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Showing posts from January, 2007

Devotional Thoughts: S.D.G.

Am looking at 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12.

With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith. We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

This prayer follows Paul's thoughts earlier in 2 Thessalonians 1:1-10. I blogged about my reactions to verses 3-10.

In brief, Paul gave the Thessalonian believers some encouragement about how the sufferings they have experienced has not gone unnoticed by God and that those who persecuted them will be judged someday. It is in this context that Paul launches into a prayer for them.

Worthy of his calling strikes me. On one hand, there is no way I'm worthy of his calling in the sense I know I am, simply put, nothing more than a sinner saved by grace. On the other God has called me out of my old life…

News: New Yorker Article on Adam Gadahn

Fascinating reading the story of how Gadahn went from typical middle class life to being part of Al Qaeda.

Anyway, I heard about the article because Hugh Hewitt interviewed Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason about how he felt being mentioned in the New Yorker article.

The paragraph:Gadahn wrote of a yawning emptiness, and he sought ways “to fill that void.” He began scrolling through AOL’s religion folders on the Internet and tuning to Christian programming on the radio. That summer, he attended several Christian lectures and events, including one led by Gregory Koukl, an evangelical talk-show host who argues against religious pluralism. But Gadahn found evangelical Christianity’s “apocalyptic ramblings” to be “paranoid” and hollow. As he later recalled, “I began to look for something else to hold onto.”In the interview, Koukl and Hewitt felt the writer was a bit sloppy in how they wrote that paragraph and I'd have to agree with them.

I don't doubt that Gadahn heard some lectures whe…

Culture: 24 - 11:00 AM - 12:00 PM

The twists continue ...

Intrigue in the inner circle of the White House with Karen ousted by Tom. I wonder if Tom is tied into the coterie of plotters from last seasons mayhem?

The sources Walid was trying to get information from turn out to be web surfers and at this moment he is on the way to the hospital. I wonder if the actor will be able to talk the producers of the show to make sure his character doesn't die. Anyway, those guys got the right information (or is it really right?) but aren't part of the plot. Of course, one wonders why the plotters would leak information onto a web page that could get picked up so easily by these guys and thus by the authorities. My reality check mind would say that if information is passed along on web sites it would entail downloading a file and then decoding it to get the secret message.

Lastly, Jack meets daddy Bauer but brother Graem turns the tables on them. Of course, like all James Bond movies, they don't get killed on the s…

Theology: Robert Morgan and the Quest for the Historic Jesus

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Every Christmas and Easter and with the huge splash of the DaVinci Code book and movie, the subject of "Who was Jesus really?" comes up in the popular media. I'm also currently reading N.T. Wright's book "The Challenge of Jesus: Rediscovering Who Jesus Was and Is."



Thus, a little while back, I went to Fuller Theological Seminary to meet up with Nick to hear Robert Morgan of Linacre College of Oxford University talk about his views on the Quest.

I'm a molecular biologist not a historian nor a New Testament scholar so I couldn't always follow what Morgan was talking about. What follows are some of my notes from that evening's presentation. If you are an expert in the field, I'd welcome corrections, clarifications and comments!

Morgan, being from the UK, spoke with the stereotypical British understated humor. Additionally, though obviously opinionated (most academics are!), he was very gracious during the talk and in Q/A when he commented on…

Elsewhere: Neat stuff in the blogsphere

I'm slowly entering the 21st century. I've set up a blog news feed through Bloglines.com.

So what are some neat things I've seen lately?

YS Marko shared a cool Youtube.com video with the title, "Free Hugs."



What did you think of the video? Be sure to read the blurb at Youtube for the backstory of the video.

Skyepuppy shares a news item about a woman who beat the tar out of a mountain lion to save her husband. NEVER go into the wilderness alone!

The D'Elia's have moved to Narnia ... well, actually London. I once did the call to worship reading during a service he preached at. After the service, for some reason we started talking about the band Katrina and the Waves! Also, one summer I served alongside his wife with the pre-schoolers at Sunday church. Look forward to checking in on their adventures in the days ahead.

