Friday, October 30, 2009

Non-profit of the month: September 2009 - TeachOverseas.Org

In these monthly posts about organizations I support, some have re-appeared from time-to-time. I'm a supporter of TeachOverseas.Org.

This wonderful organization is marking its 20th Anniversary:

The autumn of 1989 was an exciting time in world history. The Berlin wall came down with a bang that sounded an era of hope to people living in the Eastern and Soviet Blocs. At the same time, in Alhambra, California a small non-profit with a bold vision to change the world was born.

How could ordinary Christians from North America make a strategic impact in these newly declared republics? TeachOverseas co-founder and President Ron Nicholas had an idea: train and send Christian English teachers to serve local people in the spirit of Christ’s love.

The first teachers went to Hungary and were hugely successful in building bridges of friendship and trust. New doors opened in Ukraine and Russia. TeachOverseas’ reputation for quality English teachers with high moral standards grew. Soon, school administrators in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan welcomed TeachOverseas teachers with open arms.

This year celebrates 20 years of TeachOverseas’ global service and outreach. Through TeachOverseas, over 200,000 students in a dozen different countries have been influenced by a Christian teacher.

Non-profit of the month: October 2009 - National Parks Foundation and Joshua Tree National Park Association



Very much enjoyed the segments I saw of Ken Burn's National Parks that recently aired on PBS.

Thus, I am donating to National Park Foundation.

While I was at it, I figured, I'll donate to the closest National Park I know of to where I live which is Joshua Tree National Park.

The non-profit connected to the park is, of course, the Joshua Tree National Park Association.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Devotional Thoughts: My ears had heard of you

And so we reach the end of the story ...

Then Job replied to the LORD :
I know that you can do all things;
no plan of yours can be thwarted.
You asked, 'Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?'
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me to know.
You said, 'Listen now, and I will speak;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.'
My ears had heard of you
but now my eyes have seen you.
Therefore I despise myself
and repent in dust and ashes.

When confronted with God, what is there to say?

God is holy. But what does Holy mean?

One simple answer I heard was that holy is all that makes God God and not us!

Though we are made in the image of God, that image is now marred. That is why we look at the world with a sense of unease and a sense that things are not the way they should be. Thus, in many ways God is so completely different than us. He is so "other" (holy) compared to us.

When Isaiah met God, he said, "Woe to me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty."

Are we stuck in this place of ruin?

Yes ... unless ... we recognize our state and allow God to restore!

For Isaiah, it came out this way: Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, "See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for."

Lord, have mercy. On too many occasions I have walked in the opposite direction you want. All too often my thoughts are of self and not You and others. Yet, though you are holy and totally other than me, you have made a path for restoration. Thank you for such a gift. Help me to live in that. Amen

Friday, October 23, 2009

Life: Pastor Timothy Lin, 1911-2009

LA Times Obituary October 20, 2009
Lin, Timothy
January 18, 1911 - October 11, 2009

Pastor Emeritus of the First Chinese Baptist Church, Los Angeles, passed away peacefully at the age of 99 on Sunday, October 11, 2009.

Dr. Timothy Lin was born to a minister's family in Chekiang, China. In 1940 he came to the United States to study Hebrew and Greek at Concordia Theological Seminary and Washington University.

Dr. Lin was a member of one of the Old Testament translation committees for the New American Standard Bible. He was a professor in the graduate school of Bob Jones University, where he taught Systematic Theology, Biblical Theology, Old Testament Hebrew, Biblical Aramaic, Classic Arabic, and Peshitta Syriac. He was also a professor at Talbot Seminary, Los Angeles, and Trinity Evangelical Seminary, Chicago.
In 1962 he became pastor of the First Chinese Baptist Church of Los Angeles. When he retired as Senior Pastor a few years ago, the church had eight pastors, more than 2,200 in regular Lord's Day attendance, several mission churches with more than 300 in regular attendance. He served as the president of China Evangelical Seminary in Taiwan from 1980 to 1990.

