Daily Bread – bible reading resource

Daily Bread Logo

I’ve always struggled with self-discipline when it comes to reading the bible regularly or having a consistent prayer life. I’ve tried numerous different methods over the year but the only constant seems to be me failing to stick with them.

Recently I purchased a copy of Daily Bread. This is a Scripture Union UK publication that contains a short passage from the bible and a short study guide to match. It starts and ends with prayer points and ‘think it through’ exercises which try to make the bible verses relevant to the reader.

It generally takes me 5-10 minutes to do and has been a real encouragement – it is not hard to get into or burdensome on my time, but gives me a daily reminder of what God has done for me and helps me to focus on something other than my own troubles.

Each reading is also available online at Daily Bread UK and to give you an idea of what each study is like, I’ve pasted the one from October 24. It is exactly the same thing in a printed book (that lasts 3 months) that you can purchase here in Australia for $7.95. Be warned, the website is pretty awkward and wants to use pop ups.

I’ve not tried the Matthias studies but I imagine they would be just as helpful to many people. But as Joel said tonight, everyone is different and whatever works for you and helps you be consistent in your study and prayer life is worth doing.

Tuesday 24 October 2006

Bible in a Year: Jeremiah 42,43; John 16

… and a time to be bold

Prepare

Say the ‘Jesus prayer’ to quieten your heart and to help you be open to God: ‘Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me.’

Acts 26:1–18 (NLT)

1 Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You may speak in your defense.”

So Paul, with a gesture of his hand, started his defense: 2 “I am fortunate, King Agrippa, that you are the one hearing my defense against all these accusations made by the Jewish leaders, 3 for I know you are an expert on Jewish customs and controversies. Now please listen to me patiently!

4 “As the Jewish leaders are well aware, I was given a thorough Jewish training from my earliest childhood among my own people and in Jerusalem. 5 If they would admit it, they know that I have been a member of the Pharisees, the strictest sect of our religion. 6 Now I am on trial because I am looking forward to the fulfillment of God’s promise made to our ancestors. 7 In fact, that is why the twelve tribes of Israel worship God night and day, and they share the same hope I have. Yet, O king, they say it is wrong for me to have this hope! 8 Why does it seem incredible to any of you that God can raise the dead?

9 “I used to believe that I ought to do everything I could to oppose the followers of Jesus of Nazareth. 10 Authorized by the leading priests, I caused many of the believers in Jerusalem to be sent to prison. And I cast my vote against them when they were condemned to death. 11 Many times I had them whipped in the synagogues to try to get them to curse Christ. I was so violently opposed to them that I even hounded them in distant cities of foreign lands.

12 “One day I was on such a mission to Damascus, armed with the authority and commission of the leading priests. 13 About noon, Your Majesty, a light from heaven brighter than the sun shone down on me and my companions. 14 We all fell down, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to fight against my will.’

15 “ ‘Who are you, sir?’ I asked.

“And the Lord replied, ‘I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting. 16 Now stand up! For I have appeared to you to appoint you as my servant and my witness. You are to tell the world about this experience and about other times I will appear to you. 17 And I will protect you from both your own people and the Gentiles. Yes, I am going to send you to the Gentiles, 18 to open their eyes so they may turn from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God. Then they will receive forgiveness for their sins and be given a place among God’s people, who are set apart by faith in me.’

Explore

‘This King Agrippa was the son of King Herod who persecuted the church in chapter 12, and the great-grandson of the King Herod who tried to kill Jesus as a baby. So his family hadn’t been exactly friendly towards the Christian faith. But that didn’t stop Paul! What did Festus want Paul to explain (25:26)? And what did Paul talk about? Paul holds nothing back from Agrippa – what he used to be like (vs 4,5,9), how he met Jesus (vs 13,14), his calling from God (vs 16–18), the power of the gospel to transform people’s lives. It’s a great story, and if you didn’t have an obviously dramatic conversion yourself, your story might seem tame by comparison. But which is more important – hearing about exciting events, or hearing about the one who is able to bring about such a transformation? Paul is clear that it is Jesus who has made the difference to his life (v 15). Can you share that same confidence even though your story will be different?’

Respond

‘What could you say about your life if you followed the same pattern for your witness as Paul did here? Ask God to make you as bold as Paul in sharing your testimony, and to give you an opportunity this week to do so.’