Nick is thinking about the balance between art, the word and sacrament in corporate worship.

We've all heard the "professionals&qu…

Life: Does God "talk" to me?

Came across this item by Ben Witherington.

Here is an excerpt:Samuel heard it and mistook it for the voice of the priest. It was an audible voice, just like a human voice (1 Sam. 3). Moses heard it too. Elijah had to go all the way to Mt. Horeb to hear it, and then it came in a still whisper. Jesus heard it at his baptism in a vision and so did Paul, and we could go on. Throughout the history of God's people and even unto today people have been hearing God's voice. What characterizes most, if not all these direct communications (without aid of cellphone) is that they are brief and direct, and often they involve the direct calling by name of the human being involved.

One of the reasons this phenomenon interests me so much is that it happened to me - once and only once.Witherington then went on to share his experience as well as an experience described in a book he read.

I have to say, I have not had a similar experience.

So does God talk to me?

Witherington writes:I haven't hear…

World: A sign of the times we live in ...

Am a classical music fan. I check out LA Phil.com now and then to see what is coming up.

I saw this item on the front page:PARKING ADVISORY: Israel Philharmonic Parking will NOT be available at Walt Disney Concert Hall for the concerts on Feb 5 and Feb 6.For those of you who don't know, there is a large underground parking lot at Walt Disney Hall. Many people park there and take the escalators or stairs up to the concert hall. Others who don't mind a little walk park in the DWP outdoor lot a couple blocks away.

It is sad to know that we live in a world where this kind of caution is required.

Devotional Thoughts: Balancing the scales of justice

Taking a look at 2 Thessalonians 1:3-10 tonight.

We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing. Therefore, among God's churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.

There are places in the world today where being a follower of Jesus is not the safe thing to do. Yet, these believers persevere. We need to thank God for them and pray that their faith which really can cost them a lot would keep growing.

UPDATE: Diane at Crossroads is wondering if persecution might be around the corner in America?

I wonder what kinds of challenges did the Thessalonians face during their life times?

We know from Acts 17 that Paul faced opposition such that he and Silas fled to Berea. Those same opponents went to Berea to caused trouble such that Paul had to flee from there as well. One would suppose that even with Paul …

Sports: Go Eaters! Go Bruins!

Alright Anteaters!!

UC Irvine upsets the Beach, the top dog of the Big West!

Bruins beat Bears!!

Bruins get the road win and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute is back!

Travel: A few days on the central coast of California

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I recently had the chance to take a few days off and decided to escape from the city!

Day 1

Me and my buddy left LA after work and settled into the Quality Inn in Lompoc.

Day 2

The next morning, we headed off to Gainey Vineyard which was recommended by Professor Bainbridge.



The winery offers a guided tour of the grounds and some of the facilities. It is a nice little boutique winery.



We then went to Los Olivos. It is a cute little town with a one street commercial area. We had lunch at Panino. The more famous locale is Los Olivos Cafe popularized by the movie Sideways. However, we weren't quite willing to part with that much cash just for lunch. Panino offers up good but affordable salads and sandwiches.



We then headed up to the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail and visited Zaca Mesa. Their wine tasting facility was a bit larger than Gainey. Zaca Mesa was recommended by Bainbridge as well as two of my co-workers.



To finish off our wine tour, we decided to visit one of the big corporate wine…

Culture: Next up, Tannhauser

Opera is one the most compelling and captivating of all the performing arts. It is essentially a dramatic work that is primarily sung, is accompanied by an orchestra, and is presented on the stage. Opera, however, with its lavish spectacle, high drama and visual and aural treasures, is much more than that. No other art form combines such disparate elements – singing, acting, lighting, design, orchestra, movement and dance into such a seamless whole. It engages our minds, captures our hearts and releases our imaginations.

The combination of words and music can, at its best, let us experience things about human character, feelings, moods and motivations that music and words, on their own, are powerless to express. It is like a window into the soul of a character. It is no wonder that no other art form inspires such passion in its audience and participants.The above item is from the Opera Basics tab of the LA Opera web page.