Visitation will be held on Friday, October 23, 2009 from 6:00 - 8:00p.m., in the Rose Hills Memorial Park and Mortuary, 3888 Workman Mill Road, Whittier, CA 90601 (562)699-0921. There will be a memorial service (Celebration of Life Service) on October 24, 2009 at the First Chinese Baptist Church in Los Angeles, commencing at 12:00p.m. (213)687-0814

In Lieu of flowers, donation may be made to one of the following:
1. Dr. Lin Scholarship Fund of FCBC, LA (make it payable to FCBC)
2. Dr. Lin Scholarship Fund of CES, North America (make it payable to CESNA)
3. Dr. Lin building Fund of CES, Taiwan (make it payable to China Evangelical Seminary Association)

###

Dr. Timothy Lin was one of the pastors from the First Chinese Baptist Church of Chinatown LA where I went during my younger days. He had been having some health problems which was not surprising given his 99 years. Thus, when I had heard that he had left behind his earthly tent for the glorious presence of our God, I felt, amidst sadness, a sense of assurance.

I started attending FCBC fairly regularly when I was a high schooler about 30 years ago! Pastor Lin was already 69 years old and was transitioning out of pastoring FCBC to being a professor and president of the China Evangelical Seminary in Taiwan. He would stand and preach without notes for 30, 60 and even 90 minutes expounding the Bible. He would draw from the Scriptures both Old and New Testament.

What I remember most was the passion and thoughtfulness in his preaching.

I benefit greatly from his metaphor connecting the contemplation of Scripture with the eating of food!

He would remind us that we may not remember what we had for breakfast 3 days ago just as we may not remember the sermon or the particular Bible reading from the day before but it was still food for our body (in the case of breakfast) and for our soul (in the case of that time spent grappling with the Scriptures). And so over time, with repeated hearing of the Word and reading of the Word and demonstration of the Word in the lives of others, what God cares about bit by bit becomes a part of our lives.

Though a great man of learning, he stressed that knowing Scripture though requiring thoughtfulness is not foremost an academic exercise but one of knowing God and enriching that relationship.

He would close the service with this benediction:

Now may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God the Father and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit who makes Your objective promises into our subjective blessing be with you all. Amen.

The faith and hope you held in our Lord has now been rewarded as the Great Shepherd welcomes you home with the commendation, well done good and faithful servant.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Business: 2001-2003 RAV4 Toyota Automatic Tranmission Problems

Love the car. But ...

It started to act up ...

Rough shifting between gears on a couple of occasions ...

When going up an incline, the car didn't seem to know it should downshift for more power so instead the car limped up the hill ...

Check engine light came on ...

That lead us to do some searchs on Google which brought up many web sites describing the problem.

Here is one on Toyotafans.net which refers to a bootlegged copy of the Technical Service Bulletin issued by Toyota describing the problem.

Even the New York Times is blogging about the problem.

The car is now in the shop and we are hoping that the transmission isn't torn up.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Devotional Thoughts: Behemoth and Leviathan

Continuing toward the end of Job ...

Usually don't cover two chapters in one bite. But I figured addressing the "behemoth" and "leviathan" in one shot might be the way to go.

The LORD said to Job:
"Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him?
Let him who accuses God answer him!"

Job had pretty strong words in lamenting his situation to God through the many chapters.

And God went face-to-face with Job in return.

I suppose we can take comfort in the fact that when Job went toe-to-toe with God that Job didn't become a smoking hole in the ground.

Now, before we get too comfortable, God can turn cities full of people into ashes as in the case of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 18-19.

Why the difference?

Sodom and Gomorrah was truly wicked ... Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous ... but Abraham begged God to spare the cities if 10 were found righteous. God said yes. Alas, not even 10 were found righteous and so Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed.

How about Job?

