Friday, October 14, 2016

Faith in the Blood of Jesus

I read an article that got "the gears of my mind” turning. It mentioned putting "faith in the blood of Jesus," a phrase loosely based on Romans 3:25. (It never ceases to amaze me how I can read a particular scripture, any scripture, over and over again, and yet in a split moment have a lightbulb turn on that never turned on before.)

We all know we should put faith in God and in Jesus. But how in the world do we put faith in the BLOOD of Jesus? That phrase seems to carry a significantly different meaning. So I began to reflect if there was ever a time before where people had to put (or demonstrate) faith in the value of blood. As I researched different websites, one in particular extended the phrase "put faith in the blood of Jesus" to include the words "through actions." Then the lightbulb turned on. The Israelites preparing to exit Egypt were told to splatter blood on their doorposts. Those that put faith in that instruction and acted on it, were spared the life of their firstborn. Those that did not obey lost the life of their firstborn.

For the early Christian congregations, who were predominantly offspring of Abraham, they were under command to remember their deliverance from Egypt in a commemoration known as the Passover. For them to accept that "The Law" (handed down from God through Moses) and related Jewish customs were no longer needed, was a huge issue. Yet Paul mentioned that it was a necessary transformation. At Galatians 3:13 Paul reasons that we must now put faith in Christ, that is, that Christ purchased us (through his sacrificial blood) and thus released Christian converts "from the curse of the Law."

But faith in the blood of Jesus goes beyond removal of a curse. It was a huge breath of fresh air, a "new covenant," just as prophesied at Jer 31:31-34. This will help obedient ones appreciate that true loyalty to God goes beyond perfunctory observations of rituals. It is something deep in the heart of a sincere person. It is no longer "I'm required to obey," but rather "I desire to, I want to obey." God becomes more than some unseen, distant entity. He now becomes "Abba, Father." Romans 8:15-17

So for the early converts to Christianity, putting faith in the blood of Jesus (at least in part) came down to accepting that works of the Mosaic Law would not win them approval with our Creator. Back then, as well as today, trust that his Son, Jesus Christ, provides the ransom and the scriptural instruction we need to live a truly godly life is what is paramount for all to realize.

(I do not intend this essay to be an exhaustive consideration of the meaning of our putting “faith in the blood of Jesus.” The intent here was to provide a snippet of thought in appreciation that putting faith in anything requires demonstrable action.)

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Good Bye Good Riddance Samsung

Before I start my article, I want to say I didn’t have any issue with the original Note 7 I owned nor with its replacement, which I still own. The one and only reason I returned the original was because my wife kept urging me to return it. At one point (regarding the original) she said to me: “How many warnings do you need!? The news media is saying to ditch it; Samsung has told everyone to immediately power it down and return it; your carrier has sent you texts along that line; even governmental agencies are urging people to get rid of it.”

My main reason for keeping it isn’t (wasn’t) customer loyalty. Although I’ve been a user of Samsung products for at very least six years now (in fact, presently I own the Note Pro 12.2 (tablet) and my wife (under my guidance) has the S5 and the Galaxy Tab S2 (tablet)), my main reason was that I hate all the fallout of having to reconfigure, reinstall, re-customize my phone. I have around 200 apps and it takes days to get my CLIP (Communications, Life-Management, Information Portal) (aka phone) back in working order.

Now, Samsung claimed that the issue was the battery in the original Note 7. From the burn patterns on the replacement Note 7’s, it also appears to be battery related. However, one anonymous commenter on one of the many phone-focused websites I read, boisterously insisted it was never the battery in the first place. He (she) claimed it was actually the circuitry inside the phone that was supposed to control the battery’s charging. Whether or not this is true, I don’t know. One thing I am certain of, this is not the first Note-series device that Samsung has made. Most of the technology already existed in the S7 and S7-Edge. There is nothing significantly different about the S7 and the Note 7. Not even the IRIS scanner nor the S-Pen and related software BECAUSE they are inconsequential in considering the issue of burning devices.

Besides the technical issues then, what else went wrong here. Most likely it was Samsung’s greed to be first to market, before the release of the iPhone7. They rushed production, probably including sub-par components made with sub-par standards. (I have no proof of this claim, it is just a conclusion based, again, on the fact that this was the 6th iteration of the Note-series device and that it essentially contains the innards and “design language” of the S7-Edge.) The Note 7’s failure is what happens when profit and ego overshadow quality manufacturing and good reputation.

So where do I personally go from here? Samsung has seriously, negatively, and permanently affected my trust in them. And it is not based solely on this event. First, Samsung was criticized for dropping the Action Memo app from the Note 7. It was probably the singularly most useful app that Samsung has ever made. Samsung promised to bring it back toward the end of September 2016. It is now mid October 2016 and it was NOT deployed. They lied. Second, the COO and President of Samsung Electronics America said that Samsung planned on regaining their loyal base “through a series of unprecedented actions.” The only unprecedented actions I’ve seen so far are 1) deploying a second round of defective devices, 2) initial denial of the 2nd issue (they’ve since acknowledged it), 3) no compensation for the trouble they’ve caused beyond a refund. What compensation?

