Wired Christianity Christianity in a wired world, as viewed by a Christian geek.

5Jun/11Off

Some Quality Time with the Kids

Posted by nick

(Note that this is a borrowed photo. These are cute kids, but they aren't mine...)

First and foremost, my apologies for having been absent from my blogging for so long. With that, on to the story...

My car was in terrible need of washing, and after a hot Texas Sunday afternoon, I thought I'd slip on some shorts and get to it. What's more, the kids needed some "outside time," so they donned their swimsuits for some fun with the water hose. Now, for those that don't know me personally, I have two children -- a 12-year-old son, and an 8-year-old daughter, and they are both incredible kids in every respect, and I am blessed beyond words by them daily. My daughter is very active and enjoys being outside, while my son (a red-headed, fair-skinned "ginger kid") would rather play Tony Hawk than actually ride a skateboard. That being the case, my daughter was eager to participate, while my son required some encouraging...

As we made our way around the car, I tried to teach them (as I try to do whenever the opportunity is presented) to teach them some practical things about cars in general...repeating the explanation as necessary when the occassional bee or helicopter distracted them. (And, of course, this meant "accidentally" spraying them with the hose a few times as well...) But there were also some times when I had to repeat an instruction or an explanation simply because they didn't pay close enough attention, or they simply got in a hurry and were doing things the way they thought was easiest.

That's when the light came on for me -- it was clear that this was exactly like our experience with God sometimes can be. First, He calls on us to take on a task, not because He couldn't do the job all by Himself (and certainly better than us!), but because He wants to enjoy the experience of working with us. And sometimes we're reluctant to respond, because we'd rather be doing something else entirely -- like playing video games instead of washing the car. What we fail to see in those moments is that the opportunity (to enjoy closeness with our Father) is far greater than the cost (the work involved).

Of course, once we do finally step up and get into the work to which He has called us, we tend to sometimes try to take shortcuts or do things our own way. If you saw my car "post-wash," you'd see precisely why this is a problem. While it may have looked like the kids were doing a great job and working really hard on washing the car, there were some places that apparently the sponges didn't get to. While the work was going on, an outside observer might've never known, but when the job was done, the patches of "dirty car" told the story all too well. Doing it theirway really made all of the work that was done properly ineffective and incomplete. Had they listened to and obeyed the instruction of their father, the work wouldn't have been in vain, and the car wouldn't require yet another washing.

(I could use this analogy to discuss lots of different topics, from evangelism strategies, to church culture, to worship music, etc., but we'll save those topics for another time...) ;)

What's the Point? It's Only Going to Get Dirty Again
"Murphy" was on his game for sure today, because, as we were reaching the half-way point in the car wash, thunder rolled in the distance as a summer storm began to brew. Of course, now with the kids soaked, the car half-washed, and rain on the way, the thought crossed my mind that there wasn't much point in finishing. Just rinse off the soap, put away the hose, and head indoors, right? Well, that depends on what I washing the car for in the first place. Was it dirty? Oh, yes -- it was very dirty. Did I need to spend some time outside? Yes, I needed to be up and moving around, as did my kids. But if this exercise had really been about getting the car all shined up, I honestly probably wouldn't have enlisted the kids. In fact, I probably would have run down the street to the car wash and had someone else wash the car. No, this was about me spending time with my kids -- time to enjoy companionship, to talk, to laugh, to play, to teach, and to accomplish something together. The fact that rain might come in the next hour and wash away all of the visible evidence of our labor was unimportant.

Maybe that's like an experience you've had lately -- where you felt God leading you into a project or a down a path in life where you had great expectations of accomplishing something together, only to find that after a great deal of work that all of your efforts were in vain. Well, at least two possible explanations for this might be that, (1) God brought you through the experience simply to engage you to work closely with Him for the sole sake of enjoying the closeness you had together, or (2) you put forth a great deal of effort but did things your own way instead of His, so that when the soap was rinsed away, it was obvious that the job wasn't done properly.

In either case, the lesson to be learned here is that, just like my experience today with my own kids, God desires to spend "quality time" with us, His children. Sometimes that time comes in the form of activity we enjoy doing, and others it requires us to step out of our comfort zone and do something contrary to preference. Sometimes the work will be fruitful, and others will leave us with nothing tangible to show for our efforts. In any case, we should be grateful that He loves us enough to even be concerned for our existence, much less that He desires our participation in what He is doing.

What have you done to spend time with your Dad lately?

Stay salty,

...Nick

4Apr/11Off

Who’s Your ‘Mike’?

Posted by nick

Unwanted GuestsThere's a man who visits our church frequently that I'll simply refer to as "Mike." Now, Mike gets a lot of attention when he shows up, because there have been some incidents in the past in which he brought a lot of attention to himself. I won't go into details, but suffice it to say that when he isn't "properly medicated," Mike can be a handful. For that reason, those of us who serve as ushers or on the security team are always aware of where he is and what he is doing at all times. All of this would make it very easy to consider Mike a problem, or even worse a nuissance. I'll confess here -- publicly -- that I have been among those who gave a pretty big sigh when I hear on the radio that "magic fingers" (a nickname given to our friend because he sometimes carries a small keyboard that he insists he plays well...but doesn't) is in a particular venue or on the church campus somewhere. But that all changed recently...

