Thursday, April 30, 2009

Devotional Thoughts: He will bring justice ...

Job 35 ...

Elihu continued ...

Then Elihu said:
Do you think it is right for you to claim,
‘I am righteous before God’?
For you also ask, ‘What’s in it for me?
What’s the use of living a righteous life?’

As you can see, am using a more contemporary translation today!

Elihu seemed to be putting up a bit of a straw man here. I don't know if Job has gone this far. I guess I'd summarize Job's situation as, I'm not perfect, without sin, but I've tried to live rightly and right now it seems that whether I live right or not, I'm suffering!

I will answer you
and all your friends, too.
Look up into the sky,
and see the clouds high above you.
If you sin, how does that affect God?
Even if you sin again and again,
what effect will it have on him?
If you are good, is this some great gift to him?
What could you possibly give him?
No, your sins affect only people like yourself,
and your good deeds also affect only humans.

Elihu seemed to overstate here. On one hand, if we sin or don't sin, that doesn't change who God is. God is God and what we do or don't do has no impact on God's "godness." On the other hand, we have ample testimony from the rest of Scripture that God is pleased when we live rightly and saddened when we sin. Thus, in that sense, what we do matters to God.

People cry out when they are oppressed.
They groan beneath the power of the mighty.
Yet they don’t ask, ‘Where is God my Creator,
the one who gives songs in the night?


image source: http://science.howstuffworks.com/hubble6.htm

Where is the one who makes us smarter than the animals
and wiser than the birds of the sky?’
And when they cry out, God does not answer
because of their pride.
But it is wrong to say God doesn’t listen,
to say the Almighty isn’t concerned.
You say you can’t see him,
but he will bring justice if you will only wait.
You say he does not respond to sinners with anger
and is not greatly concerned about wickedness.
But you are talking nonsense, Job.
You have spoken like a fool.

Elihu backtracked on his earlier remarks that God doesn't care. Indeed, God does listen and justice will arrive (not necessarily on our timetable) and those who are evil who seem to escape now will eventually be called to account.

Lord of the universe, thank you that you have cared for us on this earth. You have given your laws in Scriptures and in our consciences. You have sent your Son as a demonstration of your love and initiative to restore your lost people. Injustice remains an ill in this world. I trust one day you will bring it fully to pass. Until then, help us who try to follow you to do justice, love mercy and do both with humility each day. Amen.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Science: Swine Flu 2009

The "swine flu" started hitting the news about a week ago.

As someone working in medical research, I have followed the story with some interest reading what what I find and talking with clinical people.

Key ideas to keep in mind:

How transmissible is this variant?

Generally, flu moving directly from an animal to a human is usually pretty difficult but it does happen. That was a big fear a few years back with the Avian Flu and thus the mass culling of chickens in various countries. Flu viruses are sometimes a mix and matches of flu viruses found in pigs, birds and humans. Some strains are more readily transmitted from person-to-person but usually lose some of their severity with increases in transmissibility. It appears that this strain can spread from person-to-person fairly well.

How severe is this strain?

The Spanish Flu from World War I killed more people than the war! People were literally dropping dead in the streets. So far, there is no indication that this strain is as potent.

UPDATE: I have read that the initial wave of Spanish Flu was not too serious but it mutated and in the second wave it was very serious. There is no way to know how this current flu will mutate. It would appear that careful monitoring will be essential should a mutation arise and swift action to contain it be taken if it is a mutation that makes it worse.

Can this strain be treated with drugs?

Apparently, so far, the US individuals documented with this strain have responded well to anti-flu drugs.

The WHO has gone to a phase 5 alert.

Stay tuned!

UPDATE: Informative FAQ I saw on Yahoo! News.

Culture: Will Lyman's Voice



Does that voice sound familiar?

Its amazing how many different places you hear this guy's voice. You have heard it on many PBS documentaries and various commercials.

In case you are curious, he is Will Lyman, the man with the world's most distinctive voice!

