Friday, September 28, 2007

Devotional Thoughts: the heavens declare the glory of God

Got back from business and vacation travel a few days back. Hope to have photos and travelogue posted at some point.

The photo to the right (click on it to get a larger view) was taken at sunrise on the eastern shore of Kauai!

This morning as I read Psalm 19, I was transported in my memories back to those few days of enjoying the natural beauty of Kauai.

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands ...

The Psalmist David goes on for five more verses about the wonders of the natural world with which he would have been very familiar from all his time outside as a shepherd.

As an urban dweller living in the 21st century concrete jungle of Los Angeles, there is a mystical and magical feeling that comes over me when I get to see the natural world. This sense of the ineffable that is behind the natural world, I call God.

While I'm at it, let me toss out another GRE idea: cosmological argument. Simply put, if there is a creation then there must be a creator.

For me, that makes sense. For some others, that isn't enough.

Indeed, is it enough for us to look at the natural world and say, yup, there must be a God out there?

The Psalmist doesn't stop with six verses extolling the natural beauty of the world around him. He then goes into verses 7 to 14 extolling the wonder of God's revelation.

The law of the LORD is perfect,
reviving the soul.
The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy,
making wise the simple.

The precepts of the LORD are right,
giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the LORD are radiant,
giving light to the eyes.

The fear of the LORD is pure,
enduring forever.
The ordinances of the LORD are sure
and altogether righteous.

They are more precious than gold,
than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey,
than honey from the comb.

By them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.

Who can discern his errors?
Forgive my hidden faults.

Keep your servant also from willful sins;
may they not rule over me.
Then will I be blameless,
innocent of great transgression.

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be pleasing in your sight,
O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Dear Gracious God, thank you that you have given me eyesight to see the beauty of the world you have made, ears to hear the sounds of splashing waves and the ability to feel the pleasure of sand and water on my feet. For me, these things point to the greatness of your power and creativity. But most of all thank you for the Word. The Word as in Jesus who came to live, die and rise again for your lost creatures. The Word as in Jesus who came to show us what truth, beauty and goodness is. And, thank you for the Word as in the Scriptures that you have preserved for us to learn from, be encouraged by and challenged with. Thank you for the Word as in the Scriptures that testify of the Word, Jesus, my Lord and my Savior. May the meditation of my heart and the way of my life be pleasing in your sight. Amen.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Sports: Dodgers still kicking!

Unbelievable! Dodgers take 2 of 3 from the Padres to pull 1 1/2 games behind the Padres for the wild card spot! Go Blue!

Light blogging due to crazy busy work schedule.

No blogging ahead as I'll be on biz travel followed by a bit of vacation after the business part is over!

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Sports: UCLA football not ready for prime time

UCLA won 27-17 over BYU.

But fans walking from the stadium felt: a win is a win and we'll take it but we are clearly concerned about the team.

BYU 435 yards UCLA 236.

BYU 391 passing yards UCLA 126.

I wonder what the time of possession numbers were?

It seemed like BYU always had the ball!

The reason UCLA won was turnovers. One interception was run back by UCLA for a TD. BYU lost 3 fumbles. One of the fumbles was in the red zone as BYU was about to score the go ahead touchdown. Another fumble gave UCLA good field position which allowed UCLA to get a field goal.

BYU also had 11 penalties for 84 yards.

BYU beat themselves.

Clearly UCLA has some problems on both sides of the ball. The offense was sluggish. The defense is being exposed. If you have a decent QB and some decent WRs you can throw on the Bruin secondary.

Sports: Dodgers are done?

The Dodgers aren't out of it mathematically. But emotionally, are they done?

Today's heartbreaking loss could fold up their tent. On Tuesday, they face the Padres whom they are chasing. If they have some fight left in them, they will somehow find a way to scratch out a win against Jake Peavy, the likely Cy Young winner for this year. If they are done, look for them to get shut out by the Padre ace.

Really have to feel for Jonathan Broxton. The hard throwing reliever is just 23 years old. But in the last 4 games he has served up 3 home runs which cost the Dodgers two losses. If the Dodgers are in a close game on Tuesday, will Broxton get the phone call in the bullpen?