A few years back, I set the goal of attending one opera per seas…

Life: The Great Sin

Have been reading C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity.

The other day, came across the chapter with the title, "The Great Sin."

What do you think is the greatest sin?

Quoting Lewis:I now come to that part of Christian morals where they differ most sharply from all other morals. There is one vice of which no man in the world is free; which every one in the world loathes when he sees it in someone else; and of which hardly any people, except Christians, ever imagine that they are guilty themselves. I have heard people admit that they are bad-tempered, or that they cannot keep their heads about girls or drink, or even that they are cowards.
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The vice I am talking of is Pride or Self-Conceit: and the virtue opposite to it, in Christian morals, is called Humility.
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It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest.

[ed. note - Lewis then gives example of how pride works in day-to-day life in men trying to get the girl, the pursuit of money, …

Culture: 24 - the following takes place between 10:00 AM and 11:00 AM

Be sure to check out Dave Barry's summary!

The pace has definitely slowed after the frantic first four hours.

Implausibility alert: I dunno if the guys in the detention center would know as much as they appear to know. One would think for such plots only a select few would know details like the existence of 5 suitcase nukes! Lower level operatives with that kind of information would have too much temptation to blab... which is what is happening here!

Shocker alerts: we find out there is a Bauer brother and father and they are also in the business.

Devotional Thoughts: Doing Church

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Am looking at 2 Thessalonians 1:1-2 this morning.

Paul, Silas and Timothy,
To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
Grace and peace to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Scholars suggest that 2 Thessalonians was written shortly after 1 Thessalonians probably in response to the latest report Paul received from the church in regards to confusion about what happens to Christians who had died and "the day of the Lord" which he touched on in 1 Thessalonians 4-5. Paul will get to that right after this greeting.

But for the moment, I just want to reflect on the greeting.

Church. What is it today? What was it like back then?

The other day I was web surfing and I came across this item which is links to a series of articles about what we know of the early church. Unfortunately, one can only read excerpts of the articles unless you have a subscription. More searching yielded this item which is a full article not requiring a subscripti…

Non-profit of the month: January 2007 - Flight 93 National Memorial

In youth group this morning, our speaker shared about the intersection of remembering, forgetting and anticipation.

We need to remember the past because we need to be grateful for the good that has happened.

We need to forget the past not in the sense we deny it ever happened but some aspects of our past need to be forgotten because we don't want those things to define who we are today and into the future.

We need to anticipate the future because a life with nothing to look forward to is a sad life.

No doubt about it, it was a message we all needed to hear given some of the things that have happened in our church.

If life is to have meaning beyond mere existence, then one must reflect. In Christ, we have the benefit of a God whose blessings inspire our gratitude and whose grace can make sadness meaningful.

For the afternoon, my mind took a turn toward remembering a national moment, I watched the DVD of United 93.

When the film came out, many people said it was too soon.

I went to see …

Religion: Some thoughts on Islam and the Koran

Almost a year and a half ago, I had the chance to hear Jay Smith give an overview on Islam and I posted about that lecture.

This blog item gets found a few times a month and I'm really curious who is reading it.

Is it Christians who hear about Jay Smith and want to know more? Or is it Muslims wondering who this guy is who likes to debate Muslims?

Recently, that blog post got a comment!

I'm always happy to receive comments as long as they are on point and respectful. Indeed, reader George wrote in such manner the following:I saw Jay Smith speaking a while ago. As an atheist student in London, reading Islamic studies, I would be interested to know what your reaction to what he had to say was. How accurately you think he represented the Qur'an, for example. You raised doubts about his characterising religious behaviour in terms of radical/liberal/nominal depending on reading of the text, could you elaborate on this perhaps. Finally, where do you see al-Qaeda fitting into wor…

Sports: UCLA vs. ASU

The Pac10 is very competitive. UCLA is 4-1 in conference play. 3 of the games were decided by 3 points or less. They could just as easily be 2-3 right now.