UPDATE: In the TV ads, the "most interesting man in the world" is played by Jonathan Goldsmith. HT: Everything's Better With Brentter. More thoughts on the ad campaign from Salon's Seth Stevenson.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Politics: How far do you go to protect the nation?

24 is a fictional show.

The show has always asked the question directly and indirectly, how far should one person and one government go to protect its citizens?

We are now watching that issue play out in the real life debate with the recently released memos from the Bush administration that authorized aggressive (some say torture) interrogations of terrorists.

Hugh Hewitt points to this NY Times piece that frames the issue clearly. Excerpt:
For both sides, the political stakes are high, as proposals for a national commission to unravel the interrogation story appear to be gaining momentum. Mr. Obama and his allies need to discredit the techniques he has banned. Otherwise, in the event of a future terrorist attack, critics may blame his decision to rein in C.I.A. interrogators.

But if a strong case emerges that the Bush administration authorized torture and got nothing but prisoners’ desperate fabrications in return, that will tarnish what Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney have claimed as their greatest achievement: preventing new attacks after Sept. 11, 2001.
Aside from investigating the issues at hand, the raising of the possibility of prosecution of former Bush administration officials may make things even more difficult than they are as discussed in this WSJ piece. Excerpts:
Policy disputes, often bitter, are the stuff of democratic politics. Elections settle those battles, at least for a time, and Mr. Obama's victory in November has given him the right to change policies on interrogations, Guantanamo, or anything on which he can muster enough support. But at least until now, the U.S. political system has avoided the spectacle of a new Administration prosecuting its predecessor for policy disagreements. This is what happens in Argentina, Malaysia or Peru, countries where the law is treated merely as an extension of political power.
.............
Congress will face questions about what the Members knew and when, especially Nancy Pelosi when she was on the House Intelligence Committee in 2002. The Speaker now says she remembers hearing about waterboarding, though not that it would actually be used. Does anyone believe that? Porter Goss, her GOP counterpart at the time, says he knew exactly what he was hearing and that, if anything, Ms. Pelosi worried the CIA wasn't doing enough to stop another attack. By all means, put her under oath.

Mr. Obama may think he can soar above all of this, but he'll soon learn otherwise. The Beltway's political energy will focus more on the spectacle of revenge, and less on his agenda. The CIA will have its reputation smeared, and its agents second-guessing themselves. And if there is another terror attack against Americans, Mr. Obama will have set himself up for the argument that his campaign against the Bush policies is partly to blame.

Above all, the exercise will only embitter Republicans, including the moderates and national-security hawks Mr. Obama may need in the next four years. As patriotic officials who acted in good faith are indicted, smeared, impeached from judgeships or stripped of their academic tenure, the partisan anger and backlash will grow.
UPDATE: Charles Krauthammer of the WaPo weighs in on the topic. Excerpt:
Torture is an impermissible evil. Except under two circumstances. The first is the ticking time bomb. An innocent's life is at stake. The bad guy you have captured possesses information that could save this life. He refuses to divulge.
.......
The second exception to the no-torture rule is the extraction of information from a high-value enemy in possession of high-value information likely to save lives. This case lacks the black-and-white clarity of the ticking time bomb scenario. We know less about the length of the fuse or the nature of the next attack. But we do know the danger is great.
.......
It is one thing to have disagreed at the time and said so. It is utterly contemptible, however, to have been silent then and to rise now "on a bright, sunny, safe day in April 2009" (the words are Blair's) to excoriate those who kept us safe these harrowing last eight years.
Some people have said, the Allies didn't torture POWs in World War II. True enough. However, the situation is not comparable. The average POW in WWII was a low level foot soldier with little knowledge of the plans of the enemy beyond a small unit level. At the moment, it appears that water-boarding was authorized for very high level prisoners (sounds like only three?) who probably had substantial knowledge of Al-Qaeda. Additionally, these interrogations appeared to have been under strict guidelines and logs kept of the information obtained. Investigations should go forward to find out if guidelines were followed or violated and whether useful information was obtained. If individuals crossed the line then there has to be punishment as in the case of Abu-Ghraib prison. As a matter of national policy, torture should be illegal except under the rarest of circumstances.