Do you send the kid out there so he can get the outs and restore his confidence?

What happens if he gives up the go ahead runs again? Will he psychology be totally messed up and he will have to be put on the shelf for mop up duties?

I wonder what do sports psychologists advise in situations like this?

Though Broxton was directly involved in the loss, it is after all a team game.

If the Dodgers had gotten more runs (they were only leading 2-1) the dynamics is different for the pitchers.

The key decision was made in the top of the seventh inning. The Dodger had runners on 1st and 3rd with two outs. They were leading 2-1. Manager Grady Little had to decide, do I send up Penny to bat or do I pinch hit.

He sent Penny up and oddly enough he got hit by a pitch.

The next batter, Abreu, grounded out.

Obviously, it is now spilled milk. But did the Dodger brain trust consider sending a pinch hitter for Penny in the hopes of getting another run?

The next key decision was the bottom of the eighth. Penny had given up one run and seven hits with one walk and one strikeout. Little sent him out there to pitch. His pitch count wasn't outrageous but the conventional wisdom is to use your set-up pitcher at the beginning of the inning: Broxton in the eight and Saito in the ninth.

Instead, Penny gave up a double, Little pulled him and sent out Proctor. He wild pitched the runner to third but then struck out the batter. Beimel was sent in and walked Bonds intentionally. Broxton was then sent in.

So many what ifs?

Anyway, a fan is what a fan does: Go Dodgers!

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Non-Profit of the Month: September 2007 - International Justice Mission and Oasis USA

In my most recent devotional thoughts post, I included a prayer to fight against human trafficking.

The reason that issue was on my mind is that within the span of a few days I got emails from friends who expressed their concern about that issue.

One of the links sent to me was the Not For Sale campaign home page.

Their slogan is: I am not for sale. You are not for sale. No one should be for sale. Become an abolitionist.

You might wonder ... what? Slavery? It is long gone!

Think again.

I can't turn a blind eye to it. I must do what I can to help fight this injustice.

One of my friends is doing a Triathlon in Pasadena on September 15, 2007 as fundraiser. To read more about Oasis USA, go here. They are doing local projects to meet urban needs and educating and mobilizing people about injustice locally and around the globe.

The other organization I am supporting for this month is International Justice Mission. They are one of the partner organizations in the Not For Sale Campaign. Their aim:
Victim Relief - Relieve the victim of the abuse currently being committed.
Perpetrator Accountability - Bring accountability and just consequences under the law to the specific perpetrator(s) of abuse.
Structural Prevention - Prevent the abuse from being committed against others who are also at risk by strengthening community factors that are likely to deter potential oppressors, reduce the vulnerability of at-risk populations and empower local authorities to stop such abuses.
Victim Aftercare - Provide access to services to help victims transition to their new lives and to encourage long-term success.


I have a couple of friends who are big supporters of their work and since I trust them I trust this organization to be on the frontline of this fight.

Please look into organizations who are in the fight against slavery in our world today. Select one you can support and back them up with some dollars.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Devotional Thoughts: Who repays him for what he has done?

Job 21 is the halfway mark in the 42 chapter drama of Job.

The structure of the book has been a speech by one of Job's three friends with a response by Job and it is a back and forth between them.

Here Job speaks again ...

Then Job replied:
Listen carefully to my words;
let this be the consolation you give me.
Bear with me while I speak,
and after I have spoken, mock on.

Job is exasperated! He has essentially given up trying to argue his case to his friends. All he can do is ask them to listen even if in the end they aren't convinced and decide to poke fun at him.

Is my complaint directed to man?
Why should I not be impatient?
Look at me and be astonished;
clap your hand over your mouth.
When I think about this, I am terrified;
trembling seizes my body.
Why do the wicked live on,
growing old and increasing in power?

The friends had been arguing that the wicked falter. And by implication, since Job's life had gone down the drain, then he must have been wicked.

Job continues to argue, it isn't that simple, the wicked often do very well in this world.

