Friday, June 30, 2006

Culture: Tom Cruise Night with the Lake Elsinore Storm

Further solidifying Southern California's reputation as the land of fruits and nuts (Hey, at least we have fun with it!) I saw this item. Excerpt:
The Lake Elsinore Storm has planned a salute to Tom Cruise tonight during its California League baseball game.

Besides giving away a Cruise bobblehead -- make that a "bobble-couch," depicting the star in full Oprah couch-jumping mode -- the San Diego Padres' Class - A affiliate will celebrate the "silent birth" of Tom and Katie Holmes' baby, Suri, with a "silent inning," during which no batters will be announced and no music played. "Silent birth," a Church of Scientology teaching, specifies no music and no talking during the birth.

Other planned activities include a couch-jumping contest, a Scientology information and sign-up booth and a retrospective of Cruise's movie career.

The Storm's opponent? The High Desert Mavericks, of course. No doubt in honor of Cruise's character in "Top Gun."
I decided I better check this out on the Lake Elsinore Storm web page.

Indeed, if you mouse and click to the promotions page, the event is scheduled for June 30, 2006. The blurb on another page says this:
TOM CRUISE JUMPS INTO MINOR LEAGUE BASEBALL
TOM CRUISE BOBBLE-COUCH GIVEAWAY

For years, the bobblehead has been the definitive giveaway at ballparks across the country. On Friday, June 30th, the Lake Elsinore Storm and Coca-Cola will introduce a whole new twist on the "bobble" theme with the Tom Cruise bobble-couch! Just when it seems like the whole world is against the Hollywood mega-star, the Lake Elsinore Storm offers their salute to Tom’s bizarre behavior, and has planned an entire evening in his honor.
In addition to the bobble-couch giveaway to the first 1,500 fans, the Storm has planned several Tom Cruise themed events and activities throughout the night.

Devotional Thoughts: Making lemonaid out of lemons



Rembrandt
"St. Paul in Prison"
1627

Image source: http://www.rembrandtpainting.net/complete_catalogue/storia_b/paul_prison.htm

Am looking at Philippians 1:12-18 this morning.

St. Paul was in prison when he wrote the letter to the church of Philippi.

But despite this he was able to see the bright side!

But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.

Paul, the captive, had a captive audience in the form of the palace guards!

He also noticed that other people became more bold to speak about Jesus.

Unfortunately, some of the attitudes of the others who were speaking for Jesus was not ideal. Despite this, Paul wasn't going to lose his joy in the life of faith.

Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill: The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice.

What eventually happened to Paul?

This web page indicates he was executed after around AD 62. Excerpt:
After being held prisoner for two years and after hearings before the council of priests, before the Roman procurator Felix and his successor Festus, before Herod Agrippa II, and again before Festus, he appealed to Rome on his citizen's right. So he was sent to Rome under guard. (Acts 21.27–28.31.) On the way they were shipwrecked on Malta but finally landed at Puteoli (Puzzuoli). Paul was imprisoned (A.D. 60) in Rome but was allowed to conduct his ministry among the Roman Christians and Jews who visited him. Of his final fate tradition says that he was beheaded south of the city, near the Ostian Way, probably during the persecution of Nero. A lesser tradition claims that Paul was released after his first imprisonment and that he went East again, and perhaps also to Spain, before his martyrdom. Some scholars believe that Paul was executed after his initial imprisonment, probably A.D. 62. St. Paul's tomb and shrine are at the Roman basilica of St. Paul's Without the Walls.
Another web page I found discusses briefly that Paul may have been released such that Paul traveled to modern day Spain and Great Britain. In the Wikipedia article, the author places Paul's death at AD 64 or 67. Excerpt:
We are forced to turn to tradition for the details of Paul's final years. One tradition holds (attested as early as in 1 Clement 5:7, and in the Muratorian fragment) that Paul visited Spain and Great Britain. While this was his intention (Rom 15:22–7), the evidence is inconclusive. Another tradition places his death in Rome. Eusebius of Caesarea states that Paul was beheaded in the reign of the Roman Emperor Nero. This event has been dated either to the year 64, when Rome was devastated by a fire, or a few years later, to 67. One Gaius, who wrote during the time of Pope Zephyrinus, mentions Paul's tomb as standing on the Via Ostensis. While there is little evidence to support any of these traditions, there is no evidence contradicting them, and no alternative traditions of Paul's eventual fate. It is commonly accepted that Paul died as a martyr in Rome. According to Bede in Ecclesiastical History from Vatican library sources, his mortal remains were given to Oswy, King of Great Britain, by Pope Vitalian in 665.
Lord, I pray for those who are Christians in countries where it is dangerous to be a Christians. Give them strength to persevere. Give them joy in knowing you are with them. Help them share the love of Jesus with those around them. Help us here in the USA to be bold for you. Amen.

News: What to do about Guantanamo?

I don't know.

However, I've been reading some news items to get some understanding of what the situation is.

Today, SCOTUS ruled 5-3 that the current mechanism of military tribunals was not within the boundaries of the executive branch. The ruling does open the door for the Congress to write legislation establishing them however.

According to the article there are about 450 prisoners still there. Excerpt:
The ruling raises major questions about the legal status of about 450 men still being held at Guantanamo and exactly how, when and where the administration might pursue the charges against them.
The prisoners at Gitmo are a mixture of individuals. It isn't as easy as it looks to figure out who should be kept in prison and who should be let go. This item from National Journal shows some of the challenges the military faces as they investigate the backgrounds of the prisoners. Excerpt:
Like many of the men who came handcuffed to Cuba, Detainee 032 has never been accused of fighting against America. He fell into U.S custody far away from any battlefield. But today, after four years of interrogations and investigations, he is still an "enemy combatant," even though he was never an enemy or a combatant. He is something else: something that might be dangerous or might not. But he's securely in our custody, and raise your hand if you want to be responsible for releasing the man who next flies an airplane into a skyscraper.
In reading on in the article, the case against Detainee 032 seemed awfully weak. Nonetheless, the military tribunal ruled he was an enemy combatant and will continue to be detained.

It is hard to blame them for making that determination because according to the article some of the prisoners they had released earlier were eventually captured again. Excerpt:
The officers serving on the tribunals were told that a handful of prisoners released long before the tribunals began had subsequently appeared in battle, one bragging of how he had convinced the Americans that he was a goat farmer. The officers' friends and colleagues in uniform were dying every week in Iraq, every month in Afghanistan.
Nonetheless, lawyers have investigated Detainee's 032 story further and if what is described in the article is accurate, it would seem he should be released.

This news item pointed out another difficulty of what to do with the prisoners. Excerpt:
"It really shows the conundrum that we're in," said John B. Bellinger III, the State Department's legal adviser. "We want to get out of the Guantanamo business while continuing to protect ourselves and protect others."

Bellinger said the U.S. wants to return many detainees but has been blocked by countries who don't want the men or who don't recognize them as nationals.
Imagine if you are country X and the USG says to you, you want your citizen back? We don't think he is actually a terrorist.

I suppose if you are country X you might say, well, why don't you hang on to him for now, we'd rather not take a chance on your investigation being wrong.

The article then goes on to pose another problem which I never would have thought of. In some cases, the prisoners might actually face a worse fate if released to the countries that claim them. Excerpt:
A big headache for the U.S. has been what to do with a group of Uighurs, an ethnic group that lives mainly in western China. About two dozen Uighurs were captured by U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

China has demanded their return, but the United States feared they might face persecution there. China blames Uighur separatists for sporadic bombings and other violence in the Xinjiang region.

Five Uighurs were sent to Albania last month, but no other countries have offered to take in the rest.

