Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Elusive Giant Squid Captured on Camera!

Saw this item over at CNN.com. A longer article can be found at National Geographic. National Geographic produced a documentary on their unsuccessful attempt to film a live giant squid.

The evidence for the existence of the giant squid have been sightings and dead ones washed ashore. However, photographic evidence of living ones remained elusive for many years. Discovery channel had a documentary which I missed about that search.

Devotional Thoughts: Feeding the 5000

Matthew 14:13-21 is very familiar. In fact, the story of the feeding of the 5000 is one of two miracles recorded in all four Gospels. The other miracle is the Resurrection!

This incident occurred shortly after John the Baptist's death which was described in Matt. 14:1-12 previously. I figure John's death occurred at night since it happened during Herod's birthday party (Matt. 14:6). News of it probably reached Jesus probably pretty quickly because v. 13 said "As soon as Jesus heard the news, he went off by himself in a boat..." And then v. 15 said "that evening the disciples came to him ..." Thus, it seemed likely that Jesus took the boat trip (v. 13) in the morning to try to get away from the crowds but it wasn't long before they found Him (v. 14) and He healed the sick who had gathered around Him. Evening (v. 15) arrived and the crowds were still there and the disciples were worried about feeding them all. Jesus merely said, you feed them (v. 16). The disciples were aghast (v. 17) saying, we only have 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish. In vv. 18-21, the feeding of the 5000 occurred.

Familiar passage. Many lessons.

Jesus seeking solitude. In our rush of life, do we make an effort for some solitude to reflect and renew?

Jesus, despite His grief over John the Baptist's death, acting on the compassion He felt for the people who sought Him out. When the Spirit is prompting us with feelings of compassion, do we respond?

When we are hurting, sometimes, it is healthy to deliberately choose to spend some time helping others in need.

Finally, how often do we look at our limited resources (5 loaves and 2 fish) and decide, nope, we can't do anything?

We are to bring to the table whatever we got and trust Jesus for the rest when it comes to meeting the needs of others.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Lessons from the football field: Charlie Weis Keeps His Word to a Dying Boy

If this story doesn't bring tears to your eyes you may need to check if you are still alive.

Excerpt:
Charlie Weis doesn't usually let anyone else call plays on offense. He made an exception for 10-year-old Montana Mazurkiewicz.

The Notre Dame coach met last week with Montana, who had been told by doctors weeks earlier that there was nothing more they could do to stop the spread of his inoperable brain tumor.

"He was a big Notre Dame fan in general, but football especially," said his mother, Cathy Mazurkiewicz.
.........
Weis asked Montana if there was something he could do for him. He agreed to let Montana call the first play against Washington on Saturday. He called "pass right."

Montana never got to see the play. He died Friday at his home.

Weis heard about the death and called Mazurkiewicz on Friday night to assure her he would still call Montana's play.

"He said, 'This game is for Montana, and the play still stands,'" she said.
.........
When the Irish started on their own 1-yard-line following a fumble recovery, Mazurkiewicz wasn't sure Notre Dame would be able to throw a pass. Weis was concerned about that, too. So was quarterback Brady Quinn.

"He said what are we going to do?" Weis said. "I said we have no choice. We're throwing it to the right."
.........
"It was an amazing play. Montana would have been very pleased. I was very pleased," she said. "I was just so overwhelmed. I couldn't watch much more."

Weis called her again after the game, a 36-17 victory by the 13th-ranked Fighting Irish, and said he had a game ball signed by the team that he wanted to bring to the family on Sunday.

"He's a very neat man. Very compassionate," she said. "I just thanked him for using that play, no matter the circumstances."
God bless Coach Charlie Weiss and Notre Dame and the Mazurkiewicz family.

The comment bag: responding to the response citing Spinoza

I'm always pleasantly surprised to check my site-meter and find out people do visit this little blog.

And I'm thrilled to receive comments. Am not thrilled by the SPAMMER comments. I try to delete those as soon as I find them. If I missed any, please let me know!

But it is great to receive real comments. And I was happy to see that someone from Finland left some thoughts on this blog post.

I'll reproduce it here below:
Spinoza has said that even a stone, if it would have consciousness, would think it is it's own choice to fall down when it is dropped. Same way we people think we choose to drop the stone, but it is just actually law of physics or God if you may (I actually think of them as the same thing - nature and God).
I'm a molecular biologist not a philosopher so I'm not up on my Spinoza.

So I went to my one volume encyclopedia to check out Spinoza. It said that Baruch (or Benedict) Spinoza (1632-1677) was a Dutch philosopher. He didn't accept the concept of free will but believed human actions are driven by self-preservation. He thought that mind and body, ideas and the physical universe were just different aspects of the same substance he called god and nature interchangeably.

This sounds like pantheism?

C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity described it this way:
Patheists usually believe that God, so to speak, animates the universe as you animate your body: that the universe almost is God, so that if it did not exist He would not exist either, and anything you find in the universe is a part of God.
What is the consequence of a pantheistic view of the world? Lewis said this:
If you do not take the distinction between good and bad very seriously, then it is easy to say that anything you find in this world is a part of God. But, of course, if you think some things really bad, and God really good, then you cannot talk like that. You must believe that God is separate from the world and that some things we see in it is contrary to His will.
One current pop culture manifestation of pantheism is well illustrated by the Star Wars films. The Force is in everything. It is kind of romantic to think about god in everything. You see a babbling happy baby and you see god. You smell the flowers and there is god. You hear the chirping of birds and that's god too.

But with that view, what else is god?

Don't mean to be crude ... but the axe-murderer is god if god is in everything. The only way to avoid that consequence is to put god apart from the physical universe. Lewis explained:
They (Christians) think God invented and made the universe -- like a man making a picture or composing a tune. A painter is not a picture, and he does not die if his picture is destroyed.
What do you think?

Thanks for dropping by this blog and feel free to leave comments. I do enjoy them. I aim to be hospitable. I hope we can all think things through together in a fair minded way and reach some clarity whether in the end we agree or not.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Devotional Thoughts: Do I Want Hell to Exist?

Like most people I don't like to think about it. Don't like talking about it. And am not thrilled to blog about it.

But when I read a passage like Matthew 14:1-12, I found myself thinking about it.

Excerpts:
For Herod had seized John and bound him and put him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip's wife ... But when Herod's birthday came, the daughter of Herodias danced before the company and pleased Herod, so that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she might ask. Prompted by her mother, she said, "Give me the head of John the Baptist here on a platter." ... He sent and had John beheaded in the prison, and his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother.


Gruesome.

Do you think Herod, Herodias and Herodias' daughter belong in hell?

What are the alternatives to hell?

(1) If there is an afterlife and there is no hell then we will be sharing "a cloud and a harp" in heaven with these three people?