The Least of These
I was on security duty in one of our venues a week ago this past Sunday, and it was the one we have encouraged Mike to attend when he visits the church. It's a lighter atmosphere, and as a result, it's less "disruptive" if he has an episode. Well, Mike was there, and he stayed (as he often does) for lunch after the services were concluded...which, for me, meant I was staying after as well -- not to eat, necessarily, but to be there in case some event occurred. But when the pastor that day said in his closing remarks to "sit by someone whom you don't know," I felt compelled to sit with Mike.

I had already been around him and interracted with him that day. For instance, I had followed him out of the service to a public phone where I watched him "make a phone call" and have a 1-2 minute conversation...even though he didn't dial '9' (as I suggested when I saw him pick up the receiver), so I know no one was actually on the other end of the line. So when this "prompting" came to me, it certainly wasn't my timing or instinctive desire to take on Mike for lunch. But, hey, that's the way the Holy Spirit works anyway, right? :)

So, I sat next to Mike and made it a point to try to engage him in a conversation. He proceeded to explain to me some "scientific facts" about my cell phone, technology in general, etc., which I found entertaining, after which he began to gather his things -- including a few extra slices of pizza for the walk home -- and I told him I'd walk with him on his way out. He had some more stories to share with me along the way, including detailed accounts as to his "musical accomplishments" and the like, but then he asked me if I could help him with something.

Mike asked me if I could arrange for him to meet with some people from the church who could help him with what he referred to as his "living arrangements." I asked him to elaborate so I could get him in touch with the right people, expecting to hear about some financial struggles. However, instead of asking for money, he asked simply for "help." Then the tears began to fill his eyes as he described the situation in great detail: three roommates, all of whom had come into his house (willed to him by his aunt) with promises of financial aid to pay the bills and food in the pantry, but instead pay nothing, provide nothing, and then physically assault him. He described drug habits and other criminal activities, all of which with complete sincerity and desperation. I asked if he'd called the police and reported them for domestic violence, and he said "yes" but said they never took him seriously.

So, here was a man before me -- handicapped or not -- describing a situation in which he was suffering financially, emotionally, and even physically, and asking me to help him...when an hour ago I was bordering on frustration while I followed him through the halls of the church during service, causing me to "miss the message." In hindsight...perhaps I didn't miss "the message" at all -- at least, not the one that God had prescribed just for me that particular Sunday.

A Lesson Learned
I wish I could say that I had an immediate happy ending for this story. If it were up to me and my way of thinking, I'd have probably gone to the man's house and "encouraged" these apparent leeches to move out poste haste. But considering the long-term needs of Mike...and of my children to have their daddy at home rather than behind bars...I helped facilitate getting some people involved that could help him, both now with protection from harm, and down the road with eviction. So, if he follows through this time (I'm not the only one he's asked for help, as it turns out) and works with the people he's been encouraged to contact -- and vice versa -- then maybe Mike's story will one day have a happy ending.

It was hard to sleep that particular Sunday night. I couldn't help but play back again and again in my mind the scene with Mike and I, sitting alone at a bistro table, and him describing the physical abuse and his fruitless efforts on his own to make it stop. And then it became very clear to me...Mike was, in this situation, my own personal "least of these."

In Matthew 25, Jesus talks of the coming judgement of mankind, wherein He will separate "the sheep from the goats." He says, beginning in verse 34, “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."

I'm not in any way trying to imply that I did a good job, or that I'm better than anyone else in my church or anywhere else's. It could have been anyone's place that day to be serving in that venue, to see Mike there, and to engage in that same conversation. But that day -- that time -- it was me. Was it a test? Maybe. Or perhaps it was all meant to prepare me to write this blog entry to reach one of you, a reader who has their own 'Mike' in their life. Or maybe yours is coming tomorrow, next week, or some time way down the road. It's entirely too easy to write off those who can't care for themselves. It's easy to classify them as burdens on our societies, or government resources, or -- worse that all of that -- our churches. We live in an age where we've become so impersonal and will even send text messages to one another from within the same room. We do business via e-mail rather than face-to-face, and then only making a phone call when we have no other recourse. In our hurried lives filled with church schedules and soccer schedules and social schedules...do we keep time open for God's Spirit to prompt us to sit with a 'Mike?' Do we allow ourselves to be inconvenienced in such a way that we might derail our own plans to give another human being an opportunity to say, "I need your help?"

Remember..."whatever you do for the least of these, you do also for Me." The "least" isn't about a race or a social class. It could be the visitor to your church, the panhandler on the corner, or your nextdoor neighbor living privately in pain. It's not just about feeding starving children in third world countries. It's not simply something we can write a check to get out of doing. We are supposed to be "light" in a dark, dark world. We are supposed to intentionally and purposefully intersect with the world and demonstrate to them first-hand that churches aren't social clubs or feel-good weekend hot-spots, but they are a gathering place for people who love God and those whom God loves. There's a 'Mike' out there for all of us, and perhaps many, many of them. I dare you to go find yours today. Be intentional. Be His hands and feet. Go...and Be.

Stay salty,

...Nick

30Mar/11Off

Hey…Wanna Buy Some Addresses?

Posted by nick

I'm usually not one to "toot my own horn," but I'm going to step up on this one and TOOT!

