Friday, September 26, 2014

The "expulsive power of a new affection"

Iain Duguid is a new Old Testament professor at Westminster Theological Seminary. The school has released a pamphlet written by Duguid, that clarifies the WTS position on Christ in the OT. The reading below is an excerpt from this pamphlet, "Is Jesus in the Old Testament?" and deals with truth that the Gospel addresses our failures to live as we ought.

How do we address this gap between what we know and what we do? Sermons and Bible studies that focus on "law" (the demands of Scripture for our obedience), no matter how accurately biblical in content, tend to simply add to the burden of guilt felt by the average Christian. A friend of mine calls these sermons "another brick in the backpack"--you arrive at church knowing five ways in which you are falling short of God's standard for your life, and you leave knowing ten, doubly burdened.

In my experience such teaching yields little by way of life transformation, especially in terms of the joy and peace that are supposed to mark the Christian life. Focusing on the gospel, however, has the power to change our lives at a deep level. Through the gospel we come to see both the true depth of our sin (and therefore that our earlier feelings of guilt were actually far too shallow), while at the same time being reminded of the glorious good news that Jesus is our perfect substitute who removes our sin and guilt. He lived the life of obedience in our place and fulfilled the relentless clamor of the law's demands, and he took upon himself the awful punishment that our sin truly deserves. As the Holy Spirit enables us to grasp this gospel reality, he frees us from our guilt and refreshes us with a deep joy that motivates our hearts to love God anew. In this way, the gospel begins the slow transformative work of changing us from the inside out. This is what the nineteenth-century Scottish pastor Thomas Chalmers called the "expulsive power of a new affection": the fact that profound change in our behavior always comes through a change in what we love most, not through external coercion.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Open Office Styles

Regarding Open Office and learning how to use it: if you already know how to use the basic functions of word processing in Open Office, there is one feature you should invest two or three hours learning, and learning well. That feature is Styles. There are character styles, paragraph styles, frame styles, page styles, and list styles. A style is like a pre-defined template which guides how your words go on the page, and sets things like tabs, line spacing, indents, italics, etc. If you don't know how to use styles you'll find yourself fighting against your computer rather than working with it--very frustrating. Sometimes with a few keystrokes you wind up inadvertantly changing the look of your entire document.

This explains why I have no hair. I did not know how to use styles and I was bumping into the power of the word processor without knowing what I was doing. Sort of like sticking your tongue in a light socket.

 Both Open Office and Word have styles. Once you learn how to use them properly, they are extremely powerful and very helpful. But until you learn to use them, it would be best to keep hammers, guns, and bricks in a separate room from your computer.

Invest the time. Read the helps. Play with a test document. Learn to use the styles. Especially learn what the "autoupdate" feature does. I can now change my plain-vanilla text manuscript into a highly formatted print-on-demand book in a couple of frustration-free hours, because of styles. Learn to use 'em - they're your friend.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Microsoft Office versus OpenOffice

Just had an outstanding illustration of why I abandoned MS Office a long time ago, and have never looked back and never regretted it. Spent five minutes just trying to figure out how to reveal hidden characters. Back when MS Office was a decent product, it was easy to find. But when MS began changing the user interface with each major release (sometimes radically changing it), the learning curve became simply ridiculous--and that was just to relearn stuff you already knew how to do.

Anyway, I have written countless sermons, four novels, and one non-fiction using OpenOffice. I have installed numerous major upgrades over the years, and not one time did I have to relearn the user interface--not once.

I was a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer, and an IT director at a graduate school, so I'm not exactly a newbie. But when MS started yanking around their customer base, I jumped ship. Have never regretted it.

OpenOffice is free, it's reliable, it's well-maintained, and it's user interface is stable. Once you invest the time to learn it (it's much like Word used to be), you will never have to make that investment again.

Okay, just needed to rant a little. I'm done. You can go back to searching your ribbon for stuff you used to know exactly where to find (while I return to my productivity).