Friday, March 26, 2010

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Code Snippets are Here!

If any of you follow any code that I write, well now they are nicely formatted as code snippets!

Click here to install Syntax Highlighting onto your web site.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

What does God think about Gambling?

In my last blog post, I stated that there was no difference between gambling in a casino, and speculating in the stock market.  By that I meant that both are considered gambling.  Both require taking (usually high) risk to gain wealth quickly.  Speculating in stocks is gambling.  Even if you argue it requires extensive research, and perhaps skill, but so does the game of poker or black jack.

I personally dislike gambling, and leaving things to chance.  Which is why for the question "What does God think about Gambling?" I needed to do a bit of research.  And the bible doesn't speak specifically of Gambling, as it didn't speak specifically of the Stock Exchange.  But it does speak a lot about money.  In my previous article I already quoted several places in scriptures that warned against the love of money and encouraged the good stewardship of money which comes from God and is given to us to look after.  And in a way, he is testing us, to see what we do with it (see Matt 25:14-30).

And so although you can make the very valid case that gambling is not a sin, because you can gamble for its own sake and enjoyment, and not for money's sake, in reality this is far from the truth.  In practice, people only go to gamble for the chance of making money quickly, and money is the driving force.  Factor in the many people addicted to it, who are often in the low income brackets.  Because of this, I think Christians ought to discourage gambling.

What then is the difference between investing and speculating (and gambling)?.

Investing in the stock market is investing in business ownership.  When you buy stocks, you buy part ownership of the company.  The stock market was initially created for a market to raise capital, for businesses.  It would be good if there were no speculators, but that would be near impossible to ban.  So when we buy stocks, we ought to be buying stocks from companies we believe we want to be a part of, companies we think that are producing goods and services which are beneficial to the world.  Yes I believe even stock investors have a social responsibility, to invest in socially responsible companies, not just ones making a lot of money. The point of investing in the stock market is not only a means of wealth generation, but a way of investing in our country's (world's) economy.  Market forces are what drives this capitalist world, Supply and Demand, and we are that demand.  Making choices on what companies to invest in, is similar to our shopping habits and consumer behavior.  Do we invest in a company that supports child slave labour?  Do we consume these products?  This is something I need to take a look at in my own life.

And finally, wealth creation.  What does the bible say about making money?  I've mentioned already that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.  God cares about why you are making money.  Are your motives for investing in the stock market driven by personal wealth?  And God cares about how you are making money.  The bible's model for creating wealth is in Proverbs 13:11:
Wealth obtained by fraud dwindles, but the one who gathers by labor increases it - Proverbs 13:11
We are to earn wealth by working for it honestly.  Would God be pleased if you stole money from a bank to give to the poor?  No.  He would never ask you to commit sin even if it were for a good cause.  God doesn't need your money.  Our all powerful God never compromises.  There is never a good reason to cheat or break the law, even if it seems like its the only way, or if it is for a good cause.
Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." - Hebrews 13:5

Friday, March 19, 2010

What does God think about a Christian Stock Investor?


To the question of whether a Christian can invest in the stock market, my quick answer would be yes.  Read on for the difference between saving and hoarding.

This is the first article in the series to investigate what I believe God thinks about certain professions.  Firstly, what might be challenging about investing in the stock market?  What is the difference between gambling in the casino, and speculating in the stock market?  Nothing.  But what is the difference between speculating and investing?  There is a huge difference.  Companies need capital operate and listing on the stock market is one way to raise funds.  We won't go into the Christian businessman in this article, and we won't go into gambling either.  But investing in stocks is a way to invest in a company and its operations.  To decide whether a company is worth investing in must be decided upon on a case by case basis.  Some people will not invest in casinos, weapons manufacturers, non-fair trade, multinationals which hire child laborers, alcohol manufacturers.  I also think many of those are bad, but its sometimes hard to draw the line, what about companies which support, supply or trade with those businesses?  What about businesses which are supported by those businesses?