Last month, a couple of my posts dealt with IPv6, as the rapid depletion of IPv4 address space has resulted in a great deal of press coverage. In fact, for the past couple of months, I don't know that a week has gone by without having at least one or two conversations with clients on the topic. Without fail, in each of those conversations I've gone on the record as predicting the emergence of a new market in the IT industry: IPv4 address space. And so it begins...

Anything "rare" has value -- simple supply and demand principles, right? Well, apparently Microsoft agrees, seeing as they just paid $7.5 million dollars for almost 667,000 IPv4 addresses from Nortel, the Canadian networking giant that filed bankruptcy in January of 2009. $11.25 each for four numbers and three decimals. Now, this is a particularly interesting transaction, because the folks in Redmond aren't buying a set of tangible assets. They certainly aren't buying Nortel itself (depsite rumors that they might back in 2008). In fact, they aren't even buying anything that Nortel actual owns.

According to John Curran, the president and CEO of the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN), which handles the distribution of Internet addresses to organizations and Internet service providers in the North American region, IP addresses are "virtual property," existing only as entries in registry databases, and ARIN has its own set of rules governing their transference. Specifically, a potential buyer has to show that they have a need for the addresses to be purchased, and then can only purchase a sufficient block to satisfy their requirements for one year. As for price, Curran says, "ARIN is not a party to that. [Price] is between you and the recipient."

While Curran indicated that he doesn't believe any kind of black market will erupt in this space, but that's not to say that a legitimate market (for a period of time, at least) will come up. It's a perfect scenario for it -- the resources are non-existent in the open market (i.e., ARIN's cupboard is bare), businesses are still in recovery mode from the economic downturn of the past two years and are looking for ways to make some extra cash where they can, and there is an abundance of organizations who have tons more public IP address space than what they actually need.

(Sidebar: When businesses first jumped on the Internet wave, the capabilities of NAT weren't completely fully realized, and hosting companies were non-existent. As a result, they asked for -- and received -- large amounts of public IP space. Case in point, I worked for a freight company in 1994 and requested/was granted two class C's (more than 500 addresses) when I brought up our first Internet connectivity. Have I had the resources then that I have now, I could have done everything that I needed to do with less than 1% of that amount.)

So, ARIN says addresses can be bought and sold. Microsoft has come out strong with a huge acquisition in this space. And while ARIN has indicated that they intend to continue to regulate these kinds of transactions, I would contend that Mr. Curran's explanation of their governance leaves a lot to interpretation. What's more, the I don't know that ARIN is prepared to respond with due diligence to the potential volume of transactions that could be on the horizon. The "rules" on the books today regarding the sale of address blocks worked fine in a world where these kinds of transactions were the exception and not the rule, but the landscape is altogether different now.

So, when these brokers start popping up offering to sell IPv4 space to those who can't get it from ARIN or their ISP and need it because they aren't prepared to deploy IPv6 for their application, just remember that you heard they were coming right here on my blog. With that, I'll be waiting for your many, many offers of venture capital to fund my new IPv4 address space brokerage business. Just kidding, of course...unless you aren't! :)

24Feb/11Off

All Things…Together

Posted by admin

How easy it is for most any Christian to show their thankfulness to God for those things we tend to put into the "blessings" category: a good report from the doctor, a promotion or raise, or even a great time of worship in our regular Sunday pew. But how often do we stop to thank God for the things that didn't stem from our wish list for life? I posted this question on my Facebook status today, and one very dear friend responded. In his initial response, he indicated that he was thankful for a financial trial that he had just recently encountered. I praised him for recognizing the situation for what it was -- a test from God that apparently he had been found worthy to endure, but I challenged him (or so I thought) by asking how often he was thankful for the trial while it was on-going. To his credit (and my joy), he said it was something he thanked God for the entire time.

But I wonder. Why? Well, because I'm a human being, as we are all human beings, and flawed as we are, we sometimes tend to let the notion slip from our minds that it is God who has the eternal vision, and ours is only temporal. In our short-sightedness, we can all too easily forget that the trials we endure are for a purpose, and as such, we are missing an incredible opportunity to give God credit and praise.

God and Montezuma
In 1998, I made my first foreign mission trip to the incredibly beautiful country of Brazil. Now, this wasn't my first international trip, so I knew well the rules about drinking water in foreign countries with different standards of cleanliness and purification than what my soft immune system was accustomed to. Nevertheless, after three days of a seven-day project, "Motezuma's Revenge" hit me with everything it had. I was so incredibly sick that...well, let's just suffice it to say that it was bad -- so bad, even, that the hotel staff didn't come around to clean my room. (Though, I did get to sit back and watch the World Cup while the rest of the team built a church in the heat....and Brazil won!)

Miserable as I was, I was convinced that God had brought me there for a purpose, so I spent a good bit of my time in that hotel room praying and getting into Scripture. My heart cried out, "Why?" because all I could think about was how I would explain to those who supported me financially that I was only singing and building for less than half of the trip. The second day of my illness, God answered me very clearly when He brought me to 1 Peter 4:12-13. "Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed."

