“Scotty, I need more power!”

This phrase has been familiar to many for decades now. In my work, I don’t need quite that much power, but power runs through everything that I manage. Over the past several months, several of the challenges facing me center on power. Or the lack of it.

When a device needs consistent, reliable power, it often gets connected to an uninterruptible power supply, or UPS. Servers and core network equipment like routers and switches fall in this category. Last year, the UPS connected to our main servers developed a fault and quit. Its failure didn’t do any lasting harm, but it was not a happy situation. This year, I acquired and installed the replacement.

The new UPS servicing the main server room.

As life would have it, at just about the time I had this UPS running, the one connected to our backup server and the internet connections also failed. It, too, needed to be replaced. After each failure, I was thankful that we have very few power outages here in this part of Germany and that I didn’t have to worry too much about not having immediate replacements. The second unit’s delivery was delayed a few weeks by the global supply chain problems.

Around the Wycliffe and Karimu campus, one can see the discus-shaped Wi-Fi access points that I installed for staff and guests. As I mentioned in the linked post, the devices get both data and power from the switches to which they’re connected. Our desk phones work the same way. Well, most of them do. Some of them are connected to a switch that I haven’t been able to replace and which can’t provide power.

The green cables connect to a power adapter for the nearby Wi-Fi device.

The phones wind up having two cables—one for data, and one for power. The Wi-Fi device needs an adapter between it and the switch that adds power to the line. The situation leads to inefficiencies in power and management. Inefficiency … gross.

In something of a reversal, several Wi-Fi access points have lost their ability to detect that power is being provided to them by the switch. The chip doing that job has failed, I suppose, but the rest of the device still works. As a result, I’ve needed to add adapters to their lines and “force feed” them.

Again, this is an inefficient situation, but at least I can work around the deficiencies. I ordered replacement equipment back in January, but it took months for much of it to arrive. The very last devices in the order should come this week. Once again, the shortage is to blame.

The last mention for power takes us outside. With increasing frequency, we have guests coming to the conference center with electric cars. To our mutual benefit, we have installed a charging station in the parking lot.

Fill ‘er up!

As with almost everything these days, the station needs an internet connection in order to communicate with whatever system is managing access and billing. That’s why I’m involved. You know, I never thought that I might work at a filling station one day. 😉 Have I mentioned the global supply chain problems? Yes, they affect this project, too: the charging station in the photo is an interim model delivering juice until the model we ordered is back in stock.

These situations made me think of Jesus’ words in John 15:1-8. Among those are these:

“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.

John 15:5, NLT

Without clean, constant power from the UPS, the servers turn off. Without the right switch or adapter, the Wi-Fi drops out. Without a charging station, the electric car will just sit in the parking lot.

Jesus is the source of power for the one who believes—and who stays connected. His power is pure, his power is eternal, and his power is always provided in the right manner and measure. He has no supply problems. You simply cannot go wrong by connecting to him.

Our service to Wycliffe is powered in part by people whom God has empowered to give and to pray. Are you one of those people? Katherine and I are grateful to you for being a part of our power grid! I’ll sign off now with an excerpt of the blessing given in Hebrews 13:20-21:

May he produce in you,
    through the power of Jesus Christ,
every good thing that is pleasing to him.

Hebrews 13:21, NLT
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Where does my help come from?

A few months ago, Psalm 121 started running through my head on a regular basis. It begins:

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?

Psalm 121:1, NIV

Back when I was working in Dallas, a coworker (and former seminary professor) pointed out that, in the composer’s day, the mountains would have been sites for shrines and altars to other gods. They weren’t effective sources of help.

What does this have to do with technology in the sphere of Bible translation? Well, though the admission may burst a bubble of hope for the masses who seek my assistance in matters of gizmotech, I have to concede that I need help sometimes, too.

Where does my help come from?

Some of the products we employ at Wycliffe Germany make use of online forums for their first-line support. In the past year, one of these forums has become a regular haunt for me. The haunting experience inspires the question that forms the title of today’s missive.

Issues with the equipment that runs our network have forced me to be more cautious about installing the updates that are issued to fix bugs and enable new functions. Part of my daily routine now includes checking the vendor’s “community” forums to see what people are saying about the latest corrections to the software.

The other people in this particular “community” are having problems, too. Most are looking for simple help and find it in answers from kind responders. Some are pointedly unhappy or angry, and they don’t hide that fact in their words. You’ve probably seen similar things yourself and know how it can be. Faced with a barrage of criticism and occasional malice, this vendor’s staff have become sparing and cautious with their replies.

Where is my help coming from, anyway?

Yes, the phrase began popping up in my head. In time, it reinforced my awareness that my ultimate help comes not from raw, flawed human beings, but from the Lord my God. When that knowledge is present in my mind, I can calm down and be patient even when reading harsh words. I can remember that the people writing these words (likely) belong to this world and not to the kingdom of God—and this is simply how humans really operate.