What then is the difference between hoarding money and saving?  The bible warns against the hoarding of money, since money is a material wealth, which we cannot take with us when we die.  We are to save money and be good stewards of money.  When we save money, it must be for some purpose; saving for our retirement, to give to the Church, to give to overseas aid, to give to the poor, to save for our children's education.  All these things are good things to do, encouraged by the bible.  The hoarding of money, is when we accumulate wealth for the sake of it.  We keep it because we love looking at our bank balance getting bigger.  Remember money is not evil, it is the love of money which is evil.

Are there any examples of investors in the bible?  Since the stock exchange did not exist in biblical times, it is quite difficult to find an equivalent.  But the bible does have a lot to say about money.  We should be good stewards of our money, meaning we must look after every cent, and not let any of it go to waste.  All our money comes from God, in fact all money and wealth belongs to God, and is given to us for safekeeping.  We are to look after the Lord's wealth.  Part of this means being generous and giving to the poor.
Matt 19:21  Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. 
Jesus told the rich young man to sell all that he had and give to the poor.  The wealth that we are given is not ours in the first place, we are to let Jesus dictate what we are to do with it, most of the time that involves helping others less fortunate than us.  Proverbs 3:9-10 tells us we are to honor God with our wealth.

Prov 3:9  Honour the LORD with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase: 
Prov 3:10  So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine. 
Proverbs 28 tells us not to try and "get rich quick".

Prov 28:20  A faithful man shall abound with blessings: but he that maketh haste to be rich shall not be innocent. 
And much of the bible warns against putting our trust in worldly possessions such as money.
1Tim 6:17  Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy
And finally, the parable of the talents.  Matt 25:14-30, Jesus tells us that we should invest our money in a way that reaps the greatest return, to the best of our abilities.  This means putting effort into learning about interest rates and term deposits.  We must learn about the stock market, and foreign exchange for the best place to invest our money.  Perhaps even looking at property investment and real estate.  If God has given you an intelligent mind, which by the time you read this, you likely have, I think its not good enough to settle with storing your money in the bank and being a 'good saver' simply by not spending.  We must looking into options with greater return.  We are looking after the LORD's wealth, he has given us Talents, and we are show Him what we have done given the mind and skills He has given us.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Round the Bays 2010

Just got home from Round the Bays, was a nice run, an overall successful event with a great BBQ to cap it off.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Thoughts on Destiny

The latest headline in the Herald reads "Destiny Church demands more than tithe, former members say".  This past week has throttled Destiny Church into the spot light as a corrupt cash cult out to get your money.  Has it tainted the reputation of all Christian churches in New Zealand?  It all started at when a Pastor at a branch in Brisbane walked out taking half the congregation with him.  If we think back a bit, it actually started when Bishop Tamaki initiated the covenant with those $300 signet rings.  Come to think of it, maybe it started a bit earlier?  See, what makes Destiny Church different is, we just don't know what goes on behind those doors.  The Churches eldership has no accountability, there is no transparency or visibility into what goes on.  We really don't know when the problem started, we don't know how, and we don't know why.  For years Destiny has been considered a cult, but only now has it be scrutinized in the public by its own members.

So what is wrong with Destiny?  They are giving out AP forms which force members to give 10% of their income, they are requiring the purchase of signet rings and other strange rituals which make Brian Tamaki some sort of God or Messiah.

To address the first issue, I hope it is obvious Brian Tamaki is not God, or a Messiah, or any other sort of prophet or special super person.  To me, a person who has never met him, Tamaki seems like a charismatic leader who believes in God or at least claims so.  At least he may have started off as God fearing believer, maybe he really did get sent by God to accomplish something, but every leader knows their greatest temptation is pride.  And surely if Tamaki was ever genuine, its because of the pride that has gotten to his head.

