I’m delighted to announce this year’s range of Advent devotionals available through PrayerMate – get the lowdown on the PrayerMate blog.
What better reminder to have sitting on your desk at work that a PrayerMate “Time to pray?” mug. Or what could be a better way to focus your morning than having Philippians 4:6 ringing in your mind over breakfast?
Get your PrayerMate mug now and a small percentage of each sale will go towards helping fund future development of the app too!
I’m absolutely thrilled that last night PrayerMate won the Premier Digital “People’s Choice” Award. Of all the categories it could have been shortlisted for and ultimately went on to win, I think the People’s Choice couldn’t have been more fitting, since at the end of the day it’s PrayerMate’s wonderful community of users who, under God, are really the cause of its success – and of course who I make the app for! Thank you all so much for your support (and your votes!) and keep those feature requests and bug reports and general feedback coming!
It’s been a big year for PrayerMate, passing the 100,000 download mark, raising over £9,000 through a crowdfunding campaign, beginning the process of being translated into other languages, and now winning this award, but at its heart it remains a little app to help you pray, and my prayer is that this award simply means that it can reach, and thus help, a wider audience.
Have you ever had that thing where you’re taking tea and coffee orders after a Bible study, and before you know it you’re running out of fingers trying to keep tabs of decaf coffee and peppermint tea and normal coffee and water and… well, it’s hard work, isn’t it?
I’d like to commend you a beautifully simple little iOS app that’s available for free on iPhone: Countin’. It gives you a grid of customisable counters that simply count up or down as you tap them. Simple!
It’s by a young man called Matthew Spear who I had the privilege of hanging out with at the Code for the Kingdom hackathon last weekend, and I know he’d be really chuffed if a few people downloaded it (and if you were feeling really generous you’d send a couple of quid his way by hitting the In-App Purchase – unlocking various colour options and feel-good vibes!)
Fancy a year’s free bacon?
Hubbub.co.uk is growing – and we’re on the look out for front-end and back-end developers. Not only is it a fantastic place to work doing great work, but we’re also offering a year’s worth of free bacon to anybody who we successfully hire – or who recommends somebody to us who we go on to hire. So even if you’re not a developer yourself, it’s worth thinking if you know anybody who is.
All the details, including instructions on how to apply, can be found on our Developer website.
Just before going on holiday a couple of weeks ago, I got a little email in my inbox that indicated my blog had been hacked (a “you just reset your password” warning). A quick look around the FTP server soon confirmed this.
By God’s grace I spotted it almost immediately and was able to lock the intruder out and get things back to a vague semblance of normality. Today is the first day that I’ve got things to the point where I can actually post new blog posts. Maybe one day I’ll even get around to customising the theme from the default one (if you’ve been wondering why the appearance changed, this is why).
Let this be a lesson to you: always keep your WordPress installation fully up-to-date. It may be a hassle (and these days it’s not even that much hassle!) but it’s a lot MORE hassle to have to reinstall from scratch.
Have you heard about WorshipGOD UK, a new national worship conference that is taking place in the UK hosted by Bob Kauflin and Sovereign Grace Music?
The conference will be held on 5th-8th March 2014, at The Forum, in Bath and host by Bob Kauflin and Sovereign Grace Music. It’s a 3-day event on the theme of “Called to be Faithful” – the idea being that as pastors, leaders, worshippers, musicians and singers, we are not called to be famous or successful, or to put a primary emphasis on being creative, cool or impressive, but faithful. “We will explore what it means to be faithful to receive God’s grace, be faithful to proclaim his Word and gospel, be faithful to serve our local church with the gifts God has given us, be faithful to grow in musical skill, be faithful to prepare people for suffering and death.”
Sounds like a really good thing to me, and an event that I hope will be a real blessing to the church.
The conference will have loads of main sessions and seminars that promise to be “packed with both theological truth and practical instruction”. Speakers include Bob Kauflin and some Sovereign Grace guys (Craig Cabaniss and Jeff Purswell), as well as Mike Reeves, Tim Chester, and Donald Whitney, so it ought to be fantastic. Worship leaders and musicians will include folks from Sovereign Grace Churches in the UK and USA, as well as guests including Stuart Townend and Nathan & Lou Fellingham, and others.
