Approval in Men, or Approval in Christ? 

What is more important: To stake your hope in some created thing, something that will eventually pass away, that you will not be taking with you to the grave; or to stake your hope in the Creator, who existed from eternity past, united His deity to humanity, died on a cross willingly, rose from the grave, and all in order that you would believe in Him and be raised to new life after you die, and thus live forever with Him?

As believer's we must have the eternal perspective that before the Father, standing in Christ alone, we have perfect approval. We don't need approval from anyone else or any other created thing, because if we are in Christ, we have all the approval that will ever matter: the approval and justification of the eternal God in Christ! How wonderful is that? There's nothing better! It's in this perspective we approach all situations in life ... good and blessed times, awful rotten times, whatever the situation, we find our confidence, approval, self-esteem, guidance, love, patience, morality, everything, in Christ alone. Christ was morally perfect and fulfilled the law from our side, but He also gained the eternal justification of God for us as well. And in regard to the various events of life, whether it's experiencing a death of a close friend or relative, or gaining a top position in a law firm, none of these things give you more or less of standing before God. Sure, if you gain a position in an awesome law firm, you will get approval before men, sinful men. But how does that in any way matter for all eternity?

The very fact of the matter is that if we place our hope and trust in anything within this world, whatever it may be, relationships, jobs, money, positions, power, popularity, intellectual abilities, etc, anything apart from Christ, it is idolatry. "You shall have no other gods before Me." In Christ, because He fulfilled this law and all of God's laws from our side, through faith in Him, He are now freed from running to make everyone think we're all that, when really none of us are all that, even at our best; we're all sinners, unrighteous and filthy, apart from Christ's work on the cross, applied to our lives. So we don't trust or hope for anything within this world, but we trust in and hope in Christ alone, that He has redeemed us and will raise us on the last day.
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Kikkoman: Banana and Shrimp Show Time! 

Another insane cartoon ... so bizarre, I had to share this as well :)

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Kikkoman: What a Bizarre Cartoon 

Insane ... so bizarre, I had to share :)

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The Story of Jonah: What it Shows Us About God 

In studying and reading over the story of Jonah in preparation for D-Teams yesterday, it really struck me how amazing it is that God delivers people from wickedness despite the vessel He chooses to use and their weaknesses. In particular, God summoned Jonah, as a prophet, to go and declare to Nineveh they would indeed be destroyed. He disobeyed and then God brought him through trials to bring him to repentance. He repented, but his attitude didn't totally change. He then went and preached destruction coming upon Nineveh. The people repented though, and God relented of the destruction He was going to bring upon them. God was extremely merciful, and Jonah hated it. He was so angry and bitter. The very initial reason He attempted to run from God was because He knew God was merciful and would show mercy to Nineveh if they repented. And so Jonah basically hated these people and wanted to see them destroyed. But God had different plans that thwarted Jonah's.

This story is not about Jonah, but about God's might and power to save, how unbelievably merciful He is. Most importantly, this story points to where God's mercy and love climaxed; at the cross. There we see the ultimate display of all God's attributes. In addition to this though, we see that God works to save and deliver people despite the instrument He chooses to use (namely sinners). Jonah was rotten, and had a terrible attitude. And yet despite that, God used him to deliver the people of Nineveh. Jonah was essentially a racist, a hardcore nationalist, and thought he was better than the people of Nineveh because he was in Israelite, one of God's chosen people. He basically thought they did not deserve God's mercy, which is true; but neither did Jonah! And that's the point Jonah did not seem to get.

So how can this story apply to our lives? We see that God's mercy toward Nineveh did not in any way depend on Jonah's skills and techniques to convey the message of judgment and mercy. In fact, Jonah withheld all merciful information from them, and yet God still showed mercy! What does God's mercy depend on? Him alone. So, brothers and sisters in Christ, what does that mean for our witness to unbelievers? It means that when we preach the Gospel, even if we do not have great arguments or clarity of speech (though we should definitely strive for those things), God can still use the few things we say to deliver people from their sin and His wrath through the cross of Christ. We must remember that it is by God's grace alone that men are saved. Did Nineveh cooperate with God's grace? Absolutely not. They were pursuing their own sinful ways, on the verge of total destruction, and yet God's instrument, albeit an imperfect one, sovereignly came by the hand of God, and they turned from their ways. But why did they turn? Why is they turned while other nations refuse, including Israel at many points? God chose to show them mercy by removing their resistance to Him (their stubbornness of heart), in order that they would repent from their sin and believe in Him. And they did repent and God relented. By repenting, it proved their faith in Him to deliver them. And so God showed a Gentile people mercy through Jonah, despite Jonah. God's mercy depends on Him alone, not on any human willing or running or faith.