UPDATE: Christopher Hitchens volunteered to be waterboarded as part of a Vanity Fair essay on the topic of torture.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Non-profit of the Month: March 2009 - Mt. Hermon and Hume Lake Christian Camps

For many years, I was involved with West Coast Chinese Christian Conferences. It is still actively providing opportunities for Christians of Chinese ancestry to learn more about their faith.

The Conferences that I attended were held either at Mt. Hermon or Hume Lake.

These place will provide the facilities for your church group, organization or in the case of WCCCC multiple church groups so you can concentrate of developing the program for the retreat. And of course, these wonderful people run great camps for young and old where you just show up because they take care of the facilities and the program!

There is just something special about getting away from the big city to reflect on faith, to hear good teaching and to share life with others on the journey.

Non-profit of the Month: April 2009 - Autism Speaks

One of my friends is participating in Walk Now For Autism this Saturday. It is a fundraiser for Autism Speaks.

Their mission:
We are dedicated to funding global biomedical research into the causes, prevention, treatments, and cure for autism; to raising public awareness about autism and its effects on individuals, families, and society; and to bringing hope to all who deal with the hardships of this disorder. We are committed to raising the funds necessary to support these goals.
1 in 150 kids are diagnosed with some form of autism.

Please consider supporting this group or others like it!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

LA Scene: Salonen Farewell Concerts

I've been a subscriber since 1999. While on a European vacation in 1999, I attended two orchestral concerts (Prague and Vienna) and an opera (Vienna). When I got back, I figured, we got our own world class organization in LA, why not subscribe?

And so began my personal experiences with Salonen's gifts. Not being a music expert, I simply enjoyed the music and the creative programing of Salonen who often paired familiar works with newer works. I had been told that the Dorothy Chandler was not a great acoustic environment. I felt it was cavernous and the orchestra always felt a little "small" even though it was so big. But I enjoyed the music anyway!

When time came to renew my subscription to the Phil when they moved to Walt Disney, the price went up and for a moment I hesitated about renewing. I decided to renew. As a reward for "my faith," my first concert there I got to hear Rite of Spring in the first of the ultimately ill-fated programing experiment First Nights. From the opening warble to the fireworks of an orchestra gone crazy, the audience was bathed in sound. The music was now heard and felt and from all directions. Salonen and his collaborators dream had come true!

Well, the house that Salonen helped build hosted his farewell concerts this past weekend.

Lots of coverage in the LA Times ... check out from the front of Sunday evenings LAT on the web with some photos of today's final farewell concert.

LAT's Swed's review of the performance he heard on Thursday night was generally positive.

I attended the event on Friday night.

The pairing of the Stravinsky's edition of the Greek Tragedy Oedipus Rex with Symphony of Psalms was another example of Salonen's creativity in designing a concert experience. I have come to admire his programing choice where he often goes beyond the more familiar old classic classical pieces.

I have no idea what Salonen's religious sensibilities are but as a Christian, I appreciated the linkage of the horribly tragic Oedipus with the hope embodied in the Psalms used in the second composition. Don't know if Stravinsky or Salonen had in mind the Gospel message - humans are crushed by sin but in God there is the possibility of redemption - but that was my gut reaction and so it was in a sense a devotional moment for me Friday night.

See here for Wikipedia's re-cap of the Symphony of Psalms. Here are the English translations of the Psalms used:
Psalm 39:13-14
Hear my prayer, O Lord, and with Thine ears consider my calling: hold not Thy peace at my tears.
For I am a stranger with Thee: and a sojourner, as all my fathers were.
O spare me a little that I may recover my strength: before I go hence and be no more.