My wife was trying to sync her data from her old Android phone to a Google account so she could transfer them to a new Android phone. Whilst trying to add her Google account to her old phone, she kept getting this error message:
Can’t establish a reliable data connection to the server. This could be a temporary problem or your SIM card may not be provisioned for data services. If it continues, call Customer Care.
Annoying, huh? Search the internet and you get forum thread after forum thread of people having the same problem over years. Many people seemed to suggest that the only solution was to do a hard factory reset, losing all of your data in the process which totally defeated the object!
Hilarious, then, to discover this super simple solution:
“Just try signing into the YouTube app with the account you want to sync and it will automatically add it to the list of your accounts. Kapish!”
Sure enough, that instantly fixed the problem in a matter of seconds. Amazing!
I’m going to blog this so that I don’t have to work it out from first principles again every single time I want to convert an EPS file with a transparent background into a PNG whilst preserving that transparency (you can export EPS files to PNG on a Mac simply using Preview, but annoyingly it always gives them a white background).
You’ll need to install ImageMagick (which you can do simply and easily on Mac OS X using Homebrew). Then simply run a command like this on the terminal:
convert -density 400 -colorspace rgb TransaprentBackgroundEPS.eps -transparent white Output.png
The important bit here is that the “-transparent white” bit comes AFTER the name of your EPS file, not before.
The only case where this doesn’t work (which may well be a very important case, depending on the image) is if the image itself has white in it. In those cases the white bits will disappear – as was the case for me with the PrayerMate logo I was trying to convert.
Edit: if you’re having colour issues when going from EPS to PNG, try using “-colorspace srgb” instead
Where can you find a gluten free pasty in Cornwall?
When you go to Cornwall, it is mandatory that you eat a pasty. That’s just the law.
But what happens if you are wheat or gluten intolerant? Where can you find a gluten free Cornish pasty in Cornwall?
When my wife and I went on honeymoon to the Lizard last year, it just so happened that the first cafe we stumbled upon sold excellent gluten free pasties. It’s called Harbour Lights in Coverack, and they also do gluten free cream teas. Their full gluten free menu can be found on their website. We went back again this summer and they’re still going strong.
When I was about fifteen years old I wrote a little computer game called “Shrapnel”, based on the popular tank game Scorched Earth. Even now, all these years later, I still get the occasional person asking me about it, so this page exists for their benefit. I’ll update it with more content soon.
Multiple select fields are those little boxes that contain a number of options, of which you can choose as many different rows as you like. However, they’re notoriously confusing to use if you’re not sure what you’re doing. As an example of what I’m talking about, have a play with this one, and see if you can figure out how to select just the first and the last option:
If you found that straightforward, then you can probably stop reading, but if you found that a struggle, or if you’ve ever written a web page for people who would have found that non-trivial, then hopefully this short guide will be of some use to you.
Selecting a single row from a multiple select is easy – you just click on the option you want, and it highlights it whilst deselecting any previously selected rows. Almost as easy is selecting a few consecutive rows – click on the first row you’re interesting in, then hold the SHIFT key and click on the last row you’re interested in, and it will select those rows and all of the rows in between.
Where the multiple select field gets a little tricky is if you want to select rows that are not next to each other. To do that, hold the CTRL key (or the command / cmd key if you’re on a Mac) and click on some rows. CTRL-clicking on a row will toggle its selected status – selecting rows that were previously unselected, or deselecting rows that had been selected already. Using CTRL-click allows you to select as many or as few options as you like – including unselecting all of the rows, to say “none of these options” apply. Try it again now, using CTRL-click to select just the first and the last option, and then deselecting them again.
That’s all there is to it, really!