Other nations "were concerned that the Chinese government would be very unhappy with them if they were to take the Uighurs," said Sam Whitten, head of the State Department's war crimes office.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Devotional Thoughts: Love lessons from Paul's Prayer


image source: http://www.ccel.org/bible/phillips/CPn11Philippians.htm

Philippians 1:3-11

There are passages written by St. Paul that are deeply theological. The Book of Romans comes to mind.

There are passages where St. Paul has to play the tough guy and call people out. Parts of 1 and 2 Corinthians are examples of tough love.

Here we have a beautiful example of how St. Paul loved the people in his life deeply.

Affirming by Thanksgiving
I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.
Paul's life was about telling people about the Good News of what Jesus did to restore us to God. The Philippians were supporters of his work.

Paul arrived in Philippi in Acts 16:12. They didn't get to stay long as the Roman authorities booted them out of town in Acts 16:35-40. Apparently, even though Paul was no longer with them, they somehow managed to keep in touch such that Paul was very thankful for them. We have a hint of this in Philippians 4:14-16 where is sounds like the Philippians provided financial support for Paul.

Pointing to a Hopeful Future
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
There are few things more encouraging than to know that someone believes in your potential and possibilities for a blessed future. We are all a work in progress and He isn't done with us. Thus, our hope isn't based on us and our solo efforts.

Expressing Personal Feelings
It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.
When was the last time any of us have said to someone, "I hold you in my heart?"

Or, "I yearn for you?"

I suppose newlyweds might talk that way!

Nonetheless, there is power in sharing ones feelings isn't there?

Notice that Paul is in prison! Yet, he is finding ways to encourage others. I think that kind of attitude is only possible when there is a higher power at work in our lives. I know how it is easy for me to get into a woe is me pattern.

Desiring the Growth of the Other Person
And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
When we love someone, we want the best for them. There is not a "thing" on this list. The list is about character and relationships: love, knowledge, discernment, purity and righteousness.

We don't know what Paul looked like.


image source: http://www.oldmasterpiece.com/painting-en_286.html by Rembrandt c. 1657

But we do know what Paul's heart looked like from this passage.

Lord, teach me to pray and care for others like the way Paul did. Help me to grow in love and knowledge and discernment so that I can live a life of righteousness. Amen.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Devotional Thoughts: Grace and peace to you

I started to write the "Devotional Thoughts" as a way to help me more fully form my reactions to reading small portions of Scripture. Part of the Christian life is the practice of examining life in light of the Bible.

Why does it matter?

In everyday life there are instruction manuals. It could be for some software, for a DVD player, for a cell phone, whatever.

Is there an instruction manual for life?

Christians believe that the Scriptures serve that role.

After Jesus resurrected and gave His followers instructions to go tell everybody about Him, the church was founded. See the book of Acts to find some of the history of the early days of the church.

Eventually, the life and teachings of Jesus were written down and Matthew, Mark, Luke-Acts and John became the most highly regarded records of what Jesus did and what He said.

Additionally, the leaders of the early church wrote letters to churches and specific believers to encourage them and teach them about the faith. Again, certain ones came to be highly regarded. For instance, James and Jude, brothers of Jesus have one letter each as part of the Christian Scriptures. In the Gospel accounts, we have little information about the brothers and sisters of Jesus. I suppose they came to faith as a result of the resurrection?

Peter the famous disciple who denied Jesus as well as other famous events in the Gospels is acknowledged for two letters in the New Testament. It is also believed that Mark's gospel may have drawn heavily from the recollections of Peter.

John is credited for the Gospel of John, letters First, Second and Third John and finally for the Revelation which aside from John 3:16 signs at football games contains some of the most widely known (and deeply misunderstood) passages of Scripture!

One of my favorite portions of the Bible is St. Paul's letter to the Philippians.

Philippians 1:1-2
Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons: grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.


St. Paul is clearly one of the major figures of Christianity after Jesus. 13 of the New Testament books are believed to have been written by Paul.

Timothy is Paul's protege. Paul met Timothy in Acts 16 and from that point on, Paul trained him up.


Image source: http://www.bibleplaces.com/images/Philippi_acropolis_from_east_tb_n011201.jpg

Philippi is a city in Eastern Macedonia. Go here for some history.
Excerpt:
The Apostle Paul's travels to Philippi can be found in Acts chapter 16. Paul's visit to this city takes place shortly after the outset of his second missionary journey around A.D. 49. Some believe that Paul was in this city sometime in the summer to early fall of A.D. 50.
.........
Paul no doubt had much correspondence with the church at Philippi. The letter that we have today known as Paul's Epistle to the Philippians is likely written from Rome while Paul was under house arrest. Written circa A.D. 61, this letter corresponds to a church that has been in existence for over a decade from Paul's first visit there.
To see some additional photos and read some additional history check this page out.

"Overseers and deacons ... "

Sounds very Presbyterian! 8-)

For the non-presbyterians who have stumbled onto this page, one point of emphasis in presbyterian churches is that they are led by overseers (or elders) and deacons.

"grace to you and peace ... "

I heard a definition of grace that uses the letters in grace: God's Riches At Christ's Expense.

There is probably no better hymn about grace than Amazing Grace:
Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost but now am found
Was blind but now I see ...
As for peace, it is not just the absence of conflict but I think of peace as a sense of well-being.

We need grace and only God can give it. We need peace and again, only God can provide it. Lord, help me be an instrument by which Your Grace and Peace reach people. Amen!

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Devotional Thoughts: Go tell everybody!

Matthew 28:16-20.

Anyway, you translate it, the bottom line is go tell everybody.

Check out this cool resource for online Bible reading. In that resource, you can display various translations side-by-side.

But as I say, no matter which translation you use, the message is clear: go tell everybody.

So let me cut and paste it here:

New Living Translation:

Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.

New American Standard Bible:

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.

Young's Literal Translation:

having gone, then, disciple all the nations, (baptizing them -- to the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all, whatever I did command you,) and lo, I am with you all the days -- till the full end of the age.

La Biblia de las Americas: (I wish I could understand Spanish!)

Id, pues, y haced discípulos de todas las naciones, bautizándolos en el nombre del Padre y del Hijo y del Espíritu Santo, ensenándoles a guardar todo lo que os he mandado; y he aquí, yo estoy con vosotros todos los días, hasta el fin del mundo.

Turkish: NT (1987, 1994): (I wish I could understand Turkish!)

Bu nedenle gidin, bütün uluslar? ö?rencilerim olarak yeti?tirin. Onlar? Baba, O?ul ve Kutsal Ruh'un ad?yla vaftiz edin. Size buyurdu?um her ?eye uymay? onlara ö?retin. ??te ben, dünyan?n sonuna dek her an sizinle birlikteyim.

UPDATE: Looks like some of the Turkish characters don't always reproduce correctly. To see the Bible in its various languages check out Bible Gateway and Unbound Bible!

Whatever language you understand, Jesus' message is for you.

I think these people are heroes!

Lord, let your words go forth far and wide. Bless your messengers where ever they are in the world. Help me to be your messenger here. Give me boldness to be your messenger today. Amen.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

LA Scene: Take a hike

Haven't gotten around until now to post some photos from a couple of hiking ventures.

There were two books recommended to me by one of my outdoorsy buddies to find some of the good hikes around.

Afoot and Afield in Los Angeles by Jerry Schad.

California Hiking : The Complete Guide to More Than 1,000 Hikes by Tom Stienstra and Ann Marie Brown.

Can you tell where in Southern California I am?



I don't know the name of the mountain in I'm looking at from the mountain I'm on!

See the snow? There were a few patches where I was as well.



Gasp, cross that line and I'm in the Wilderness!



I did see one bighorn sheep in the distance but it was gone before I could get the camera out.

If you are curious where the above three pictures were taken, go here.