Psalm 40:2-4
I waited patiently for the Lord: and He inclined unto me, and heard my calling.
He brought me also out of the horrible pit, out of the mire and clay.
and set my feet upon the rock, and ordered my goings.
And He hath put a new song in my mouth: even a thanksgiving unto our God.
Many shall see it and fear: and shall put their trust in the Lord.

Psalm 150
Alleluja.
O praise God in His holiness:
Praise Him in the firmament of His power.
Praise Him in His noble acts:
Praise Him according to His excellent greatness.
Praise Him in the sound of the trumpet:
Praise Him upon the strings and pipe.
Praise Him upon the well-tuned cymbals,
Praise Him upon the loud cymbals.
Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord.
Alleluja.
Here are photos from on of the final concerts and see LAT's team coverage.

If you can't get enough, check out KUSC's 2-hour radio documentary, E-P in LA.

For more personal glimpses check out the round-up of reflections by his collaborators in music.

His farewell at the Hollywood Bowl was Mahler's #8 which was a choral work also. I thought it was interesting that for both farewell concerts he went with choral works. He could have gone with a mixed program including some of his own works or easier still, crowd pleasing favorites. Instead, he went with the unconventional and he went with works that require him to share the stage. And from reading the round-up of reflections, that keeping the ego in check is part of why he is beloved as a conductor and collaborator.

EPS had his debut with the LA Phil in 1984 at the age of 26. He has had a relationship with the orchestra since then and will continue on as conductor laureate. He became music director in 1992 and his 17 year tenure has been the longest in the history of the LA Phil. Its been a great ride.

Thanks Esa-Pekka for the great music making filled with passion and risk taking!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Devotional Thoughts: Should one who hates justice govern?

Elihu continued in Job 34 ...

Elihu further answered and said:
“Hear my words, you wise men;
Give ear to me, you who have knowledge.
For the ear tests words
As the palate tastes food.
Let us choose justice for ourselves;
Let us know among ourselves what is good.

As a tangent, I can't but help but feel that in today's society, words seem to mean less. It is so easy to send an email where it is informal, casual and often filled with misspelled words and poor grammar. I'm guilty of this. Or text messaging where everything is truncated into short hand abbreviations and other moves to say keystrokes.

Elihu, agree or disagree with him, recognized that words have weight.

For Job has said, ‘I am righteous,
But God has taken away my justice;
Should I lie concerning my right?
My wound is incurable, though I am without transgression.’
What man is like Job,
Who goes in company with the workers of iniquity,
And walks with wicked men?
For he has said, ‘It profits a man nothing
That he should delight in God.’

Very pointed pokes by Elihu. He restated Job's lament. Yes, a good key to communication; reflect back the content and emotion of what you have heard!

But the second half is a pretty severe beat down of Job. Not such a good thing to do in communicating with someone who is suffering.

Leaving aside the head slap, what theological point does Elihu bring up next?

Therefore listen to me, you men of understanding:
Far be it from God to do wickedness,
And from the Almighty to commit iniquity.
For He repays man according to his work,
And makes man to find a reward according to his way.
Surely God will never do wickedly,
Nor will the Almighty pervert justice.
Who gave Him charge over the earth?
Or who appointed Him over the whole world?
If He should set His heart on it,
If He should gather to Himself His Spirit and His breath,
All flesh would perish together,
And man would return to dust.

Bottom line from Elihu: God is not evil and won't do injustice and so Job's claims that God is unfair is rebutted.

Elihu continued ...

If you have understanding, hear this;
Listen to the sound of my words:
Should one who hates justice govern?
Will you condemn Him who is most just?
Is it fitting to say to a king, ‘You are worthless,’
And to nobles, ‘You are wicked’?
Yet He is not partial to princes,
Nor does He regard the rich more than the poor;
For they are all the work of His hands.
In a moment they die, in the middle of the night;
The people are shaken and pass away;
The mighty are taken away without a hand.

More defense of God "the most just."

The strong defense of God's justice resonates with the intellectual part of me.

But I must say, I am moved by the word pictures of the fragility of human existence in the last part of the last two paragraphs .

