9/11… 12/13… These are dates that will always be linked to tragedy.  Like a lot of people, I was (and am still) really shaken by the events of last week when a gunman took the lives of 20 children and six adults before killing himself in a small elementary school in Connecticut.  Last night, a vigil was held in the town of Newtown, CT in which the President addressed an audience of grieving people and pledged that he would do everything in his power to prevent something like this from happening ever again. (http://video.msnbc.msn.com/nbc-news/50220190#50220190) I appreciated his words, not just that pledge, but much of what he said especially because he book-ended his speech with scripture – very meaningful scripture.

 

And as I listened to what he said, I was just thinking that here is the most powerful man on this planet who is actually powerless in effectively changing the source of the problem.  Jeremiah 17.9 (NIV) says “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”  Other versions use the phrase “desperately wicked…” instead of "beyond cure."

 

The “heart” of man IS the problem – a problem that governments cannot affect – social programs, mental health professionals, laws – these things might have a minor impact, but they’re like putting Band-Aids on a cancer.  They do not and CANNOT address the root problem.

 

Today I was reflecting on that thought and thinking, we could legislate gun control – we could take away all the guns, and the “desperately wicked heart” will use a knife to do something heinous.  So, we need to take away all the knives, right?  It will just find another way to do it.  Shortly after I had that thought, I read another headline: “Children hurt in China attack – More than 20 children are recovering after a man attacked them with a knife.”  Hmmm? “Desperately wicked…”

 

The most powerful man on earth cannot affect a change of the heart.  But Jesus can.  And we, the Church, hold the “keys of the Kingdom” (Matthew 16.18-10) Are we willing to use them?  Are we willing to do everything in OUR power - the power that Jesus has given to us? Are we willing to step out of our comfort zone and help people in a dark, dark world?  Not preach to them, not witness and walk away, not condemn them for their blindness – but offer the only REAL hope and solution that people have? A solution that cannot come through a president, or legislation, or a social program.  A solution that only comes when the heart is changed – a change that begins with knowing Jesus Christ. “3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.” (John 1.3-4)

 

Church – we’ve got the understanding…WE know the light.  Let’s help those in the darkness to see it.

You’re gonna have to serve somebody,
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.

Bob Dylan, “Gotta Serve Somebody,” 1979

Each year about this time I take a moment to reflect on the past year and make resolutions for the new year.  And this time around it's no different.  Sort of...

2012 was, to quote from the opening sentence of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, “…the best of times…the worst of times.”  But why dwell on the negative, I say.  By faith we agree with Paul that “…God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8.28).  And then after making mentioned that we were predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ he adds, …if God is for us, who is against us.” (Romans 8.31).  So, even the seemingly bad stuff is in reality all good stuff—from the perspective of faith, that is.

2013 is a mystery to me.  In my quiet time this morning I asked God, “Is this the year You will take me home?”  Not that I’m asking Him to give me an answer, mind you, just one of those quiet, reflective moments even guys like me have now & then.  And if there’s ever a good time for a quiet, reflective moment, then New Year’s should be it (I’ll be glad when this day’s over so that I can get back to my old ornery self). 

Unlike previous years this year I did not make out a detailed list of resolutions.  Instead I resolve to do one thing only this year—to be a good servant of Christ (and everything that goes with it, of course).  I’ve been reading, studying, and meditating on the Gospel of Matthew for about 2 years and am up to chapter 26 now.  Last month while reading through the Parable of the Ten Talents and the description of The Judgment in chapter 25 I was convicted of my need to be a better servant to Christ.  It made me think that I should not be satisfied with what I already do but that out of a love for Christ and His church I should serve with a greater degree of love and devotion to Christ.  As Christ told His disciples, “So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.'” (Luke 17.10)  Not much wiggle room for pride and self-satisfaction there!

I’ll be teaching on the topic of being a good servant to Christ and His Church later this month.  Please pray that I would convey my message well.

Oh, the Bob Dylan song, “Gotta Serve Somebody”…  Mr. Dylan recorded this song in 1979 during his “Jesus years,” as some refer to it.  Not sure where Bob is now (spiritually speaking, that is) but it’s a good song all the same.  Here’s a link to a clip of it: 

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 (unfortunately, it won't let me insert a vimeo.com clip here and I can't seem to find this video on YouTube)

God bless!  ¡Prospero Año Nuevo!