Tonight, they are playing ASU.

The Sun Devils have been playing zone and giving the Bruins trouble. In fact, the Bruins were down by 11!

UCLA eventually rallied to catch up. Finally in the 2nd half of the 2nd half, they have seized the lead firmly.

With 2:24 left, the Bruins lead 57-48.

Around the league, Oregon beat Stanford. Oregon State and Cal are in a close one as is USC and Arizona.

UPDATE: Its a final, UCLA 60 ASU 50. The Cal Bears down the Oregon State Beavers. USC defeats Arizona! USC is for real. They got athletes and they got some sharp shooters.

UPDATE: The habit of slow starts for UCLA is worrisome. It is one thing to fall down by 11 to a bottom feeder in your conference but it will be another to fall behind the top level programs. ASU used the zone and I would imagine anyone playing UCLA will use it because …

Theology: the Search for Jesus

I came across this blog post by Mark Goodacre. Excerpt:Here are my summary reasons as to why the Historical Jesus Quest is such a massive task:

(1) So much data is missing, e.g. there is so little on Jesus’ life before 30.

(2) The data we do have is highly prejudiced, mainly pro-Christian propaganda.

(3) The sources we have are disputed -- different scholars value the sources differently

(4) The sources are sometimes contradictory and difficult to interpret.

(5) Our distance from the data is so great - we read our own prejudices into the texts.

(6) And now there is so much secondary literature available that it is difficult to navigate our way through it all.

(7) Jesus is a figure in whom so many have a stake, and the quest is often controversial.

I will go on to tell the students, though, that the news is not all bad. We are actually surprisingly well informed about Jesus compared to many other figures from the ancient world.

[ed. note - emphasis mine]
In the final analysis, I suppos…

Devotional Thoughts: Etc.

Call me an oddball but I'm kind of fascinated by how the New Testament letters come to a conclusion. This is kind of the place where the writer tosses out a few last thoughts to encourage and challenge the readers.

1 Thessalonians 5:23-28 brings the letter to a close.

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.

Sanctify. Not a commonly used word outside of religious circles! Check out the dictionary for its meaning. Excerpt:1 : to set apart to a sacred purpose or to religious use : CONSECRATEImagine that? You and I, when we become part of God's family, are set apart for a sacred purpose!

You might have heard of Rick Warren and his book the Purpose Driven Life?

I read his book a couple of years ago. He believes the five purposes of our lives are: worship (relationship with God), discipleship (living in a …

Culture: 24 - 9:00 am to 10:00 am

Oh my, they killed off Curtis. I had a bad feeling about that situation. They kept hinting there was a personal connection to Assad.

As for the suitcase nuke ...

I guess the reality check is that a device like that would be hard to maintain in good working condition. Laptops have to make all the components of a desktop computer fit into a small package. Imagine all the gadgetry that makes a nuclear device and having to make it small enough to fit in a suitcase. One would figure one or two faulty parts and the thing wouldn't work.

Given that the terrorists had to jury rig one of the parts to arm one of the suitcases, one wonders how they are able to jury rig four more!

Nonetheless, the fear of a small nuclear device is an ongoing story line I'm sure in real life counter terrorist operations. It would probably be hard to build one from scratch but buying one... one wonders if that might happen?

Tom Clancy explored the nuke scenario in Sum of All Fears.

Culture: 24 - 8am to 9am

In the previously, I was reminded that Jack kicked the suicide bomber out the window of the subway train. Hmm, my guess is that subway train windows are pretty hard to break. Ah, those little reality checks!

Anyway, where are they going tonight?

Is that component in the wall for a nuclear device?

UPDATE: Yup, it is a suitcase nuke. Also, the bad guys got their nuke engineer out through an inside job. You got to wonder how many people MIS-counted the prisoners! Hey, its entertaining television anyway!

Culture: 24 - the following takes place between 7am and 8am

Interesting character development with Jack's doubts about his ability to keep doing what he is doing.

Place your bets on which secondary characters will turn out to be major players later on in the season?