(2) If reincarnation is the next part after this life then what will these three come back as? Will they suffer for their sins? However, in reincarnation, one doesn't know what the previous life was like? They would suffer but not know what they did in a previous life that caused their suffering?

(3) And if there is no afterlife ... they get away with it and die and are no more.

The idea of hell as a place in the afterlife to punish the wicked is a difficult concept to accept. However, how does it compare to the other three alternatives?

Wait until next year

Dodgers have been done for a while already but it is offically over as they are too far behind and there are too few games left.

It is one of those "what if" seasons with too many injuries.

One of them is Gagne. He probably pitched too many innings in the pennant drive of 2004 but would they have won the NL West if he hadn't pitched so much? He went into 2005 not quite right and started the season on the DL and may have got back in too soon. He soon returned to the DL and eventually required season ending surgery.

In today's ESPN.com e-ticket is the story of Robb Nen. As a Dodger fan, it is reflexive to root against the Giants but reading the story of Nen, all you can do as a fan of the sport is to tip your hat in respect to the guy for leaving it all out there.

In addition to Gagne, Drew was lost for the season due to getting hit on the wrist by a pitch. Werth was also hit by a pitch on the wrist but eventually returned to the line up but was never quite the same. Bradley was injured most of the season and with off-the-field and in-the-clubhouse issues is probably not coming back. Valentin messed up his knee and eventually returned but was ineffective. Izturis, spent time on the DL and eventually had season ending surgery as well.

The Dodger brain trust has some big decisions to make.

Do they take a chance on Bradley?

Do they try to re-sign Weaver who turned into this year's pitching workhorse?

If they go with a youth movement, how will they package Kent to ship him off to a contender for a shot at the MLB championship to cap off a remarkable career?

If they keep Kent, how much money are they willing to take from the piggy bank to bring in a big bat and proven pitcher for the starting rotation to make a championship run in 2006?

The bright spot has been the play of some of the rookies. Navarro at catcher, Aybar at third, Robles at short, Repko in the outfield, Schmoll in relief and Houlton as a fifth starter.

Wait until next year to find out.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Three new sites I'm keeping an eye on

Hugh Hewitt has organized a collaborative blog with Albert Mohler, a baptist seminary president, John Mark Reynolds, a philosophy professor, Mark D. Roberts, a prebyterian pastor, Amy Welborn, a Catholic author and David Allen White, a literature professor.

One of my very good friends has entered the blogsphere. If you love dogs, you'll love her poem about playing fetch with her dog. I'm now mulling over her thoughts on whether we live in "the Matrix" or not and can we tell the difference.

Finally, Blogs4God has returned! Apparently, the aggregation site was over-run by spammers and needed a major overhaul to defend against spammers and to capitalize on new protocols for aggregating blog posts. A great one stop place to see what Christian bloggers are writing about.

Also, please note on the right column that this blog has joined the Evangelical Aggregator.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Devotional Thoughts: Faith is more than intellect or seeing isn't necessarily believing

Jesus' hometown was Nazareth.

In Matthew 13:53-58, he visited his hometown.

In vv. 54-56 it said, "Where does he get his wisdom and his miracles? He's just a carpenter's son, and we know Mary, his mother, and his brothers - James, Joseph, Simon and Judas. All his sisters live right here among us. What makes him so great?"

Faith is more than just intellectual comprehension.

Here, the people saw with their own eyes that when Jesus spoke there was something special. They saw him do amazing deeds though in v. 58 it says he didn't do many. But, be real, how many people do you need to see miraculously healed to wonder what is going on?

After seeing Him do a few mighty deeds and hearing him speak with wisdom, they even said, what makes him so great?

There was no denying there was something special about Jesus. They even acknowledged it despite the dissonance with his humble family background.

But what happened?

Verse 57, "They were deeply offended and refused to believe in Him."

Faith is more than just using one's mind to grasp something. It is placing one's trust in that something or someone.

As the cliche says: you can bring a horse to water but you can't make him drink.

Christians should do their utmost to be people of truthfulness and grace and living right and meeting needs but in the end, it is still up to people to decide for themselves if they want to trust in Jesus.

Democrats split on Roberts

From what I've heard and read:

Voting for Roberts:
Leahy
Kohl
Feingold
Bingaman
Johnson
Prior
Baucus
Byrd
Nelson
Landrieu
Conrad

Voting against Roberts:
Kennedy
Shummer
Durbin
Biden
Feinstein
Kerry
Boxer
Clinton
Corzine
Lautenberg
Reid


Al Rantel was on the radio talking with Ann Coulter and they speculated that any Democrat planning to run in 2008 will vote NO.

I'm guessing the ones who will vote yes will likely be from a "Red" state?

FYI: Judge Ginsberg was confirmed with a 96-3 vote and Judge Breyer was confirmed with a 87-9 vote.

As of now, I'm figuring Roberts will get 70ish votes for confirmation because the Democrats seem to be splitting right in half over Roberts. I also figure the next nominee will be a someone acceptable to the conservatives and also a ethnic minority or woman which will put the Democrats in a bind.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Christian Carnival #88

Check out the wide range of topics covered by Christian bloggers at the Christian Carnival hosted this week at Digitus, Finger & Co.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Devotional Thoughts: The big net and the storehouse

Matthew 13:47-52 has two final metaphors for the kingdom of God.

This time, Jesus moved from agricultural analogies to one from fishing. This would be familiar territory for some of the disciples since some of them were fishermen.

The net was cast out into the water and many fish were caught. But the bad fish were thrown away while others were put into crates for eventual sale in the marketplace. The key to the metaphor once again is the separation of good and evil at the end of the world.

ed. note - I'm taking some liberties in retelling the story in my own words. Be sure to read it for yourself!

Jesus used the same language in vv. 49-51 as He did in vv. 40-43 when He described the wheat and the weeds being separated out.

Jesus finished the teaching with the metaphor of the storehouse. The kingdom people are like the merchant who brings out both old and new things from the storehouse to sell to the people. Since there will be a separation of good and evil, people need to be told. The message has familiar (old) elements and new elements that Jesus introduces. This final analogy brings home the point to his followers: you have to tell people what I'm telling you because there are consequences to what people believe.

This aspect of Christianity rankles people. This notion of "particularism" strikes people as narrow minded.

But in life, there are many times we accept "particularism." If the car battery is dead there is no other choice but to buy a new car battery. If the heart has stopped there is no choice but to administer an electrical shock in the hopes of restarting it. Is it possible that this would be true as well in our beliefs about god and life?

The other day I came across this web page. In the introduction, he asked, do all roads lead to god?

He provided three possible answers (I'm paraphrasing what he wrote):
(1) Yes, all roads lead to god so if you pick one while someone else picks another, we all wind up in the same place; thus, there is no harm in just picking one road.
(2) No, if indeed one road is correct and the other ones are incorrect then it is pretty important to try your best to pick the right road.
(3) It is pointless since there is no god.