Did you notice the little word "are" and the phrase "that you participate"? Those are present tense! In other words, we're commanded to rejoice while you are suffering!! And why? Well, "so that" you have the opportunity to be overjoyed when (future tense) His glory is revealed. Let's be clear about this Scripture -- we are to rejoice while the trial is on-going so that we can rejoice when His glory is revealed. When will that be? Well, that's entirely up to Him, and it could very well be that we don't know the purpose or intent of a trial until we can sit with Him and ask face-to-face. However, whether we find out in this life or the next, the instruction remains the same: "rejoice."

All things...together
Even if we don't immediately know the Scripture reference, most of us are quite familiar with Romans 8:28, which in the New American Standard translation states, "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." Let's break that down, shall we?

First, "God causes". God has a plan and purpose for our lives, and according to Jeremiah 29:11, it is a plan for our prosperity and general good. Furthermore, Psalms 22 and 139 both explain that God knit us together in our mothers' wombs, and as if that weren't enough, Jesus said that even the hairs on our head are numbered! (Luke 12:7, Matthew 10:30) So, our trials, tribulations, and struggles may seem to fall from the sky into (or ON to) our lives, but they never catch God by surprise.

Skipping ahead a bit, we find a couple of qualifiers: "to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." So, if we prefer that things are "good" in our lives, we need to love God. And who doesn't love God, right? Well, let's see...do we live a life that demonstrates that we are committed to serving His purpose, or are we more interested in serving our own purposes?

Last, but certainly not least, there's the detail that, "all things work together." All things. The good, and the bad. The desirable, and the undesirable. The prosperous, and the costly. The safe, and the injurious. All things. And it isn't God's plan to use a single event alone to give us His best, but it's the total package -- all things together.

So, when you're passed over for a promotion, give thanks. When you are facing the loss of a big account due to circumstances beyond your control, give thanks. When your loved one is in the intensive care center fighting for their life for days on end, give thanks each and every day. When you're too sick to move after your third round of chemo that you know won't kill all of the cancer, give thanks, and do so with the same love and appreciation that you would have if you had just won the lottery. Why? Because God said so. Because His plan is the only one that truly matters, and He is still in complete control. And because He has promised that He will "never leave us nor forsake us," so even in those difficult times, He's right there in the fire with us.

Always be thankful. Always.

Unworthy, but His,

Nick

"I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live." -- Deuteronomy 30:19

16Feb/11Off

From Salt to Sugar?

Posted by nick

It's disturbing and heart-breaking that the evangelical Christian denominations across the board are in decline, while pseudo-Christian cults are on the rise in membership.  One thought and one thought alone comes to mind:  "You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out."

(My source states that the LDS church (i.e., Mormons) grew 1.42 percent, while Jehovah's Witnesses  saw a 4.37 percent gain in membership.  http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-religion/2673967/posts)

Might the problem be that, on the whole, the true Church is simply (and sinfully) moving from salt to sugar?  Could it be that we've become so interested in growing our numbers that we have failed to focus on growing our faith?  Are we so worried about conciliation that we have turned our attention entirely away from conviction?  The simple fact is that our job is not to keep people in church.  Our job is to "compel them to come in" -- the Holy Spirit's job is compelling them to stay.

Now, let me say this before I go one sharing the discussion that I enjoyed on Facebook today, let me say this as clearly and succinctly as I can.  I despise religion. I loathe religion.  Religion makes me sick.  I hope I'm getting my point across here.  And you know what?  Jesus hated it to.  That's why He came to do away with it and give us an opportunity to enjoy a relationship with Him instead.  But since we live in a world that seems so bent on classifying people with labels of denomination, we have to be prepared to speak in these terms.

But One Religion is No Better than Another...Right?
When I posted my concern about this religious shift on Facebook, someone (jokingly, as it turned out, but still...) commented that no established religion recognized the legitimacy of any other.  I explained that I didn't deny anyone's right to establish or follow their own religions.  But, to use the Family Guy episode as an example, one could start a religion dedicated to the worship of "The Fonz" from Happy Days...but that doesn't make it right! It's not a question of whether or not it is a legitimate belief system/religion, and it's definitely not a matter of love or hate. Instead, it's a matter of what's historically accurate and demonstrable. Christianity is based on the Bible, which has been questioned, tested, and proven, time and again, both in a historical context, as well as in its consistency between prophecies made and fulfilled, not to mention the living, experiential evidence in the lives of those who truly follow Christianity. These factors are what demonstrate very clearly to me (and millions of others, past and present) that the Bible points us to the One True and Living God.

Specifically, my post related to "pseudo-Christian cults," meaning those that have distorted the concepts and texts from which true Christianity originates and distorted them to create something altogether different on the inside, while they still "market" themselves as Christians.  Now, as for the non-Christian faiths of the world, I welcome the challenge of ANY non-Christian religious group to debate the evidence and truth of their faith versus Christianity. I don't hate or disrespect them at all, and neither does the God I worship, and He loves them as much as He loves me, which is why He offers them the same gift of salvation by His grace that He has given me. According to His Word, He is "not willing that ANY should perish, but that ALL should come to repentance." But denying Christ is to deny the God who created them and offers them this gift of forgiveness and grace.
Perhaps this is why evangelical Christians are sometimes accused of being a cult themselves.  However, to accept political correctness and say say there are "many paths to God" is to call Jesus a liar and a fraud.