Will there be a mole in the White House? Will there be a mole at CTU?

And what is in the box the kid recovered from the wall of his house?

Stay tuned!

Episode reality check?

If you were POTUS, would you mount a missile attack by helicopter on a house in the middle of the city?

I suppose if the intelligence is very solid, one would take that risk. But in the story, how good was the tip they had?

They gave the informant everything they wanted and he could have given them a bad tip. I would think CTU would have wanted another source on the target and some way of confirming the target was at said location.

Culture: 24 - the following takes place between 6am and 7am

24 starts up again for season 6!

As for the threat this time, it is terrorists attacking everyday locations around the country.

They are off to a great start with twists right off the bat and a grisly finish.

What can you say, Jack is a survivor!

For snarky and detailed recaps check out Television without Pity. They usually show up a few days after an episode is aired.

By the way, I didn't catch it, did they mention what was given to the Chinese in exchange for Jack?

A few months back, I caught a CSPAN broadcast where the key producers of 24 and a few of the actors joined real terrorism experts for a panel discussion about the television show.

UPDATE: The event was 24 and America's Image in Fighting Terrorism: Fact, Fiction, or Does it Matter?.

The experts said they loved the show because it is action packed and the actors terrific. They wished real technology described in the show really existed in terms of how fast they could figure stuff out and how well it works. They all agre…

Recipe: Carrot-Ginger Soup

One of my friends and one of my co-workers like it.

So here is what I put into my soup pot in my attempt to make this soup just in time for this cool weather we are having in Los Angeles ...

A few vigorous splashes of olive oil.
Saute ...
4 carrots, chopped
1/2 brown onion, chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
1 oz. ginger, chopped
a pinch of salt and a few dashs of black pepper

After onion and celery stalks go translucent, add 2 cups of water and bring to a boil.

Add 1T honey and lower heating to a simmer.

Simmer until carrots are tender.

Let the mix cool a bit before adding into blender to puree.

Transfer back to the soup pot and heat up to desired temperature and add 1/2 pint heavy cream and serve and enjoy!

Sports: UCLA 65 USC 64

Whew!

Oregon exposed UCLA's weaknesses: play zone on defense to force UCLA to make the outside shot and on offense take advantage of perimeter speed by spreading out the floor.

USC worked the same formula and had a 10 point lead and looked to be on its way to victory. Somehow, UCLA found a way to get just enough points despite shooting 38% from the field and 38% from 3-point land and a handful of defensive stops to steal the win.

I never bought into the UCLA #1 ranking.

How can a team that loses 3 key starters from last year's magical run be rated #1 this year?

Nonetheless, as a UCLA fan, I will root for them and hope they can make another magical run playing team ball.

On paper, there are probably a bunch of teams with better talent than UCLA but UCLA's team play on defense allows them to be competitive.

I have to wonder though if the wins on UCLA's schedule are really "quality wins?"

The "big wins" have been over Kentucky, George Tech, Texas A&M, …

World: Barnett on the new Iraq plan

Saw this item by Dean Barnett giving an angle I hadn't heard so far. If he is correct, maybe there is a little more beef to President Bush's plan.

Excerpt:The current troop level in Baghdad is only 13,000. Most of the 20,000 new troops are going to be headed to Baghdad. That means we’re going to increase our troop complement in Baghdad by roughly 150%. In other words, as regards the Battle of Baghdad, this is an enormous tactical adjustment, not a symbolic gesture.

World: Last chance for Iraq?

I caught part of President Bush's speech to the nation regarding Iraq.

Almost all the instant analysis I heard on the TV, in this case Newshour, was not hopeful. David Brooks was the most optimistic and the best he could muster was maybe we have a bit less than a 50-50 chance to pull this thing off.

The consensus was that if the Iraqis just want to fight each other than there is little the US can do about it. The reality is that the US military just isn't big enough to bring order to Iraq on its own.