Can you tell where in Southern California this picture was taken?



The hike is on this page and it is hike number one.

Sports: World Cup Sweet 16

And now for more "expert" commentary on the World Cup...

Germany over Sweden - Germany has been en fuego

Argentina over Mexico - Argentina has been muy caliente

Australia over Italy - the USA should have beaten those Italians so I'm counting on the Socceroos to make the Italians say, "No mas."

Switzerland over Ukrane - ... queso, I love queso!

Ecuador over england - montana alta, they train at 9000' above the sea ...

Portugal over Netherlands - okay, so Portugal doesn't speak Spanish but their bandera has the right colours (note British spelling)

Ghana over Brazil - have to go for at least one upset special.... want to hear that guy on channel 34 say, "Goooooooooooooooooooollllllllllll!!!!!!!" in what would be the biggest upset in World Cup history!

Spain over France - they speak Espanol in Spain and they speak Frances in France... 'nuff said.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Sports: World Cup Fever Fills Koreatown in Los Angeles

Noon (PDT).

Today.

Korea vs. Switzerland.

Businesses in Koreatown are capitalizing on the Soccer fever gripping fans of the Korean soccer team. Excerpts:
If South Korea beats Switzerland today, several Koreatown businesses plan to offer free or discounted services and merchandise.

Up for grabs are free bowls of noodles, cut-rate hair cuts, rounds of drinks, higher interest rates on savings accounts and even a chance to win a wig.

What they will lose in sales, these entrepreneurs hope to make up in goodwill and promotion for their businesses.
............
For Lee, it's more than just a sports event. Lee, an immigrant from South Korea, has three children, who were all born in the United States. She said they felt little connection to the country that she still considered home -- although soccer is starting to change that.

"In 2002, the children were too young," Lee said. "They didn't understand why I was being so crazy about the games. But now, they're starting to get it. They say, 'Oh, this is our parents' country.' And I tell them, 'These are your roots too.' "

Pride is also a driving force for Andrew Shin, manager of Bohemian, a bar on 6th Street and Kenmore Avenue that is opening early to accommodate the soccer set.

"It means a lot to us, as immigrants, to see Korea doing so well," Shin said. "A lot of people in the United States don't even know where South Korea is located. This is our time to shine, to make our mark."

On Sunday, when South Korea played France to a 1-1 tie, about 150 people gathered inside Bohemian. Shin gave out a round of drinks on the house when South Korea scored. Today, he plans to do the same: one free drink per person every time South Korea scores.

With a drink costing an average of $6, Shin knows that the bar could lose hundreds of dollars if the team performs well.
...........
Yang Gi restaurant at 7th Street and Vermont Avenue is expecting patrons to come watch the game on its two TVs and will take 20% off all lunch tabs today. If South Korea wins, the discount will grow to 30%.
...........
Thousands of South Korean fans are expected to gather in Koreatown to watch the game on big-screen TVs and projector screens. One of the main viewing areas is on Wilshire Boulevard between Serrano and Oxford avenues. Radio Korea, which is organizing the event, said it expected about 10,000 people.
[ed. note, emphasis mine]
.........
Not to be outdone, Pacific City Bank on Wilshire Boulevard will boost the interest rate paid on money market accounts opened in the last two months if the South Korean team advances. The initial rate of 4.25% will bump up 0.25%, the bank said, adding that a number of restrictions would apply.

A South Korean victory would kick off a raffle at Himo Inc. for a $1,500 wig. If the team advances again, the retailer will give away two more wigs. Another advance, three wigs.

At A Team Hair Salon, owner Jenny Park knows that she will have a busy day if South Korea wins this afternoon because she will offer men's haircuts for $1.99. The normal price is $20.

If South Korea moves ahead again to become one of the top eight teams in the competition, she will offer women's haircuts, normally $20, for $1.99.

And should South Korea enter the semifinals -- where the team was eliminated in 2002 -- Park will offer all haircuts for free. Each offer would be valid for only the day the team wins.

"If they come, we'll just have to give out number tickets, I guess," she said. "They'll have to wait. But we'll get to them."
With team USA out of the competition, I'll be rooting for the South Korean team!

Post-mortems of the failed USA effort are everywhere. The bottom line: our guys did the best they could but they just aren't at the same level as the rest of the best in the world. Excerpt:
Like the infamous "Bartman" meltdown by the Cubs, or the way the 1986 Red Sox fell apart after a ground ball squeezed between Bill Buckner's wickets, it was a symptom of systemwide failure -- not the cause. The real problem were all those plays made -- or not -- on either side of the penalty kick.

The U.S. team managed three shots in its final outing, after just one in two previous games. In hindsight, knowing that four years of work was being shrunk to a final 45 minutes against Ghana, it's fair to ask Arena, his staff and his players what they were waiting for.
........
Like every other team game, soccer is about numbers. The more men committed to each attack, the better the scoring chances. The flip side is that more men forward means more open space behind them. Once the rest of the world respected the Americans enough to play them straight up, the jig was up, too. Nothing short of a supreme effort in every game could have papered over the talent gap that still exists, and the only time the U.S. players managed that was against Italy.

Why Arena didn't coax it from them sooner, or take more risks by adjusting his roster formations and tactics accordingly, are the questions he should have to answer if he wants to stay on.

And to be sure, there will be stories calling for his job, plus the usual smart-aleck commentaries about how the U.S. team being sent home is actually a good thing, because the rest of the world is mad enough at Americans as it is and now we can get back to focusing on sports we really care about.

Which is fine. Just remember it's no coincidence that the NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball and even the NHL are filled to overflowing with difference-making athletes carrying valid U.S. passports. And until soccer manages to siphon off a few for the cause, it will always be a lost one.

Devotional Thoughts: Trying to prevent the resurection

Matthew 27:62-66 tells us that the religious leaders of the day knew of Jesus' claims of resurrection. They figure, we will stop that by asking the political leader, Pilate, to post guards at the tomb.

I was taking a look at a nice reference book, Bible Background Commentary by Craig S. Keener, to see if there was some additional information about this text.

He speculates whether the guards posted were Temple guards or actual Roman soldiers. We would guess is that the average Roman soldier is better equipped and more trained than the Temple guards of an oppressed society. It is an interesting discussion but I don't know if it materially affects the security of the seal on the tomb. Imagine, if you will, the disciples, a rather rag tag group, attempting a Delta Force type raid to steal Jesus body!

Temple guards/Roman soldiers versus disciples? Who would you put your money on in a knife fight?

Matthew 28:1-15 tells us what happened ...

The male disciples were no where to be found.

After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.

It is the women disciples who go to the tomb not the elite Green Beret disciples.

There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

Instead of special forces disciples, an angel of the Lord came!

The guards whether Roman soldiers or Temple guards were terrified.

The angel tells them that Jesus is not here, he is risen just as he said. A quick google search for Easter Song netted this this web page with lyrics.
Here the bells ringing
They're singing that you can be born again
Here the bells ringing
They're singing Christ is risen from the dead

The angel up on the tombstone
Said He has risen, just as He said
Quickly now, go tell his disciples
That Jesus Christ is no longer dead

Joy to the word, He has risen, hallelujah
He's risen, hallelujah
He's risen, hallelujah

Hear the bells ringing
They're singing that you can be healed right now
Hear the bells ringing, they're singing
Christ, He will reveal it now

The angels, they all surround us
And they are ministering Jesus' power
Quickly now, reach out and receive it
For this could be your glorious hour

Joy to the world, He has risen, hallelujah
He's risen, hallelujah
He's risen, hallelujah, hallelujah

The angel up on the tombstone
Said He has risen, just as He said
Quickly now, go tell his disciples
That Jesus Christ is no longer dead

Joy to the world, He has risen, hallelujah
He's risen, hallelujah
He's risen, hallelujah
Hallelujah
I couldn't figure out how to embed the lyrics box into the blog. 8-(

The women leave excited and terrified at what just happened when Jesus shows up to assure them, they aren't imagining the whole thing.

