Showing posts from April, 2006

Devotional Thoughts: You do not know what day our Lord is coming

Matthew 24:37-42 tells us the return of the Son of Man will catch people by surprise.

Verse 37-39 says it quite plainly, When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah's day. In those days before the Flood, the people were enjoying banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered his boat. People didn't realize what was going to happen until the Flood came and swept them all away. That is the way it will be when the Son of Man comes.

As I look around my life here in Los Angeles, especially in my part of town, there is a lot of partying and fun-loving going on.

Is enjoying life okay?

I think so if there is gratitude to God and within proper boundaries.

Americans love their freedom. The automobile and the open road are icons of our society. However, this freedom is not without rules. If everyone were on the road doing their own thing we would have chaos!

Are we living in days like the days of Noah?

Don't know. It looks like it in many ways. …

Travel: Joshua Tree National Park

Took a quick weekend get-away to Joshua Tree National Park.

Spring time visitation of the park is high because it is not too hot (in summer it is boiling) and not too cold (in winter it can snow!) so it is advisable to reserve the campsite in advance or get there really early.

Suffice to say, we did not do that!

We found out all the sites were reported to be full on the phone on the day we arrived at the park. We drove up to the Twenty-nine Palms (north side of park) visitor center where we found an updated report on campsite availability. In the south side of the park, at Cottonwood Springs, there were a few sites left but it is a one hour drive through the park to get there. We hit the road and pulled into the campground and the camp host and a ranger told us the last few sites were taken. We were told that there were some minimal BLM sites just outside the park. We started to drive and pulled off to another lot where there was a restroom under the premise, "See a bathroom,…

Culture: Remembering Courage - Flight 93

Discovery Channel did a documentry, The Flight that Fought Back.

A&E did Flight 93, a made for television movie.

Universal is releasing a feature film, United 93 on April 28.

Time magazine has a review of the soon to be released United 93. From the review, it sounds like a film makers have produced a movie that people are going to need to see more than want to see.

Excerpt:Says Cheyenne Jackson, who plays Mark Bingham, one of the stalwart passengers: "We spent so many hours throwing our trays around and bleeding and screaming and crying and praying, and throwing up and peeing ourselves, and trying to imagine every possibility of what these people were going through. It was an environment where we could go to these deep, dark places. But the saddest thing about it was that finally we could wash off our makeup and come out of those places."

He means that the passengers on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, of course, could not come out; they crashed and died, along with the hijack…

Devotional Thoughts: More end of the world as we know it

Continuing the march through Matthew and am in the midst of the famous "end of the world as we know it" discourse of Matthew 24.

Specifically, am looking at Matthew 24:32-36 this morning.

" ... Learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its buds become tender and leaves sprout ... summer is near ... you can know his return is near, right at the door ... "

This seems to suggest we are given enough clues to the end of all things to have some idea it is around the corner.

But then Jesus seems to backtrack, "However, no one knows the day or the hour when these things will happen ... "

A couple of possible explanations.

(1) The fig tree metaphor is to show inevitability of the events (summer and leaves on a fig tree go together like the sun rising in the east and setting in the west) Jesus has described and the follow on statement shows the uncertainty of the exact timing of the events.

(2) the fig tree metaphor points to a season of time which is knowable but the speci…

Sports: 40 years young with 321 wins and counting

Parking: $10.
Upper Reserve Seats: $14
Lemonade and peanuts: $10

What can you say?

This guy made the Dodgers look like minor league players.

He even got an RBI.

He went 8 innings, struck out 6, walked none and gave up only 3 hits and 1 run. He tossed 87 pitches 59 for strikes.

Read the AP recap and box score of Greg Maddux's dominating performance three days after turning 40.

As Maddux was mowing down the Dodgers (the game lasted less than 2 hours!), I tried to get a shot of the new pastel colored seats at Dodger's Stadium.

All the seats in the stadium were replaced this off season as part of the latest renovations of the famed park completed in 1962.

Culture: Three Requiems - Mozart, Verdi and Faure

Last night, I heard the Faure Requiem as part of the Good Friday service at the Hollywood Presbyterian Church. The program started with their choir singing the Faure Requiem backed by the organ. The second half was a dramatization of the life of Jesus with particular attention to the perspectives from Judas and Peter.

The service ended with the actor who played Peter singing about Christ and the Cross and when he finished, he blew out his candle and all the congregants left the sanctuary in darkness. A very moving experience.