Celtx

Celtx Screenshot

Celtx is essentially a free script writing program. It is free as in beer – you don’t have to pay for it – and free as in speech – you can view and make changes to the source code, if you like.

It has really good formatting and syntax – it is easy to see and understand what is going on when you read a manuscript – and compares admirably well to the industry standard proprietary program Final Draft.

From a technical point of view Celtx is based upon the mozilla suite source code. It seems a bit strange that a word processor type program can come from a web browser, but makes a bit of sense if you think it through. The Mozilla composer is a wysiwyg html editor – turning text into a format that renders in a particular way, which is all this program does. Mozdev describes Celtx not so much as a scriptwriting tool, but as a project collaboration tool for people who work in film, TV, theater and New Media.

I doubt Celtx will appeal to everyone out there, but if you are looking to write up a skit, play or even an event’s running sheet, Celtx looks to be an elegant, free solution that is likely to provide a much better result than using MS Word.

In other news, IE7 is out, but you probably already knew that. I wrote this post using Firefox 2.0 RC2 (on a Ubuntu Edgy beta desktop) and was very impressed with the inbuilt spell checking feature. Small enhancements seem to characterise this release, but they appear well thought out and mature, rather than breakthrough and unstable.

Haikus are Easy

Haiku Tshirt

Spotted via No One’s Listening:

Threadless.com is an on-going tee shirt design competition, anyone can submit their design and if it gets a high enough score and is chosen by the Threadless crew it will be printed and sold from the site.

Most of the product found on Threadless is a result of the competition. A few of the shirts were printed outside of the contest, some of which were commissioned by Threadless to various well-known designers.

A Haiku is a form of Japanese poetry, which exactly as the T-shirt describes, sometimes don’t make a lot of sense.

Get yours and impress the folk at your church/uni/geek event.

Refrigerator.

Akismet

Akismet Button

Akismet is a spam filtering plugin for blogs. It stands for Automattic Kismet – Automattic is the company which funds the project and also employs most of the WordPress developers. Kismet meaning fate or fortune. I guess that means that Akismet gives spam bloggers what they deserve – no recognition, money or links.

Akismet is built into WordPress version 2 and available for other platforms. A list is here and includes Drupal, Movable Type and Expression Engine. It is free for non-commercial use, which Automattic define as making less than US$500 a month from your blog.

This site doesn’t exactly have the worlds largest readership, but I still manage to get blog comment spam, particularly when I write about money. So when I rebuilt this server about a month ago I went off and registered for Akismet by signing up for a wordpress.com account. Since then Akismet has blocked 110 spam comments from being posted (and deleted) on my blog, including 4 in the last 24 hours.

The way Akismet works: when a new comment, trackback, or pingback comes to your blog it is submitted to the Akismet web service which runs hundreds of tests on the comment and returns a thumbs up or thumbs down. The statistics say that 93% of all comments are spam.

I know Google’s Blogger uses image recognition to block automatic comment posting. Do any of you guys out there get a lot of spam on your sites? What do you do to keep it under control?

PraiseHymns

PraiseHymns album cover

Last year for our church carols event we played some contemporary arrangements of classic carols. We got those from the PraiseCarols collection and we plan to use them again this year.

The folk who produced that album and sheet music have released a similar album this year entitled PraiseHymns: Timeless Hymns for Contemporary Worship. If you go to the website you can download a low quality MP3 of all the songs for free. They can do this as they own the arrangement and recording and I imagine most of these songs are public domain, now. Plus their business model is based around selling the sheet music and to a lesser extent the CD’s and backing tracks, so any publicity is good publicity.

The songlist on this album:

  • Joyful Joyful We Adore Thee gospel hip hop
  • To God Be The Glory driving acoustic feel
  • Blessed Assurance medium acoustic drive
  • When I Survey The Wondrous Cross ambient
  • Christ The Lord Is Risen Today gospel hip hop
  • It Is Well With My Soul driving rock
  • Amazing Grace relaxed acoustic drive
  • Holy Holy Holy pop ballad
  • Be Thou My Vision gentle folk sound
  • Crown Him With Many Crowns driving acoustic feel
  • O Worship The King easy half-time feel

Have a listen and see if some of these old songs come alive for you once more. I’m sure they will appear to be a travesty to many others. For mine they got a bit similar to the PraiseCarols for comfort, but to people coming to these songs for the first time they might be brilliant. They are certainly quality performances and musicians and worth adding to your music rotation.