Meanwhile, the guards leave terrified. They go to the chief priests and tell them what happened. The priests gave them some cash and told them to say, His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.

The priests also told them not to worry about Pilate by saying, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.

On this basis, Keener, in the reference book I mentioned before, believes they were probably Roman soldiers.

I suppose the priests would tell Pilate, remember the last guy who claimed to be a Messiah? He had a bunch of disciples too. Raised quite a ruckus. Well, where are they now? Once the so-called Messiah is dead, the followers flee. Same here. You don't have to worry about it. We will take care of it from here.

Of course, one difference: those previous so-called Messiah were dead; this one, this Jesus, was alive!

Those rag-tag disciples would turn the world upside down. Christianity is either the greatest story every told or the greatest hoax ever sold.

Lord, you lived among us to give us an example of godliness and to grant us righteousness, you died to pay for our sins and to show the extent of your love, and you raised from the dead to give us victory over sin and death. Lord, help me to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings. Amen.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Sports: World Cup Coverage in LA

Don't have cable?

Ghana vs. USA is on channel 34.

As of 7:40 AM, Ghana leads 1-0.

Czech vs. Italy is on channel 46.

Italy leads 1-0.

The play-by-play is in Spanish.

UPDATE: Ghana 2 USA 1. USA goes home. Italy eliminated the Czechs 2-0.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Devotional Thoughts: Crucifixion

Matthew 27:45-61.

The heart of Christianity is Crucifixion and Resurrection.

Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour.


That would be from noon to 3 PM.

And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, "Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?" that is, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"


Jesus recites Psalm 22. Be sure to read beyond verse 1 which Jesus directly quotes. The Psalm was written by David and describes considerable despair yet retains hope. It is very interesting that there are some parallels to the life of Jesus in that Psalm.

And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, "This man is calling Elijah." And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink. But the others said, "Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him." And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, "Truly this was the Son of God!"


For a medical description of crucifixion go here.

Suffice to say, it is a terrible way to die. In Christian faith, there is a reason for it. It is payment for sin. Thus, the death Jesus bore was more than a physical one.

The fact that Jesus died is a reasonable assertion of history and there is some evidence for it. However, the assertion that Jesus died as payment for our sin is a statement of faith and beyond the reach of evidence. An interesting discussion of the roles of evidence and reason in the Christian faith can be found in this blog post by Mark D. Roberts. Excerpt:
Faith includes accepting as true that which we cannot definitively prove. I cannot prove, for example, that Jesus died on the cross for my sins, though I certainly believe it. From a historical point of view it's highly likely that Jesus was crucified, but the "for my sins" part obviously goes beyond the historical facts, even though there are plenty of biblically-based arguments for the atoning significance of Jesus's death.

Here we see a good example of the nature of Christian faith. It is based on the facts, but goes beyond them. It is not believing fabrications, however. If it turned out that Jesus really didn't die on a cross, and that this had been made up by the early Christians for some crazy reason, then Christian faith would be in vain. No matter how much allegory or metaphor might be present in the crucifixion of Jesus, if it didn't actually happen, then we are still in our sins.
There were also many women there, looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him, among whom were Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph and the mother of the sons of Zebedee. When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.

One of many things the Christian Scriptures shares with the Hebrew Scriptures is brutal honesty.

The Hebrew Scriptures often painted the Children of Israel in a poor light. The icons of faith in Genesis are terribly flawed people. The tribes of Israel blunder around for a very long time in the wilderness and once they arrive in the promise land are hardly on high speed elevator to greatness.

In the time of Jesus most dire situation, who steps up to the plate?

It is the women who are there. It is Joseph of Arimathea who offers steps forward to insure a proper burial.

Not a peep from the original disciples!

Thank you Lord that you gave your life for us on the Cross that we might live. Thank you that you transform lives. The women disciples were faithfully ministering to you in life and in death. Joseph made his faith known by his actions. Help me to be your follower live in such a way that others can see you in me. Amen.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Politics: What to do about illegal immigration?

It is a tough issue.

I suppose I'm just being a dabbler with my comments here.

The usual answers are build a fence and sanction the employers who hire illegals.

A fence is going to cost some money. We will have to decide how much we are willing to spend on that and where to put it. We simply share too many miles of border to be building that much fence!

How about getting after the employers who hire illegals?

Sounds easy?

Turns out it isn't so easy as described in this WaPo article. Excerpts:
The Bush administration, which is vowing to crack down on U.S. companies that hire illegal workers, virtually abandoned such employer sanctions before it began pushing to overhaul U.S. immigration laws last year, government statistics show.

Between 1999 and 2003, work-site enforcement operations were scaled back 95 percent by the Immigration and Naturalization Service, which subsequently was merged into the Homeland Security Department. The number of employers prosecuted for unlawfully employing immigrants dropped from 182 in 1999 to four in 2003, and fines collected declined from $3.6 million to $212,000, according to federal statistics.
........
The government's steady retreat from workplace enforcement in the 20 years since it became illegal to hire undocumented workers is the result of fierce political pressure from business lobbies, immigrant rights groups and members of Congress, according to law enforcement veterans.
..........
Company officials who knowingly employ illegal workers can be fined and, if they continue, face jail time. Housing or harboring illegal workers or laundering money can carry long prison sentences. But the easy availability of fraudulent documents frustrates investigators, as does a law that protects businesses as long as a worker's document "appears on its face to be genuine."
As a descendant of immigrants, I have great sympathy for immigrants. As an American of Chinese ancestry, I'm aware that Chinese people came and have come to America in both legal and illegal fashions. However, it has to be acknowledged that the Pacific Ocean was and is in effect a pretty large fence!

If the earth had a different geographical layout and China with its 1 billion plus people shared a border with the USA, what would happen?

How would we feel about a fence in that scenario?

Thus, I think some limited fencing is reasonable.

As for going after employers, if fraudulent documents are that easy to obtain and common, I'm not sure it is worth the effort to prosecute until we have a more "foolproof" system of documentation.

A blanket amnesty doesn't seem fair. You have people who have done it "by the book" and those who haven't. To just give away citizenship would reward rule breaking. Nonetheless, illegals are here and are working and are part of the fabric of our communities. A path to citizenship should be devised so those who are here illegally can get back onto a legal track if they so choose. I suppose some benefits should be tied to citizenship thus giving an incentive for illegals to opt for the legal track. Some will opt out of legalizing and as such they should be denied those benefits.

Sports: Dodgers Down in the Dumps

It hasn't been too good for Dodger fans of late.

They have lost 4 straight and 8 of the last 10. They are falling in the standings after rising to the top oh so briefly.

They lost a heartbreaker in 17 innings on a walk off walk last Saturday wasting a reasonable pitching performance by Lowe, one of their top 2 pitchers.

Tonight, the other pitching in the Dodger 1-2 punch, Brad Penny, got roughed up giving up 10 hits and 5 runs in 6 innings.

It is going to be up to 21-year old Chad Billingsley to try to stop the bleeding tomorrow night.

In one bit of hopefully good news, Izzy will be back and will play third base.

Mueller was the original plan for third base but GM Colletti knew those old knees might be trouble so it was good he held onto Izturis.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Devotional Thoughts: Simon of Cyrene

Looking at Matthew 27:27-44.

Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole garrison around Him. And they stripped Him and put a scarlet robe on Him. When they had twisted a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and a reed in His right hand. And they bowed the knee before Him and mocked Him, saying, "Hail, King of the Jews!" Then they spat on Him, and took the reed and struck Him on the head. And when they had mocked Him, they took the robe off Him, put His own clothes on Him, and led Him away to be crucified.

As I have been sharing these devotional thoughts, there are times I feel compelled to share some of my personal feelings and ideas about the passage. However, there are parts of Scripture where I simply just copy and paste it for you to read. This is one of those passages where you read it and picture it in your head. I feel breathless knowing, he suffered for our sin, for my sin.

Now as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. They compelled him to bear His cross.



image source: http://www.uga.edu/cc/stations/station5.jpg

Cyrene was a city in North Africa in modern day Libya. It is believed that he eventually became a Christian as did his sons Alexander and Rufus (Mark 15:21). This is only an inference but a reasonable one because the Apostles would have only come to know the name of Simon and his sons if they became followers of Jesus and part of the faith community. If Simon had simply disappeared into the crowds, it is doubtful the Apostles would have ever have found out his name.

And those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads and saying, "You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross." Likewise the chief priests also, mocking with the scribes and elders, said, "He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him. He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him; for He said, 'I am the Son of God.'" Even the robbers who were crucified with Him reviled Him with the same thing.

When the mob came to arrest Jesus, he could have called down the angels to rescue him. When Satan said jump off the Temple and let the angels catch you, Jesus could have done so. Once again, Jesus could have easily said, enough already, I'm going to leave this Cross and strike all of you dead. I don't think we as human beings and I include myself fully understand how sinful we are and we are deserving of judgement. Nonetheless, Jesus did this for us. He endured the Cross for me.

One final thought before we are done for this post, in reading about Simon of Cyrene, came across this prayer:

Heavenly Father, whose most dear Son, as He walked the way of The Cross, accepted the service of Simon of Cyrene to carry his physical burden for him: grant us each the grace gladly to bear one another's burdens, for the love of him who said, "As you did it to the least of these my brethren, you did it to me," your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Amen.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Devotional Thoughts: Jesus before Pilate

Am looking at Matthew 27:1-26 this morning.

Judas realizes what he has done and returned the money and overwhelmed with guilt and grief, he hanged himself.

A Google search for Judas images yieled ~ 48,000 hits. Below is one image found on the Vatican home page.



The image is part of the Second Station of the Cross. There are a number of variations on the Stations of the Cross liturgy. A Google search yields many different ones. But they all have in common a mediation on some aspect of the final hours of Jesus.

In the web page with the photo above, part of the mediation speculates on the motivations of Judas. Excerpts:
How could he arrive at this point, one whom Jesus had chosen
to follow him so closely?
Did Judas let himself get carried away by an exasperated love for Jesus,
which became suspicion and resentment?
.........
Or perhaps he was overcome by his disappointment with a Messiah
who rejected the political role of liberating Israel from foreign domination?
.........
A mystery of iniquity that escapes us,
but that cannot overcome the mystery of mercy.
Jesus is then brought before Pilate.



The image is from Sermons4kids.com. Plenty of images and other resources!

Pilate is the Roman political authority in the area. However, his dialog with Jesus is the pattern of every person who has an encounter with Jesus. The central question for each person: who is this Jesus? What am I going to do about Him?

Pilate saw that he wasn't getting anywhere and that a riot was developing. So he sent for a bowl of water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, "I am innocent of the blood of this man. The responsibility is yours!"

He was mistaken. We are all guilty of the blood of Jesus. The responsibility is ours. Jesus died on the Cross to pay for our sins.

So Pilate released Barabbas to them. He ordered Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip, then turned him over to the Roman soldiers to crucify him.

The film The Passion of the Christ showed in graphic detail what flogging with a lead-tipped whip looked like. The film was polarizing. For those who do not believe, it seemed to be just gratuitous violence. For those who do believe, this was a reminder of what the Savior endured for us.

Lord, have mercy on me a sinner. Thank you that you have indeed had mercy in sending Jesus to bare my sins on the Cross. Help me to be grateful and humble knowing that I am a sinner saved by grace. Continue the work of transforming me into greater Christ-likeness. Amen.

Culture: Themed birthday parties - PBS Newshour?!

Kids often have birthday parties with a theme. Usually it is some television character or movie or musical group. Well, this youngster had a PBS Newshour with Jim Leherer theme!

Be sure to check out the tab with the video clip.

Delightful!

Hat-tip to Drudge.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Devotional Thoughts: The trial and the denial

Matthew 26:57-68 described the trial of Jesus before the religious leaders.

Then the people who had arrested Jesus led him to the home of Caiaphas, the high priest, where the teachers of religious law and other leaders had gathered.... Inside, the leading priests and the entire high council were trying to find witnesses who would lie about Jesus, so they could put him to death.

One wonders how large a group of people this was?

They are meeting at the home of the high priest. I'm sure he has a big house. In any case, this council was known as the Sanhedrin and they were the Supreme Court for the Jewish people and the traditional size of this group was believed to be 71.

But even though they found many who agreed to give false witness, there was no testimony they could use. Finally, two men were found who declared, "This man said, `I am able to destroy the Temple of God and rebuild it in three days.' "

The trial was a show trial since the verdict was already determined and the leaders were merely seeking any kind of testimony to give the appearance of due process. This reminds me of totalitarian governments who hold elections where there is only one candidate running and after the election they say, look at all the turnout we have in our democracy! I suppose they do this as an exercise of power and to intimidate the people.

"Well, aren't you going to answer these charges? What do you have to say for yourself?" But Jesus remained silent. Then the high priest said to him, "I demand in the name of the living God that you tell us whether you are the Messiah, the Son of God." Jesus replied, "Yes, it is as you say. And in the future you will see me, the Son of Man, sitting at God's right hand in the place of power and coming back on the clouds of heaven."

Jesus' answer melds two images from Hebrew Scriptures found in Psalm 110:1 (sitting at the right hand) and Daniel 7:13 (coming back on clouds).

Then the high priest tore his clothing to show his horror, shouting, "Blasphemy! Why do we need other witnesses? You have all heard his blasphemy. What is your verdict?"

"Guilty!" they shouted. "He must die!"

Then they spit in Jesus' face and hit him with their fists. And some slapped him, saying, "Prophesy to us, you Messiah! Who hit you that time?"


The first trial comes to a close.

While all this is going on. We go to the next set of verses, Matthew 26:69-75, were we find out Peter was watching the whole thing unfold.

There is no need to comment and add to the narrative. We all know what it feels like to fail.

Meanwhile, as Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard, a servant girl came over and said to him, "You were one of those with Jesus the Galilean."

But Peter denied it in front of everyone. "I don't know what you are talking about," he said.

Later, out by the gate, another servant girl noticed him and said to those standing around, "This man was with Jesus of Nazareth."

Again Peter denied it, this time with an oath. "I don't even know the man," he said.

A little later some other bystanders came over to him and said, "You must be one of them; we can tell by your Galilean accent."

Peter said, "I swear by God, I don't know the man." And immediately the rooster crowed.

Suddenly, Jesus' words flashed through Peter's mind: "Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times." And he went away, crying bitterly.


Lord, forgive me when with my words and my actions I deny that you are my Lord. Thank you that we know from other Scriptures that Peter was restored and went on to great service for you. Thank you that you endured the trials and the sufferings and gave your life so that we might be forgiven and a path to restoration established. Help me to live life fully for you today. Amen.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Culture: Mark Bowden's latest - Guests of the Ayatollah

Mark Bowden is making the rounds on interview shows for his new book Guests of the Ayatollah which chronicles in exhaustive detail the holding of Americans by the Iranians from 1979-1981.

Check here for a riveting account of the attempted special forces raid to free the hostages.