If He should gather to Himself His Spirit and His breath,
All flesh would perish together,
And man would return to dust.
.....
In a moment they die, in the middle of the night;
The people are shaken and pass away;
The mighty are taken away without a hand.


image source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/9/9d/Sand_sculpture.jpg/250px-Sand_sculpture.jpg

I can craft my life ... but fast or slow, it will be swept away.

For His eyes are on the ways of man,
And He sees all his steps.
There is no darkness nor shadow of death
Where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves.
For He need not further consider a man,
That he should go before God in judgment.
He breaks in pieces mighty men without inquiry,
And sets others in their place.
Therefore He knows their works;
He overthrows them in the night,
And they are crushed.
He strikes them as wicked men
In the open sight of others,
Because they turned back from Him,
And would not consider any of His ways,
So that they caused the cry of the poor to come to Him;
For He hears the cry of the afflicted.
When He gives quietness, who then can make trouble?
And when He hides His face, who then can see Him,
Whether it is against a nation or a man alone?—
That the hypocrite should not reign,
Lest the people be ensnared.

Theologically, God is considered omniscient.

Recently, some theologians in the open theism movement contract the meaning of omniscience away from God knowing the future. I'm not sure that is a valid move logically. Because since Elihu argues for a linkage between God's justice and God's omniscience (e.g. God's justice can only happen because God is omniscient). Thus, would taking away God's knowledge of the future be injurious to God's justice?

I have sympathy with open theism's attempt to address free will and theodicy but I am concerned it might compromise God's justice. Thoughts anyone?

Elihu sums up this part of his monologue with more hits on Job.

For has anyone said to God,
‘I have borne chastening;
I will offend no more;
Teach me what I do not see;
If I have done iniquity, I will do no more’?
Should He repay it according to your terms,
Just because you disavow it?
You must choose, and not I;
Therefore speak what you know.
Men of understanding say to me,
Wise men who listen to me:
‘Job speaks without knowledge,
His words are without wisdom.’
Oh, that Job were tried to the utmost,
Because his answers are like those of wicked men!
For he adds rebellion to his sin;
He claps his hands among us,
And multiplies his words against God.

One of the things we have to remember when we call the Bible, God's word: there are human words and actions which may run counter to what God wants. And so those negative things are in the Bible to show us deeds and ideas that are wrong which we should learn to avoid.

I think Elihu makes some good theological point but he seems less than helpful in the sympathy dimension. But he hits an important point here at the end: Job speaks without knowledge, His words are without wisdom. Job is without knowledge of some parts of Job 1-2. Now, would that knowledge make him feel any better? I don't know. Maybe not. And because of his deep physical and emotional pain, he is brutally honest with God and so should we expect his words to be "wise?" The point maybe not so much about answers to suffering but expressing how a faithful man wrestles with suffering.

Lord, I look around the world and see wickedness in every corner. I have to trust that you see all of this and will one day bring about justice. Grant me wisdom to do what little I can where I can to bring justice. Enable me with insight to know when to share theology with people in love and when to simply share love. Amen.

Politics: Tomorrow is Tax Day

I got the following press release (see below) in my email box.

When I blog on political matters, I tend toward the center-right, thus, they figure I'd be sympathetic to the cause.

It would seem that people across the USA are planning on Tax Day Tea Party Protests. It will be interesting to see how much support the rallies garner and what the main stream media coverage will be like. As for me, I'll be at work that day so I can pay my taxes ...

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friends! Brethren! Countrymen!
“By Land and By Sea” South Bay Tax Day Tea Party Protest
Dockweiler State Beach (off Imperial Highway), El Segundo, CA
April 15, 2009 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
El Segundo, CA April 7, 2009 – The South Bay Tea Party, a bipartisan group of concerned local citizens working in conjunction with the national FreedomWorks organization, invites all residents of the South Bay and its neighboring communities to join us on Wednesday April 15, 2009 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m at Dockweiler State Beach to peacefully petition our elected officials, and particularly Congresswoman Jane Harman who is a self-described Blue Dog Democrat and fiscal conservative, to stop the irresponsible bailouts and out of control spending by the Federal Government. Join us as an expression of our liberty and a cry of protest that our state and federal representatives ignore at their political peril.

