Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Non-profit of the month: April, 2008 - TeachOverseas.org

Teaching English to eager students in other countries is a wonderful opportunity to offer practical service that is part of what it means when Christian try to live out love your neighbor

One organization helping make that happen is Teachoverseas.org. Over the last decade or so I've supported individuals who have taken part in this kind of work in places like China and Czech Republic. You can check out where else they are sending teachers.

Because going overseas for a summer or for a longer period of service is challenging, the organization pays a lot of attention to preparing the teachers and emphasizing that they are going as a team.

To hear more of what they are about, check out their video page.

Please consider supporting their work!

Devotional Thoughts: Maasai Creed

Came across the Maasai Creed today while idly web surfing.
We believe in the one High God, who out of love created the beautiful world and everything good in it. He created man and wanted man to be happy in the world. God loves the world and every nation and tribe on the earth. We have known this High God in the darkness, and now we know him in the light. God promised in the book of his word, the Bible, that he would save the world and all nations and tribes.

We believe that God made good his promise by sending his son, Jesus Christ, a man in the flesh, a Jew by tribe, born poor in a little village, who left his home and was always on safari doing good, curing people by the power of God, teaching about God and man, showing that the meaning of religion is love. He was rejected by his people, tortured and nailed hands and feet to a cross, and died. He was buried in the grave, but the hyenas did not touch him, and on the third day, he rose from that grave. He ascended to the skies. He is the Lord.

We believe that all our sins are forgiven through him. All who have faith in him must be sorry for their sins, be baptized in the Holy Spirit of God, live the rules of love, and share the bread together in love, to announce the good news to others until Jesus comes again. We are waiting for him. He is alive. He lives. This we believe. Amen.
From the shores of the Pacific, to the mountains of the Swiss Alps, to a village in Kenya, to streets in Mumbai, to the wide open spaces of Alaska, from this Jesus follower in 21st century Los Angeles, to the medieval farmer, to fishermen of Galilee, this we believe. Amen.

Politics: The Pastor Jeremiah Wright Controversy

Have been sick as a dog the last two days with a nasty cold. As such, the radio is on as I nap on and off through the day and I hear about the news about the Pastor Jeremiah Wright controversy.

As a follower of US politics, I watched the rise of Sen. Obama with interest. He appeared on the scene and became the bearer of the hopes of many Americans for a different kind of politics.

This is what I wrote about Obama after his win in Iowa. Excerpt:
Unless Obama has some scandal hidden that comes out of the woodworks or if he totally bungles debate performances that shows he isn't ready for prime time, he may well be the Democrat nominee and the next president.
......
What worries me is that Obama is a blank slate and people are stampeding to him. People are investing all this hope for the future on what is essentially an unknown quantity.
Obama is backtracking on his long association with Pastor Wright. This association reflects a connection to an old style of politics: the politics of grievance, anger and conspiracy.

The claim coming from the defenders of Pastor Wright is that he is being taken out of context. Here is an attempt at some context with audio files of larger swatches of his sermons and transcripts.

My early years in my Christian faith was in a Southern Baptist church founded to serve Chinese immigrants to Los Angeles. Being good Southern Baptists, we had some "fire and brimstone" style preaching! Yes, indeed, Chinese preachers could peel the paint off the walls with their oratory with the best of them!

However, I found Pastor Wright's approach to be far beyond anything I ever experienced in my ethnic church community upbringing in terms of sheer volume of decibels, levels of anger and wildness of assertions.

Pastor Wright makes some good points on social justice issues but they are overwhelmed by his other remarks.

Though I spent much of my early Christian journey in an ethnic congregations, we were consistently reminded about Gal. 3:28, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus."

As such, I have never been fond of looking at life through a race-based filter. However, I understand the need for ethnic congregations for outreach to immigrant populations as a practical matter. I also understand that racial background is part of who we are but I've been taught to make a conscious attempt to see people as individuals.

There is no question that America has had and still has racism.