We know from the beginning of the story that he was a righteous man. He wasn't sinless because no man is sinless. But he was right with God by seeking to live rightly and when he went astray confessing and seeking God's forgiveness.

Was his complaints about God ... was that sin?

It seems that God would rather we go face-to-face with Him with our complaints than go off and live a life of sin ignoring God.

Then Job answered the LORD:
"I am unworthy - how can I reply to you?
I put my hand over my mouth.
I spoke once, but I have no answer -
twice, but I will say no more."

Job wanted an audience with God and got it. The questions melted away and he had nothing really left to say.

God continued to dwell on His power as His response to Job's complaints...

Then the LORD spoke to Job out of the storm:
Prepare to defend yourself;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.
Would you discredit my justice?
Would you condemn me to justify yourself?
Do you have an arm like God's,
and can your voice thunder like his?
Then adorn yourself with glory and splendor,
and clothe yourself in honor and majesty.
Unleash the fury of your wrath,
look at all who are proud and bring them low,
look at all who are proud and humble them,
crush the wicked where they stand.
Bury them all in the dust together;
shroud their faces in the grave.
Then I myself will admit to you
that your own right hand can save you.

Some scholars think behemoth was the hippopotamus!



image source: http://animal.discovery.com/mammals/hippopotamus/

Look at the behemoth,
which I made along with you
and which feeds on grass like an ox.
What strength it has in its loins,
what power in the muscles of its belly!
Its tail sways like a cedar;
the sinews of its thighs are close-knit.
Its bones are tubes of bronze,
its limbs like rods of iron.
It ranks first among the works of God,
yet its Maker can approach it with his sword.
The hills bring it their produce,
and all the wild animals play nearby.
Under the lotus plants it lies,
hidden among the reeds in the marsh.
The lotuses conceal it in their shadow;
the poplars by the stream surround it.
A raging river does not alarm it;
it is secure, though the Jordan should surge against its mouth.
Can anyone capture it by the eyes,
or trap it and pierce its nose?

I've seen some hippos while on safari. I suspect the fact that I saw them at a pretty safe distance inside a large vehicle made them seem less fearsome!

We now get a description of the leviathan.

Can you pull in the leviathan with a fishhook
or tie down its tongue with a rope?
Can you put a cord through its nose
or pierce its jaw with a hook?
Will it keep begging you for mercy?
Will it speak to you with gentle words?
Will it make an agreement with you
for you to take it as your slave for life?
Can you make a pet of it like a bird
or put it on a leash for the young women in your house?
Will traders barter for it?
Will they divide it up among the merchants?
Can you fill its hide with harpoons
or its head with fishing spears?
If you lay a hand on it,
you will remember the struggle and never do it again!
Any hope of subduing it is false;
the mere sight of it is overpowering.
No one is fierce enough to rouse it.
Who then is able to stand against me?
Who has a claim against me that I must pay?
Everything under heaven belongs to me.

Some experts say the leviathan is a crocodile while others say a whale.

What does it sound like to you from the description so far?

Did the ancients in the Middle East hunt for whales?

I suppose you could throw spears and harpoons at crocodiles.

I will not fail to speak of Leviathan's limbs,
its strength and its graceful form.
Who can strip off its outer coat?
Who can penetrate its double coat of armor?
Who dares open the doors of its mouth,
ringed about with fearsome teeth?
Its back has rows of shields
tightly sealed together;
each is so close to the next
that no air can pass between.
They are joined fast to one another;
they cling together and cannot be parted.

Now this part sure sounds more like an armored beast like the croc!


image source: http://colquitt.k12.ga.us/tsmith/new_page_14.htm

Its snorting throws out flashes of light;
its eyes are like the rays of dawn.
Flames stream from its mouth;
sparks of fire shoot out.
Smoke pours from its nostrils
as from a boiling pot over burning reeds.
Its breath sets coals ablaze,
and flames dart from its mouth.

Fire-breathing dragon of fantasy tales?