Great post by Dr Kelly Flanagan on relating well within marriage:
“In marriage, losing is letting go of the need to fix everything for your partner, listening to their darkest parts with a heart ache rather than a solution. It’s being even more present in the painful moments than in the good times. It’s finding ways to be humble and open, even when everything in you says that you’re right and they are wrong. It’s doing what is right and good for your spouse, even when big things need to be sacrificed, like a job, or a relationship, or an ego. It is forgiveness, quickly and voluntarily. It is eliminating anything from your life, even the things you love, if they are keeping you from attending, caring, and serving. It is seeking peace by accepting the healthy but crazy-making things about your partner because, you remember, those were the things you fell in love with in the first place. It is knowing that your spouse will never fully understand you, will never truly love you unconditionally–because they are a broken creature, too–and loving them to the end anyway.”
-(HT Tim Challies)
Somebody recently forwarded me an interesting post by Andy Harker on the symbolism of the bitten apple, often associated (at least in Western art and advertising) with sin, even a celebration of sin, and elicit pleasures, especially sexual.
“Do you see the great irony? The apple is not the forbidden fruit but the life of Christ. To eat the apple is not sin but salvation – the banquet of grace. How perverse we are to use a picture of Jesus as an advert for sin, to call good evil and evil good, to confuse the tree of life with the tree of death, to think that Jesus has come to steal and kill and destroy and the devil has come to give fullness of life when the little-know truth is the very reverse. Christ is the apple tree.”
Read the full article here.
Why Jesus is My Hero #40 of 52
Real life is hard work. It’s full of ups and downs, and sometimes the downs are really down. Even when life is up we’re good at filling it with worries and anxieties about the fact that it might not stay that way for long, and that a down might be just around the corner.
I think many of us probably long to be the kinds of people who are better at rolling with the punches. The Bible talks a lot about the importance of “steadfastness”, which amongst other things conjures up images of not being discouraged when things don’t go your way – of standing firm whilst the waves crash all around you. But how do we get that way? How do we remain steadfast amidst the disappointments and challenges of daily life?
I’ve said before recently that I’m increasingly seeing the importance of joyfulness in life – and I think that for the Christian person, an attitude of joy and thankfulness is one of our key weapons in the fight. But how are we to remain joyful and thankful when tragedy strikes? How do you rejoice when you lose your job, or when you’re anxious about money or about your health?
It doesn’t completely answer the question fully, but one passage that I think is really helpful in thinking about this is Philippians 3. It’s one of the go-to passages on joy in the Bible:
“Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you.”
In other words, Paul is saying “I might as well tell you to rejoice, even if I’ve said it a hundred times before – I love talking about joy, so it’s really no trouble for me, and it’ll be really good for your souls, so hopefully you’ll not get bored of me banging on about it.”
Philippians is a letter written by Paul as he’s languishing in jail, so it’s somewhat surprising that he should be so focussed on rejoicing. So what is Paul’s secret – what is it that enables him to be rejoicing in the midst of his suffering? “Whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him”
For Paul, the gospel is THE number one most exciting thing in his life. His relationship with Jesus Christ is more precious to him than absolutely anything else. He’s so excited about the fact that he gets to spend eternity with Jesus, that absolutely everything else seems irrelevant by comparison. Stuck in jail because he’s a follower of Jesus? Totally worth it – he’s got an eternity of true freedom to look forward to. Hated by his fellow Jews because of apparently turning his back on the law? Who cares what men may think of him, when the creator of the entire universe loves him? Poor and destitute and whipped and beaten and shipwrecked and generally looking like a failure by the world’s standards? Hardly worth batting an eyelid over, given the heavenly riches he has to look forward to in the New Creation.
You see, when you recognise the immense value of the one thing you DO have, you start to care a little less about all those other things you lack. When Jesus becomes supremely precious to us, we find ourselves enabled to rejoice in the midst of all kinds of difficult circumstances. So long as our saviour is with us, our first love, we can accept a little temporary suffering and hardship – especially knowing that He is ultimately in charge and will not permit anything that isn’t for our eternal good.
I really hope and pray that you will find grace to rejoice and thank God for the gospel in the midst of whatever you’re going through right now. God is a good and loving Father to those who trust in him through Jesus Christ. I don’t know what you’re struggling with right now, but I do know that he’s promised to bring us to be with him if we’re Christians, and live with him in a world free from the sin and suffering that so mars this world.