This year, I have heard three different requiems.

I heard the Los Angeles Philharmonic perform the famed Mozart Requiem. I blogged about it previously.

If you want to know more about the many versions of the Mozart Requiem, be sure to check out this list at

Little did I realize that there are many Requiems by many composers as described in this Amazon list.

I also heard the Verdi Requiem performed by the Los Angeles Master Chorale.

The three requiems c…

Politics: Immigration debate - high fence big gate

The NY Times charges for the ability to see some of their articles. This has led to bloggers reproducing NYT articles.

In the heat of the immigration debate, I hear that NYT's Thomas Friedman wrote an essay with the title, "High Fence, Big Gate."

A Google search took me to Peking Duck where the TF article is displayed.

Friedman's argument:America today is struggling to find the right balance of policies on immigration. Personally, I favor a very high fence, with a very big gate.

So far, neither President Bush's proposal to allow the nation's millions of illegal immigrants to stay temporarily on work visas, nor the most hard-line G.O.P. counterproposal, which focuses only on border security, leaves me satisfied. We need a better blend of the two - a blend that will keep America the world's greatest magnet for immigrants.
An amnesty for the 11 million to 12 million illegal immigrants already here is hardly ideal. It would reward illegal behavior.

Religion: The Exodus, did it really happen?

As a Christian, I commemorate Good Friday and celebrate Easter Sunday.

In my part of town, there are a good number of Jewish Los Angelinos and they celebrate Passover.

I have to say that if I wasn't a Protestant Christian, I think I would like to be Jewish because the Passover Seder sounds like such an interesting way to remember God and His work in the world. The Seder is a powerful teaching device. It uses words to communicate Jewish beliefs but because it is set in a meal, there are visual, tactile, aromatic and taste sensations to emphasize the wonder of the Exodus story.

Because the Exodus happened so long ago, there is a debate as to whether it really happened.

This rabbi says, no. Excerpts of his reasoning:Three years ago on Passover, I explained to my congregation that according to archeologists, there was no reliable evidence that the Exodus took place--and that it almost certainly did not take place the way the Bible recounts it. Finally, I emphasized: It didn't mat…

Sports: Dodger injury woes continue

Yhency Brazoban will need "Tommy John" surgery.

Brazoban goes onto the DL as Lofton comes off the DL. This moves reduces the pitching staff from 12 to 11 and the number of outfielders from 5 to 6.

Unfortunately for Grady Little and Dodger fans, the season has started and you can't have a do over in assembling the pitching staff. The starters are serving up fat pitches and the relievers can't find the strike zone.

I heard part of the game last night. Hamulack walked two batters but struck out one. Saito bailed the team out by inducing a double play. Kuo was erratic and gave up the game winning hit. Baez finished the game but the Dodgers couldn't rally in the ninth and went down 2-1.

Trying to be positive, it is good to see that Penny seems to have good stuff so far and the off-season signing of Baez makes the GM look like a genius as he has been solid as closer and essential now that both Gagne (out 2 months) and Brazoban (out for the season) are injured.

Now, if…

Culture: Stock picking

As someone who is in between the baby-boomers and generation X, I'm probably in that first demographic that got to adulthood about the time that stock picking got democratized.

Before my generation, stocks seemed to be only in the realm of the rich. Now, the littlest of little guys like me can go ahead and get into stocks through mutual funds and to hold actual stocks through discount brokers.

The advice for people my age is to do the following in this order:
(1) pay off all credit card debts - the interest rates on this kind of debt is very high compared to auto loans, student loans and mortgages
(2) stash away emergency funds in very safe investments that are easy to get to on short notice - I hear 6-8 months expenses
(3) take advantage of work place retirement programs - your employer often matches in whole or in part what you put in
(4) begin to invest in higher risk but higher reward investments for mid- to long-term savings objectives - in other words consider stocks and bonds a…

Devotional Thoughts: This is the end ...

Am taking a look at Matthew 24:1-31. A large chunk of text!

This passage is one of those controversial "end of the world as we know it" teachings by Jesus.

I hope it doesn't sound too horribly sacriligious to quote a vile yet haunting song when writing Christian devotional thoughts.

Many years ago, I saw the film Apocalypse Now and it begins with the song, "The End" by the Doors.