Or is it poetic license in describing how fearsome a crocodile is?

Strength resides in its neck;
dismay goes before it.
The folds of its flesh are tightly joined;
they are firm and immovable.
Its chest is hard as rock,
hard as a lower millstone.
When it rises up, the mighty are terrified;
they retreat before its thrashing.
The sword that reaches it has no effect,
nor does the spear or the dart or the javelin.
Iron it treats like straw
and bronze like rotten wood.
Arrows do not make it flee;
slingstones are like chaff to it.
A club seems to it but a piece of straw;
it laughs at the rattling of the lance.
Its undersides are jagged potsherds,
leaving a trail in the mud like a threshing sledge.
It makes the depths churn like a boiling caldron
and stirs up the sea like a pot of ointment.
It leaves a glistening wake behind it;
one would think the deep had white hair.
Nothing on earth is its equal -
a creature without fear.
It looks down on all that are haughty;
it is king over all that are proud.

Again, the ruggedly look of this creature seems more in line with a crocodile than a whale or some other ocean faring beast.

Some insist that these two creatures were dinosaurs because they seemed so terrible and frightening.

I think that might be a stretch.

To us, the hippo and croc aren't as fearsome because we now have guns.

But to the ancients, these beasts would be quite scary for they had mere spears.

As Job listened to God speak of these mighty creatures, he is reminded that God made them. GOD is mightier than the mightiest. And God deigns to speak with Job.

Lord Jesus, you are the God who speaks the words of this story of Job. Yet, you set aside the rights of that divinity to make yourself like us, like Job. You even humbled yourself to dying on a criminals cross. And so you are vindicated and exalted to the highest place so that we have nothing to say against you and instead bow down and thank you for your grace and love. Amen.

Sports: A tale of two baseball games

Attended Game 1 and heard the dramatic finish to Game 2 on the radio during the commute home.

In game 1, both starting pitchers were struggling and the Dodger bullpen held onto the lead the Dodgers scratched out.

In game 2, both starting pitchers were on top of their game and the Cardinal bullpen (and left fielder) couldn't hold on.

Getting to Dodger's stadium in the heart of rush hour was a long slog on Wednesday. While waiting in line for food, the Dodgers fell behind 1-0 in the top of the 1st. As we walked to our seats, the crowd went crazy as Kemp gave the Dodgers the lead with a 2-run homer.

As we watched Wolf do a tightrope walk, during the 2nd inning I texted a friend who was also at the game saying, Wolf isn't getting out of the fourth. Indeed, Wolf would go only 3 2/3. But as he has done all year, he kept the Dodgers in the game, giving up 2 runs when he could have easily given up 4 or more. Weaver came into the game for Wolf and got the third out with the bases loaded.

In the bottom of the fourth, with the Dodgers up 3-2, Manny hit a double and Ethier was held at third. The Cardinals bobbled the relay so he could have scored. Ethier remained stranded there. We thought aloud, three runs won't be enough tonight.

The Dodgers would push across two more runs. Furcal's sac fly RBI was an epic at bat. Every run helped as not surpringly, the Cardinals got their 3rd run but with a 3 run cushion, Broxton closed the game out striking out the tying run at the plate.

For more detail and artistic description of the game, see LAT's Weisman.

Weisman has been a must read all season long!

As I was driving home listening to game 2, when Loretta got the walk-off game winner, the driver in the car next to mine was shaking her head and laughing. Don't know if she was listening to the game but the timing was perfect as I too was shaking my head in disbelief and laughing and saying aloud, unbelievable.

Hear Vin's call of the game winning hit.

Check out Weisman on the belief monkeys of game 2.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Sports: LAD vs. STL, Game 1 NLDS 6:37PM PDT

Its time for Dodger Baseball!

I'll be in the rafters taking it all in!

3 of 4 Yahoo! Sports analysts are picking the Cards.