“But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.”
Now that’s something to rejoice in!
My flatmate Dave has started writing an excellent and thoroughly enjoyable blog and if you have any sense you will read it.
Dave is attempting to blog about the world from a Christian perspective but for a target audience of people who don’t consider themselves to be Christians, which means it’s a good read for anybody and everybody, and is bound to give you food for thought. It’s also just a lot of fun.
Dave’s a classically trained musician with a great love of power ballads and Disney movies, currently working as a computer programmer. He is also generally a stand up chap and I am very thankful to God for him and my other flatmate Paul, who doesn’t currently have a blog.
Why Jesus is My Hero #38 of 52
I’m not always great at having quiet times, and sometimes when I’m struggling to muster enthusiasm I like to try and dip into one of the Psalms as something slightly gentler. This morning I was reading Psalm 57, which I found really encouraging.
Psalm 57 is described in the headline as “A Miktam of David, when he fled from Saul, in the cave.” In the rest of the Bible it’s generally worth mostly ignoring the section headers, since they’re added in later by editors who are trying to be helpful but are often simply misleading. But in the Psalms those introductory sentences are genuine originals, and often give important contextual information. In this case, it’s a Psalm written by David – the one who would go on to be one of Israel’s greatest kings – but it was written before he was crowned, whilst his predecessor King Saul was still on the throne. Saul was a jealous man who viewed David as a threat to his power, and he spent much of his latter years chasing down David and trying to have him killed. The fact that this Psalm was written in the midst of that, whilst hiding from Saul in a cave, gives real poignancy to David’s words. This was no idealistic daydreaming from someone who fancied himself a bit of a poet. This is the outpouring of a heart right in the thick of it.
So it’s amazing how utterly God-focused it all is. If I were hiding in a dingy cave from a murderous tyrant I’d be full of talk like “what are you doing God?! Get me out of here, now!!” Instead, David’s longing remains firmly fixed on seeing God’s name glorified: “Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth!” (v5)
David is utterly confident that he can trust himself to God and that God will do what’s best. “God will send out his steadfast love and his faithfulness!” (v3) God’s love and his care are utterly unwavering – and he has the sovereign power to back up his good intentions to. Hence the note of confidence behind David’s prayers: “I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfils his purpose for me.” (v2) Whatever the outcome, David knows it will be for the best. It won’t necessarily be comfortable and straightforward. It certainly doesn’t mean that Saul gets struck down dead in an instant so that David is safe again – it took many years before Saul’s rule came to an end. But it does mean that David could trust God to care for and provide for him.
And ultimately, David’s heart is not about his own safety, but about God’s glory. He knew that God’s motive in caring for him and protecting him was not first and foremost so that David would feel better. God’s primary motive in acting on his behalf was so that David would have cause to praise Him – so that God would get the glory. David so loved God that he longed to see God’s name exalted – for his glory to be over all the Earth. He longed to have a better reason to praise God’s name – to have yet another story to tell around the camp fire of God’s grace and provision at work in his life. A right concern for God’s glory gave him the strength to persevere through suffering in the present without descending into grumbling and despair.
Yet as you read Psalm 57 you can’t help but feel echoes of another king in David’s line who was also pursued to death by his enemies – the Lord Jesus.
“Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me,
for in you my soul takes refuge;
in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge,
till the storms of destruction pass by.
I cry out to God Most High,
to God who fulfils his purpose for me.
He will send from heaven and save me;
he will put to shame him who tramples on me.
God will send out his steadfast love and his faithfulness!
My soul is in the midst of lions;
I lie down amid fiery beasts–
the children of man, whose teeth are spears and arrows,
whose tongues are sharp swords. ” (v1-4)
As Jesus hung on the cross, surrounded by those who hated him, despised and mocked by all and sundry, he was able to entrust his soul to his almighty Father. He endured the cross because ultimately he valued God’s glory above his own comfort. His desire was not to be spared pain, not to be immediately rescued, but to see God’s name exalted above the heavens. That might seem like a cold and dispassionate concept, except that God’s glory is bound up in our good – God is glorified as we have cause to praise him. And three days later, as Jesus was resurrected from the dead, he had some pretty serious reasons to praise God!
