God’s Newness

In a new year I like to focus on God’s newness.  The old has passed, the new has come.  January first marks a time to put the old behind us.  No matter how bad the previous year was, we can say that it was last year and we are in a new year with endless possibilities.

It’s for this reason that I am focusing January’s devotions on newness and things that God declares to make new in the Bible.  Despite my liking of newness, I was very surprised at something new today.

I live on the east coast and got two feet of snow a week before Christmas.  Currently the temperature has been dropping into the teens and single digits overnight and the high hasn’t made it out of the 20’s in several days.

All of this left me absolutely shocked to look out my office window in my basement and see four irises popping up out of the ground by about an inch.  Even in the middle of winter (actually only two weeks into it!) I’m reminded that spring is coming.  Soon blossoms will be out in full force and all of the oldness will be replaced by something new and beautiful.

Of course all of this serves as a reminder of how God makes us new as well.  He takes something that it is cold and dead and not that pretty and makes something wonderful out of it.  Praise God for His newness!

Bulletin Bloopers

I love bulletin bloopers. They’re humorous and a safe topic to joke about in church. I actually have a collection of bulletin bloopers on another website. Yesterday my wife pointed out that I had made a pretty bulletin blooper myself. I’m so proud and hope that it means everyone will go Christmas caroling now: CHRISTMAS CAROLING: We will plan on going Christmas caroling on Monday December 21st. All those who are interesting should meet at the church at 6:30. I hope that gets everyone in the Christmas spirit with a good laugh.

Climate Change Emails

Climate change is in the news again and not just because of an upcoming conference in Copenhagen or continued discussion by Congress to pass “cap and trade” laws.  Files from the University of East Anglia were hacked and uploaded onto the internet.  These files include numerous emails and internal documents on the discussion over climate change.

It’s no surprise that scientists disagree on the issue and it is no real revelation that there is even childish namecalling among dissenting views.  What is cause for concern is the accusation that scientists manipulated data to support their view rather than deriving their view from an objective evaluation of the information.

Among the more interesting bits leaked was a statement implying that scientists can’t account for a lack of global warming going on currently. “The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t.”  Another alarm comes from the fact that examination of tree growth rings stopped when they did not support their thermometer readings.  The New York Times writes here:

“Through the last century, tree rings and thermometers show a consistent rise in temperature until 1960, when some tree rings, for unknown reasons, no longer show that rise, while the thermometers continue to do so until the present.”

There may be a good reason for abandoning the tree rings but no explanation is offered as to why the tree rings show different data and why that data is not attempted to be reconciled rather than disregarding it.

Scientists point out that the timing of this information leak is suspicious at best given the climate change conference coming up.  But that seems beside the point.  The information was obtained illegally and obviously was meant to damage backers of the climate change position.  The point is that these conversations happened and the public has been told that climate change is universally accepted and all scientific data backs this up.  Instead there are dissenting opinions and apparently data that contradicts what the climate change supporters want us to believe.

Before this seems like an isolated event with a few bad apples, in my search for actual information about these climate change emails, (I first read about this on CNN yesterday, almost two weeks after the emails were first reported about elsewhere on the web – and CNN offered no information about the actual contents of the emails) I uncovered that this is not the first set of damaging leaks.  This site discusses leaked emails from the EPA and a demand for more information to be released to the public. 

In the EPA emails, a scientists was told not to speak about climate change outside of the National Center for Environmental Economics.  Another email forbid him from researching the topic any further.  A third email gives the impression that the organization’s position was set and releasing data to the contrary would only cause trouble.

We should be good stewards of God’s creation.  We certainly have an impact on our environment and there are things that we can do to cut down on pollution that should be done.  Clouds of smog over Mexico City and Los Angeles are not naturally occurring and it doesn’t take scientific data to prove this.  Perhaps we need to be a bit less trusting when science tells us that something is a proven fact and that everyone agrees with it.  It sounds very similar to the story of evolution that we’ve been told as well.

Credit Card Interest

With Black Friday just a few days away, this seemed particularly current.  Many people with credit cards probably have received a letter in recent weeks or months about their interest rates going up.  I have received two such letters, both from Citibank, concerning my credit cards from Zales and a furniture store.