CalvinCuban 

 

 

Great News!  A new prime number was discovered and announced on February 5, 2013, consisting of over 17 million digits!  What, you don’t share my enthusiasm?  Oh, I see, it’s perfectly fine to act like a hyper-caffeinated baboon at a sports event but not to get excited about the first prime number discovered in four years?  Seriously, folks, if 257,885,161 – 1 =  581,887, …, 285,951 doesn’t move your mojo then why don’t you just pull up a rocking chair to your front porch and spend your remaining days waving to cars as they drive by.  By the way, to see all 17,425,170 digits (which I highly recommend) please visit http://www.isthe.com/chongo/tech/math/digit/m57885161/prime-c.html.

So, why all the excitement?  Because…well, because it’s there!  Finding prime numbers is the mathematical equivalent of climbing Mt. Everest, except that it’s safer and can be done indoors.  Sometime around 300 BC Euclid (yes, the same guy that Euclidian or plain geometry is named after) proved that there is an infinite number of prime numbers.  So you see, the fun never ends!  Another year, or two, or three, and the good folks at the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search (GIMPS), a computer program that networks PCs worldwide to collectively hunt for prime numbers, will thrill us all once again, and again, and again…with yet another prime number!

What’s a prime number, you ask?  It’s a whole number (positive integer) greater than 1 which is divisible only by one and itself.  The first four prime numbers are 2, 3, 5 & 7.  Prior to use of computer systems finding the next highest prime number was an arduous, yet rewarding, task.  In fact, the last largest known prime number prior to the development of the digital computer was found in 1871, 2127 – 1, a mere 39 digits long.  Beginning in 1951 prime numbers have been generated using digital computers.  In 1997 GIMPS was founded and to date the project has generated fourteen Mersenne prime numbers, culminating in the latest one and the subject of this blog—and my excitable state at the moment (I’m sure the espresso I just had contributed to my euphoria).

What’s a Mersenne prime number you ask (assuming you have not yet hit the “back” button on this blog)?  It’s the discovery of a 17th century French monk of the Order of Minims by the name of Marin Mersenne (pictured at the top of this blog).  He was one of the most prominent mathematicians of his day and a contemporary of the likes of Galileo, Descartes and Pascal.  Mersenne, like many other monks throughout the history of Christianity (e.g., 15th century Franciscan Friar William of Okkam, “Okkam’s Razor” and 19th century Augustinian Friar Gregor Mendel, “father of modern genetics”) puttered with all sorts of science stuff.  You might say that this was their way of “monk-eying around” (am I hilarious or what?). 

In Mersenne’s case he dabbled into mathematics and physics.  For instance, he studied the oscillation of the strings of acoustic instruments and derived the mathematical formula for the musical notes they produce.  But Mersenne is best known for his discovery of the Mersenne primes.  He attempted to find a formula for finding all prime numbers—but failed (so has everyone else since, by the way).  Instead, he discovered that some prime numbers have the form,

2p – 1, where p is a prime number

But not all, for instance, 11 is a prime number, yet

211 – 1 = 2047 = 23 X 89

Sad.  But the good news—and this is where it really gets exciting—is that it has been proven that if a prime number is a Mersenne prime (i.e., the result of 2p – 1), then p must be a prime number.  And although no general algorithm for determining prime numbers has yet to be discovered, we can sleep at ease tonight knowing that the Mersenne prime number formula helps us eliminate many would-be impostors.

OK, OK, this blog is about as useful as a screen door on a submarine.  Regardless, it needed to be posted simply...because it was.

God bless!

CalvinCuban

 

Just when you think you've heard it all and seen it all someone comes up with this novel idea:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=QOyLtjEGupc

What can I say exept, Jesus wept” (Joh 11.35).  I hope you did not lose too may neurons from watching that toxic trash!  The real “hell” here is enduring this 2 minute+ video!  And as if the video were not atrocious enough, there's a book by the same title to go with it (it's on sale @ amazon.com; it has one review, 1/5, the person wanted to give it a “0” but the scale only goes down to “1”).  

Well, my main concern is not so much with the foolishness of this message as with this message making Christians—and Evanglicals in particular—look foolish.  I wish that the folks who put out this stuff would identify themselves with some other deity.  Scripture teaches that in heaven there will be no “...cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and...liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” (Revelation 21.8).  Surely, “raving spiritual lunatics” are implied in that list somewhere.

My chief concern, however, is with my Christian brothers and sisters in denominational communities which use this video and accompanying book as a cause to refute the doctrine of Sola Scriptura.  Now, if you're not familiar with this phrase it means “Scripture Alone.”  It was one of the five principle tenets of the 16th century Reformation.  It simply means that Scripture alone is authoritative.  In other words, some folks—singularly or in groups (e.g., councils and synods)—may have some very good and wise things to say, but only the writings from Scripture are the word of God.