In the radio interviews I've heard, he was asked if today's special forces could have pulled off the rescue. He replied that special forces capabilities have been greatly strengthened since then and they would have have a much better chance of success.

As it was the ill-fated rescue attempted in 1980 floundered at the first refueling point known as Desert One.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Culture: Can you hear it?

The buzz that teens use for their cell phones that they can hear but adults have difficulty. I can just barely hear it.

How about you?

Sports: Of local interest

It looks like Gagne will return to the DL when Jeff Kent comes off the DL.

It is the smart and safe move. If Gagne is ever to return to anything near the form he had before, he has to heal more fully. He does have a bull-headed hockey mindset so wiser minds will have to tell him otherwise.

Anyway, between Saito and Baez, the Dodgers can manage to close games out. However, some of the set-up has been shaky. Hamulak and Beimel have occasionally been the arson squad igniting rallies. Broxton has improved over last year it might be too much to expect the youngster to be the main bridge to Saito and Baez.

Meanwhile, Dodger starting pitching is solid with Lowe, Penny and Sele. However, Tomko has been terrible and Seo and Perez are having a contest on who can do worse given the opportunity to be the fifth starter.

Dodgers started off poorly, got on a hot streak and are now settling into .500 ball which is about what people expected. The Dodgers seized the NL West lead because the D'backs are now in a prolonged slump.

Then over in the AL West, the Angels have raced to the bottom. I was at the game last Sunday as they dropped a third loss to the Mariners thus getting swept in the series.

Team USA soccer flopped today resulting in the Coach Arena ripping the team in public.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Devotional Thoughts: Judas betrayal and Gospel of Judas

Am looking at Matthew 26:47-56 this morning.

I hope readers are not offended by my paraphrases of the passages in my blogging! I include the link above to the text so readers can check it out to see if my summary is a fair one.

The religious leaders of the day set their plan in motion and sent their rent-a-mob to capture Jesus. Since the mob doesn't know what Jesus looks like, Judas signals them by greeting Jesus with a kiss. They seize Jesus. Peter tries to fight back but Jesus tells him to put the sword away. Jesus says, he could call upon the angels to rescue him but this is all happening to fulfill the prophecies.

After this incident, eventually, we find out that Judas overwhelmed with guilt hangs himself.

The recently translated Gospel of Judas has a different and somewhat murky tale of Jesus telling Judas various things between the Last Supper and the Betrayal.

The Gospel of Judas belongs to a collection of writings from the Gnostic religion. This belief system says one needs special knowledge for salvation because the material/physical world is evil and that we need that special knowledge to attain to a higher spiritual realm. This kind of thinking has existed for a long time and can be seen in part in Buddhist and Hindu thought.

In any case, in the Gospel of Judas, Jesus tells Judas various things about how things are the way they really are. Excerpt:
Jesus said, “The souls of every human generation will die. When these people, however, have completed the time of the kingdom and the spirit leaves them, their bodies will die but their souls will be alive, and they will be taken up.”
There are many views on the afterlife: there is none, reincarnation where souls enter new bodily forms after death, immortality of the soul after the body dies and bodily resurrection. Jewish and Christian theology believes in bodily resurrection where the soul in immortal and that it will inhabit a new body after death. Gnostics belong in the immortality of the soul grouping as seen in that excerpt.

Later on in the Gospel of Judas, we see this:
“A great angel, the enlightened divine Self-Generated, emerged from the cloud. Because of him, four other angels came into being from another cloud, and they became attendants for the angelic Self-Generated. The Self-Generated said, [48] ‘Let [...] come into being [...],’ and it came into being [...]. And he [created] the first luminary to reign over him. He said, ‘Let angels come into being to serve [him],’ and myriads without number came into being. He said, ‘[Let] an enlightened aeon come into being,’ and he came into being. He created the second luminary [to] reign over him, together with myriads of angels without number, to offer service.
And it goes on and on like this for many paragraphs.

So why does Judas betray Jesus according to the Gospel of Judas? Excerpt:
But you will exceed all of them. For you will sacrifice the man that clothes me.
When Jesus dies, he gets to return to that heavenly realm he just spent many paragraphs describing.

As you can see, the Gospel of Judas really belongs to a different religious world view even though it claims Jesus Christ.

In Christian theology, Jesus dies on the Cross to pay for our sins. In Jewish-Christian theology, God is indeed a spirit but also the Creator of the material/physical world who calls it, very good. Thus, Jesus' mission is restoration not enlightenment to escape the world. That is why historically Christians have been in the forefront and continue to strive to this day to make a difference in the world by opening hospitals, running orphanages, setting up schools, delivering food and medical aid relief, etc.

Christians may have their treasure in heaven but we believe we need to make a difference in the here and now!!

Lord, thank you for being the Savior who has come to restore us for we have fallen. Help Christians point the way to the Cross and back to you. For those who have not entered into the family of faith yet, may they not be confused by the Gnostic ideas and any number of other ideas that run around in the world. Help me and my fellow Christians to live worthy lives so that we may win the opportunity to share Jesus with people. Amen.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Culture: Soccer World Cup Bracketology

I have to say I know next to nothing about soccer so I post this more as an observer of culture than as a sports fan.

Since the whole world is about to go World Cup manic, this blog must at least try to comment!

If you have a pool going and have brackets to fill out today, here is some "expert" opinion for you to consider. The usual disclaimers apply: for entertainment purposes only, past performance is not an indicator of future results ...

Round of 16
A1 - Germany - got to believe the home team will do well!
B2 - Paraguay - somewhere in South America right? South Americans are good at soccer.

C1 - Argentina - they are a traditional powerhouse
D2 - Angola - I visited Botswana which is a neighbor!

E1 - Czech - an ESPN analyst really likes them
F2 - Australia - got to root for the team from the land of kangaroos and koalas

G1 - Korea - my upset special!
H2 - Ukraine - nice looking color scheme on the flag

B1 - England - fanatic fans = good team
A2 - Costa Rica - want to visit there someday

D1 - Mexico - that many fans must know something
C2 - Serbia/Montenegro - two countries coming together as one, how sweet!

F1 - Brazil - I suppose the only stone cold lead pipe lock of the tournament?
E2 - USA - A Homer pick, doh!

H1 - Spain - bullfighting? soccer? same skill set, no?
G2 - Switzerland - I heard one of the French players got hurt so Swiss sneak in

Quarterfinals:
Germany vs. Argentina
Czech vs. Korea
England vs. Mexico
Brazil vs. Spain

Semi-Finals
Germany vs. Czech
Mexico vs. Brazil

Finals
Czech vs. Brazil

2006 World Cup Champs: 3-2, Czech pull off the greatest upset in Cup history with an overtime win!!

News: is the Al-Zarqawi death a tipping point?

Been listening to news analysis of the operation that killed Al-Zarqawi.

There seems to be two broad categories of reactions: (1) this is a positive step for the future of Iraq and (2) it means almost nothing.

The commentators who say it means nothing speculate that Al-Zarqawi doesn't really command that many terrorists in Iraq. One believed that just 10% of the insurgency was under the direct control of Al-Zarqawi and that he is easily replaced. Another proposed the idea that rival factions may have provided the information to get Al-Zarqawi killed to improve their own standing within the rebellion. Another thought that the USA made Al-Zarqawi into a straw man to put a public face onto the enemy and so killing a straw man means nothing.

The analysts who are more sanguine about this latest turn of events suggest that leadership within the Sunni population decided the prospect of never ending civil war with the Shiites was unpalatable. Thus, to hasten the end of the civil war it was time to take down the most polarizing figure fomenting Sunni-Shia violence.