My time is way too valuable to have to constantly be replacing phones. In a mere two months I have gone from the Note 3 to the Note 7, to an interim S7-Edge, to a replacement Note 7. In each case I had numerous hiccups with software issues. Samsung’s Smart Switch app is a piece of junk.

So I’ve noticed in the past several years, after just now reflecting on my experiences, that I’m actually fed up with Samsung. Year after year they have disappointed me. At present, I am waiting on the LG V20 to arrive (sometime this month). I am seriously thinking of buying it even though I love Samsung’s display. I am one of the few that actually love Samsung’s Android overlay (TouchWiz). But I can no longer tolerate Samsung’s ignoring the customers, poor customer service, and now catastrophic failure of the flagship device. Another reason that I am seriously considering ditching the replacement Note 7 is that neither Samsung nor the carriers will probably give any support for fixes, security updates, or OS upgrades to the Note 7 seeing as it is technically an abandoned, orphaned device. (In my experience, even with supported devices, Samsung typically only provides upgrades for one year. Why? Even Apple and Microsoft provide updates for the life of the device. Clearly Samsung has never really cared about customer support.)

Since I am no one of any consequence to Samsung, I don’t expect any attempt on their part to win me back. That’s fine.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Samsung Note 7 Replacement Fiasco

Monday, 9/12/2016

Note 7 originally purchased from: Best Buy
Carrier: AT&T

9:30AM: While waiting for Best Buy to open, I re-read the email they sent that mentioned 3 options: 1) Be put on replacement list (no mention of a temporary replacement phone), 2) Get the Samsung Galaxy S7 or S7 Edge and accept that as a permanent replacement, 3) Get a full refund. However, their updated website (linked within email) completely removed option 1.

10AM: Walked into store and asked to hear the clerk’s understanding of the situation. She mentioned options 2 & 3. I asked why option 1 was no longer available. The answer was that they were being told that it may be up to 6 months before Samsung could be able to re-supply non-defective phones. Best Buy didn’t want to be left “holding the bag” that long.

10:30AM Drove over to the AT&T store and asked them what policy they are using. They said I could get the S7 or S7 Edge as a “temporary” replacement. AT&T personnel were told it may be anywhere from 2 weeks until some unknown future time before working Note 7 devices were available. I was told that to avoid upgrade charges and plan changes, I would have to pay for the phone outright. Between what I spent on the Note 7 and the potential cost of the S7, that would be nearly two thousand dollars until the refund on the Note 7 came back. I left the store to have time to think. I drove over to talk to a friend who also is facing having to replace his Note 7. He said he spoke to his carrier and to Samsung through the special 800 number that was setup to handle the issue. Samsung told him to deal with his carrier. His carrier (not AT&T) didn’t have the same options.

11:00AM: Drove back to AT&T and bought the S7 Edge outright. Tried to transfer (phone to phone via cable) my apps, but not all came over. Samsung's transfer app is NOT as good as claimed by others. (It took me 3 days to completely setup the Note 7 when I originally transferred from the Note 3 a few weeks ago). Samsung absolutely has shot themselves over and over again in the foot over this debacle.

12:00PM: Drove to Best Buy and returned Note 7. For some odd reason, even though I bought it on my credit card, they weren’t able to refund the whole amount to the card. I had to take over $100 on a gift card. I tried to merely cash out the gift card -- not allowed. I spoke to store manager and explained situation. He chopped up the large gift card in smaller $10 cards and then cashed them out. What an absolute fiasco! All this because of their policy not to cash out gift cards. I didn’t want any of it on a gift card in the first place.

Because I decided to do things the way I did, I did not qualify for the $25.00 apology gift from Samsung. That’s okay, Samsung. I will never forget this. If it weren’t that nobody had the Asus Zenphone 3, the Honor 8, or the One Plus 3, I would not still be a customer of yours. Do not ever expect me to be a customer of yours again. Do not expect I will have any kind words for you. If anyone asks, I will absolutely advise against buying Samsung products. They are overpriced, over-hyped, and not worth the hassles. Although Best Buy also holds some accountability here with their anti-customer policy about cashing out gift cards or even refusing to reimburse the whole amount to my credit card, I hold Samsung responsible for this whole event because if it weren't for their shipping defective phones in the first place, none of these other issues would have come up.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Matthew 18:23-35 Debts and Forgiveness

Regarding Matthew 18:23-35, I have heard many monetary conversion rates to help us appreciate the debt the unforgiving slave had in comparison to his peer. But probably the absolute best reasoning point I’ve ever heard that not only drives home the point in a timeless way, but is easy to grasp is the following.

Quoting from the Insight on Scriptures, vol.1, starting on page 1179, published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, under the heading “Illustrations,” we read: “A denarius equaled a day’s wages; so 100 denarii, the smaller debt, equaled approximately one third of a year’s wages. Ten thousand silver talents, the larger debt, equaled 60 million denarii, or wages that would require thousands of lifetimes to accumulate.”