Dennis Prager who is Jewish has mentioned on his radio program that sometimes he is asked, how do you feel when people of other religions tell you that you are going to hell?

Prager responded, it is your right to believe that but it isn't your right to send me there early.

I grew up listening to Prager when he used to do a radio show on Sunday night called, "Religion on the Line." The format of the show had him pose a discussion topic to his in studio guests: a Jewish rabbi, a Catholic priest and a Protestant minister. There was often disagreement but it was always civil.

One of Prager's favorite slogans is, if we can't have agreement then let's at least have clarity.

Indeed, in religion, we aren't always going to agree but let's at least be honest and have clarity and acknowledge there are differences between the religions.

In Christianity, there comes a point in time where there is a separation of good and evil. Until then, Christians are to follow the example of Jesus in living rightly, helping the needy and proclaiming the hope that is in the Cross that restores fallen humanity to a loving God.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Jay Smith - Islam and Christianity: Clash of Civilizations in a Multicultural Age

The other night, I went to First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood to hear a presentation by Jay Smith whose is a missionary to Muslims. His particular approach is to debate with them in London and in other (mostly university) settings as opportunities arise. Some of his material can be found at http://debate.org.uk.

Like most Americans, my knowledge of Islam is fairly modest. The other day I was sharing with a friend about this lecture and mentioned that I went in knowing just three things about Islam: (1) not all Muslims are Arab (2) Muslims hold to the Five Pillars of Islam (monotheism - Allah, prayer, charity, observing Ramadan and the pilgrimage to Mecca) and (3) the countries with large Muslim populations are actually Asian countries.

What follows are the notes I took from the presentation.

The situation in London

He began the talk by saying the Islamic groups in London are probably more outspoken than most other places. Over the years, he has befriended some of the people he has debated while others hold hatred for his views.

He mentioned he often goes to "Speaker's Corner" in London to debate with Muslims there usually on Sundays at 4pm. He invited the audience to see him there should they visit London!

In 2002, he got to know a student through debate. Smith found out that student eventually left London to go to Syria to learn Arabic. He would next see a photo of this student on a newspaper in 2003 when that student blew himself up in Tel Aviv.

Smith went to Speaker's Corner the following Sunday and held up the newspaper and asked how many people here support what this man did?

30 raised their hands.

Smith asked, how many would do what he did right here in London?

15 raised their hands.

Thus, the news of the London Underground bombing came as no surprise to Smith. All the bombers in that attempt and in the failed attempt that followed were all citizens of the UK and not foreign terrorists.

In a survey of Islam in the UK taken shortly after 9/11 showed that 15% were radical, 70% nominal and 15% liberal.

The serious readers of the Koran were considered radical. (ed. note - I think this is unfortunate terminology because I don't think of Christians who are serious readers of the Bible should be considered radical). The nominal Muslims were generally non-readers of the Koran. The liberal Muslims were the one who proclaim that Islam is a "religion of peace."

Islam around the world

Smith then gave some quick facts and figures about Islam for our audience: over 1.5 billion Muslims in the world, 700 million can be found in Indonesia, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh and 1 million in London.

He believes that the large numbers in the UK as compared to the USA is intentional because church attendance in the UK is only 5% thus would be more ripe for the spread of Islam. Islamic missionary strategists know that English is become the world language so they need to reach the English world and the UK was more open than the USA for evangelistic efforts.

Smith discussed why there is such hostility to the West and the USA in particular. He mentioned five factors: (1) moral decline of the West is due to the US (2) democracy is incompatible with Islam beliefs (3) usury is a terrible sin and capitalism is a form of usury (4) all of the above mentioned is sustained by the US military and (5) the West is Christian and Christians have corrupted Scripture thus the West is corrupt.

The poll taken shortly after 9/11 was taken again a year later in 2002. The radical portion in the UK grew to 25%. The poll hasn't been taken since but unofficial estimates put the radical group at over 40% today.

History of Islam and the Koran

Smith then moved onto some historical aspects of the rise of Islam.

Muhammad lived in the 7th Century and he received visions from Allah which came to be the Koran text. Smith cited that the oldest biography of Muhammad was about 200 years after his life. Also, the oldest commentary of the Koran was 300 years later. Thus, the time between the actual events and these significant writings is a bit long and thus Smith contends weakens the claims of historicity.

In debates with Muslims, the question often came up, where do you find "Peace" in Islam?

Smith then quoted several passages from the Koran that are used to justify violence. He added that some of the peaceful passages are often mixed with violent ones.

ed. note - I tried to jot down all the verses from the Koran he cited but he spoke fast and I didn't catch all the referencees. I've only list the ones I've been able to confirm by checking an on-line English translation of the Koran.

Smith cited: Sura 9:5, 9:29, 5:32.

The first half of the Koran is from the later Medina part of Muhammad's life. The second half of the Koran is from the earlier Mecca part of his life. For a brief explanation of this see here. The Medina passages are regarded as having precedent over the Mecca passages. 149 verses in the Medina section can be considered as "Sword" verses.

Al-Qaeda is a very violent sect within Islam that cites the "Sword" verses. A 2004 poll showed support for Al-Qaeda in Turkey at 31%, Morocco at 45%, Jordan at 55% and Pakistan at 65%.

Smith believes the "nominals" who used to not read the Koran are now doing so and are adopting the radicalized form of Islam.

Smith's Experiences

Smith says that Bush and Blair can't say the things he is saying because it would be politically incorrect.

He believes Islamic ideology can only be defeated by another ideology and he believes the Christian Gospel is the best idea. He mentioned that Jesus confronted opponents directly. He cited that St. Paul confronted opponents directly.

He mentioned that before St. Paul became a missionary for Christianity he was Saul who was a devout persecutor of Christians. He asked us to pray that there would be an Islamic Paul.

Smith briefly shared that he has met two young men who were very strong Muslims of good reputation who recently became Christians who might be Paul's who can reach the Muslims.

One of them had read an article by Smith and received the Gospel of John to read. He read how Jesus responded on the Cross. He thought about how Muhammad lead military campaigns. Because of this tension, he became a Christian.

The other man Smith met used to watch videos of Smith and then teach Islamic youths that Smith was wrong. He was working in a Mosque when he heard a voice saying, "This is Jesus, follow me." He eventually became a Christian.

Q & A

Q: How does someone in LA respond to Islam?
A: Be friends with Muslims but don't be shy about discussing the differences between Islam and Christianity. Don't be afraid to dialog with the ones who have questions. It makes you learn your Christian faith more when they ask you about your faith. Ask them about why they believe what they believe.