7 of 8 ESPN experts are predicting the Cardinals will advance.

11 of 12 on CNN/SI's panel are voting for St. Louis to take the NLDS.

Seem to recall that last year, not many were giving the Dodgers much of a chance against the Cubs.

Go Blue!

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

LA Scene: L.A. Philharmonic Conductor Gustavo Dudamel Dog

The new LA Phil music director has a hot dog named after him at Pinks.

Contains: Stretch hot dog, guacamole, American & Swiss cheese, fajitasmix, jalapeno slice, topped with tortilla chips

Price: $6.95

For non-LA folks, Pinks is an LA institution.

Paul Pink started his hot dog stand in 1939. It was only a large-wheeled pushcart in those days. The depression was on and money was scarce. Pink's chili dogs, complete with a large warm bun, oversized hot dog, mustard, onions and thick chili sold for 10 cents each.

LA Scene: Dodgers vs. St. Louis in NLDS!

Am guessing the Dodgers are the underdogs against St. Louis.

The 25-man roster hasn't been announced yet...

I wonder how many pitchers will they select for the NLDS. Shorter series probably eleven.

My guess for the 25-man roster...

1. Broxton, Closer
2. Sherrill, 8th inning
3. Kuo, 7th inning
4. Belisario, relief
5. Elbert, relief
6. Weaver, long relief
7. Garland, emergency starter, long relief
8. Wolf, #1 starter
9. Kershaw, #2 starter
10. Padilla, #3 starter
11. Billingsley, #4 starter

Catchers
12. Martin
13. Ausmus

Infield
14. Loney
15. Hudson
16. Blake
17. Furcal
18. Belliard
19. Loretta
20. Castro
21. Thome

Outfield
22. Ramierez
23. Kemp
24. Ethier
25. Pierre

Go Blue!

UPDATE: The Dodger 25-man roster has been announced. I incorrectly thought they would go with Elbert over Troncoso.

Science: CCD & Fiber Optics researchers honored with Nobel Prize

2009 Physics Nobel Prize has been announced today.

We use the technology recognized by the committee every day!

Fiber optics are the backbone of telecommunications and CCD chips are what make digital cameras work to capture the moments of our lives. Thanks go to Charles K. Kao, Willard S. Boyle and George E. Smith for their work that help us "stay in touch" and "keep our memories" in photos!

The day before, the Nobel Prize for medicine was given for work on telomeres which are on the ends of chromosomes. These telomeres in most cells degrade over time so cells age and eventually don't divide. Not surprisingly, this system is altered in cancer cells opening up another avenue for investigation. Congratulations to Elizabeth Blackburn, Jack Szostak and Carol Greider for their work!

Monday, October 05, 2009

Politics: Rio gets Olympics while Chicago lost in round one

When I had heard that the President and First Lady were making a trip to support Chicago's bid for the Olympic games, I was surprised. I don't recall any other President doing so. But I figured that Chicago's organizers must have been pretty confident they would win because you wouldn't want to bring the President in on something that might go down to defeat.

So when I heard they lost the vote quite badly, I figured the Chicago people may have taken advantage of their connections to the President and overplayed their hand which reflects badly on them. Of course, one could say that President Obama should have been more shrewd and recognized that his Chicago friends didn't have the cards to win. In this scenario, team Obama probably royally chewed out the Chicago people for getting the President involved in a losing effort.

This morning while listening to the Prager radio show, an alternative explanation was offered.

Prager said, the alternative to the President being duped by the Chicago organizers is that they knew the bid was in trouble and President Obama stepped in because he was so confident in his powers of persuasion that he and they thought he could turn the whole thing around!

In one scenario, it was a political miscalculation. In the other scenario, it was hubris.

It may well have been scenario one. And certainly, any "leaks" about the fiasco would be to highlight scenario one. But if it is scenario two then I hope Team Obama becomes more realistic about their ability to shape events by rhetoric alone.