How much does this story mirror what was to come though, after Jonah's time, namely Jesus Christ's earthly descent, death, resurrection, ascension, and the offering of God's mercy, the Gospel, to the Gentile world? God's mercy toward Nineveh was a foreshadowing of the mercy He would show to the nations in Christ. This story is most importantly a pointer to the cross of Christ. How glorious it is that God shows anyone mercy! And how wonderful it is that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came and died upon a cross in order to bring about that mercy! And how wonderful it is that God uses weak instruments such as us weak, depraved sinners to deliver His message, in order that the Holy Spirit alone changes people!? What a wonderful God and Savior! So if anyone thinks he's really something spiritually special when someone is saved by your witness, know that God did not have to use you but could have used someone like Jonah to accomplish His sovereign work, because it's God's power that saves, not yours. It is by God's grace alone anyone is saved, and it is by God's grace alone that He uses me or you or any sinner to accomplish any of His purposes.
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Immigration Rallies Draw Thousands Nationwide (AP) 

Immigration Rallies Draw Thousands Nationwide

If we do not do something now about the out-of-control illegal immigration problem, there will be severe consequences down the road. Except really, we are already seeing some of these consequences now. If they keep illegals out of the states the way they are proposing, we could partially take a hit to our economy (though I question how true those actual facts are). But personally, I believe it's worth it. Though I'm not a huge fan of the way he acts on his opinions, I do have to agree with Michael Savage when he says the three things that make a country what it is are borders, language, and culture. Which one of these have we lost to some degree? Well, all of them. We barely have a border to the north and to the south, we now have billboards in English and Spanish, and our culture is just becoming chaotic in many ways (and it will only continue to get worse in the future if we feed this problem anymore than we already have). So I am all for these laws, even if they are hard for a time. Understand that I love LEGAL immigration, but cannot stand ILLEGAL immigration. If you come here legally, by all means, make a life for yourself. But if you come here illegally, how can you be trusted to act as a decent citizen when your premise for coming here was wrong to begin with?
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"Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!" - Psalm 34 

The Lord has blessed me so much. I just can't even begin to consider the ways in which He's given me such fullness in life. Yes, I have had trials, yes some of them have been constant and overwhelming, humanly speaking. And many ask me during those times, "How do you find joy when all of these things seem to just keep pounding away at you?" Or a fellow believer, to my surprise, will say, "I just don't see how you do it." There's a point here. I don't do anything! I don't take credit for any strength of my own in enduring the trial. I have no strength to endure the trial. It's not by my strength that I'm able to endure and even find joy in the trial itself. It's only by God's strength alone, in Christ alone, through the cross, that I can find any joy, that I can obtain any strength at all. I must constantly look to the cross of Christ, where He bore my burden (my burden past, present, and future) and secured my eternal salvation. Enduring through a trial is not something I role up my sleeves and get done like I get computer work done at my job. Instead, God's strength comes in power by the Holy Spirit, and gives me strength, appropriated through God's grace alone, made possible through the cross. I obtain no strength on my own, but I only obtain strength through the cross of Christ. The cross is the central point of my entire life, where He not only obtained my salvation and bore my burden (eternally and temporally, right now), but the cross is also where I obtain my sanctification, healing, purification from sin.

So how do I find joy when my world is crumbling, or where does my strength come from? "Taste and see that the Lord is good." Nothing else is good when measured against the goodness of God. Only Christ is good. He is the highest standard, the highest treasure. If I do find joy in some created thing, that only gives temporal enjoyment, does it not point to the transcendent intelligence, wisdom, and pleasure that can be found only in the Creator who spoke that thing into existence, where never-ending satisaction can be found? I find joy in my relationship with Christ alone in the midst of my trials. In my times spent with Christ in Scripture, prayer, and in fellowship with other believer's, the Holy Spirit comes in great power and upholds me by His omnipotent, mighty hand. I obtain strength from no external or internal force, but only obtain strength in the cross of Christ. Praise God for Jesus Christ, my Rock, my Savior, my Redeemer, the One who holds my head up high!
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"Snakes on a Plane" - Is This For Real? Yes it is. 