Q: I heard there was some old Koranic texts found in Yemen. What do you know about them?
A: In the 1970s some old texts were found. In the 1980s, 2 German scholars were invited to examine them. The texts seem to be at variance to the Koran as currently configured. Smith has met one of these scholars and that scholar isn't a Christian but one of the leading experts in ancient Middle-Eastern languages. Unfortunately, his findings haven't been yet published and that scholar is fearful about doing so.

Q: Isn't some of the injustices that Muslim societies have suffered part of why they hate the USA?
A: It is a factor. But a lot of people around the world hate America. But only the Islamic ones do suicide bombings. Thus, more is at work than just economic and social injustice. A belief system is in play and the major factor.

Q: How much truth is in the Koran?
A: Scholars are doing source criticism of the Koran. It is quite possible that some sections of the Koran are Jewish apocryphal literature in Arabic. Poetry is about 30% of the Koran and some poems are incredibly similar to some Christian hymns that pre-date the Koran.

Q: Where do you think we will be in 10-20 years in regards to Islam?
A: Military forces isn't going to solve it. Certainly military action and law enforcement might stop some of the terrorists but what has to be defeated is the ideology that breeds the terrorists. They use their scripture to defend their actions. Christians should encourage them to re-assess their scriptures and begin to consider what the Bible has to say.

Q: What is this we hear in the media about 70+ virgins will be the reward for suicide bombers?
A: It is a debated interpretation of Suras 55 and 56.

Q: How to witness to a Muslim?
A: Just like anyone else. Tell them you believe in Jesus and the Bible. It they are open, they will ask you all sorts of questions about it and you should go get answers for them.

UPDATE: I've posted a follow-up post on this post. To see it click here.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

LA Dining: Baccali Cafe and Rotisserie

Latest LA Foodblogging is up.

Baccali Cafe and Rotisserie
245 West Valley Blvd.
Alhambra, CA 91801
626-293-3300 (phone)
626-293-8090 (fax)

No fuss, no muss, just good food at a good price and an incredible variety of items on the menu to choose from.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Whoa! UCLA 41 Oklahoma 24

UCLA defeated OU in surprising fashion today at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. It was the first football game I've been to since the last season of the Toledo era.

One of the key plays was a penalty against OU that nullified an interception. UCLA was leading 27-17 when Olsen's pass was deflected and intercepted. However, a penalty occurred prior to the change of possession.

If the play had stood, OU could have scored to make it 27-24. Instead, UCLA's drive was sustained resulting in a touchdown and a 34-17 lead.

Me and my three friends sat in the general admission section where the ratio was close to 50-50. In our group, there were two UCLA partisans, one Oklahoma supporter and one "neutral."

One of the OU fans behind us acknowledged that this year's team had very few from last year's BCS championship participant.

As for this year's UCLA team, what surprised me was the run defense. Oklahoma's Peterson was limited to 61 yards.

Oklahoma's defense sought to stop the UCLA run and they were successful limiting UCLA's Drew to 70 yards.

Thus, it was up to Olsen, reputed to be just a B, B+ QB, to win the game which was something he couldn't do often in the past two seasons.

Olsen torched OU's pass defense with 3TDs and 313 yards hitting 10 different receivers.

UPDATE: Yahoo! Sports experts and fans had Oklahoma winning. What did Las Vegas say? They had the Bruins favored by 6 1/2. I had my doubts about the Las Vegas odds-makers. But what can you say? They know their stuff?

Thursday, September 15, 2005

John Roberts moving toward confirmation to Chief Justice

So far, it looks good. Baring any last minute surprises, Roberts should be confirmed easily.

In seeing various sound bites, I think two of them stand out.

First, in his opening statement, he said he views being a judge as being an umpire in a baseball game. It isn't his job to hit the ball or pitch it or field it. He just calls balls and strikes and rules on outs. He has a modest view on the role of the judiciary.

Second, in one of his exchanges with a senator, he said, if the little guy is right under the Constitution, I will rule for the little guy. If the big guy is right under the Constitution, I will rule for the big guy. Again, his job is to dispense justice to the best of his ability. The legislature can do things that impact society. The executive branch can do things that impact society. His job as a judge is to look at the case before him and make a determination. Those decisions impact society as a consequence but that isn't the intent going in.

I don't know who Bush will nominate after the Roberts confirmation which is likely to occur by the end of the month.

There will be political pressure to name a woman or a ethnic minority. There will also be pressure from his supporters to name a conservative.

There are some names out there who would be "two-fers" in this regard. Edith Jones, Edith Clement (both of whom were oft mentioned before the Roberts nomination), Emilio Garza and Larry Thompson (though he has no judgeship experience).

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Devotional Thoughts: Pearl of Great Price

Matthew 13:45-46 says, “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it."

It is the companion illustration to the kingdom as hidden treasure.

One of the books (New Bible Commentary: Revised. Edited by Guthrie, Motyer, Stibbs and Wiseman) I was browsing offered this analysis: in the hidden treasure story, the man stumbles onto the treasure and then sells everything to buy the land where the treasure is. In the second story, the merchant is specifically looking for pearls and when he finds one, he sells everything to buy it. Thus, the analogy is that when people are living their life, sometimes they "stumble" upon Jesus and the hope of the kingdom. While others are looking for something in their life and finally they come across the kingdom and Jesus.

I had previously mentioned two possible interpretations of the parables: (1) Jesus seeking the treasure/pearls and giving up everything for them or (2) us, upon realizing the value of the kingdom, sacrificing what we have and ourselves for it.

I'm inclined to think the second explanation makes the better sense.

Is it worth it to give everything up for the kingdom? For Jesus?

Reminds me of the story of Jim Elliot, who went to South America to share Christian faith to the natives. Within days, he and his team were killed by spears and hacked to death. His wife Elisabeth went to the same tribe of Aucas and shared with them about Jesus and many of them turned to Christ.

One of his famous quotes is: He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Devotional Thoughts: Treasure in the field

What should we make of Matthew 13:44?

The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

Two possibilities:
(1) Is it Jesus who "sells all he has and buys that field"? It is an apt metaphor for all that Jesus has done.
(2) Is it us? Humanity's sin is pride that says, I am god. To enter the kingdom of God requires us to say, Jesus is God and I am not. It requires us to give up our autonomy. Thus, the treasure is Jesus and we give up everything to follow Him.

Supportive of explanation number one is that in Hebrews 12:2, "Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning the shame ..."

On the other hand, Matthew 6:33, "Seek first the kingdom of heaven ..." This suggests explanation number two fits better as it calls for us to exert our will to pursue the kingdom.

Hmmm ...

Judge Roberts Hearing Live Blogging

Wonks have probably bookmarked SCOTUSblog's live blogging of the hearings.