The historic Chinese immigrant experience in America though not comparable to slavery had its share of injustice. Every immigrant group had to "swim upstream" against discrimination of both flagrant and subtle varieties. These facts of life should be acknowledged but do they reflect the situation today? Do we continue to hold "a grudge" against past injustice?

I have never felt the USA is the kingdom of God, nor do I believe the view that the USA is the greatest source of evil in the world. In regards to race relations, we can and must do better. However, to my knowledge (perhaps my knowledge is incomplete) there is no analogous politics of grievance within the Chinese or Asian-American community that would find common ground with Pastor Wright.

Here is a snippet from Pastor Wright's church about us page.
We are a congregation which is Unashamedly Black and Unapologetically Christian... Our roots in the Black religious experience and tradition are deep, lasting and permanent. We are an African people, and remain "true to our native land," the mother continent, the cradle of civilization. God has superintended our pilgrimage through the days of slavery, the days of segregation, and the long night of racism. It is God who gives us the strength and courage to continuously address injustice as a people, and as a congregation. We constantly affirm our trust in God through cultural expression of a Black worship service and ministries which address the Black Community.
Can one imagine writing a mission statement like this but substituting some other ethnic group? How would it sound to you?

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Technology: Greenpeace Founder Supports Nuclear Energy

Patrick Moore was one of the co-founders of the Greenpeace movement. In this recent interview with Newsweek's Fareed Zakaria, he explained the reason he backs nuclear energy.

Excerpts:

Wind and solar energy are intermittent and thus unreliable. How can you run hospitals and factories and schools and even a house on an electricity supply that disappears for three or four days at a time? Wind can play a minor role in reducing the amount of fossil fuels we use, because you can turn the fossil fuels off when the wind is blowing. And solar is completely ridiculous. The cost is so high - California's $3.2 billion in solar subsidies is all just going into Silicon Valley companies and consultants. It's ridiculous.
.......
I know that France, which produces 80 percent of its electricity with nuclear, does not have high energy costs. Sweden, which produces 50 percent of its energy with nuclear and 50 percent with hydro, has very reasonable energy costs. I know that the cost of production of electricity among the 104 nuclear plants operating in the United States is 1.68 cents per kilowatt-hour. That's not including the capital costs, but the cost of production of electricity from nuclear is very low, and competitive with dirty coal. Gas costs three times as much as nuclear, at least. Wind costs five times as much, and solar costs 10 times as much.
.......
There are 32 nuclear plants on the drawing boards right now. Last year four applied for their licenses and this year we expect 10 or 11 more. That's just in the United States. There are hundreds of nuclear plants on the drawing boards around the world. This is a completely new thing: the term "'nuclear renaissance" didn't exist three years ago, and now it's a widely known term. Unfortunately, the environmental movement now is the primary obstacle here. If it weren't for their opposition to nuclear energy, there would be a lot fewer coal-fired power plants in the United States and other parts of the world today.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Devotional Thoughts: 19 IFs

Job 31 ...

At this point, it feels like Job is making a closing argument in his own defense ...

I made a covenant with my eyes
not to look lustfully at a girl.
For what is man's lot from God above,
his heritage from the Almighty on high?
Is it not ruin for the wicked,
disaster for those who do wrong?
Does he not see my ways
and count my every step?

The opening remark in his closing statement is the basic premise of all that has gone on before:
Doesn't God see my righteous ways?
Shouldn't ruin befall those who sin?

At the moment, Job wonders has God seen the good he has tried to do in his life?

Job wonders, why has ruin befallen me who has tried and mostly successfully to live rightly?

Next follows NINETEEN "if" statements ... go ahead and read it and get into the rhythm and cadence of Job's argument. I'll try to summarize at the end.