In solidarity with Americans attending hundreds of Tax Day Tea Party protests around the country the group today announced its strong opposition to government spending in Washington and Sacramento and to an increase in taxes that will limit the freedom and threaten the livelihood of nearly every American. Nathan Mintz, on behalf of South Bay Tea Party, said: “In recent months our elected officials in Sacramento and Washington have disregarded the voice of the People and acted with reckless abandon, sacrificing the future of our children and our country.”

Tea Party organizers believe that economic and personal liberty are under severe attack from California State Legislators, the U.S. Congress and the other branches of the Federal Government. California’s Proposition 1A has burdened state residents with obscene levels of new taxation. The Federal Government’s Stimulus, recent Omnibus Spending Bill, and Budget all passed by congress are borrowing or printing unprecedented amounts of money. Yet, the Congressional Budget Office predicts that the Stimulus Bill will create few jobs in 2009 and 2010. Instead it will cause dangerously high levels of inflation as the Federal Government writes blank checks that our children and grandchildren will have to repay.

“We can no longer stand by quietly and allow this to continue unabated,” Mr. Mintz continues. “Today is the day the silent majority rises up to demand its elected officials balance the people's checkbook. The people have had enough. The time to voice displeasure with the current political climate, discuss alternative solutions and demand constitutionally guaranteed rights is long overdue. That worst of plagues, the host of confiscatory taxes levied on the People by the Government, are due this day, April 15, 2009, and We the People will no longer remain silent.”

Contact: Nathan Mintz
Telephone: (619) 857-4047
Email: nathan.m.mintz@gmail.com
Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#/group.php?gid=54185129860
Website: www.southbayteaparty.com
###

Monday, April 13, 2009

Life: Where do we find such men?

Stunning and swift end to the Maersk Alabama story.

Navy snipers killed the 3 pirates and thus freed Capt. Phillips on Sunday.

Excerpt:
The on-scene commander gave the shooters approval to open fire after seeing that "one of the pirates had an AK-47 leveled at the captain's back," Gortney said.

Seas in the area were getting rough at the time of the rescue, Gortney said, and the Bainbridge was towing the lifeboat presumably to calmer waters with a towline about 82 feet long.

A senior defense official told CNN that each pirate was shot in the head.

After the shooting, special operations personnel shimmied along the tow rope to ensure the pirates were dead and freed Phillips, the official said.

The official added that the pirates had become increasingly agitated over the past day, and negotiations were not going well.

The fourth pirate was aboard the Bainbridge most of the day and told military negotiators that he wasn't going back to the other pirates, according to a defense official with knowledge of the situation.
Bob Greene shared his observation of the Navy SEALs he had seen training in San Diego.

Excerpt:
We probably don't ask ourselves that kind of question often enough. Usually, military operations are talked about in the abstract, as if they're lines on a chalkboard, or brightly glowing diagrams on a computer screen.

But once in a while, like now, we stop to focus on what we ask of the people who serve in our stead when the task seems all but impossible. Ronald Reagan would sometimes quote a line that summed up our wonder at those who make the choice to serve our country in this way: "Where do we find such men?"

We find them among us, although we usually don't know it when we see it. On Coronado, on Orange Avenue, there was a bar called McP's, owned by an ex-SEAL named Greg McPartlin. Whenever I would stop in there, groups of guys from the naval base would be having a cheeseburger, maybe listening to a local acoustic band play a guitars-only version of The Beatles' "We Can Work It Out." You'd sit among them, and it was easy to forget what brought them to this strip of sand. It wasn't for vacation, or relaxation. Where do we find such men? Sometimes at the next table over, listening to the music.