For instance, I am a fan of Father Ernesto Obregón, the Orthodox priest who, like me, is from Cuba.  In a recent blog titled “A somewhat logical result of the Protestant Reformation” he includes this video and argues that,

Videos, such as the one above, are helpful in reinforcing the necessity of accepting the witness of the Early Church Fathers. When one rejects the Early Church Fathers but tries to retain Holy Scripture, one runs into an untenable set of discrepancies that can only be handled either by denial or by solutions such as the one above.

With all due respect to Father Obregón, I would argue that nut jobs who pervert the Scriptures can just as easily pervert the writings of the Church Fathers and the rendered opinions of the Church Councils (most of whom/which I agree with, by the way).  Therefore the issue is not so much an inherent danger in personal interpretations of Scriptures as it is nut jobs.

Scripture interprets Scripture,” argued John Calvin, for “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3.16), and also “no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation” (2 Peter 1.20). 

In other words, those who believe in Christ and that the Scriptures are the word of God, and who sincerely and carefully study it will consistently get it right.  Nut jobs, on the other hand, will always get it wrong.

God bless!

CalvinCuban

 

 

 

 

 

I loved watching The Bucket List back in 2007 when it was released.  Directed by Rob Reiner, written by Justin Zackham, and starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, it tells the story (fictional) of two terminally ill men as they set out on an adventure to fulfill a wish list of things they want to do before they “kick the bucket” (hence the phrase, “bucket list”).

Well, my “bucket list” is short and generic and can be summed up in the first half of Philippians 1.21, “For to me, to live is Christ…”  I want to serve Christ by serving my immediate family, my church family, and my humanity family for the remainder of my days on earth (I’ll blog about this at a later time).  My “post-bucket list” (i.e., stuff I want to do after I die) can be summed up with the second half of the same verse, “…and to die is gain.”  Imagine Revelation 21.1-8 revealed before our eyes for the first time!  What an inexpressible joy that will be!  I am especially exhilarated by v. 4, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes.There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”  I am moved.

So, I have made a post-bucket list.  And whereas we are limited by time and resources to fulfill our bucket list, our time and resources will be limitless to fulfill our post-bucket list.  You see, eternity is forever (duh!), meaning that you can spend an eternity doing anything you desire, and then another eternity doing something else, and another, and another…and still have an eternity of eternities left over for an infinite number of other things.  And as far as resources are concerned, well, let us remember that God is omnipotent and that we are His heirs.  And without sin, it will all be good!  What an awesome God we have!

I said I have a post-bucket list—only ten items, for now (it is sure to grow infinitely large once I’m there).  And since I will be able to “parallel process” in heaven, it should not be a problem to do more than one thing at a time (actually, we should be able to do an infinite number of things at the same time). 

So, here’s my post-bucket list:

  1. Worship God 24/7 (yes, yes, I know there’s no time in eternity—it’s just a number for the sake of reference), free of any distraction and compulsion to sin;
  2. Listen to God 24/7 as He tell me of His love for me, that is to say, how He redeemed me in Christ, sanctified me by His Holy Spirit, and resurrected me on the last day by the same awesome power by which He resurrected His own Son; as it says in Ephesians 2.7, “…in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus”;
  3. Review all of history (every detail, every instance, in every place, across all of time) and fully understand why God willed what He willed;
  4. Related to #3 above, learn of all the details of Creation, and which one of the numerous creation theories (e.g., literal six-day, historical creation, theistic evolution) was closest to reality;
  5. Converse with everyone there (given my propensity to be loquacious, that alone may require several eternities), including the angels; in particular, I’m curious to find out which incognito angel/s I’ve entertained (see Hebrews 13.2);
  6. Study every planet, sun, and every other heavenly body there ever was, every life form there ever was, and every subatomic particle there ever was;
  7. Derive (or discover, rather) a “theory of everything,” that is come up with the elusive theory that explains the interaction between gravity, electromagnetism, weak forces, and strong forces, and to include general relativity and quantum mechanics;
  8. Memorize the Bible in every tongue ever spoken, every translation ever made, and every transcription of the original Hebrew and Greek ever transcribed;
  9. Prove that Calvin was right, and then tell everyone else there—for all eternity—that, “I told you so!”; and
  10. Find—and be able to recite from memory with 100% accuracy—the entire set of prime numbers along with all the digits of pi and e.

And that’s just the warm-up act, of course.

 

God bless!

CalvinCuban