Since then, when the subject of eschatology, the fancy word for the theological study of the end times, comes up, I sometimes think of that famous song by the Doors. Lyric excerpt:This is the end
Beautiful friend
This is the end
My only friend, the end

Of our elaborate plans, the end
Of everything that stands, the end
No safety or surprise, the end
I'll never look into your eyes...againJesus leaves the Temple and says to the disciples, you see all these buildings? One day they will be utterly destroyed!

As they sit on the Mount of Olives they would have an excellent view of the…

Devotional Thoughts: Seven Woes

Taking a look at Matthew 23:1-39.

Normally, I haven't been blogging such large sections of the text but on this occasion, the natural flow of the reading takes you through the whole chapter.

This passage has Jesus saying "Woe to you ... " seven times.

The previous passages had Jesus in a running verbal confrontation with the religious leaders and here he finishes off the confrontation by listing their shortcomings. The shortcomings boil down to self-importance, self-righteousness, ignorance and hypocrisy.

A few years back, I was sitting in on a class taught by Ralph Winter at Glendale Presbyterian Church where he was showing video clips from various movies that portray the life of Jesus.

Unfortunately, I can't remember which film clips he showed that recreated Matthew 23. In one of them, Jesus is angry and his voice is booming throughout. In the other, Jesus starts angry and as he goes through the litany of woe, he eventually begins to weep.

We simply don't know w…

Devotional Thoughts: Messiah complexity

Am looking at Matthew 22:41-46 this morning.

Jesus had been fielding questions. Now, he asked the Pharisees a question, "Whose son is the Messiah?"

They reply, "David, of course."

Jesus asks, "So why did David call the Messiah Lord in Psalm 110 if the Messiah is the descendant of David?"

The Pharisees didn't have a reply.

I confess, I'm not certain what to make of this passage.

I suppose part of the problem is that I'm not Jewish. I don't know what the Jewish concept of the Messiah is beyond the obvious that they believe the Messiah will be a descendant of David. Does that mean, they believe the Messiah will be human being?

I also don't know which passages in the Hebrew Scriptures Jewish theologians view as having Messianic implications.

From what I gather here, the Jewish religious leaders either didn't regard Psalm 110 as about the Messiah or they never resolved in their own minds how the Messiah would be a descendant of David and y…

LA Dining: Noe

My latest is up over at LAFB.

Noe Restaurant and Bar
251 South Olive Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Quick run-down:
Atmosphere - nice, upscale, good for conversation, on a warmer evening sitting outside would be ideal.
Service - very attentive.
Food - 3 out of 4 items were terrific.
Price - a little on the higher side for modest sized portions. We got out of there at $85 tax and tip. You are getting atmosphere and certainly if you opt for the chef choice tasting you are getting very personalized service.

Non-profit of the month: April 2006 - Nickles for Nets

On Thursday, April 6, on KCET channel 28 in Los Angeles, I saw the documentary, Malaria: Fever Wars.

Malaria kills over a million people a year. But because this is happening mostly in the developing world, we seldom hear about it.

However, there are dedicated people trying to do something about it.

As an alumnus (1993-1997) of the National Institutes of Health, I went to see the internet site to see what they are doing. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases is one of the key agencies for Federal level research.

In addition, the non-governmental sector has stepped up to the plate with the Malaria Vaccine Initiative. There are four ways to stop malaria:
(1) insecticides to kill the mosquitos
(2) window screens and bednets to prevent mosquito bites at night when they are most active and people are asleep
(3) antimalarial drugs for those infected
(4) a malaria vaccine to prevent infection.

The Malaria Foundation International web page is a portal to information abou…

Culture: Jesus and Judas in the News

This morning, I was watching ABC's GMA where Martin Bashir was previewing some stories on the Life of Jesus for 20/20 and Nightline stories on Prof. Tabor's book, " Jesus Dynasty" where he questions the virgin birth and proposes who Jesus' father was. Tabor also suggests that John the Baptist was a parallel Messiah figure along with Jesus.

Interestingly, as Charlie Gibson and Martin Bashir wound up the interview, Bashir remarked (I'm paraphrasing), we made an effort in our story to look at the historical evidence on both sides and I think viewers might be surprised to find out how strong the traditional Christian explanation holds up to scrutiny.

National Geo is showing Gospel of Judas.

Mark Daniels responds as does Recliner Commentaries. HT: Hugh Hewitt.

UPDATE: I missed the ABC Primetime feature on the Gospel of Judas. From reading the summary article, it sounds like they tried to hear out both sides of the story.