But you may say, God's leaders don't need money to be compensated.  And this 10% tithe thing seems wrong.  Where does this 10% tithe even come from?  I'll probably have to write a whole separate blog post for that topic.  But  what I will say is this, giving to the Church must be earnest and free from compulsion.  Giving as an act to gain status or believing that God will enrich you with Earthly riches also is the wrong way to go about it.  Brain Tamaki's extravagant lifestyle has lead many to assume he is taking the money for himself.  This may have come from a thinking that he deserves some compensation for looking after God's people, this may even come from thinking that God is rewarding him.  Whatever he thinks, I think that it would be better for such a public figure to be cautious with such money.  Even a less profiled person would do well to be generous with their money and be cautious in how they handle donations.  For example if you are a volunteer who raises money through fundraisers, it may not be wise to spend the money on flash cars and extravagant dinners.  Living in poverty earns my respect, and I think it will be rewarded by God in other ways, after all, we cannot take our material wealth with us after we die.

Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting.  Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. - Matt 6:16
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on  earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal - Matt 6:19-20

Friday, March 5, 2010

Thursday, March 4, 2010

What does God think about that Job?

This question sprang up from a bible study, which we discussed what God thought about particular jobs.  In particular we focused on Lawyers, Sales, Advertising, and Military.

It is definitely an area which I want to investigate more, recapping on those mentioned above and then taking a further look at other professions.

Now there are some obvious occupations which are generally accepted as bad, such as thief, prostitute.  These are bad because they break God's laws of stealing and sex outside of marriage, among other things.  I intend to focus on the more grey areas, where the job may encourage you to sin and break the laws, or seem at face value to contradict the definition of being a Christian.

The main questions I will focus on are:

  • What are the morally challenging aspects of the occupation?
  • How does the job fit in with God's creation and plan for the universe?
  • Is the job or similar roles mentioned in the Bible? If so what does it have to say?
  • Can a Christian work in this field?  In particular, does it contradicting the values and beliefs of the Bible?
And some of the professions I would like to go through (not necessarily in this order) are:
  • Software Engineers
  • Sales, Marketing and Advertising
  • Military and Ammunitions manufacturers
  • Actors and Directors/Producers
  • Lawyers
  • Accounting, Banking and Finance
  • Professional Athletes

What is SharePoint?

What is SharePoint?  Check out this video which explains it in plain English.


Edypository 2.0

Hey Guys, I have updated my Blog's template.  The main reason was to get away from that standard Blogger template.  The other was to provide more horizontal space for my posts.  Hope you like it!

Monday, March 1, 2010

C# .NET 3.5 Syndication

In .Net 3.5 there is a Syndication Namespace that handles both RSS and Atom.  Below is a code snippet of an Syndication reader which reads rss and atom, and you can store the data in a custom object or however you like.

At first glance, its very powerful.  Just add System.ServiceModel and System.ServiceModel.Web as a System Reference to your project.

using System.ServiceModel.Syndication;

        ///
        /// Retrieve the Syndication from a parsed in URL.
        /// SyndicationFeed supports RSS and Atom
        ///
        public static List GetFeed(string url)
        {
            //Put all the feed items into this list
            List feed = new List();

            SyndicationFeed blogFeed;
          
            //WebClient is used in case the computer is sitting behind a proxy
            WebClient client = new WebClient();
            client.Proxy = WebRequest.DefaultWebProxy;
            client.Proxy.Credentials = CredentialCache.DefaultCredentials;
            client.Credentials = CredentialCache.DefaultCredentials;
          
            try
            {
                // Read the feed using an XmlReader
                using (XmlReader reader = XmlReader.Create(client.OpenRead(url)))
                {                  
                    // Load the feed into a SyndicationFeed
                    blogFeed = SyndicationFeed.Load(reader);
                }
            }
            catch (Exception ex)
            {
                //...
            }

            // Use the feed
            foreach (SyndicationItem item in blogFeed.Items)
            {
                try
                {
                    FeedItem feedItem = new FeedItem();

                    feedItem.RawTitle = item.Title.Text;
                    feedItem.Author = item.Authors[0].Email;
                    feedItem.Url = item.Links[0].Uri.AbsoluteUri;
                    feedItem.Description = item.Summary.Text;
                    feedItem.PubDate = item.PublishDate.ToLocalTime().ToString();

                    feed.Add(feedItem);
                }
                catch (Exception exception)
                {
                    //...
                }
            }
          
            return feed;
        }