A quick read gives you more of a sense of what has happened than the sound bites from the traditional media.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

9/11 in Los Angeles

A new Al-Qaeda tape was released and in it, the speaker said, "Yesterday, London and Madrid. Tomorrow, Los Angeles and Melbourne, Allah willing."

The article goes on to say:
In response to the threats against their city, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the city's police department released a statement this morning. They acknowledged that Los Angeles is a target for terrorists, but said there are no known, credible threats against the city and labeled the tape an instrument of al Qaeda propaganda.
Andrew Sullivan posts on his blog, A PERFECT MORNING: Four years later, another beautiful fall morning. That was the theme of his thoughts on September 16, 2001.

Today, in LA, it was not quite a perfect sunshine morning as it was overcast. But it soon burned away and turned into a perfect afternoon.

In Griffith Park there was a free concert called Symphony in the Glen for Grandparent's Day and a canned food drive for Hope Net who run food pantries for low-income people in LA.

At the Hollywood Bowl the program was Destination Hawaii.

Meanwhile, over at Dodger's Stadium the Dodgers kept their very slim playoff hopes alive by defeating the Padres 7-3.

Over at the Pico and Normandie part of LA, the LA Greek Festival encouraged people to enjoy life.

To the east, the Los Angeles County Fair says enjoy "Moooooosic under the stars" and to "Pig out" on all the great food options.

In the west-side, some would be found checking out the King Tut exhibit.

Devotional Thoughts: Wheat and Weeds Revisited

Matthew 13:36-43 has Jesus discussing with the disciples what he said back in vv. 24-30. This is like Matthew 13:10-23 when Jesus explained to the disciples what he meant in Matthew 13:1-9.

Jesus explained the wheat are the people of the kingdom and the weeds are the people who belong to the evil one. The harvest is the end of the world when the two are identified and separated.

I react at many levels.

On a theological level, I wonder how does this all work?

Does the good seed have a choice to be good seed? When does the harvest happen? Soon?

Tough nut to crack, eh?

Don't have any answers to these questions. Religious belief is partly rational as some aspects are intellectually accessible but we have to be honest and say some parts aren't. For those, we must accept it as is.

As a matter of doctrine, Christians believe that at some future point in time good will be separated from evil (harvest the wheat from the weeds). This is a source of hope because we know evil though often triumphant now will ultimately be defeated.

As a matter of doctrine, Christians believe that Jesus, the Son of Man, through his life, death and resurrection has planted the good seed of the kingdom that will grow into wheat to be collected at the end of all things. This is a source of hope because God hasn't abandoned the world.

In today's sermon at church, the speaker mentioned that in the past, people would see the terrible condition of the world and say, "God must be punishing us." There was an assumption that god exists.

Today, the question is, "Is God there?" There is an assumption that god might not exist.

The preacher went on to say, people look at death and suffering and say, is god out there? And the answer is, look at the Cross. Jesus, who claimed to be God, laid down his life and took up the Cross, he took up death and suffering.

With that, he planted the good seed of the kingdom and in the fullness of time, the wheat and weeds will be harvested and evil defeated.

Jesus said in Matthew 13:43, "Anyone who is willing to hear should listen and understand."

Ethics and reproductive medicine

Recently was scanning through Virginia Postrel's blog and she cited this Elle article on in vitro fertilization with donor eggs.

As a single guy in my 40s, the article is interesting in a hypothetical sort of way. However, if I were to join the ranks of married people, it is likely me and my wife would be prime candidates for requiring the help of medical technology to have children. Thus, it set me off to wondering about what the scenarios are and what guidelines would govern the decision.

So dear readers, I know this is usually a family friendly blog so reader discretion is now advised as I describe some scenarios.

After reading the scenario ask yourself: would I do that? Why or why not?

Scenario one: husband and wife do what they are supposed to do and 9 months later a little one arrives into the world the usual way!

Scenario two: husband is infertile, wife is fertile, use donor sperm with artificial insemination.

Scenario three: husband is fertile, wife is fertile but conception is difficult thus couple uses in vitro fertilization and then implantation into wife.

Scenario four: husband is fertile, wife is infertile, use husband sperm with donor egg with in vitro fertilization and then implantation into wife.

Scenario five: husband is infertile, wife is infertile use donor sperm and donor egg with in vitro fertilization and then implantation into wife.

Scenario six and beyond: all of the above scenarios within the context of a surrogate mother because wife is unable to sustain a pregnancy.

If one is a secularist (non-religious world view) what would be the principles one would use to guide the decision? Or would all scenarios be acceptable?

If one is religious, what would be the principles one would use to guide the decision? Or would all scenarios be acceptable?

As I see it, there are three areas to consider.

Issue one
One's view of the status of an embryo strongly influences the decision.

(1) In vitro fertilization (IVF) usually involves the generation of more embryos than will actually be implanted so some remain in storage to be used if the first attempts at implantation are unsuccessful. If successful, the unused embryos remain in storage where they are ultimately discarded or donated to research or given up for adoption.
(2) Implantation attempts usually involve more than one embryo to insure at least one successfully implants. A friend of mine who works as a neo-natal unit nurse told me that there are a lot of twins from IVF. In these cases, the couples accept the risks of carrying twins but if more than two implant they are faced with a tough choice: do they selectively abort some of the implanted embryos to reduce the risk to the mother and increase the chance of the embryo(s) going to full-term?

Issue two
Another issue is cost. If one accepts the possible destruction of embryos or opts to proceed in a manner that attempts to avoid destruction of embryos, is there a point when the cost of these procedures become ethically problematic?

This WebMD article put the cost at $12,400 per cycle.

In all fairness, the cost of adoption is not trivial either. This article says the costs can go as high as $30,000. Another web page puts the high end at $40,000 but says $10,000 to $15,000 is fairly common.

Issue three
Intricacies due to the involvement of other people besides the couple. What role if any should a donor (sperm or egg) or surrogate play? When and how should the child be told of the role of those individuals?

Again, in all fairness, those issues arise in the context of adoption as well.

As someone sympathetic to the pro-life position, issue one is a very important bright line test.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Its a final, UCLA 63 Rice 21

Bruins stuff the Owls!

Okay, it is just Rice but it has been a long time since UCLA has blown anybody out.

Next week, my beloved Bruins will go up against Oklahoma.

I'll be in the stands for my first game at the Rose Bowl since the last game under Bob Toledo when the Bruins were going for a field goal to beat the Ducks on the last play. They were too far and the wind was against them and Toledo called three straight running plays not getting them any closer. Suffice to say the kick fell short and that ended Toledo's tenure as UCLA's football coach.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Devotional Thoughts: Yeasty Kingdom

Today, am taking a look at Matthew 13:33-35.

Jesus now compares the kingdom to yeast added to dough.

Matthew reports, "Jesus always used stories and illustrations like these when speaking to crowds."

This should tell us something about how we communicate with people about religious faith.