I found myself really challenged in the way that I think about my life, and about prayer. How much do I really value God’s glory above my own ease and comfort? How confident am I that God will work all things for my ultimate good, even if it hurts in the short term? I pray that my heart will be changed, and that as someone who is united to Jesus I’d be able to pray with that same sense of confidence: “I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfils his purpose for me.”
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth!
I came across this great and very timely exhortation from John Piper to watch out for the technological temptation to distraction posed by things like our iPhones and the Internet at large, which meshes very well with a lot of stuff I’ve been thinking about lately. Here’s a quote he refers to from Robert Murray M’Cheyne:
‘Brethren, if you are ever so much taken up with any enjoyment that it takes away your love for prayer or for your Bible, or that it would frighten you to hear the cry: “The Bridegroom cometh:” and you would say: Is He come already? then you are abusing this world. Oh! sit loose to this world’s joy: “The time is short.”‘
I’m off to Paignton in Devon this evening to get involved in a little mission week organised by Great Parks Chapel titled The Y Factor. Five of us from the Cornhill Training Course will be going down there and doing a few talks each during the week. I guess that probably means I won’t be posting many (if any) blog posts during the week.
In years gone by I have had a tendency to scoff at the notion of New Year’s Resolutions, but I’m increasingly coming to see the value of a clean break and an obvious opportunity for reflection (which is offered equally well by a birthday, a new academic year or moving into a new flat – there’s nothing special about January 1st). This year I have a few goals which I shall now proceed to share with you.
1. Paying For Online Services I Use
I suspect this one is inspired by Jeff Atwood somewhere along the line, but I’ve decided that in a struggling economy it becomes even more important to pay for what you find useful. Sites like Wikipedia, ToodleDo and Flickr add immense value to my life, and they rely upon paying users to keep them running for the long term. Just because we’ve got used to having stuff online for free doesn’t mean that’s a sustainable state of affairs.
2. Finishing a Puzzle Overview Document
I’ll probably blog about this one in a bit more detail some time, but I hope to finalise the list of puzzles and solutions for my first Bible-teaching computer game within the next few months. It may be hard work, but it helps to have goals!
3. Learning To Live Sustainably
No, I don’t mean I want to “go back to the land” and learn to grow my own vegetables (though having said that…). By “learning to live sustainably” I mean getting out of the mindset that leads to short-termism and burnout. Years of disposable accommodation lived in for 12 months and then discarded, along with the housemates I shared it with, has led to all sorts of bad habits. Moving regularly could be considered the brute force solution to an aversion to cleaning, but it’s really not sustainable in the long run. Similarly, the pattern of overcommitting yourselves during the term, massively overdoing it and then crashing during the holiday break from Bible-studies and so on might work if you only expect to be at the same church for a year or two, but if you’re staying long term then something has to change. In 2009 I wish to learn to live sustainably.
4. Investing in Christian Community
This is another one that I eagerly hope to blog about at more length, but I have been thinking a lot lately about how to build true Christian community with genuine, deep friendships, and I hope to start putting some of that in to practice in 2009.
What are your goals for 2009?
Some of you may have noticed how utterly useless the “comments” area on this blog was – if you’ve noticed it at all! Well, today I finally got around to hooking my blog up with FriendFeed, an excellent service from a bunch of ex-Googlers. You’ll need an account with them to comment, but you really ought to have one of those anyway.
If I wasn’t so lazy, I might find the time to allow you to post comments without leaving my blog, but for now you’ll have to go to FriendFeed itself in order to actually post the comment, which will then show up at the bottom of the post itself.
Back at the start of May I left Trinity Mirror, where I’d been working for two and a half years as a web developer, and joined Framestore, a film company specialising in computer generated movies. It’s been a great experience that’s given me some helpful insight on my character and a fresh perspective on my time at the Mirror. The down side is I’m working a five day week and longer hours, hence why I’ve not succeeded in blogging much lately.