For those who don’t know what is going on, Congress passed a law in the spring that places much greater restrictions on what credit card companies can do to consumers and how they can raise interest rates.  This law goes into effect in February and credit card companies and raising rates ahead of the law.  The House of Representatives caught on to this and passed a bill to move up the effective date to December 1st.  Unfortunately the Senate has been unable to pass a similar bill and consumers will continue to find their rates increased from now until February.

The banking industry is responding by saying that the increase in interest rates is due to an increased risk in lending.  This sounds like a good excuse until it’s compared to reality.  Both accounts that I had were never late and both have been active this year.  I have excellent credit.  And still my rate for both accounts was raised to 27.99%.  This is beyond ridiculous and is even more insulting when I think that Citibank was one of the biggest banks bailed out by your taxes and mine.

On top of cancelling my credit card with Zales, I sent them a letter telling them that I would no longer be purchasing from their store because of how I was treated by their financier, Citibank.  Big banks aren’t going to care if they lose a few customers like you or I over increased interest rates.  But if the companies that they provide credit for realize they are losing business because of absurd interest rates and do their banking elsewhere, maybe these banks will finally get the idea.

If you find your interest rate increased on your credit card between now and February, I encourage you to not only cancel the credit card, but contact the company who issued it and let them know that you intend to take your business elsewhere because of they way you were treated by their financier.

Bible Study

Last week was a rather intense week for me.  I spent more time studying the Bible than probably any time since I’ve been in school (and actually more than most of the time I was in school.)  I ended up writing three in depth articles for the theology section of spreadinglight and wrote over 5,500 words.

When the weekend rolled around, I had the privilege of hosting my former pastor and mentor of 17 years at the church.  He has retired and is teaching spring semesters at Jamaica Bible College.  He came to my church to do a Bible study on the life of Peter and his teachings. 

As a pastor, I don’t get to be taught very often any longer.  Basically everything I learn now comes in preparation for teaching or preaching.  So I have to say what a delight it was to simply learn for the sake of learning once again.  It was a true blessing and I have felt a renewed energy all week even though a 10 hour Bible study over the weekend took a lot out of me mentally.

Some churches may have better success but I’ve discovered that maybe 20% of Christians are involved in some sort of Bible study program outside of regular weekly church services.  There are many reasons why people are not and I’m certainly not going to point the finger at anyone and claim that they are bad Christians if they are not involved in one.  But I would encourage as many people as possible to find a good Bible study to become involved in.  I believe that it is absolutely worth the time and energy that a person will invest in one.

November Devotions

The devotions for November are up now. They deal with the theme of thanksgiving. As I was writing I came to realize more and more that we simply don’t off thanks to God often enough. I’ll be taking a couple of weeks off from devotions, both to give my brain a break from devotions and to work on some other projects. I will be working on redoing the online Bible dictionary with a new design. After looking at my statistics, I decided to keep the pages hosted on spreadinglight. It will only take a day or two to switch the pages. After that I will be adding more definitions. This will be an ongoing project that I will be working on between other web projects. I figure that I will basically never run out of things to write about in relation to the Bible. In addition to theological definitions, I will be adding sections on Bible places, people of the Bible, and a discussion of Biblical weights and measurements.

Windows 7

The new windows operating system, Windows 7 came out Thursday. I hadn’t planned on buying it yet but I was having trouble with my laptop and figured that upgrading might solve my problem. Fortunately it did and my laptop is working fine now. I’ve only been using Windows 7 for a day but I can share with you my thoughts so far.

Installation is simple but time consuming. I upgraded from Windows Vista which possibly took longer because it had to convert all of my old files. What isn’t mentioned up front about the upgrade is that if you are upgrading from XP you are doing a full system install. This means that you will have to reinstall all of your old programs so hopefully you have all of your disks.

Installation from Vista took over 2 hours but was relatively simple. I had to enter some information for the first ten minutes and then was able to leave the computer to itself. If you’re using XP the actual installation will likely be quicker but reinstalling all of your old programs may take considerable time depending on how many programs you had installed.
Windows 7 is attractive and runs fast. It uses less system resources than Windows Vista so your computer itself should run better. There isn’t a big difference between Vista and Windows 7, so I’m not sure if it’s worth the the money but I didn’t have a problem with Vista to begin with.  From everything that I have read though, Windows 7 eliminates the annoyances that have prevented Windows XP users from switching to Vista, namely program compatibility and an annoyance problem with constantly asking for permission to do stuff.