Hussein's sons were killed in a gun battle in a town, Hussein was captured near a town and Al-Zarqawi was killed in a town. UBL is hidden in remote regions of the Afghan-Pakistani border, a completely different environment. Terrorists in Iraq have been moving about in populated areas. As such they have had to have tacit approval of the Sunni leadership in those towns. Thus, Al-Zarqawi's death was only made possible by some insider information. The question is what was the motive of the sources that gave him up? Rubbing out a rival rebel leader? Or a decision to take down the insurgency?

The next few months could be very crucial. If it is the Sunni leadership deciding civil war is a bad idea then Sunni terrorist cell leaders will find themselves on the run because they won't know if the "safe house" is truly safe.

On other hand, if the leaked information was simply to get Al-Zarqawi out of the way then we will continue to see slaughter in Iraq.

Devotional Thoughts: Not my will but thine

Taking a look Matthew 26:36-46 this morning.

Jesus took Peter, James and John and prayed at Gethsemane.

The first time, he went and prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will."

He came back and found them asleep!

He went a second time and prayed, "My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done."

He came back and found them asleep again!

And in verse 44, so he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.

He returns to the disciples and says, "Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour is near, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us go! Here comes my betrayer!"

Three times he prayer. Each time very intently. After the time in prayer, he was ready to meet his destiny.

It reminded me of the temptation of Jesus described in Matthew 4:1-11.

There are three temptations:
(1) The tempter said, turn these stones to become bread.
Jesus answered, "Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God."
(2) The devil took him to the top of the temple and said, throw yourself down and tell the angels to protect you.
Jesus answered, "Do not put the Lord your God to the test."
(3) Satan took him to a very high mountain and showed him the world and said, all this I will give you if you will worship me.
Jesus said, "Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only."

Three temptations. Each one escalated the stakes. After the third temptation, the angels ministered to Jesus and Jesus began his ministry.

In the film, The Passion of the Christ the opening scene is at Gethsemane and Jesus prays and faces temptation from the devil once again.

We have no Scriptural evidence that that happened. However, it is rather plausible. A titanic struggle was taking place. It was a tipping point.

In the 3 temptations, the ministry of Jesus was ahead of him. He could have made bread easily as he would do later in his ministry in the feedings of the crowds. The angels were at his command, Jesus, at any moment, could have called them. The devil offered the kingdoms of this world in exchange for worship, but Jesus knew his mission, he was to preach the kingdom of heaven that requires repentance and sacrifice.

After the Garden of Gethsemane, the Cross was ahead of Jesus. Jesus chose that path for our sin and redemption.

One thing is clear: both incidents involve wrestling with "not as I will, but as God wills." That is the core of obedience and temptation. We wage that every day in every decision we make.

Lord, the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. And Lord, sometimes, often times, the spirit is weak too. Help me to be in prayer humbling asking for your help each day. Transform my will into greater alignment with your will. Amen.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Non-profit of the month: June 2006 - Faith in Christ Ministries

This Saturday morning, I plan to help out at Faith in Christ Ministries.

On Saturday mornings, FICM volunteers prepare breakfast which is available to anyone in the community who wants to come to the Community Center for it.

Faith in Christ offers the following services to the community:

  • Saturday Kids Club

  • Saturday morning, community breakfast for the homeless

  • Sunday, Skid row Ministry

  • Wednesday evening dinner and Bible Study

  • Supplemental, emergency food for single parent families and senior adults

  • S.A.Y. Yes! Youth Development After - School Program (Sept.-June)

  • Hosting ministry groups weekends, spring and summer breaks

  • I've written previously about this organization on this blog. To read about my other experiences with the work at FICM, go here and here.

    I encourage anyone within a click of this blog to find a community group like FICM in your city and help out however you can.

    4501 S. Western Avenue
    Los Angeles, CA 90062
    ficm@aol.com
    323-291-2585

    Wednesday, June 07, 2006

    Sports: Gagne "a little sore and stiff"

    With an 8-5 lead going into the top of the ninth, it was a save situation and so the doors opened and the speakers blared Welcome to the Jungle and Gagne trotted out to the mound.

    14 pitches later, Gagne got his first save of the season and his first save in nearly a year.

    Unfortunately, Gagne was "a little sore and stiff" after last night's game.

    I heard on the pre-game show that an MRI was done and showed no problem. Grady Little also said he will not utilize Gagne in the next 2 to 3 games to let him recover.

    Jon Weisman of Dodger Thoughts is concerned. He had previously written his concerns in Si.com. Excerpt:
    Between the lines, baseball's biggest sinner is the malingerer: the guy who doesn't run out a ground ball, the guy who asks for a day off to nurse the sniffles. But when you think about it, perhaps some cross words should be directed at the chronic gamer, the player who can't see that he needs to rest until it's too late.
    ............
    It's time to get real. It's time for everyone -- Gagne included -- to stop living on hope, to stop looking at Gagne as a superhero. Impatience is like kryptonite for a stubborn competitor like Gagne. If there is to be a next chapter in his career, it's time to be open about the pain and let the guy heal. Completely.

    Devotional Thoughts: How do we bounce back after letting down Jesus?

    Matthew 26:31-35 has this caption in my Bible, Jesus Predicts Peters Denial.

    Verse 31 ... "Tonight all of you will desert me," Jesus told them.

    You can imagine how stunned the disciples were when they heard this. They were still trying to get their minds around all of Jesus talking about his dying and now this too?

    Verse 33 ... Peter declared, "Even if everyone else deserts you, I never will."

    Peter, the bold one, the confident one, was he an ENFP? Anyway, he probably said what the other disciples were thinking but didn't have the guts to say. I suppose perhaps doubting Thomas would have been thinking, uh-oh, I got a bad feeling about this. I suppose he was an ISTJ?

    Verse 34 ... "Peter," Jesus replied, "the truth is, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times."

    Peter can't believe it. His response: verse 35 ... "No!" Peter insisted. "Not even if I have to die with you! I will never deny you! The other disciples do a "me too" later on in that same verse, And all the other disciples vowed the same.

    The disciples fled in Matthew26:56.

    Peter denied Jesus in Matthew 26:69-75.

    Often at the end of the day, I look back on the day and I recognize there are times when I fall short in living out the Christian life. I get snippy when impatient with someone. I find myself being totally selfish instead of considering the other person's point of view. I quench the desire to help a person in need for whatever reason. Any number of things I know is not right.

    Sin, an old-fashioned word, is "missing the mark." God has stated in Scripture what is right and wrong and when we don't live up to that, we have sinned. It is hard to admit this.

    The disciples let down Jesus. They weren't there for him. They ran away. They denied him. They failed.

    Who were the first ones to see Jesus?

    Interestingly, it was the women followers of Jesus! See Matthew 28:1-10. The women then told the disciples the news and Jesus appeared to the disciples at various occasions. The following passages are not in chronological order but merely reflect passages after the resurrection where Jesus appears to the disciples in the four Gospels:
    Matthew 28:16-20 (the Great Commission where Jesus tells them what to do)
    Mark 16:9-20 (this passage's reliability is disputed)
    Luke 24:36-53 (Jesus teaches them and commissions them)
    John 20:19-31 (appearances with and without Doubting Thomas)
    John 21 (restoration of Peter)

    Though the disciples let down Jesus, Jesus didn't give up on them. He appeared to them and taught them and sent them into the world with his message. I'm particularly moved by Jesus' restoration of Peter.

    How do we bounce back after letting down Jesus?

    Remember that God is not finished with us yet. With humility ask for forgiveness. Allow Jesus to restore us just as he did with Peter so poignantly.

    Lord, help me to bring everything to you. Help me to bring all the good stuff and all the broken stuff within me to you. I'm a broken earthen vessel and I place myself before you for your use and restoration. Amen.