DesktopBSD woes

DesktopBSD logo

DesktopBSD is an operating system for your computer. It is a customised FreeBSD installation which is designed to offer a powerful, easy to install system designed to meet the needs of most desktop users. BSD is a version of UNIX® and DesktopBSD runs the KDE desktop.

I realised a couple of weeks ago that I didn’t need to keep Windows XP on my newish bargain laptop and rather than dual booting into Linux, as I had been, I thought I would make the little fellow a purely open source system and use it for web development and general use. I was keen to try a BSD variant and DesktopBSD seemed to fit the mould as this machine is primarily about desktop use, rather than being a server.

I prefer the GNOME desktop, but thought I should give KDE a go as many people seem to prefer it and I know there is some very swish eye candy that you can implement. So, I downloaded the DesktopBSD DVD iso via Bittorrent, burned it and went to install.

But DesktopBSD didn’t boot into the installer. You get some options, though and remarkably the system was happy to install in SAFE mode. A very easy install process then went on – much simpler than XP and much, much simpler than the normal FreeBSD install, then I rebooted, fingers crossed.

DesktopBSD didn’t boot. It just freezes after some kernel messages and puts a not very interesting pattern on the screen. Trying with ACPI disabled produced a different pattern, but no progress. SAFE mode worked again, however, so eventually X came up and KDE materialised on my computer. No wireless card, no sound, my 1280×768 screen being stretched into 1024×768 and only working in SAFE mode, but nonetheless I had a (mostly) working system.

Googling for DesktopBSD and FreeBSD problems for Compaq Presario V2000 machines fixed the screen, which was good. A small change to the X.org config file and all was good. More searching indicated my SAFE mode issue is caused by a dud “Serial Interface Bus” driver – sio – not working with my motherboard. So I followed instructions and recompiled the BSD kernel. No change. Tried a couple more times, with different changes each time, but no success. On about my 6th recompile, it worked. The dud driver seemed to be ioapic in my case. APIC stands for Advanced Programmable Interrupt Controllers and for you and means that you get 24 IRQ’s instead of 15, but is really useful in multi-processor systems.

Once the PC was booting up in regular mode I was able to start using it for general use. Web browsing, remote logins and some slideshow creation all worked pretty good. KDE was pretty, but nothing special having come from 3D accelerated GNOME. I haven’t got SuperKaramba going yet, which provides desktop widgets like Konfabulator, or any of the other pretty additions you can make. Ksmoothdock looks pretty cool and probably seems familiar to the Mac OSX users out there.

Not my KDE desktop

I can live without sound, but having to run a cable around the house to access the network is pretty annoying and might be enough to have me drop DesktopBSD and pick up another O/S. I’ve followed all the instructions, but still my Marvell chipsetted Netgear WG511v2 card won’t work. It’s been over a week since I started the install (not constant, other things get in the way) and maybe the effort is going to continue to go unrewarded.

FreeBSD is a mature operating system, but I think you need to know how to work with it a bit better than I do to get it to work properly. DesktopBSD is a good step towards making it more accessible and maybe the upcoming DesktopBSD 1.6 will address some of the problems I’m having. Until then, my best shot at a KDE desktop based system is probably running Kubuntu or MEPIS.

Wentworth Falls

Prism Effect

Priscilla and I made it up to Wentworth Falls last weekend. I hadn’t been up there, or at least stopped there, for quite a few years (possibly in the early 90’s sometime). A nice warm spring day with not too much pollen in the air, you could see for miles towards Lake Burragorang, the eucalyptus haze blurring things off in the distance.

We had a brief walk down and up some of the tracks in the Blue Mountains National Park. The falls themselves are but a shadow of themselves right now, as seen in the photo above and a few others over here.

According to the Bureau of Meteorology – which doesn’t talk about meteors as much as you’d imagine they would – September 2006 was the 8th wettest on record with about 3 times as much rain as September normally gets. Unfortunately it was also the hottest September ever recorded and the drought is much of NSW is ongoing.

Perhaps the population here has forgotten, but Sydney is still under level 3 water restrictions, according to Sydney Water. This means you can only use a hose to water your garden on Wednesdays and Sundays in the early morning or evening.

Maybe one day I’ll reach Victoria Falls just like Dr. Livingstone. Until then I hope that one day we will again suffer under heavy falls of rain, filling the dams and replenishing our waterways and groundwater. The falls up in the upper Blue Mountains should be a torrent, not a trickle.