Snakes on a Plane - IMDB.com

When I first heard about this, I thought, "You've gotta be kidding me!?" But this is for real. Samuel L. Jackson, a world renown movie star in such movies as Pulp Fiction amongst many others, is now starring in what is to be one of the most ridiculous films of the year. "What is it about," you ask? Well, snakes on a plane. And Samuel L. Jackson is gonna kick some snake tail.

Apparently, in some mishap, poisonous snakes stowed away on an airliner somehow get loose and start killing people and pets with their venomous fangs. But Samuel L. Jackson (aka "Nelville Flynn") just so happens to be on the plane and is there to save the day from the wrath of the killer snakes. According to IMDB, the producers apparently wanted to change the name of the movie to Flight 121, but Samuel L. Jackson was adamant they not change it from the original name. So needless to say, the name stayed. Who's going to argue with Samuel L. Jackson?

I mean really man! Why are you doing this to your career, Mr. Jackson? I'm just confused. The plot is terrible! At best, this will be a movie you watch on UPN while taking a nap on Saturday afternoon around 4, drifting in and out of consciousness. I just can't believe this. I might actually just go see it because it looks so ridiculous. Maybe that's their point though ... maybe it's a giant marketing scheme to get people in the theater. Well, regardless, isn't SLJ shooting himself in the foot with this one? Oh well ... looks pretty funny actually. Maybe it's a comedy, made to look serious? I don't know, I could be wrong ...

TRAILER :::: (Press the play button to view)


Flash Player and Video Courtesy of TagWorld.com
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"Anonymous" Proxy Servers on the Internet 

Proxy4Free.com

Today in reading some stuff on the net pertaining to network security, I came across a site that is continutally updating a list of available proxy servers to use on the internet in order that no web site you are visiting can tell where you are surfing from (i.e. they cannot tell what your actual public IP address is or where you are located geopgraphically). Here is a basic explanation of how proxy servers work. When you set your web browser (such as Internet Explorer or Firefox) to use a proxy server, all of your website requests are sent to the proxy server which looks up the content for you and then sends it back to your computer. By using this scheme, whenever a webmaster wants to see who is coming to their website and from where, they are given the IP address of the proxy server instead of your specific public internet connection IP. This gives you anonymity only from the website hosts when surfing the internet.

Now something you have to be aware of when using these "anonymous" proxy servers on the internet, is that the proxy hosts (i.e. whoever is maintaining the proxy server itself) have the ability to see what IP you are coming from, and also have the ability to see what you are surfing (the web pages you are visiting, emails you send via web mail, etc, unless the information is encrypted through the web page). So be sure you trust the proxy server. I would not personally recommend connecting to the proxy servers in foreign countries. If you use a foreign proxy, this may even make you less secure than if you were to not use a proxy server at all for surfing, mainly because most of the fake "ebay" type web sites that attempt to get your personal information by posing as the real thing are hosted on foreign soil. So how can you trust a foreign-hosted proxy, being that they can see the web pages you are visiting and the data you send back and forth? I personally have setup a web proxy on a server at home (Squid Web Cache Proxy), I then VPN into my internal network, and then use that internal proxy server; that way wherever I am, I have the ability to surf and all of the data going back and forth between me and the proxy server at home is encrypted (even if the website itself is unencrypted). In this setup, I control my own proxy server (no one can snoop on my surfing on the proxy end at least), but that is a little more involved than most people want to get.

Bottom of the line: in disagreement with the Proxy4Free websites explanation that proxy servers make you totally "anonymous," they really only make it to where the website you are visiting cannot tell where you are coming from, but the proxy hosts themselves can see everything you are surfing (unless it is encrypted between you and the website). In addition, users on the same network as you (such as a Starbucks wireless network) can theoretically still see what you are surfing even if you are using a proxy server, and so this does not shield you from that either. The best method to use in publicly networked environments for surfing is setting up a proxy server on a machine at home (that machine being connected to a broadband connection), then connecting into your home network through a VPN tunnel (assuming you have a VPN server setup of some type), and then connecting your browser to the proxy server through the VPN tunnel you have established. This way all of your web traffic will be encrypted from your machine to the proxy server. Keep in mind though that the web page data that is unencrypted from the proxy server to the website is not encrypted in any manner, but this is the safest way to surf in my estimation.
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Religion and Moralism vs. The Gospel 

So many people see there are two ways to go through life: the moral way or the amoral way, the religious way or the pagan way. You are either a pious prude who has no fun and then self-righteously judge others who aren't like you; or you live it up in debauchery, scoffing at the things religion says. However, Christianity (aside from what many think) is totally different. Catholicism is not any different, but true, God wrought, historic Christianity is totally different.