    Sunday, June 04, 2006

    Devotional Thoughts: The Last Supper, the Communion, the Eucarist ... by any other name would still be as moving

    Matthew 26:17-30 is the story of the Last Supper.

    Jesus utilizes the traditional Passover Seder to institute the Lord's Supper.

    In brief, in Jewish tradition, the Passover Seder ritual is held annually to remember the Israelite trials of life in Egypt, the delieverance by God from Egypt and the anticipation of the Messiah.

    It is believed that Jesus was celebrating the Passover with his followers in the traditional way but made alterations to the ceremony to explain how HE HIMSELF is ultimate Passover Lamb.

    Excerpt from another Passover Seder site:
    Scene 3: Tzafun (Dessert): We find or redeem that which is tzafun--hidden, the afikomen. It is our dessert, the last morsel of food eaten at the seder, a symbol of redemption.
    How appropriate that Jesus would say, "Take it and eat it, for this is my body."

    Jesus is the redeemer!

    Here is an excerpt regarding the wine cup after the Afikomen.
    Curtain: Kos Shli'shee (The third cup of wine): The meal concludes with the third cup of wine, another reminder of God's promise of redemption.
    Of this cup, Jesus says, "Each of you drink from it, for this is my blood, which seals the covenant between God and his people. It is poured out to forgive the sins of many."

    Jesus is the ultimate Passover Lamb!

    In the Jewish experience, the Lamb was slain and its blood used to mark the homes so the Angel of Death would passover that household. God delievered the people out of slavery from Egypt shortly afterward.

    Jesus is the ultimate Passover Lamb!

    By trusting in Jesus, His blood washes away our sin so that death due to sin would passover us. Jesus by His broken boday and shed blood delievers us from slavery to sin and the penalty of death.

    In churches everywhere in the world, this Lord's Supper is used to remind us of what Jesus did. In some churches it is called Communion because it reminds us that it was by Jesus as symbolized by the bread and wine that a spiritual union exists between us and God.

    In some churches, it is called the Eucarist because that word comes from the ancient Greek for gratitude.

    Lord Jesus, thank you for giving your life for all of us while we were yet sinners. Help me to remember what you have done each day so that I might live in humility knowing it is by your grace that I have life. Give me boldness to share your Life with others. Amen.

    Friday, June 02, 2006

    Devotional Thoughts: Judas in the Gospels

    There has been a lot in the news about the Gospel of Judas. Perhaps in a future blog entry, I'll jot some thoughts after reading the translation which made quite a splash a few months ago.

    But what about Judas in the Gospels? What do we know about him from there?

    Am looking at Matthew 26:14-16. In that passage, Judas is given 30 silver coins in exchange for betraying Jesus.

    Where else do we read about Judas in the Gospels?

    Running a search for "Judas" and limited it to the Gospels, one finds 32 references in the New International translation of the Bible.

    It should be noted not all 32 references are about Judas, the disciple who betrayed Jesus. Some are about Judas, the brother of Jesus. Jesus' brothers are James, Joseph, Simon and Judas in Matthew 13:55. We also find out there are unnamed sisters in Mark 6:3.

    It is possible that Joseph was a widow prior to marrying Mary and so these could be older brothers and sisters. Another possibility is that Mary had additional children after Jesus. And of course, it could be a combination of both.

    The other times Judas appears in the Gospel record aside from his role in the betrayal of Jesus are in lists of the disciples like in Matthew 10:2-4 and in the Last Supper as described in John 13:18-30.

    As I read this passage in light of my own devotion to Jesus, I find myself asking, if under pressure, what would be my price in selling out Jesus?

    I want to believe that I would be willing to die for Jesus!

    However, we all know the disciples said exactly the same thing in Matthew 26:31-35 and Peter denied Jesus and the other disciples fled upon Jesus capture.

    I am humbled in knowing this. I am humbled in knowing how my faith has at times been shaken during difficult times.

    Lord, I don't know how I'll react in a dire situation. I can only pray that should that time come, I would endure to the end with faithfulness and goodness. In the meantime, my prayer is that I'll live for Jesus each day: doing justice, loving mercy and walking humbly before you. Help me to be an instrument of your love, grace, truth and righteousness in my deeds and words. Amen.

    Culture: Everyday Italian Recipes I've Tried

    Don't have cable TV where I live but when I visit my parent's I'll channel surf a little.

    I found out that Giada De Laurentiis, the star of Everyday Italian has a new show called Behind the Bash where she follows catering teams as they put on high end events. Think of it as Extreme Makeover Food and Party Edition!

    It is natural for her to host such a show as she runs here own catering company GDL Foods in addition to doing television and going on book tours.

    No question a big part of her appeal on television is her good looks. As an owner of her first book, Everyday Italian, I can see that there are almost as many pictures of her as there are of the food!

    However, her aesthetic appeal aside which is beyond dispute, how is the food?

    I'm happy to report, I've tried a number of her recipes and have foisted them on family and friends. So far the reviews have been good!

    Recipes I've tried:
    White bean dip, p. 19
    Caprese salad, p. 30
    Roasted bell pepper salad, p. 52
    Farfalle with turkey sausage peas and mushroom, p. 105
    Ziti with asparagus, smoked mozzarella and prosciutto, p. 109
    Basic risotto, p. 128
    Roasted pork loin with fig sauce, p. 167

    The title of the book is Everyday Italian and it is nice to see the recipes indeed are fairly simple and most of all quite delicious!

    Thursday, June 01, 2006

    Culture: What if there was an Islamic Da Vinci Code?

    Was listening to the Dennis Prager radio show with guest host Mark Taylor. He cited this article from American Enterprise Magazine. Excerpt:
    Imagine, if you can, a major studio releasing a thriller in which the stars investigate the origins of Islam. Pursued by a murderous Muslim cleric, they uncover a series of shocking discoveries: Mohammed was no prophet! The Koran is a hoax, the work of self-serving hypocrites! Modern-day Muslims are dupes, if not deranged psychopaths!

    Now imagine, in the unlikely event such a film were ever made, what sort of reception it would get in the establishment media. Given the categorical refusal of the American press to publish the Danish Mohammed cartoons, it's a safe bet that the talking heads and big newspapers would only mention the movie to denounce it.
    .............
    But then The Passion of the Christ, which brought in $370 million domestically, was one of the highest-grossing films of all time. And while it got plenty of media attention, the coverage was completely different from that surrounding The Da Vinci Code. As aggressively as Da Vinci has been puffed, Christ got poked.

    Likewise, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (another big-screen adaptation of a massively popular novel that was a huge moneymaker) never drew favorable publicity of the sort showered on DVC. Most of the Narnia coverage focused on whether the film's Christian themes would doom its chances at the box office.

    The discrepancy is not so much a matter of money, then, but manners. To the establishment press, plots that strongly uphold traditional Christian beliefs, whether explicitly (as in The Passion) or allegorically (as in Narnia), are regarded as dubious, rude, even dangerous. Stories that undermine Christianity, on the other hand, are "hot" and edgy, and attract A-list celebrities, big studios, powerful news outlets, and charmed-circle journalists.
    It would seem that this writer's observations are all too true!

    All we can do is keep telling the Christian message in whatever venue day-in-and-day-out and leave the results up to God and the hearers.

    LA Dining: Where to find specialty sausages

    My latest is up over at LAFB.

    I briefly discuss my two favorite places to get specialty sausages:

    Jeff’s Gourmet Kosher Sausage Factory
    8930 West Pico Boulevard
    Los Angeles, CA 90035
    TEL: 310 858 8590
    FAX: 310 858 8138

    Huntington Meats at the Farmer’s Market
    6333 West Third Street
    Los Angeles, CA 90036
    TEL: (323) 938-5383
    FAX: (323) 933-8577