Image source: http://www.playbackstl.com/content/view/2228/156/

If I have walked in falsehood
or my foot has hurried after deceit-
let God weigh me in honest scales
and he will know that I am blameless-
if my steps have turned from the path,
if my heart has been led by my eyes,
or if my hands have been defiled,
then may others eat what I have sown,
and may my crops be uprooted.
If my heart has been enticed by a woman,
or if I have lurked at my neighbor's door,
then may my wife grind another man's grain,
and may other men sleep with her.
For that would have been shameful,
a sin to be judged.
It is a fire that burns to Destruction;
it would have uprooted my harvest.
If I have denied justice to my menservants and maidservants
when they had a grievance against me,
what will I do when God confronts me?
What will I answer when called to account?
Did not he who made me in the womb make them?
Did not the same one form us both within our mothers?
If I have denied the desires of the poor
or let the eyes of the widow grow weary,
if I have kept my bread to myself,
not sharing it with the fatherless-
but from my youth I reared him as would a father,
and from my birth I guided the widow-
if I have seen anyone perishing for lack of clothing,
or a needy man without a garment,
and his heart did not bless me
for warming him with the fleece from my sheep,
if I have raised my hand against the fatherless,
knowing that I had influence in court,
then let my arm fall from the shoulder,
let it be broken off at the joint.
For I dreaded destruction from God,
and for fear of his splendor I could not do such things.
If I have put my trust in gold
or said to pure gold, 'You are my security,'
if I have rejoiced over my great wealth,
the fortune my hands had gained,
if I have regarded the sun in its radiance
or the moon moving in splendor,
so that my heart was secretly enticed
and my hand offered them a kiss of homage,
then these also would be sins to be judged,
for I would have been unfaithful to God on high.
If I have rejoiced at my enemy's misfortune
or gloated over the trouble that came to him-
I have not allowed my mouth to sin
by invoking a curse against his life-
if the men of my household have never said,
'Who has not had his fill of Job's meat?'-
but no stranger had to spend the night in the street,
for my door was always open to the traveler-
if I have concealed my sin as men do,
by hiding my guilt in my heart
because I so feared the crowd
and so dreaded the contempt of the clans
that I kept silent and would not go outside

17 if statements here!

Then there is a parenthesis which explicitly casts Job in the role of a defense attorney

("Oh, that I had someone to hear me!
I sign now my defense—let the Almighty answer me;
let my accuser put his indictment in writing.
Surely I would wear it on my shoulder,
I would put it on like a crown.
I would give him an account of my every step;
like a prince I would approach him.)-

Then two final if statements...

if my land cries out against me
and all its furrows are wet with tears,
if I have devoured its yield without payment
or broken the spirit of its tenants,
then let briers come up instead of wheat
and weeds instead of barley."

The statements fall into groupings as follows:

One set focuses on the general image of Job trying to live rightly with statement like these where Job is arguing I haven't ...
walked in falsehood
turned from the path
been led by my eyes
allowed my hands to be defiled.

The next group stresses that Job didn't take advantage of others by saying I haven't ...
been enticed by a woman
lurked at my neighbor's door.

The third cluster concerns Job's doing justly toward others where he said I haven't ...
denied justice
denied the desires of the poor
kept my bread to myself
others to perish for lack of clothing
worked against the fatherless.

Job though a wealthy man didn't regard wealth over God and so he didn't ..
put his trust in gold
rejoice over his great wealth
regarded the sun in its radiance or moon in its splendor.

I thought it was interesting that he juxtaposed wealthy with worship of the sun or the moon. Perhaps, in that time many people worshipped the sun and moon in a form of idolatry?

The next set of statements shows Job's graciousness to others for he
doesn't rejoice at my enemy's misfortune
made sure those under his care got their fill of Job's meat nor any stranger had to spend the night in the street.

He knew he was a sinner and he thus didn't ...
conceal his sin.

A word about that. I don't think we have to take out a billboard and show our sin to the world. I think what he means here is that if he sinned he brought it to God and if it involved another person, he brought it to the person he wronged.

Finally, Job defends his life by describing his fairness to the land he utilized by personifying the land ...
would the land cries out against me
would the land feel he devoured its yield without payment.

Part of Adam and Eve's charter besides be fruitful and multiply was to care for the land and here Job took that seriously.

The words of Job are ended.

Lord, how I would love, at the end of my life, to be able to go to you in peace knowing I've tried to do justice, love mercy and walked humbly with you. Help me to live today like the way Job did way back when. Amen.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Politics: Dick Cheney stand up comic!