If you’re still running XP, Windows 7 is a big upgrade and I believe that you’ll be very pleased with the new look and function of the programs.  It will take some time adjusting to new things but is worth it in the end.


As I’ve been preparing devotions for the month of November, I’m working on the subject of thanksgiving.  Something that has struck me is how my prayers often don’t reflect an attitude of thanksgiving that all Christians should have.  So I’m going to practice what I preach.  I suggested in the devotions to list one thing for every letter of the alphabet that we’re thankful for.  It can be big or small, simple or great.  I’m writing my own list and including it here so everyone can see what I’m thankful for and so that I can work through the exercise just as I suggested other people do.

  • Apples
  • Birds
  • Computers
  • Dishwashers
  • Eggs
  • Fall leaves
  • Grace
  • H2O
  • Ice cream
  • Justice
  • Kindness
  • Love
  • Marriage
  • New things
  • Orange juice
  • Progress
  • Quiet
  • Righteousness
  • Salvation
  • Turkey
  • Umbrellas
  • Vehicles
  • Worship
  • X-rays
  • Yoga on Wii Fit
  • Zebras

Debt Collectors

I’m a big believer in paying bills on time.  In my years of paying bills I’ve only been late on one payment and somehow didn’t realize that I didn’t send in a payment one month.  As much as possible I don’t even carry a month to month balance on my credit card so that I don’t pay interest on it.

So this makes calls from debt collectors all the more annoying to me.  I’ve had my current phone number almost two years now and apparently at least two people who had it before me didn’t like to pay their bills and I keep getting calls from debt collectors for them.

At first I answered these calls to tell the companies that they had the wrong number and to take my phone number out of their system.  One company I had to tell six times before they finally got the message.  Lately though I’ve been just getting a recording, instructing me to call them back at their 800 number. 

I’m not taking my time to call back about a debt that I don’t owe and waste my time on hold, all so the company can call me again the next day because they never bothered to remove my phone number from their system.

All consumers have rights.  Debt collectors may only call during certain hours of the day.  They may not call at work without permission.  They may not make threats or use abusive language.  They must identify their company and explain that they are attempting to collect a debt.  Unfortunately many debt collectors don’t follow these rules.

Fortunately you can report such thugs to the FTC.  http://www.ftc.gov explains all of the that collectors must follow.  If a debt collector has broken any of these rules you may report them to the FTC.

First, Google the phone number that the debt collector called from or search www.whitepages.com to find the company name.  After you have found as much information as you can about the company, go to www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov to report them to the government.  You won’t receive anything in compensation for your annoyance by these companies but the government will investigate their practices and fine them if they have been breaking the law.

Long Term Goals

This year I have launched several new websites – I’ve honestly lost count but I think there might be 14 – under the Spreading Light Ministries umbrella.  As the year winds down I will probably be doing less expansion and more maintenance.  I’m sure that I’ll have a great idea sometime in the middle of the night and that will spawn a few more sites but for the most part I think I’m going to slow down on new sites.

There are all sorts of things that I have to add to current sites however and this will continue.  I literally have a to do list that goes back to 2005 that I have not completed everything on.  So there’s plenty left to add.

At the top of my priority list is the completion of eight more months of devotions.  I hope to be able to do one month’s worth every month until I have the entire year set.  This was my goal last year too but I have more time to devote to not just devotions but all of my web projects now.

Next on the list is more theological definitions.  This is a long term goal and I don’t think that I’d ever run out of things to write if I chose to keep adding definitions.  What I am still debating is whether to keep the dictionary under spreadinglight.com or to launch a new site for the definitions.  There are advantages to both and I haven’t fully decided what I’m doing yet.  One thing that I am sure of is that the design will be different from the current Spreading Light design and more like the newest sites in form and function.  It’s a cookie cutter design but I’ve really come to like it and it makes it easy to launch a new site.

Third on my priority list is additions to the Bible studies.  I’m always interested in adding more Bible studies as they have had good success on the site.  Now my goal is to have at least one study for every book of the Bible.  This will obviously take a very long time if I write them all myself.  I hope to post a study on the Gospel of John in late winter/early spring when I finish preaching through it.  I also have a study on Malachi that I’ve done before that I may be able to post before John, it depends on how my schedule works out.

So those are the long term plans.  They’re all subject to change of course but that’s how I see things working on currently.  I will be making regular posts here about any new projects that are going on.  For now I’m going to work on some devotions for the month of November.