"Cults are Interesting"
That's what one of the Facebook folks said, and I disagreed.  They aren't interesting -- they're downright scary! Why? Because this is more than a "survey of world religion," or watering down theology than nothing more than a social study. True Theology -- the study of the Theos, or God -- should point one to who God is, and what His purpose (as our Creator) is for us, His creations. Any group -- call them religions, call them sects, or call them cults -- that distracts individuals from that purpose and focus puts the eternal souls of those individuals into jeopardy of eternal peril and damnation. I don't care what sign is on the door -- if a group doesn't point its members to truth, or challenge them to find truth from reliable, proven sources -- it's damning.

And if it wasn't obvious, this a sensitive subject for me, as it really should be for any Christian, due to the consequences these false doctrines bring on the lives of those that fall into them.

How Do Cults Mislead So Many?
As for the mechanics of "brainwashing" or "mind control," I'm no psychologist (but I did stay at a Holiday Inn...). However, I understand it to be based on one or more of a few situations.

The first involves taking advantage of the desperate and frail emotional state of a select group of people who are searching for something different from what they've tried before without satisfaction, or that caters to some delusion of what they expect from life (or the afterlife), rather than what God actually describes and offers in His Word. Whatever the "hook," it is only effective because of an existing condition or vulnerability in the victim (mental, emotional, etc.).

Another takes the approach of offering just enough truth or to appear trustworthy and just enough goodness to appear genuine. Sadly, many of these kinds of groups ARE "good" in how they impact society on a social level, but the corruption of truth that results in the hearts and minds of those who belong to these groups cause them to pay the ultimate price -- eternity apart from God. One example here would be the LDS church (i.e., Mormons). They claim to believe the Bible, but not only do they twist and contort many of the key facts about the nature and existence of God and how to have His favor, but then they (in direct contradiction to the Bible) add what they refer to as "another gospel," which is entirely a work of one man's delusional, fictional or demonic account. They do tremendous work for the good of their "fellow man," but then condemn those they convert to hell. Another example would be the JW's, who claim to base their beliefs on the same Bible as "we" use, yet they change simple little nuances of the Scriptures to give them entirely new meaning. For example, John 1:1 in accurate translation states, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." Their translation inserts one word to say, "...and the word was A god." That one letter takes the Word - Logos, in the Greek - which refers to Jesus as the embodiment of the prophetic Scriptures - and relegates Him to being simply another deity. As such (and elsewhere) they deny the Trinity, which completely negates the value of the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross as the propitiation for our sins.

One last kind results when one person's (or group's) following gets so entirely caught up in the HUMAN(s) leading them that they fail to notice when that person or group gets off-track. As human beings, we're all subject to error and to sin. That's why I have LONG said, I don't care if it's my own pastor, or Billy Graham, or anyone else -- I will follow them as long as they follow the Word of God. If I see a departure from that course, or if I see them mix their message with false teachings, I will (a) call them out on it, and (b) if I'm correct in surmising their error and they are unrepentant, I will leave their teaching ministry or church.

I'll close with this quote from Scripture:

"But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed!
Galatians 1:8-9

Stay salty, my friends.

Unworthy, but His,

Nick

10Feb/11Off

IPv6 and Biblical Prophecy

Posted by nick

It could easily be argued that the new Internet addressing plans, built on IPv6 (see my last blog entry for an explanation) may just fall right into line with Biblical prophecies concerning end-times.

Under the new architecture, there are 340 undecillion addresses, as compared with a meager 4 billion under the present IPv4 schema.  That being the case, there re sufficient unique addresses for every human being on the planet to have thousands of addresses available for their own individual uses (e.g., devices in their homes, mobile devices, etc.), while still leaving trillions for use in business and communications applications.  A recent seminar I attended gave this illustrative example of how this new era of Internet design and applications could change some of our daily routines:

Imagine going to the grocery store for your routine pantry replenishment.  You know the routine all too well -- you walk the aisles, one by one, taking an item off of the shelf, placing in your cart, and scratching it off of your list.  (And if you take a little one with you, he or she is likely making contributions to your basket load when you look away!)  On occasion, you may find an alternative product or decide it's best to "wait" on a particular purchase, so you remove an item and place it back on the shelf.  At the end of your trip, you stand in a line, ring up your purchases, and  proceed to the nearest exit.

However, in an IPv6-enabled world (along with the currently available wireless technologies, including RFID tagging and good-old 802.11 Wi-Fi), each item you place in your cart has its own, unique IP address, as does your cart.  This enables you to "log in"  to the cart when you arrive at the store, and then each time you place an item into the basket it is tallied, and when you remove an item, the cost is deducted again.  At the end of your trip, you pass by a counter or through a threshold, and automatically your bank or credit account is charged.  Sound more like science fiction than fact?  It's already being experimented with in some markets.

Another example application is in the medical field.  Imagine an accident victim, rushed by ambulance to the nearest trauma center.  They arrive with no identification, either left behind at the scene or not with the patient.  And imagine this patient has a severe allergy to opioid pain relievers, like morphine.  Without some sort of emergency alert identification (like a bracelet) or the benefit of a loved one familiar with their condition and history, the most commonplace treatment to relieve the pain of severe injury could kill them.  However, if that victim had a small chip implanted that identified the victim and held all of their medical history and pertinent details (like allergies), this risk is averted and the patient can be treated without fear of unnecessary complications.  Reminicent of Star Trek, you say?  It's already available, and some lobbyists and special interest groups are asking for it to be made mandatory.