To expand on the above, according to Matthew 20:10, a denarius (singular for denarii) was equal to a single day’s wage in the times when Jesus walked the earth. A drachma is also equal to one day’s wage. (We need this information to continue with equation.) A single mina is worth 100 drachmas. And a single talent is worth 60 minas. We need to break that back down now to determine the difference between a denarius and a talent. 100 (drachmas) times 60 minas is 6,000 denarii. But the unforgiving slave did not owe his ruler merely 1 talent. He owed 10,000. That is 60 million denarii. If a denarius is one day’s wages, then the slave owed 60 million days. If an average working life is about 60 years, that equates to 21,900 days. So that slave would have to live and die 2,739 lifetimes before being able to pay his debt and that doesn’t even count the debt he would incur during each subsequent life.

But how in world could any man amass such debt? Again, this was an illustration that Jesus made. In the book of Psalms we discover a point that makes Jesus illustration very plain. In Psalm 49:7-9 we discover that we are incapable of redeeming our sinful lives. If it weren’t for God’s willingness to forgive us through the value of Christ’s ransom sacrifice, we would indeed be as hopeless as the unforgiving slave. Yes, God forgave us all what he considers to be a huge debt. Since that is so, would any of dare to anger God by not being forgiving to our fellow man, even if what they owed us was a mere single lifetime!?

Anxious vs Eager Matthew 6

God knows we not only have needs but also legitimate concern to acquire them. Nothing wrong with that. What is unhealthy is anxiety which can lead to lack of trust in our Creator, God of all things, and the one calling himself our "Father." Think for a moment about the title “Father.” Although many men today fall very short of the strength of character and yet tenderly gentle man that “father” should evoke, that is indeed the image scripture paints of our creator. To a child with such a father, there is no need for fear, anxiety, uncertainty. Although a small child may hide behind his father if something frightens him, the fact that he chose his father instead of running demonstrates his trust in this father’s ability to protect him.

In my mind, there has always been a distinct difference between being anxious and eager. Eager is like a small child beaming with joy for the ice cream cone they are about to receive. Anxiety (anxiousness) is the joy-robbing fear the child has that the ice cream will fall off the cone or melt before he eats it. Just as a loving parent tries to assure and comfort their child when things go wrong, we likewise have a Father of tender mercies and therefore don’t need to be anxious that God doesn't care or that he will not fulfill his promises to us. We can eagerly expect to receive his care and the promises his has made.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Focused On Our Purpose

To the Corinthians, Paul wrote: “"The way I am running is not aimlessly; the way I am aiming my blows is so as not to be striking the air." (1 Corinthians 9:26, other translations) This is a good reminder to all who feel compelled to preach the Word of God.

True faith was never meant to be a battle of wit and words. To those who accept God's Word as Truth, it is a real beacon to guide them to safe shores. To those that reject it, they remain adrift in tumultuous waters. Our efforts to save those who are "at sea," is to encourage them to let us help them. But what of those that adamantly argue things are not the way we claim? Spending time arguing or debating with them is time wasted that could be more productively spent on those ready and willing to be rescued. But what of the arguers that "keep getting in our face"? They seem to fall into three categories.

The first are those whose only intent is to disrupt and distract. The second are those who honestly feel we are the ones who need saving. (These baffle me because they honestly feel they have something better when it is obvious they don't.) The final group that comes to mind is one that just needs more gentle but firm convincing.

In some ways and to some extent, I fell into both the first and third groups when I first encountered the Witnesses. Now, looking back, I am glad I found a patient and insightful man that saw past my argumentative and arrogant demeanor. When I adamantly would assert that the scripture he was teaching didn't mean what he claimed, he'd ask me what I felt it meant. Then he would patiently reason with me. After a while, rather than offer his thoughts first, he'd have me read a passage and then ask what it meant to me. I was surprised how often I said exactly what the scripture intended. Then, when he would reference the JW material, I had no recourse but to agree it was right. (On occasions when I wasn't correct, he would have me read a few more scriptures and then ask me to tie them altogether.) But he never ever argued with me. If I became obstinate, he would kindly ask me to think about it, pray and research. There were so many fine qualities of this man that I need to remind myself of and strive to imitate.

But for the purpose of this article, I have two points to make. First, debating is fruitless and frustrating. Free Will allows others to have a viewpoint that differs from ours. Second, it’s not our place to judge the intent or motives of others. God is judge of all. Our obligation is to fulfill the preaching commission Jesus gave us. Yes, there are times when we need to use "the sword" to overturn wrong teachings, but that is not license to be unkind. What we are destroying are falsehoods, not people.

What Color Is This?

Perhaps you remember the controversy around the “what color is this dress?” internet post. Each camp claimed their perception of the dress was the correct one and could not understand how others did not see what they saw. The same can be said for anything that one group of people insist is right, while another (just as adamantly) claims differently. 

The truth of the matter with the dress is seeing it in natural light, in “real life” (so to speak). However, with regards the matter of faith and religion, the final truth of the matter will only be inarguably clear when God Himself steps in and “separates the sheep from the goats.” (In my personal opinion, the truth of those who are real Christians ought to be apparent by, as Jesus himself put it, “their fruits.” But it seems in todays’ world, Satan has managed to becloud and distort the view of people so badly, that they are truly blind in a spiritual sense.)