Referring back to the Os Guinness post below, in question and answer time with Guinness, he commented that science fiction and fantasy stories can be powerful ways to talk about Christianity because these stories are not locked into a particular time and place. In some ways they are more universal, he said.

Indeed, stories engage the imagination and pique the curiosity in ways that sometimes a direct presentation does not.

I sometimes wonder what kind of parables would Jesus have told if he were teaching in an era that was industrial instead of agrarian.

Or is the kingdom best illustrated by organic and biological images?

Would it sound appealing to describe the kingdom as a locomotive? The kingdom is like a big train that is powerful and it brings people along and it has a destination.

Is it appealing? More important is it accurate?

I suppose it is accurate?

If comparably accurate then the aesthetic appeal would be important.

I think there are advantages to agrarian images. The strength is that they are living things. Inherent to biological systems are the concepts of growth and change and expansion and multiplication. Mechanical systems do not have any of those traits.

In any case, the images so far in Matthew 13 have all been agricultural... seeds and soils, wheat and weeds, mustard seed and now yeast. And these little things can yield big results.



Image source: http://www.nature.com/news/2004/040816/images/yeast.jpg

Os Guiness - The Third Mission to the West, a Postscript

A little over a month ago, I wrote a blog report on a talk given by Os Guinness.

DJ Chuang left a short note for me in response.

I was pleasantly surprised to get a comment as I wonder what happens after I hit "publish post!"

Anyway, in surfing around, I found out that he will be a participant at the God Blog Convention to be held at Biola University this October 13-15, 2005. DJ Chuang will be leading the session on "The Emerging Church Blogs."

Among my circle of friends, I have heard the term "Emerging Church" tossed around and usually in connection with pastor and author Brian McLaren.

The response is somewhat mixed. Some really like his ideas and some are more skeptical. I, for now, remain on the fence.

But onto DJ's comment: What do you think of his comments? Agree or disagree?

I think Guinness' observation about anti-Christian prejudice is on target. In some of the hot controversies of the day in the USA (abortion, stem cells, gay marriage, etc), Christians are portrayed quite negatively by those who don't hold to faith in Jesus. It seems as if secularists believe their position is so self-evidently correct that objection is not possible. I think most who hold religious views will strongly disagree with the secularist positions but will usually try to accord them some respect.

Interestingly, in the context of the recent hurricane relief efforts where faith-based organizations are taking a major role, I think people (skeptical of Christianity or neutral) have no choice but to acknowledge the valuable role of volunteers motivated by faith.

Overall, I see Guinness' presentation as providing a good big picture framework as to where Christianity is today in relation to the culture. I feel it was meant more to enlighten and encourage rather than provide very specific plans of action.

Probably, the only point I might quibble with is his discussion on how the ideas of leaders are more powerful than ideas of followers. Thus, we should try to influence leaders. The corollary point he made was that Ideas at the "center" tend to be more powerful than the periphery.

On its face, what he says is true. Leaders can be trend setters. Sometimes people will respond to leaders. Thus, it is proper that some people will be called to work in the fields where the leaders are and where the center is.

However, there are times when working the periphery is where God is moving. I can't help but think of the Chinese underground church. The centers of power in China for the moment remain largely immune to change. But in these little pocket community of believers, a mighty wind is sweeping.

I would also cite the imagery that Jesus used in describing the kingdom as yeast in a lump of dough as being more bottom up than top down.

DJ also commented: I'm most curious to learn what an Asian culture that is transformed by Christianity would look like. Some have said that Chinese culture is largely shaped by Taoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism.

Since I'm a molecular biologist by training and born and raised in America, I hesitate to make strong pronouncements in this area. But as a blogger, it is my "job" to expound on ideas for people to see and for you, the reader, to decide if it was worth the click to this site!

I think that because Chinese culture is less individualistic and activity oriented than American culture, the adjustment to Christian virtues like community (Confucian sense of duty to a larger grouping), self-denial (Buddhism's principle that suffering is due to desire) and meditation (Taoism) should be easier.

However, because Asian world-views are non-theistic, it maybe a struggle to accept and enjoy the notion that God is personal. Because God is personal and dynamic with the Spirit working in our lives, it might be difficult for those immersed in Asian culture to respond to the Spirit's prompting because harmony and tradition are so strongly held and may add to the inertia that is inherent to our sinfulness to begin with.

I think another challenge for Asians is that we exist largely in "monocultures." The global scope of Christian faith and God's intent to reach all peoples and for the church to be diverse might be easy to accept intellectually but might be harder to put into practice emotionally for us Asians.

I don't know if there are any "Asian Os Guinness" type leaders who try to pull together the Christian world-view and assess its interface with the culture.

My ties to the Asian Christian community are fairly modest living here in the USA and I am not currently attending an Asian ethnic church.

However, there are some individuals I've heard about who might be such candidates: Dr. (Philemon) Choi Yuen Wan and Dr. Milton Wan.

Dr. Wan will be speaking at this year's West Coast Chinese Christian Conference to be held at Mt. Hermon, California, December 26-29, 2005.

LA takes in evacuees

Heard on, of all places, ESPNradio 710AM that one of the big churches in LA has been taking in evacuees from the hurricane. Those efforts are being coordinated out of The Dream Center.

From the interview, it sounds like many of the evacuees who chose Los Angeles don't plan to return to New Orleans and want to start a new life in LA.

SoCalorie of LA Foodblogging gave this on the scene report of the outpouring of support.

From radio reports, donations nationwide are near $500 million.

UPDATE: I just heard on the radio that there will be a job fair at the Dream Center at 10AM today. They say they have 20 employers already and welcome more.

The Dream Center
2301 Bellevue Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90026
213-273-7000
info@dreamcenter.org

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Devotional Thoughts: Mustard Seed

Am looking at Matthew 13:31-32 tonight.

Jesus again illustrated the Kingdom of Heaven with an agricultural image.

The kingdom is like a tiny mustard seed. It grows into a big plant that birds can come to.

I was curious to know what a mustard plant looked like. So I did a Yahoo! search and found this web page with a photo of the web page author (David Q. Hall) standing next to some mustard plants growing on the side of the road.



Image source: http://dqhall59.com/images/tall_mustard.jpg

If Jesus were walking in Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park or Redwood National Park, He might tell the parable like this:

The Kingdom of God is like the seed of a Redwood. It starts off the size of a tomato seed but the tree can grow to be over 300 feet tall. The kingdom is like a Sequoia. Those seeds start off the size of an oat flake and with time becomes a tree that weighs over 2 million pounds!

Photo of Grant Tree

Image source: http://www.nps.gov/seki/grantpic.htm

For more fun facts about these huge trees check out this web page.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Devotional Thoughts: Story of the wheat and the weeds

Taking a look at Matthew 13:24-30 tonight.