One last example, and I'll make the connection to Scripture...  Many of us who are pet-owners have made a responsible choice to have our four-legged loved ones implated with a small chip that can be read by any shelter or veterinarian, so that if they are separated from their homes, they can be quickly returned.  For our four-wheeled companions, we can have them tracked, located, and recovered via technolgies like OnStar and LoJack, and the same services are even available for our cell phones and laptops.  In fact, virtually anything that you want to keep close tabs on can be fitted with an RFID tag and/or a cellular transmitter these days.  I planned and installed a WiFi network for a hospital a few years ago who had this very idea in mind for tracking drug dispensory carts, as well as big ticket items like microscopes and portable x-ray machines.  Well, as many are aware from the news headlines, Mexico and other Latin American countries have seen a tremendous rise in kidnappings for ransom, and there are some organizations now that are starting to apply the same concepts to citizens.  One company in Mexico specifically offers this service at a charge of $4,000 for the implantation and $2,000 per year to track the recipient.  I won't even mention the RFID tags the U.S. government is placing in all passports and other forms of identification these days.

How does all of this tie to Biblical prophecy?  Check out Revelation 13:16-17...

He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name.”

"He" here refers to the anti-christ, and these verses speak to the requisite to accept his "mark" in order to participate in any kind of commerce.  I'm not in any way claiming that this mark is equated with chip implants or RFID tags, but there's certainly some room to draw conclusions here.

In Matthew 24, Jesus told His disciples (and us) that we are to "keep watch" for signs of the coming age and for His return.  When I study Scripture and find references like those to the "mark," alongside prophecies about a global financial system (also in Revelation 13), and I consider the capabilities of readily-available (not to mention future) technologies and the on-going shift to cashless, standardized currency systems (like the Euro, the most traded currency on Earth), I can't help but begin to wonder...

Is IPv6 a tool of Satan?  Hardly.  Are credit and debit cards evil?  Well, no.  (How we use them can certainly be, but that's another blog for another day.)  Is the Internet?  No, the Internet is a thing, and like any other thing, it can be used for wrong as easily as it can for right.  However, it would be foolish to say that all of these things aren't very possibly components of the prophecies foretold two thousand years ago by a man named John, left to die imprisoned on the isle called Patmos, where he received the Revelations we find in the New Testament.

My perspective?  Take full advantage of the conveniences and benefits afforded by technology.  Truth and knowledge are gifts from God, and to deny ourselves the application of these gifts is, in essence, to deny the Giver as well.  However, as Jesus commanded, be watchful, be wary and be ready, as His return is eminant.

Unworthy, but His,

Nick

7Feb/11Off

What is IPv6…and Why Should I Care?

Posted by nick

If you haven't heard (and probably a number of you haven't), the Internet is running out of addresses. Well, sort of. Now, before I explain this for those unfamiliar, this is most assuredly not a case of Y2K all over again -- the sky is not falling, and Internet is not going to stop working as a result of this news. That said, let me see if I can explain what's going on here...

Homer Simpson, (c) Fox

Devices on the Internet communicate with each other by using their IP addresses. You've see them before -- four numbers, from 0-254, separated by a decimal (e.g., 192.168.21.104). Without going too deeply into the historical details, this address format represents the 4th version of the IP protocol standards, commonly referred to as IPv4 (circa 1981). Given the range and arrangement of the numbers in these addresses, the design allowed for as many a 4 billion unique numbers, which sounded like a lot in the 1960's when this whole "Internet" thing was still largely conceptual. (I'll refrain from the Al Gore jokes, but know that I had at least three ready to go...)

Well, just like we said in the late 80's that we'd never fill up our 10 megabyte hard drives, the early designers of the Internet didn't see any issues with such a "limited" address space. However, in 1992, it was realized that almost 1/4 of the available 4 billion addresses had been consumed, so a new standard was drafted, which we know today as IPv6.

The most obvious and immediate differences between IPv4 and IPv6 we as users will notice are in the length and format of the address. IPv4 addresses, as described above, work out to be 32 bits in length. (In case you were wondering, 2 to the 32nd power is about 4 billion, hence the total of unique addresses...) IPv6 address, on the other hand, are 128 bits in length, and if you didn't know, 2 to the 128th power is an incredibly large number -- try 340 trillion, trillion, trillion unique addresses. (340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456 to be exact, but hey...who's counting?) To put that into perspective, consider this. Scientists tell us (whether we believe them or not) that the earth is about 4.5 billion years old. If we had been assigning IPv6 addresses at a rate of 1 billion per second since the earth was formed, we would have by now used up less than one trillionth of the address space. See, I told you it was a big number. Oh, and guess what -- it's no longer going to be those friendly 0-255 numbers we are used to working with. No, instead their going to be listed in hexadecimal form: 3ffe:0501:0008:0000:0260:97ff:fe40:efab. Fun, right? Picture calling your IT help desk or PC technical support service now. "Okay, ma'am/sir - can you tell me your IP address, please?" Fun stuff...