From the Navy SEALs' creed:

"My loyalty to country and team is beyond reproach. I humbly serve as a guardian to my fellow Americans, always ready to defend those who are unable to defend themselves. I do not advertise the nature of my work, nor seek recognition for my actions. I voluntarily accept the inherent hazards of my profession, placing the welfare and security of others before my own. I serve with honor on and off the battlefield. The ability to control my emotions and my actions, regardless of circumstance, sets me apart from other men. ... In the absence of orders I will take charge, lead my teammates and accomplish the mission. ... I will never quit. I persevere and thrive on adversity. My nation expects me to be physically harder and mentally stronger than my enemies. If knocked down, I will get back up, every time. I will draw on every remaining ounce of strength to protect my teammates and to accomplish our mission. I am never out of the fight."

Where do we find such men?

Over the weekend, we learned the answer anew.
Hats off to President Obama for giving the orders to trust the commanders on scene to make the call on using force if needed.

UPDATE: A less favorable reading of the Obama administration's role in the hostage situation. HT: HH.
UPDATE: On balance, I'd have to give credit to where credit is due. Obama gave them the green light to use deadly force if necessary and that was the right call. The author of the PJ Media piece was Jeff Emanuel, a special operations military veteran. In his view, action could have been taken sooner. As it stands, Capt. Phillips is on his way home and I'm simply glad about that!

Thank you Capt. Phillips and his crew and thank you Navy SEALs for showing what heros are.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Devotional Thoughts: Christ is Risen, He is Risen Indeed!

Mark D. Roberts discusses why the Resurrection matters.

Here is an interesting article responding to the charge that the Gospel accounts must be wrong because Jesus died too quickly.

If Jesus stayed locked in death, no one would care about the Gospel stories.

And so the resurrection is everything. And if resurrection were not so, Christianity would be nothing.

Christ is Risen, He is Risen Indeed!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Devotional Thoughts: God does all these things to people twice, even three times

It is Holy Saturday as I write.

In the season of remembering what Jesus did on the Cross, Holy Saturday is the one I know the least.

In the Southern Baptist church that I grew up in, the special days of these season we marked were Palm Sunday which recalls Jesus entry in to Jerusalem. Good Friday, the day of Crucifixion. And Easter Sunday, the day of Resurrection.

In more liturgical churches, there is also Ash Wednesday which marks the beginning of Lent. The ashes marked on the forehead in the shape of a cross is a sign of repentance which is an essential element of preparing the believer in remembering the events of holy week.

There is also Maundy Thursday which recalls the last day before the Crucifixion with emphasis on the foot washing of the disciples, the Last Supper, the prayers at the Garden of Gethsemane and the betrayal by Judas.

And lastly, there is Holy Saturday where in the more liturgical churches the services held are very sparse. This is in line with what the disciples would have felt on that day after the death of Jesus but prior to the Resurrection.

And so, I find myself drawn back to the tale of Job.

In a sense, we live in Holy Saturday. The work of Jesus, the Christ has been done on the Cross, yet we await His return in full glory. We live with trust in the significance of the Cross and anticipation that His Return will release us from the sorrows of this life.

And so onto Job 33.

Elihu had been silent until Job 32. He would speak from Job 32-37.

Elihu is bold in his addressing Job directly:

But now, Job, listen to my words;
pay attention to everything I say.
I am about to open my mouth;
my words are on the tip of my tongue.
My words come from an upright heart;
my lips sincerely speak what I know.
The Spirit of God has made me;
the breath of the Almighty gives me life.
Answer me then, if you can;
stand up and argue your case before me.

But I do appreciate Elihu's humility in the next few lines:

I am the same as you in God's sight;
I too am a piece of clay.
No fear of me should alarm you,
nor should my hand be heavy on you.

Nonetheless, Elihu is concerned about some of the things Job had said in his monologues.

But you have said in my hearing—
I heard the very words—
I am pure, I have done no wrong;
I am clean and free from sin.
Yet God has found fault with me;
he considers me his enemy.
He fastens my feet in shackles;
he keeps close watch on all my paths.
But I tell you, in this you are not right,
for God is greater than any mortal.