Jesus illustrated the Kingdom by comparing it to a farmer sowing wheat seeds but then an enemy came and sowed weeds in with the wheat.

The farmer's servants want to pull the weeds out. But the farmer knows that too many of the wheat will get damaged. He says let's wait until harvest time and we will get the wheat and burn the weeds.

With all the horrible news about the hurricane, many will ask rhetorically (though some genuinely) where was God when the hurricane happened?

It was within the power of God to intervene.

Yet, God has chosen to wait. I don't know why (if I did, I'd be God!) but God has chosen to wait.

One might ask, why did God send Jesus at that time?

Don't know.

God intends to restore humanity to himself. In the wisdom of God, it was the right time to send Jesus.

Likewise, now, we await the Kingdom in full realization. The wheat seeds are growing up in a world amidst the weeds. And, at the right time, in the purposes of God, the harvest will occur and good will be separated from evil.

In the meantime, we are to labor in the fields doing good so that the Master is pleased and we grow in the goodness He desires to cultivate within us and bring as many along with us as possible. Let us not grow weary.

I heard that some theologians were interviewed by Hugh Hewitt the other day. I only caught a small part of it. The transcript is at Radioblogger. I'll have to check it out because I'm sure they touch on this question.

Monday, September 05, 2005

So disappointing

The finger pointing and blame game is well underway.

And certainly, some of it is quite well deserved.

The over-the-top critics are to be dismissed as worthless critics and the fair-minded public will know who they are and tune them out.

Nonetheless, there were obvious problems and this item in the NYTimes highlights it. HT: to Instapundit.

Excerpts from NYT item:

Mr. Judkins is one of the officials in charge of evacuating the Hampton Roads region around Newport News, Va. These coastal communities, unlike New Orleans, are not below sea level, but they're much better prepared for a hurricane. Officials have plans to run school buses and borrow other buses to evacuate those without cars, and they keep registries of the people who need special help.

Instead of relying on a "Good Samaritan" policy - the fantasy in New Orleans that everyone would take care of the neighbors - the Virginia rescue workers go door to door. If people resist the plea to leave, Mr. Judkins told The Daily Press in Newport News, rescue workers give them Magic Markers and ask them to write their Social Security numbers on their body parts so they can be identified.

"It's cold, but it's effective," Mr. Judkins explained.
.............
The Federal Emergency Management Agency, often criticized for ineptitude, became even less efficient after it was swallowed by a bureaucracy consumed with terrorism. The department has spent billions on new federal airport screeners - with no discernible public benefit - while giving short shrift to natural disasters.

The federal officials who had been laboring on a one-size-fits-all strategy were unprepared for the peculiarities of New Orleans, like the high percentage of people without cars. The local officials who knew about that problem didn't do anything about it - and then were furious when Mr. Bush didn't solve it for them. Why didn't the man on the mound come through for them?

It's a fair question as they go door to door looking for bodies. But so is this: Why didn't they go door to door last week with Magic Markers?

As I talked with friends about the recent events, some who work in government organizations, there was a sense of resignation as they felt that when it comes to dealing with something really big like this disaster, the bungling and slow-footedness was almost inevitable.

On the glass is half-full side of the equation, now that things are underway, the US does have the resources and will through a generous people to make recovery possible.

Sci-fi Spaceships

My name is Rene and I'm a nerd. Enjoy this fellow nerds!

HT: to Jonah Goldberg.

UPDATE: Norden, in the comments, has mentioned he has added some ships to the collection!

Stick a fork in 'em: Dodgers are done

Dodgers lost again.

I bought the tickets over a month ago figuring: Labor Day Monday, SF Giants and final month of a pennant race; could be a sell out.

Traffic to the stadium was light and the backup at the parking payment booths was minimal. Hardly a scalper to be found and the few were selling. Once seated in Dodger's stadium, wide swaths of the light blue reserved section were empty.

The reported attendance was 34,871 which is based on ticket sales. The capacity of Dodger's stadium is 56,000 and it looked less than half-full.

The fans have spoken with their feet and wallets: the Dodgers are done for the year.

In post-game Dodger-Talk, the fans were talking about next year.

Host A. Martinez tried to stay positive but the stat he cited was 25 games left and to finish at .500 the Dodgers would need to win 20. He asked rhetorically, has this team shown any hint of being able to go on that kind of spurt?

I have tickets to one more game this season and I'll go. I'll still listen to many of the games on the radio. I'm a fan but my expectations are adjusted accordingly. I'm a realistic fan and am listening because I enjoy baseball win or lose.

As a management issue, I don't know at what point will the order come down to Tracy to play the rookies more to see what they really have and give them more experience. The Padres are coming into town for a 3-game series September 9-11. My feeling is that the Dodgers will not "throw in the towel" by playing the rookies until that series is completed.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Support Hurricane Relief

If you haven't done so already, please consider supporting any number of organizations such as:

Search Dog Foundation--they train dogs for Urban Search and Rescue Teams.

Feed the Children--they do exactly that and they are trucking in supplies with the help of corporate partners.

Red Cross--they are the biggest and are on the scene.

If you are part of a religious community, consider giving to an organization associated with it. I'm currently a member at a Presbyterian Church. Thus, I'll give some support to Presbyterian Disaster Assistance.

Hugh Hewitt gives some good reasons why: Churches are always excellent conduits to the communities they serve, and can be trusted to be judicious yet generous with the aid they are provided. I will be recommending to my Presbyterian Church session that we offer to "adopt" a sister congregation like, say, The First Presbyterian Church of New Orleans, and send aid via that church.
.............
Institution-to-institution relief will be the long term solution once the short term humanitarian crisis passes.


Check out what the Hands On Network is doing. They are partnering with the Red Cross in Montgomery and Baton Rouge.

I've been a supporter of their affiliates in the cities I've lived in: Greater DC Cares, Hands on Bay Area (formerly Hands on San Francisco) and LA Works.

Major League Baseball will be collecting money for relief in ballparks on September 7th and will match up to $1 million. LA Works will be helping at Dodger's Stadium to collect funds during games on September 5-7.

California League Minor League Baseball teams in the Southland are contributing as well: Lancaster Jethawks, Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, Lake Elsinore Storm and Inland Empire 66ers have been collecting for the Red Cross and have said they will match up to $10,000. I'm surprised to see that the High Desert Mavericks have no such indications on their web page. I hope that is just an oversight by their web master.

To find other agencies check Glenn Reynold's round-up of agencies over at Instapundit.

Also check Truth Laid Bear's list of charities.

LA Dining: Thai Original BBQ

My latest foodblogging is up over at LA.foodblogging.

Thai Original BBQ of Hollywood
5324 Hollywood Blvd.
Hollywood, CA 90027
323-962-2004 (telephone)
323-962-8304 (fax)

They have grown beyond the original store. To see if there is one near you, check their locations page.