So, in summary, the world is running out of IPv4 space, and we're going to have to start using this new, long, complicated IPv6 thingy. What's the big deal? Well, here's the big deal. IPv4 and IPv6 are not directly compatible. In other words, hosts (i.e., computers) that have only IPv4 addresses can't communicated directly with hosts (i.e., other computers, servers, web sites, etc.) that have only IPv6 addresses. Now, did that get your attention? It should have, because in as little as a few months, you may find yourself needing to communicate with a businesses web site that only has an IPv6 address assigned to it. If your Internet Service Provider doesn't support IPv6, you may find yourself unable to reach this particular site.

What's more, there are a number of other components that we as Internet consumers take for granted because they (usually) just work, so many don't even know they're there: routing protocols, domain name services, network address translation, port address translation, access lists, etc. You can think of these services as (to reference The Wizard of Oz) "the little man behind the curtain," except without the magic they provide, your Internet simply doesn't work. And for your devices to continue their operation with the same level of reliability and performance that you're accustomed to today, they all need to be capable of handling the new address space. (The good news, fellow users, is that your computer's operating system is likely already capable of IPv6. In fact, recent versions of Windows, MacOS, and most of the Linux variants are already either IPv6-ready or are running both IPv6 and IPv4 in a "dual-stack" configuration (i.e., running both versions of the protocol simultaneously).)

At the end of the day, this whole ordeal likely isn't going to affect consumers all that much. There may be some spotty issues with web sites that have put off IPv6 enablement, or perhaps more of a concern will be their ISPs' implementation methods for IPv6 support. Nevertheless, the exhaustion of the old IPv4 space is definitely an issue worthy of the headlines it is and will continue getting. And, in the end when IPv6 is fully adopted and implemented by ISPs and businesses as it eventually will be, you'll be able to enjoy a number of benefits that are inherent in the new protocol standard. But I'll blog on that later. For now, it's late, and I'm going to sleep.

5Feb/11Off

Where’s the Celebration?

Posted by nick

If you won the lottery, how long would the celebration last? I don't necessarily mean the party...but the celebration. Personally, if I got the famous Publisher's Clearing House visit, or if someone gave me a winning $50 million lottery ticket, my celebration would be a daily experience for the rest of my life!

Or, say we widen the scope of the hypothetical, celebratory event. What if my oncologist told me that my cancer was in remission and not expected to ever reoccur? Or my kid's cancer? Would the celebration of a new lease on life last a few days? A week? A few months, or even a few years? No, at that point, every remaining day of life is cause - and opportunity - to celebrate!

So, if those hypothetical situations and the assumptions about them are accurate, why is it that our victory in Christ over the eternal death that follows our last breath doesn't make every Christian alive want to shout praise and thanks to God from their rooftops on a daily basis? Why do so many of us instead simply go through life with our secret salvation that only is mentioned in a church setting, or occasionally (if ever) when asked direct questions about our faith?

It's a tragedy, really. Those of us who have the cure know that it can be applied to anyone's life, and that every human being alive is in desperate need of it. Nevertheless, we sit on our hands as mere spectators, watching in silence while the world around us goes helplessly to their eternal death.

If you're reading this, I know you have a computer or some web-enabled device. Chances are, you also have an account on some social networking site, like Facebook, Twitter or MySpace. Whether you realize it or not, you have the tools necessary to reach hundreds, thousands or even millions with news of a cure that they so desperately need. You know the verses, or you know how to find them, because at some point in your past, someone shared them with you: John 3:16, Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23, Ephesians 2;8-9, 1 John 1:9, ... Post them. Share them. Even if all of those you know will see them likely know these Scriptures already...or do they? And what about the accidental passer-by?

The truth is in your hands. The cure. The ultimate cause for celebration. So what are you waiting for? Start celebrating. Start sharing. Take your personal lifestyle evangelism to a whole new level. After all, don't you have a good reason?

Unworthy, but His,

Nick.

PS... Check out our new ministry home page at http://www.manfishers.com today and give us your feedback. We need your support!! Thanks!

30Jan/11Off

I Am What I Am

Posted by nick

A Facebook contact posted as her status, "If only I could afford a sex change...who would sponsor me?" Now, I don't know this person personally, and she lives in a country on the African continent, but I was compelled to comment to her in response. In addition to a quick jest about how men are all jerks anyway, I reminded her that God made her the way she was and asked if she thought that God had made a mistake. She said that she didn't think God was in error, but responded with a question about whether or not she had to a like what God had done. In short, I suggested to her that, while she may not be happy with her situation now, she would be much better off in the long run if she focused her attention on satisfying God's purpose for her situation than if she allowed herself to be overcome with bitterness and disappointment.

It's not an uncommon predicament, particularly among teenagers and young adults striving for acceptance, but is not absent completely of adults who struggle with the same emotional search for value and purpose. So, what does the Bible say about this? Plenty.

First of all, I'd be lying if I said that I was 100% happy with everything God did, but that "disappointment" that I feel is usually an indication that I've got to change my perspective. And without fail, when my perspective changes, my satisfaction level goes up. Sometimes it's a matter of pride or selfishness that limits my understanding of what God is doing. Sometimes it's a matter of educating myself. But whatever the reason, God is always right, and when I disagree with Him, it's ME that is wrong -- not Him. I think about Job from the Old Testament. SURELY He had every reason in the world to be unhappy with God, yet he stayed faithful, even when those closest to him expected or even encouraged him to turn his back on his Creator. But even though he was in mourning about the loss and heartache he suffered, he still praised the Lord and ACCEPTED his circumstance, trusting that God was in control and had his best interest in mind.