UPDATE: Here is a post from Stand To R…

Devotional Thoughts: the most important commandment

Matthew 22:34-40 has a short exchange where Jesus responds to the question: what is the most important commandment?

Jesus responds: love God with all your heart, soul and mind; love your neighbor as yourself; all the other commandments are based on two ideas.

One thing I have wondered about is the meaning of heart, soul and mind.

In modern day life, we have ideas of what these mean. I wonder to what degree they are the same as the Jewish understanding of Jesus' day? We must also remember that the Gospels were written in Greek and thus in addition to the Jewish cultural context there is the Greek linguistic context of that era.

I tend to think of the heart as the blending of the will and the emotion. We say we love someone with all our heart. We are describing the decision we make inside us to care for the person through thick and thin. Additionally, we think of the emotion of love. I wonder to what degree this "American" notion of heart is the same as Jewish and Gr…

Sports: Congrats to the Gators and thanks for the memories Bruins!

Florida won easily 73-57 over the Bruins tonight in the National Championship game.

First off, hats off to Florida. They played well and deserve all the praise they are receiving.

UCLA got this far by team effort and they were beaten by a team that was well balanced and executed their plans at both ends effectively.

There is little to say when one side is taller, faster and stronger top to bottom.

Pat Riley, former Los Angeles Laker coach, said of basketball, there are only two states: winning and misery.

The wrong number for the Bruins: 10 blocked shots by Florida. And who knows how many altered and rushed shots. If the Bruins scored on half of those occasions, that is 10 points and the complexion of the game is different. It moves from a blowout to being a potentially competitive game.

But the fact remains: the better team won.

Winning or misery.

Within misery there are two: the loss where you kick yourself for your mistakes and the loss where you are beaten, throttled, and crush…

Sports: UCLA in the National Championship Game!

With a stunning 59-45 upset of LSU, UCLA has clawed its way to the NCAA Men's Basketball National Championship game for the first time in eleven years!

The Bruins are back in the National Finals with a team nobody (or not many) thought would get this far.

As a fan who has followed this team all season I saw them struggle in some victories in the out of conference schedule and get beat by some marquee teams like Memphis and West Virginia. But the hopeful thing was the team never seemed to give up even when getting beaten. The team got better as the season went along. With the arrival of the NCAA, realistic fans were saying Sweet Sixteen or Elite Eight. A rare few on sports radio were saying Final Four and National Championship. I tended to discount them because they were on the Bruins radio network!

2.2% of Yahoo! Fantasy Sports fans picked the Bruins to win it all. They were the ninth most popular pick.

Nonetheless, GO Bruins!

A solid performance at both ends of the court wil…

Sports: UCLA vs. LSU

UCLA has been on a magic carpet ride as probably the biggest underdog #2 ever.

They survived against Alabama in round two when Alabama had the shot to win but missed. They stole the game against Gonzaga. They slowed down Memphis enough to win.

5:47 PM, PST. LSU vs. UCLA. The Final Four.

Everyone says the Bruins are the underdogs. The Pac10 regular season and tournament champs are the underdogs just like George Mason, the number two team from the unheralded Colonial and maligned as a team that didn't deserve to be in the NCAA.

LSU has athletes and size and talent. UCLA's only hope is that the sum total of all their parts will be enough to eek out another win. From listening to the radio, about the only two weaknesses reported on LSU is that sometimes their outside shooting vanishes and they can be careless with the ball.

UCLA will have to somehow (1) make sure Davis doesn't totally dominate ... he'll get his points but just don't let him go wild (2) with quick dou…

Devotional Thoughts: Sadducees ask Jesus about the Resurrection

Previously, the Pharisees and the Herodians tried to trap Jesus about paying taxes to Rome. He gave the famous answer: Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.

Jesus answered their question in a way they didn't expect.

Now, it is the Sadducees shot at trying to stump Jesus.

In Matthew 22:23-28, the Sadducees who don't believe in resurrection try to confuse the issue by using the "absurd hypothetical" ploy.

They framed the question with a hypothetical of SEVEN brothers who in sequence marry the same woman and all die and then the woman dies. They then ask, who does she belong to husband-wife wise?

Jesus wasn't fooled. He went after the premise of the question by responding: in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage.

Thus, Jesus (1) affirms resurrection and (2) indicates the institution of marriage is only for our "earthly" life.

As I think about this passage, I have to won…