In the absence of something more profound to post, I thought it would be a fun little exercise to post a bit about the books, websites and places I’ve been enjoying over the last few weeks. For the uninitiated, my life is essentially one big routine, so this is a bit of a reflection of how I spend my days!
I live in the East End of London and work near Tottenham Court Road in the West, so I basically have two choices for how to get there each morning:
- Central Line from Mile End to Tottenham Court Road – this is definitely the quickest route to work, taking about half an hour for me door to door. The downside is that the Central Line is absolutely rammed at half eight in the morning, such that you’ll probably have to wait for several trains to pass, and then once you do squeeze on you may not always have much room to get a book out and read it
- District Line to Embankment and then Northern Line to Tottenham Court Road – ah, much nicer! You can probably get a seat for much of the journey, making reading much easier. Shame it takes more like 45 minutes, though.
As for what I read: the morning is my time for reading a good Christian book to help my hard heart to meditate on God’s character. At the moment I’m reading the excellent Knowing God by Jim Packer – it’s one of those books I’d recommend every Christian to make a habit of reading regularly. I last read it about five or six years ago, and am finding it every bit as edifying the second time around.
My general criteria for my morning book is that the author should write in points short enough to read in their entirety before reaching your destination, but ideally with a bit of time left over to chew on what you’ve read and take it in properly.
Before Starting Work
I use a del.icio.us tag to neatly organise all of the websites I like to check before I get down to work. Currently on my list are:
- Twitter – it doesn’t take a minute to update your status once a day, and keep your Facebook friends up to date on the latest goings on in your life
- Various comics – at the moment I love reading Pearls Before Swine and F Minus
- Remember the Milk – I’ve only just discovered this fantastic website, but it’s great for helping overcome that sometimes overwhelming feeling that you’ve got so much personal admin to do and no chance of remembering all of it
- Google Mail – I resisted for ages, but having gotten the Google Mail bug I now use this exclusively for all my mail, forsaking my previous approach of downloading all of my mail onto my main computer on a regular basis and only having unread messages available through webmail.
I have a number of options for lunch, depending on the weather and my mood.
- Russell Square Gardens – a bit of a walk from my office, but a beautiful little spot to sit and eat your lunch, read a book or have a quick pray
- The Covent Garden Talks – every Thursday lunchtime a bunch of Christians meet together on Endell Street to hear the Bible explained in way that’s really accessible to non-Christians. It’s a great resource to invite colleagues to, and to equip us to server God in the workplace.
- Google Reader – my ‘sit-at-my-desk’ lunch option is to go on Google Reader. I follow quite a lot of blogs, mostly programming ones. My current favourite is Jeff Atwood’s Coding Horror.
My whole family has a weird tendency to get the jitters just before dinner if we don’t get some sugar in us, so I make a point of eating one of the bananas my company freely provide us with at around 4.45pm. It makes a nice opportunity for a little break, where I often visit Hacker News for some thought provoking discussions.
The Central Line is much quieter at the time I go home, so I virtually always use it. In the evenings I tend to go for a secular book, and have just finished an excellent book called Dreaming in Code by Scott Rosenberg. It’s a very well written discussion of what makes software so incredibly hard to write, following the story of OSAF, the creators of the Chandler Project. I shall probably post some more at some point about some of the idea it’s given me for how to move forward with my Bible-teaching computer games project.
Recently I’ve found my evenings to be pretty busy. I’m involved in a church called St. Helen’s, Bishopsgate, where I help to lead a student Bible study group. This year we’ve been doing a Bible Overview, which has been absolutely fantastic. I’m a bit sad to part with my lovely group now that they’ll all off for the summer :(
If you’re ever in the City area on a Sunday night, do come along to our 6pm service!
Well there you have it – my life in a nutshell!
You’re going to start seeing a few changes here at Geero.net over the next few months. I’ve decided to redesign the site, and put more of an emphasis on content related to being a Christian programmer, and also programming Christian software in particular.
If there are broken links or you can’t find the content you’re looking for, please bear with me. I have tried to make sure as many of my external links as possible still work, but I may well have missed a few.