If you're not satisfied with something God has done or is doing in your life -- even if it is your sexuality, gender, family situation, health, or something else that you have so little control over -- your attitude about it and response to your situation can either bring you down to a point where you're so depressed that you're no good to anyone (yourself included), or you can choose to accept the situation you're in and simply ask God, "Since You planned for this in my life, You must have a purpose and plan for how I can use my situation to honor You. Please show me how I can honor You in this, and help me to get past my feelings of disappointment and frustration so I am not in the way of what You are trying to accomplish in me and through my life."

If you're not happy with someone, your relationship with them will be stressed and frustration will lead to anger, and from anger to bitterness and hate. That's a very dangerous place to be in your relationship with God.

Psalm 16:5: "Lord, You have assigned me my portion and my cup, and have made my lot secure."

What's more...

Romans 8:28-29 (The Message): "Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God's Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don't know how or what to pray, it doesn't matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That's why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.

God knew what he was doing from the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son. The Son stands first in the line of humanity he restored. We see the original and intended shape of our lives there in him. After God made that decision of what his children should be like, he followed it up by calling people by name. After he called them by name, he set them on a solid basis with himself. And then, after getting them established, he stayed with them to the end, gloriously completing what he had begun."

Look carefully at the following portions of that passage:

"If we don't know how or what to pray, it doesn't matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves."

God knows our struggles, including those that go on deep within us that those around us may not even be aware of. There are even times when we can become so overcome by our situation that we don't even know how to pray to express our desired and needs to God. Nevertheless, we have a promise here from Scripture that, even in those times, we can be confident that He knows our needs and intercedes for us.

"That's why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good. God knew what he was doing from the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him."

A mentor of mine once said in a lesson he was teaching, "God doesn't have a 'plan B'." God knows what He's doing, even if we don't. He knows what He is doing, even if we can't understand it or see what He's working towards. And according to this passage, He has planned the course of our lives from the very beginning of time.

"And then, after getting them established, he stayed with them to the end, gloriously completing what he had begun." After establishing us in Christ, He doesn't just set us on our merry way, left to fate and our own capacity to make the best of our situation. Instead, He stays with us, and not just to make sure we "make it through," but to "gloriously" complete what He begins.

It's far better than just accepting the hand we're dealt. It's a reminder that God knows us so well that He knows what we need, even if we don't know we need it or how to ask for it. Even more, He is completely aware of what He is doing (even when we aren't), and when you also bring Jeremiah 29:11 into this discussion, you can be certain that His plan is absolutely meant for your GOOD! That sentiment is echoed in the last part of this text from Romans -- that He stays with us 'til the end, "GLORIOUSLY completing" what he has begun in us. With that promise to rely on, I am determined to be content in any situation, trusting God's plan above my own hopes, desires, ambitions or goals.

27Jan/11Off

…Lest Ye Be Deceived…

Posted by nick

Studying the WordThere has long been a debate about who was guilty of committing the first sin: Adam, or Eve. Now, of course, this debate is easily answered by Scripture, so there's no real cause for confusion. "By one man sin entered the world..." (Romans 5:12) But even though Eve wasn't responsible for the demise of mankind, there's still a valuable lesson to be learned from her actions.

In Genesis 3 we see the account unfold, how Adam and Eve are confronted by the Creator, and immediately the excuses pour out like juice from a fresh, ripe orange. "The serpent deceived me, and I ate." (v13) Where did Eve go wrong to allow herself to be deceived? What could she have done differently that might have precluded such a disaster?

Consider the instruction the Apostle Paul gave to his understudy, Timothy: "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth." (2 Timothy 2:15) Early English versions of the Bible translate this verse to say "study," which has been incorrectly interpreted to suggest the act of studying, as a student would his or school lessons. However, the "do your best to" or "be diligent to" are more accurate, so our focus is on the latter part of the verse -- "who correctly handles the word of truth." Let's think of it this way. If I were going to play the game rugby (I've played a game or two with friends in Africa, but it was far from an officially sanctioned event), I might have some ideas from what I've been told or seen on television about how the game is played. Does that mean that I'm not going to violate any rules of the game or that I will be an effective rugger? Absolutely not. Why? Because I've not studied any of the rules of the game, had any instruction, or practiced any techniques. To be effective, I need to dedicate time, energy and focus to understanding what I'm supposed to do (or not supposed to do). Furthermore, the guys I played with might have misled or misinformed me, either by mistake, or even to try to gain an advantage over me. If I'd prepared for the game beforehand, however, they would have had a much more difficult time in leading me astray.

That was where Eve faltered. Instead of being absolutely certain that she was clear on the instruction of the Lord concerning the tree of knowledge, she took Adam's word at face value...which apparently had been altered from its original content. (Gen 3:3, versus 2:16-17) So, when Satan came to her he had no trouble deceiving her.

The message here is simple. Knowing the Word of the Lord is our best defense against the deceptions of the enemy. When was the last time you made an effort to better understand God's instructions?

Unworthy, but His,

-Nick