Religion (moralism) says, "Obey this law, do this good deed, fulfill your moral obligation, and you will obtain, as a result, a good outcome. If you don't fulfill your moral obligation, you will get a bad outcome, and you must work your way back up with good moral deeds." This is a very defeating thing for the human soul though because what is it that happens when a person tries with all his might to fulfill the law or his moral obligations? He fails over and over and eventually either gives up or is totally miserable trying over and over again to succeed, of his own strength. This is moralism.

Christianity, however, is totally backward from this thinking. Christianity says, "God demands absolute moral perfection. However, we cannot fulfill the law of God perfectly, and even if we try our hardest, we fall infinitely short of what is required of us. If we break even one law of God over the course of our lives, we have broken the whole law, because even one offense is a trampling on the glory of God. And all of us have broken at least one law over the course of our lives, actually thousands of times over. Therefore, by man's own efforts and strength, he cannot fulfill the law of God and is therefore hopeless in himself to save himself from his plight in sin. But we already have the outcome in Christ alone! He fulfilled the law of God perfectly, without blemish. He did what we could not, fulfilled the moral obligation we could never live up to. He then offered Himself willingly as a sacrifice of atonement for sin, to turn away the wrath of God. He then died and rose from the grave, ascended into heaven, that anyone who places their faith in His finished work on the cross will be saved."

So what does this tell us? We are morally unable to fulfill the law of God, but if we believe in Christ's finished work on the cross, there is now no more need to work on your own strength to do something you're already unable to do. Once you believe in Him, He then sends you the gift of His Holy Spirit that changes your desires to freely obey Him, and the law then turns from duty to delight. In Christ, because He has fulfilled the law from our side, there is no longer anything more we have to do! In Christ, we are done with trying to please the Father anymore than Christ Himself has pleased Him through His life and then death on the cross and resurrection from the dead. What a lovely Savior and what a great and wonderful God, that He would provide such a wonderful gift of salvation to rescue us from our self-righteous religious works that will only lead us to death!
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The Confession of St. Patrick 

The Confession of St. Patrick (PDF)

I, Patrick, a sinner, a most simple countryman, the least of all the faithful and most contemptible to many, had for father the deacon Calpurnius, son of the late Potitus, a priest, of the settlement [vicus] of Bannavem Taburniae; he had a small villa nearby where I was taken captive. I was at that time about sixteen years of age. I did not, indeed, know the true God; and I was taken into captivity in Ireland with many thousands of people, according to our deserts, for quite drawn away from God, we did not keep his precepts, nor were we obedient to our priests who used to remind us of our salvation. And the Lord brought down on us the fury of his being and scattered us among many nations, even to the ends of the earth, where I, in my smallness, am now to be found among foreigners.

And there the Lord opened my mind to an awareness of my unbelief, in order that, even so late, I might remember my transgressions and turn with all my heart to the Lord my God, who had regard for my insignificance and pitied my youth and ignorance. And he watched over me before I knew him, and before I learned sense or even distinguished between good and evil, and he protected me, and consoled me as a father would his son.

Therefore, indeed, I cannot keep silent, nor would it be proper, so many favours and graces has the Lord deigned to bestow on me in the land of my captivity. For after chastisement from God, and recognizing him, our way to repay him is to exalt him and confess his wonders before every nation under heaven.

For there is no other God, nor ever was before, nor shall be hereafter, but God the Father, unbegotten and without beginning, in whom all things began, whose are all things, as we have been taught; and his son Jesus Christ, who manifestly always existed with the Father, before the beginning of time in the spirit with the Father, indescribably begotten before all things, and all things visible and invisible were made by him. He was made man, conquered death and was received into Heaven, to the Father who gave him all power over every name in Heaven and on Earth and in Hell, so that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord and God, in whom we believe. And we look to his imminent coming again, the judge of the living and the dead, who will render to each according to his deeds. And he poured out his Holy Spirit on us in abundance, the gift and pledge of immortality, which makes the believers and the obedient into sons of God and co-heirs of Christ who is revealed, and we worship one God in the Trinity of holy name.

(Emphasis Mine)
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