Thanks to the study notes in Zondervan's NIV Study Bible, I'm reminded that Job did not actually claim to be sinless (see Job 7:21 and 13:26) but rather that as far as he knows he has acknowledged all his sins and that he has avoided egregious sins.

Why do you complain to him
that he responds to no one's words?
For God does speak—now one way, now another—
though no one perceives it.
In a dream, in a vision of the night,
when deep sleep falls on people
as they slumber in their beds,
he may speak in their ears
and terrify them with warnings,
to turn them from wrongdoing
and keep them from pride,
to preserve them from the pit,
their lives from perishing by the sword.

Elihu tries to counter Job's assertion that God is silent.


image source:
http://www.ncbusinesslitigationreport.com/danger%20sign.jpg

Indeed, one ongoing question for those who believe in God is how does God "speak" to me?

Elihu here seems to be arguing that God speaks to us in the voice of the conscience to keep us away from wrongdoing, pride, the pit and perishing by the sword.

Elihu continued on this theme:

Or they may be chastened on a bed of pain
with constant distress in their bones,
so that their bodies find food repulsive
and their souls loathe the choicest meal.
Their flesh wastes away to nothing,
and their bones, once hidden, now stick out.
They draw near to the pit,
and their lives to the messengers of death.

And thus, pain is another "messenger" of God to steer us onto the correct path.

Reminds me of a C.S. Lewis quote ...
“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world."

Elihu then addressed the possibility of rescue apart from "self rescue."

Yet if there is an angel at their side,
a messenger, one out of a thousand,
sent to tell them how to be upright,
and he is gracious to them and says to God,
'Spare them from going down to the pit;
I have found a ransom for them—
let their flesh be renewed like a child's;
let them be restored as in the days of their youth'—
then they can pray to God and find favor with him,
they will see God's face and shout for joy;
he will restore them to full well-being.
And they will go to others and say,
'We have sinned, we have perverted what is right,
but we did not get what we deserved.
God has delivered us from going down to the pit,
and we shall live to enjoy the light of life.'
"God does all these things to people—
twice, even three times—
to turn them back from the pit,
that the light of life may shine on them.
"Pay attention, Job, and listen to me;
be silent, and I will speak.
If you have anything to say, answer me;
speak up, for I want to vindicate you.
But if not, then listen to me;
be silent, and I will teach you wisdom."

The great "R" words of the Bible: rescue, ransom, renewal, restoration, reconciliation.


image source:
http://www.outtatown.com/photos/06site2/wp-content/photos/the_cross.jpg

And so Elihu is telling Job that rescue, ransom, renewal, restoration, reconciliation is all possible.

For us today, on this Holy Saturday, we know that it has been done at the Cross. But we still suffer. We await the completion of the rescue, ransom, renewal, restoration, reconciliation.

The prayer for Holy Saturday from the Book of Common Prayer:
O God, Creator of heaven and earth: Grant that, as the
crucified body of your dear Son was laid in the tomb and
rested on this holy Sabbath, so we may await with him the
coming of the third day, and rise with him to newness of
life; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Life: ... This little chap who follows me

Saw this item over at Bruinsnation with a clip of Coach Wooden reciting a poem as part of a Gatorade ad.

A visit to Wooden's site and a click on the "favorite maxims" tab leads to a menu of quotes of which "the son follows the father" link leads to Coach talking about how he came across the poem.

A google search yields multiple hits on any of the key phrases from the poem.

Here is one of them.
A careful man I ought to be,
A little fellow follows me.
I dare not go astray,
For fear he'll go the self-same way.

I cannot once escape his eyes,
Whatever he see me do, he tries.
Like me, he says, he's going to be,
The little chap who follows me.

He thinks that I am good and fine,
Believes in every word of mine.
The base in me he must not see,
That little fellow who follows me.

I must remember as I go,
Thru summers' sun and winters' snow.
I am building for the years to be,
In the little chap who follows me.