For plenty of the other systems under my care, I can send an email, complete an online form, or make a phone call (ick!) to get direct help from support staff. Most of the time, after a short wait, I get a reply from a knowledgable person, and the issue gets resolved. I don’t always need to sift through online vitriol.

Where does my help come from?

On the surface, my help appears to come from acquired knowledge and training, support articles, forums, technical support staff, coworkers, and other tangible sources. The reality is different:

My help comes from the Lord,
    who made heaven and earth!

Psalm 121:2, NIV

Without the Lord’s help, I could not exhibit patience and kindness online—or offline. Absent his guidance, I wouldn’t always know where to look. If I didn’t have encouragement from him, I wouldn’t have the humility to acknowledge that I need to seek others’ help.

The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go,
    both now and forever.

Psalm 121:8, NIV

A critical part of the help that comes from the Lord to us—that is, to Katherine and me, serving together—uses you as the conduit. When you pray for us, when you support our ministry financially, you become part of a genuine community that enables us to serve the kingdom of God with Wycliffe. With gratitude, we say: may the Lord our God keep watch over you as you come and go!

P.S. This entry took me a long time to formulate in my head and to write. It reflects those times when the Christian life and perspective runs smack into that of the world around us. It simply wasn’t an easy thing to describe accurately and graciously. If you find yourself wondering what I’m up to currently, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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Halt! Who goes there?

This phrase is probably familiar to anyone who has read a book or watched a film in which a person (or group) approaches a sentry. The sentry commands the party to stop and to identify itself verbally before coming closer. If the party asserts that it is “friendly”, then the guard gives the command to “advance and be recognized”. Once the party’s exact identity is verified to the sentry’s satisfaction, they are allowed to proceed.

Moving about on the internet is not so different, is it? Have you needed to enter a user name and password lately? Answer extra questions? Enter a separate code? I’m not even going to wait for you to answer that.

We are frequently asked to identify, authenticate, and verify ourselves in this world of ours. With more than 7.5 billion people estimated to be wandering the globe, it is often important to be certain that people are who they say they are. Confusion, deceit, or fraud can have disastrous consequences.

At work, I am guiding the staff and members of Wycliffe Germany toward the use of stronger forms of authentication for the systems we use. Some of us are caretakers of information about people, places, or situations that needs to be protected. When someone seeks to view an email account or open a file, we want the system to respond, “Halt! Who goes there?” To reduce or eliminate the possibility of unauthorized access, we put safeguards in place such as multi-factor authentication.

I’m not going to drone on and on about this topic. You can recall for yourself how you authenticate yourself and others while traversing the internet or even just answering the door. We do it all the time!

Some of the things we use to prove that we are who we say we are

What fascinates me is how often I come across the themes of identity, verification, and authentication as I read the Bible. Given the particular role I fill within a family of organizations focused on God’s Word, I can’t help but notice! Here are a few of my favorite examples, as reflected in the New Living Translation:

  • In Exodus 4:8, the Lord gives Moses instructions for authenticating the Lord’s commission to him: “‘If they do not believe you and are not convinced by the first miraculous sign, they will be convinced by the second sign.'”
  • In Deuteronomy 18:22, the Lord shares how to identify a prophet: “‘If the prophet speaks in the Lord’s name but his prediction does not happen or come true, you will know that the Lord did not give that message.'”
  • In Joshua 9:3-15, the Israelites fail to verify the identity of the Gibeonites, accepting fraudulent evidence: “So the Israelites examined their food, but they did not consult the Lord.”
  • In Judges 6:17, Gideon verifies that it is the Lord commanding him: “‘If you are truly going to help me, show me a sign to prove that it is really the Lord speaking to me.'” The sign freaks him out a bit.
  • In John 5:36, Jesus identifies himself this way: “‘I have a greater witness than John—my teachings and my miracles. The Father gave me these works to accomplish, and they prove that he sent me.'”
  • In John 13:35, Jesus tells the disciples, “‘Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.'”
  • In Acts 2:22, Peter reminds the crowds, “‘People of Israel, listen! God publicly endorsed Jesus the Nazarene by doing powerful miracles, wonders, and signs through him, as you well know.'”
  • In James 2:18, the author asserts the authenticity of his faith in this way: “‘I will show you my faith by my good deeds.'”
  • In Revelation 2:17, Jesus promises the following to the faithful: “‘I will give to each one a white stone, and on the stone will be engraved a new name that no one understands except the one who receives it.'”

See? The whole thing is woven through with authentication and verification. One could go on and on. When you read, keep an eye out for these themes. I will mention just two more:

  • Matthew 7:20, “‘Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.'”
  • Galatians 5:22-23, “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

And those two things give a person a lot of food for thought—pun intended. When you pray, please ask our Father (and Gardener) to produce abundant, excellent fruit in our lives as we serve him through Wycliffe here in Germany. And may he help you yourselves to prove to the world around us just how fruity you are! Wait, that didn’t come out right. May the fruit of your lives prove your identity in Christ to everyone you meet!

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