Dick Cheney at the Radio and Television Correspondent's Dinner ...

Part I



Part II

Monday, April 07, 2008

Youth: LifeHouse Everything Skit by Glendale Presbyterian Church Youth Group

A couple of months ago, our youth group saw this skit on youtube video.

Many were deeply moved by the presentation and some decided, let's do it for our church.

Well, a couple of Sunday's ago, the drama team after much dedicated practice shared the skit with the congregation.

See it below on Youtube ...



Bravo to the team that put such time, effort and heart into it!

And may all who saw it in person and via you tube be moved to consider what great love Jesus has shown us!

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Sports: Kansas and UCLA the underdogs

There you go, the odds page on today's game.

KU is a 3 point underdog to UNC and UCLA is a 2 point underdog to Memphis.

Its all about playing your type of game.

If Memphis gets out into a high speed game, it will turn into a dunkfest and UCLA will get blown out. But if UCLA slows them down like they did 2 years ago, then UCLA has a shot to win. In a close game, Memphis free throw shooting might get mental. Speaking of foul trouble, UCLA would be in a huge hole if any of their starters get in foul trouble as the UCLA bench players don't play a lot of minutes and UCLA would be hard pressed to get a lot of offense from the bench if they have to play extended minutes.

Meanwhile, in the other game, I think UNC would like to speed it up like Memphis. But if it turns into a slugfest I think KU might have a bit more going for them.

In my brackets, I had KU playing UCLA in the finals. That is what I'm rooting for because I like underdogs and of course I'm a Bruin fan!

GO BRUINS!

UPDATE: Memphis 78 UCLA 63. Hats off to the Tigers. They played their game and neutralized what UCLA likes to do. UCLA had no answer for the size, athleticism and talent of Rose (25 pts) and Roberts (28 pts) and UCLA couldn't score for long stretches in the second half.

The Bruins season ended just like the previous two years (against Florida) ... by running into, in this case, a Memphis team that had skill players that were bigger and faster. It was deja vu all over again.

With the score in the 20s half-way into the 1st half, the game was at Memphis pace and I was troubled. If the brakes don't get put on soon, UCLA might run out of gas in the 2nd half. They fought it down to a 3 point deficit by half-time. But the 2nd half came and Memphis put a run on them, UCLA fought back and cut it down to 5 but at that point, UCLA had nothing left in the tank and Memphis ran them off the court.

As a fan of the game, I would have three question marks on UCLA's game plan:
(1) Love didn't get many touches in the second half. How much was Memphis defense and how much was UCLA not looking for him?
(2) UCLA got within 5 points and then UCLA went for 2 three-point attempts which they missed. After that, they never seriously threatened them. Might they have been better off trying to get it to Love or driving to the basket? Admittedly, Memphis might have been too quick to be beat off the dribble.
(3) Might a zone defense occasionally be useful in confusing an opponent? Coach Howland refuses to use it. Teams throw zones at UCLA to confuse them. UCLA should occasionally turn the tables on people.

I remember many years ago (1998?) Coach Rick Majerus of Utah was hailed as a coaching genius when he threw a gimmick box and one zone against a speedy Arizona team and frustrated the run and gun Wildcats in the NCAA tournament.

Would it have made difference?

Love getting more touches would help. He probably would have drew some fouls and got points at the line and making shots within 5 feet is easier than the 2 three-pointers he missed in the 2nd half.

UCLA has to hit those three pointers or at least step in a few feet and get the 2 points off a 15-17 footer but where their legs gone from the pace?

And the zone defense question is one I would guess real X and O people might have a better answer for.

In the end, UCLA could have done all 3 and still lose. Sometimes you just have to admit the other team had better offense options and their talent and athleticism neutralizes what you try to do.

It was another exciting season for Bruinsnation. Thanks to the team for a lot of heart in many tough Pac10 games. They showed in a tight situations that they can found a way to win. But sometimes the other team is too much and all you can do is go down fighting and show class when its over. Coach Howland and the Bruins did that all year and in the end came out on the short end only four times.

Look forward to next season!