Delicious and affordable food!

Friday, September 02, 2005

Search Dog Foundation Trained Teams on the Scene

Check out this page to see the teams deployed in Urban Search and Rescue.

It takes about $10,000 to train a dog to serve in these vital teams.

Go here to donate.

UPDATE: Sherry has contributed to Red Cross and Search Dog Foundation.

UPDATE: Professor Bainbridge has posted in support of the Search Dog Foundation!

Devotional Thoughts: Parable of the sowers, seeds and soils

Matthew 13:1-23 is the parable of farmer sowing seeds and the soils.

If you aren't familiar with the story, you can look it up at an on-line Bible.

In brief, Jesus told a parable. A farmer scattered seeds and they land in various places: (1) footpath where birds eat it up, (2) shallow rocky soil where there is growth but no deep roots, (3) soil with thorns where the thorns eventually outgrow the plants and (4) fertile soil where there yields a good crop.

Jesus explained the seeds are the good news about the Kingdom of God. In three of the four soil types, there is a problem. The birds represent the evil one that steals away the seed before it has a chance to sprout. The rocky soil represents that problems of life that are stunt the growth. The thorny patch is where the cares of the world and lure of wealth strangles the life of the plant.

Disclaimer: I'm not a theologian, I am just your typical guy reading my Bible and trying to get some grasp of what it means.

We all know the story of the tortoise and the hare. It is descriptive of life and how often the winner of the race is not the fastest but the more persistent. Implicit is that we should imitate the tortoise in some situations.

But we could ask "theological" questions to that kind of story like this: are we by nature one or the other? Is it fair of God to expect the hare to act against his nature and be more like the tortoise? Is the hare capable of being more like the tortoise? And what about the tortoise, does she have any moral obligation to help the hare be more like her?

We've gone from a simple descriptive story with a moral point and have come up with a slew of theological questions!

Likewise, looking at this story, I could engage in some theological speculation: if I don't respond well to the seeds from God it is because I'm rocky soil and it isn't my fault I'm rocky soil? Why is God throwing seeds into soil that is too shallow to support long-term growth of the plants? We can come up with a slew of theological questions!

These lead to one of the great knots in theology: what is the balance between God's sovereignty and humanity's free will?

You aren't going to be finding that answer here!

I think the most memorable teaching I've heard on this passage focused on the relationship of the disciples and Jesus. The disciples hear the parables and they scratch their heads and they ask Jesus in verse 10. Jesus responded to them from verse 11 onward.

So how about us today?

We got to be like the disciples in bringing our questions to Jesus.

Paraphrasing v. 12: To those open to Jesus, they will seek for more and more understanding will be given to them. But for those who aren't open to Jesus, what they little they have heard will soon be taken away either by forgetfulness or by force and they won't even know they are missing it.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Hurricane Relief Efforts



Support the trainers of Search Dogs!!



UPDATE: I've received an email from the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation. They shared some information about their organization and their role in the current rescue efforts. Summarizing:

As of August 31, 18 Urban Search and Rescue (USR) teams have been dispatched to the area. 26 of the dogs in these teams were trained by the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation (NDSDF). This will be the largest USR effort in the United States since 9/11.

These specially trained dogs are highly mobile in the rough terrain of a disaster site. They can quickly cover areas and using their keen sense of smell determine if anyone is still alive so they can be rescued.

NDSDR trains dogs and provides them at no cost to fire departments and other emergency service agencies.

To find out more about them and donate to their efforts, see their Website: www.SearchDogFoundation.org or call 1-888-4K9-HERO.


There are two charities I have donated to in response to the terrible events in the South.

Was listening to KFWB-980AM news and they had a feature story on a team of search dogs that will be sent to the area.

UPDATE: I missed part of the news story when it was aired. I've since heard various other news items pertaining to LA response to the hurricane. I think the full story is that one of the LA County Search and Rescue teams are being sent and that team includes search and rescue dogs. The team will be driving to the scene with equipment and supplies. The trip will take over 30 hours of driving. They didn't fly in because cargo flights are all tied up bringing in food and water and temporary shelters.

The group that trains dogs for these kinds of missions is the Search Dog Foundation. From their web page:
The mission of the Search Dog Foundation is to produce the most highly trained canine disaster search teams in the nation. The job of these teams is to find people buried alive in the wreckage of natural disasters and terrorist attacks.
UPDATE: Scrapability (Michelle in the UK) is also profiling Search Dog Foundation.

UPDATE: Jenny of A Jester Unemployed has mentioned Search Dog Foundation in her Blog for Relief Day post.

On KRLA-870AM they are encouraging listeners to support, Feed the Children.

The blogosphere is rallying to get information out. Check out Glenn Reynold's round-up of agencies over at Instapundit. Also, check on Malkin's round-up of the ways bloggers can get involved in being an information source. She also mentions which big businesses are stepping up and which ones aren't.

Instapundit will coordinate a day of fundraising on the blogsphere. Here is his statement:
The plan for tomorrow's (Thursday September 1) flood-aid blogburst: I'd like each blogger participating to put up a post recommending a charity, or other action to help, and linking back to this post where I'll keep a comprehensive list of both bloggers and charities. Basically, a Carnival of Hurricane Relief. That way readers of any blog will have ready access to recommendations on all the blogs. If anyone has a better idea, let me know.
Truth Laid Bear is also keeping a list of bloggers and the charities they are highlighting.

Displaced people and devestated places

CNN is reporting that the Astrodome in Houston is now closed because it is filled up with refugees from New Orleans.

At Volokh Conspiracy there is a post from a NO lawyer describing the total destruction of the legal offices and courts of the city. He describes the impact: And what happens when the evidence in their cases has been destroyed? Will the guilty be released upon the communities? Will the innocent not be able to prove their innocence?

One of the new tourist destinations in New Orleans was the opening of the National D-Day Museum. Right now the link is dead. Once can guess they kept the server in the museum and water and computers don't go together well.

As it is now, all I can tell you about that museum is what the Google search turns up:

The National D-Day Museum, New Orleans - America's National World ... Explores the lives of American men and women who took part in World War II through letters, recruitment posters, weapons, models, and film. www.ddaymuseum.org/

There is some debate on whether to rebuild New Orleans. Of course, the focus right now is really on rescue and recovery of the people. And at some point later, we will return to the question of what kind of NOLA will rise from this calamity.

US Coast Guard Rescue Line

State OES (Office of Emergency Services) has learned that trapped victims on the Gulf Coast are calling family, friends, loved-ones, or anyone they can get a call out to in California asking for someone to rescue them. These requests need to go immediately to the US Coast Guard's Rescue Line at 800-323-7233 and immediate assistance will be sent.

Please distribute this information as widely as possible.

Thank you.