trials, patience needs to be exhibited in their wrestling. People aren’t going to automatically come to this view. If they do, praise God, but most people have wrestling to do, even as believers. That doesn’t negate any of the aforementioned, but it is to say we need to be patient and understanding, sometimes not saying anything, especially if a trial or traumatic event is very fresh.

The Deliciousness of Jello: Marcus Borg and “What I’m Trying to Say is…”

“I would say, as a Christian and as a historian: the stories of Easter are really true, even though I’m skeptical myself that the tomb was empty, even though I’m skeptical myself that anything happened to the corpse of Jesus. I would say the stories of Easter are really true even though they may not be literally true.” – Marcus Borg

This jello is laced with poison and can’t be nailed to the wall. Go ahead, try.

To counter, Albert Mohler:

Stricken, Smitten and Afflicted

Stricken, smitten, and afflicted,
See Him dying on the tree!
’Tis the Christ by man rejected;
Yes, my soul, ’tis He, ’tis He!
’Tis the long expected prophet,
David’s Son, yet David’s Lord;
Proofs I see sufficient of it:
’Tis a true and faithful Word.

Tell me, ye who hear Him groaning,
Was there ever grief like His?
Friends through fear His cause disowning,
Foes insulting his distress:
Many hands were raised to wound Him,
None would interpose to save;
But the deepest stroke that pierced Him
Was the stroke that Justice gave.

Ye who think of sin but lightly,
Nor suppose the evil great,
Here may view its nature rightly,
Here its guilt may estimate.
Mark the Sacrifice appointed!
See Who bears the awful load!
’Tis the Word, the Lord’s Anointed,
Son of Man, and Son of God.

Here we have a firm foundation,
Here the refuge of the lost.
Christ the Rock of our salvation,
Christ the Name of which we boast.
Lamb of God for sinners wounded!
Sacrifice to cancel guilt!
None shall ever be confounded
Who on Him their hope have built.

Words: Thomas Kelly, Hymns on Various Passages of Scripture, 1804

Music: Wo Ist Jesus, Mein Verlangen, Geistliches Volkslied, 1850

Jonathan Edwards: On Worshiping an Experience or Feeling Rather Than God

“If the heart be chiefly and directly fixed on God, and the soul engaged to glorify him, some degree of religious affection will be the effect and attendant of it. But to seek after affection directly and chiefly; to have the heart principally set upon that; is to place it in the room of God and his glory. If it be sought, that others may take notice of it, and admire us for our spirituality and forwardness in religion, it is then damnable pride; if for the sake of feeling the pleasure of being affected, it is then idolatry and self-gratification.” – Jonathan Edwards

Securing Traffic with OpenVPN on Your iPhone or iPad

I’ve been looking at a solution for this for quite some time. Until recently, the only way to make this work was to jailbreak your phone and use GuizmOVPN or some other type of app, which of course voids your warranty. But then along came OpenVPN Connect, an app for the iPhone and the iPad that is extremely simplistic to use (well, relatively speaking for OpenVPN). It works just like any other client side setup for OpenVPN, only you move the certs and config files over through iTunes File Sharing (which is probably the more secure way to do this transaction). This is an absolutely amazing way to secure your traffic to and from an OpenVPN server, from wherever you are, using 3g/4g or Wi-Fi.

  1. Download the OpenVPN Connect app from iTunes on to your iPhone or iPad.
  2. Take a sample client.ovpn file and modify it with your particular settings to connect to your OpenVPN server. Make sure and set the cert and key names to exactly what you’ll be copying over, otherwise it won’t reference the proper files from within the config.
  3. Get your client.crt, client.key, ca.crt, ta.key, and client.ovpn files ready for moving over to your phone. (these file names are just examples)

    certs

  4. Open iTunes with your phone or device connected.
  5. Select the device on the left-hand side.

    device_itunes 

  6. Click the Apps tab at the top.

    apps_itunes

  7. Scroll down to the File Sharing section, select OpenVPN and drag n’ drop your five files (should be five at least) into the OpenVPN Documents window. Once they are moved over, go ahead and do a sync just to make sure everything is good.

    itunes

As long as everything was setup correctly in the client.ovpn file and your certs are all good, you should be able to open your app and add it as a new profile. Once the the new profile is added in the app, you should be able to connect.

ovpn_connect

Note: As an aside, if you want to secure all your traffic to and from the OpenVPN server, make sure and set this parameter before you upload the client.ovpn file: redirect-gateway def1

The downside? It eats battery life like crazy. That all may depend on your encryption level and key size though. ;) In addition, each time you want to edit the client.ovpn, you have to edit it locally on your computer and re-upload it. But considering the alternative (no VPN, PPTP, or jailbreaking your phone), this is an excellent app.

The Intolerance of Tolerance – D.A. Carson (MP3’s)

Good stuff.

The Intolerance of Tolerance – Part 1 (MP3)

The Intolerance of Tolerance – Part 2 (MP3)

Ubuntu 12.10: Text Is Now Blank Using NoMachine/NX Client To Connect Remotely

This problem has been perplexing me for several months now, ever since I upgraded my server to 12.10 Quantal. Finally found a solution (Can’t remember the site where I found it though)! These are the instructions for a profile that’s already been configured that no longer works.

  1. Open the NX Client for Windows (in my case).
  2. In the Session section, select the session profile you originally created, that no longer works.
  3. Click Configure.
  4. Under the General tab, and the Desktop section, ensure that Unix and GNOME is selected.
  5. Now, in the same tab, in the Display section, check the box next to Use custom settings, and click Settings.
  6. Under the Performance section, check the box next to Disable the render extension.
  7. Click Ok, then on the next screen, click Save and Ok.
  8. Now try to connect!

Worked for me at least.

Pulling the Wool Over Our Eyes

Pulling the wool over the sheeples eyes. Nothing to see here, move along now.

IMHO, “Fiscal Cliff” has always been a media meme used by the government to score political points with the public, depending on whoever (as in which party) gets to take the most credit for averting it. “Oh look what we averted.” Once again, it’s the Hegelian Dialectic in full swing; thesis -> antithesis -> synthesis; or to put it another way: problem -> reaction -> solution. My belief is this was all planned and laid out beforehand, utilizing the politics of fear as a weapon against people who lack information about the seriousness of the situation we’re in. Now all of sudden, they announce a deal at the last minute. Oh yea! A deal. Now we can all be relieved right? Well what’s in it?

Reality: we’re so far off the cliff that we’re just trying to figure out how to land and extend the time it takes to hit.

“More than 80 percent of households with incomes between $50,000 and $200,000 would pay higher taxes. Among the households facing higher taxes, the average increase would be $1,635, the policy center said.” http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-01-01/senate-passed-deal-means-higher-tax-on-77-of-households.html

More:

Peter Schiff: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c8Fxn4of1dg

Ron Paul: http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2012-12-29/ron-paul-fiscal-cliff-we-have-passed-point-no-return

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/ambroseevans_pritchard/9773911/Stocks-to-soar-as-world-money-catches-fire-Calvinst-Europe-left-behind.html



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