He elaborates with the following examples:

They see their children established around them,
their offspring before their eyes.
Their homes are safe and free from fear;
the rod of God is not upon them.
Their bulls never fail to breed;
their cows calve and do not miscarry.
They send forth their children as a flock;
their little ones dance about.
They sing to the music of tambourine and harp;
they make merry to the sound of the flute.
They spend their years in prosperity
and go down to the grave in peace.

And not only are they, the wicked doing well, they mock god while they are prospering ...

Yet they say to God, 'Leave us alone!
We have no desire to know your ways.
Who is the Almighty, that we should serve him?
What would we gain by praying to him?'

Yet, though the wicked prosper, Job doesn't want anything to do with them ...

But their prosperity is not in their own hands,
so I stand aloof from the counsel of the wicked.

However, its a struggle for Job. Even if he doesn't want to be a part of the ways of the unrighteous, he wonders what is God up to? He wonders why doesn't God strike them down?

Yet how often is the lamp of the wicked snuffed out?
How often does calamity come upon them,
the fate God allots in his anger?
How often are they like straw before the wind,
like chaff swept away by a gale?
It is said, 'God stores up a man's punishment for his sons.'
Let him repay the man himself, so that he will know it!
Let his own eyes see his destruction;
let him drink of the wrath of the Almighty.
For what does he care about the family he leaves behind
when his allotted months come to an end?

Despite his obvious frustration, Job still allows God to be God.

Can anyone teach knowledge to God,
since he judges even the highest?
One man dies in full vigor,
completely secure and at ease,
his body well nourished,
his bones rich with marrow.
Another man dies in bitterness of soul,
never having enjoyed anything good.
Side by side they lie in the dust,
and worms cover them both.
I know full well what you are thinking,
the schemes by which you would wrong me.
You say, 'Where now is the great man's house,
the tents where wicked men lived?'

Job saw that in the end, death is the great equalizer. But somehow, it seems not quite right to Job that good people and bad people wind up dead and that the bad people didn't seem to receive their just punishment while they were alive.

He challenges his friends, grab some people on the road and ask them if I am right about this?

Have you never questioned those who travel?
Have you paid no regard to their accounts-
that the evil man is spared from the day of calamity,
that he is delivered from the day of wrath?
Who denounces his conduct to his face?
Who repays him for what he has done?
He is carried to the grave,
and watch is kept over his tomb.
The soil in the valley is sweet to him;
all men follow after him,
and a countless throng goes before him.
So how can you console me with your nonsense?
Nothing is left of your answers but falsehood!

Indeed, if the grave is the very last stop and calamity and wrath and payment for sin must take place in this present life then one would be quite stuck: life is truly totally unfair.

If we believe that justice is an absolute concept and we look at our life experience then we have to conclude either (1) we are incorrect in our beliefs because the wicked can prosper in this life or (2) there must be an afterlife where the scales of justice are righted.

On the other hand, if there is no God to right the scales of justice in the afterlife then we have to say that justice is not an absolute concept but merely what those with power can enforce.

God, there are terrible injustices in the world today. It is horrible to know that people are bought and sold in human trafficking. Help those who are fighting that evil. Strengthen our poor power to fight such wickedness. In addition to strengthening the hands of those who stand against such wickedness, move in the hearts of those who do perpetrate such sin. Just as you opened the eyes of slave ship captain John Newton, open the eyes of today's slave traders to see they are wrong and need to make it right by stopping what they do. Lord, have mercy! Amen.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Life: You don't say ... study says men want hot women

Seen on CNN.com.

Opening line: Science is confirming what most women know: When given the choice for a mate, men go for good looks.

And guys won't be surprised to learn that women are much choosier about partners than they are.


As one of my guy friend said, look, she might have a great personality but if she is 7 foot and 300 pounds, it isn't happening. ed. note - my friend is somewhat shorter than 7 foot and somewhat less than 300 pounds.

One wonders who funded this research?

Your tax dollars at work? 8-)

The weakness of the study - the science nerd in me makes an appearance! - is that they only looked at the immediate reaction of the study subjects in a speed dating setting. One wonders what the study would reveal if they looked at decision points beyond the participant responses after the speed dating session.

Don't get me wrong, speaking as a red blood male, appearance is a factor! But I will have to say there have been times I've met beautiful women but you soon realize that the lights are on but nobody is home!