There are military, economic and ideological factors in Iraq. Militarily, the US could "win" the war (send in the B-52s) but there would be no country left. Economically, the biggest concern has to be coming up with a viable oil revenue sharing plan for the various factions in Iraq. However, the question is this: let us say a fair and realistic plan for oil money sharing is drawn up ... will the Kurds, Sunni and Shia still fight each other for ideological reason?

If th…

Technology: DVD-R and DVD+R are not the same!

Learn something new everyday: not all DVD media are the same.

I bought 50 DVD+R blank media. I didn't give it a second thought as it was on sale.

I took them home and tried to backup some data onto a DVD from my Apple laptop and the computer wouldn't and spat the blank DVD back out.

A little hunting around on the Mac Help gave me this revelation about my computer: it only can work with CD-R and DVD-R type disks.

Fortunately, the Staples where I bought the disk didn't mind me bringing back an open package for store credit so I could buy some DVD-R. Alas, the pack of 25 DVD-R media cost a little more than the 50 I returned.

Oh, well.

World: Is it a war or is it law-enforcement?

I suppose at one time the American attitude on terrorists was that it was a law-enforcement matter. It would be like fighting the old style crime mobs.

Indeed, many of the tools of law-enforcement are being used to fight the terrorists.

However, clearly, it is also a war. The latest news from Somalia says it is indeed a global war against terrorists.

When you have the army of one country (Ethiopia) sending its military into another country (Somalia) to combat terrorists I think we left the realm of law-enforcement.

Also, it appears US special forces were also on the scene and when they had the chance to use an AC-130 to hit a terrorist base, they did so.

As a Christian, I am often at a loss on how to pray for these world situations.

Some chant, war is not the answer. Well, what is?

Unfortunately, if we don't fight, these people would have no hesistation to kill me where I sit.

I suppose the best analogy I've heard is from Thomas Friedman: there are dangerous people in the ba…

Culture: Apple has done it again?

Apple has entered the cell phone and television marketplace.

The iPhone is clearly the big splash and the stock market is going crazy with an 8% rise in the stock price as of 2pm PST.

Money: Asset allocation

I'm told by people who know their money talk that besides diversification (spreading your risk around by buying mutual funds) there is asset class diversification (stocks, bonds, money market and other asset categories).

Every six months or so, I make a determination about what level of risk I'm willing to accept.

During the summer of 2006, I thought it was time to up my exposure to stocks. So I set my 403b inflow to 85% stock. Turned out to be a good guess as the last half of 2006 had a nice run-up in the stock asset class.

As I sit here in the winter of 2007, I'm making a shift. I'm going down to 65% stocks.

My reasons:
(1) Economy maybe slowing down (mainly due to the housing slowdown) and if the Fed has overshot the "soft landing" the market may take a beating.
(2) World situation and domestic political factors suggest to me a bit of skitishness among the people which usual translates to sideways or even downward moving markets.
(3) Interest rates have rema…

Religion: How many types of god could there be?

Just typing off the cuff here ...

(1) God doesn't exist, i.e. atheism. Thus, all conceptions of god (listed below) are false.

(2) God exists and created the known universe but hasn't been heard from since. This sounds a lot like the deist god.

(3) God exists, created the known universe and will judge our lives at death but other than that won't be heard from until after death. Historically, this description might be applicable to some deists but I suspect some would be more in the #2 camp.

(4) God exists, created the known universe, will judge our lives at death and has made some effort to communicate.

What do you believe?

Is that belief based on reason, faith or some combination of the two?

As a Christian, I would be in catagory four. The basis for that belief would be some combination of reason and faith. Though people in catagory #1 would say people in #2-4 are engaged in faith without reason.

What do you think?

Devotional Thoughts: Day-to-day living

Some parts of the Bible are harder to understand than others. Some parts are straightforward. Am looking at 1 Thessalonians 5:12-22 today and this is one of those how you should live straightforward passages. Not always easy to live out but very clear on what is the right way to do things!

We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.

The first batch of challenges in r…

Culture: Kodak - Winds of Change (YouTube.com)

Friend sent this to me.

This is hilarious!