Happy Valentine's Day to my church family!  I had intended to write about the historical St. Valentine or some historical romance, you know, typical Reinaldo stuff.  But then I received an email from John Hopler, Executive Director of Great Commission Churches (GCC, the association of churches of which we are a part), which was sent to all GCC pastors.  In it there was a link to a video which illustrates the true meaning of selfless love better than I could ever say it.  Anyway, here it is,

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=GH5n9lVZcM4

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone.  May the love of Christ fill us with faith, hope, and yes, a great deal of love (1 Corinthians 13.13).

God bless!

CalvinCuban

 

 

 

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=KamHen9sTtU

That was a flash mob in the city of Sabadell, Spain, in the region of Catalonia (borders France on the Mediterranean side) playing the 4thmovement of Beethoven's 9thSymphony.  It's a tune most folks are familiar with.

I love Beethoven’s 9th Symphony—all four movements but especially the 4thmovement (in keeping with our abbreviated culture, I’ll henceforth refer to it as “4MB9”).  It is a moving (no pun intended—this time) piece of music, downright exhilarating, often exhausting to listen to.  Some folks mistake the 4MB9 as a Christian work, even a hymn.  This is not true, however; although he wrote some Christian music under commission by the Catholic Church, Beethoven was only nominally Catholic, seldom attending the mass, and not particularly religious. 

Beethoven’s 9th Symphony was actually a tribute to “Ode to Joy” (“Ode an die Freude”), a German poem written in 1785 by the German poet, playwright and historian Friedrich Schiller, enthusiastically celebrating the brotherhood and unity of all mankind.  The poem is set to music during the 4th movement (as seen in the video).  It is a humanistic poem, not anti-Christian in and of itself, but proclaiming and exulting man in his own right.  Most folks are more jamiliar with Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee, a poem written by Henry van Dyke in 1907 with the intention of musically setting it to the famous “Ode to Joy melody of the 4MB9.  You might say it Chritianized the humanistic  “Ode to Joy.

So, what does this have to do with Psalm 8?  Plenty, actually.  The astounding beauty of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, coupled with the fact that Beethoven wrote it while being totally deaf, reminds me of how God said, “Let us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule…” (Genesis 1.26), what theologians refer to as imago Dei, the “image of God.”  And even if it’s not a Christian work, still, I think of how God the Creator gave man creative abilities, this too, is part of imago Dei.  Scripture speaks to this in numerous places, but nowhere clearer than in Psalm 8.

For the choir director; on the Gittith. A Psalm of David.
1O Lord, our Lord,
How majestic is Your name in all the earth,
Who have displayed Your splendor above the heavens!
2From the mouth of infants and nursing babes You have established strength
Because of Your adversaries,
To make the enemy and the revengeful cease.
3When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained;
4What is man that You take thought of him,
And the son of man that You care for him?
5Yet You have made him a little lower than God,
And You crown him with glory and majesty!
6You make him to rule over the works of Your hands;
You have put all things under his feet,
7All sheep and oxen,
And also the beasts of the field,
8The birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea,
Whatever passes through the paths of the seas.
9O Lord, our Lord,
How majestic is Your name in all the earth!

Note that vv. 1 & 9 are the same.  This chiastic structure is meant to say that it’s all about the majesty—and glory—of God!  We were created to serve Him and to bring Him glory.  David looks up and marvels at the greatness of the heavens and then exclaims, “What is man that You take thought of him, and the son of man that You care for him?”  Good question!  Why would God care so much for us?  But He does, exceedingly so.  So much so, in fact, that He created us imago Dei, and although we will never be God, we share some of His attributes, including the ability to create beautiful things.

Some say that Beethoven’s 9th Symphony is the greatest music ever written.  I disagree.  Yes, it’s great music, indeed, but greater still is Handel’s Messiah, which is most definitely Christian music.  It is based on passages from the King James Bible, so no one can argue it’s not “Scriptural.”  What is most amazing to me is that in 1741 at the age of 56 (twilight of life back then) Handel composed the entire oratorio in 24 days—all 53 pieces constituting nearly 3 hours of music.

 

In particular, I find the Hallelujah Chorus the most moving.  It is said that by the time he got around to writing the Hallelujah Chorus Handel looked up at the ceiling and, like Stephen in Act 7.56, “saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.”  Whether that’s fact or hallucination I do not know.  What I do know is that this musical masterpiece is a glory to God.  Today, whenever the Hallelujah Chorus is performed everyone stands up, a practice which began in 1743 during the London premiere when King George II, so moved by the Hallelujah Chorus, stood.

The words, taken from Revelation 11.15 & 19.6, are simple.  Here they are (sans repetition):

Hallelujah!
For the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth.
The kingdom of this world
Is become the kingdom of our Lord,
And of His Christ,
And He shall reign for ever and ever,
King of kings, and Lord of lords,
Hallelujah!

So, here’s another flash mob at a mall doing the Hallelujah Chorus.  Don’t forget to stand!

 

God bless!

CalvinCuban

 

 

In a time when companies are forced to warn us of the most obvious things in order to avoid—or lessen the judgment—of a lawsuit, I must say that nothing much surprises anymore. Take for instance the following warning labels:

  • Recycled flush water unsafe for drinking”– on a toilet at a public sports facility in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
  • This product not intended for use as a dental drill”– on an electric rotary tool.
  • Not intended for highway use”– on a 13-inch wheel on a wheelbarrow.
  • Do not use for drying pets”– in the manual for a microwave oven.
  • Caution: Remove infant before folding for storage”– on a portable stroller.
  • Wearing of this garment does not enable you to fly”– on a child-sized Superman costume.
  • May be harmful if swallowed”– on a shipment of hammers.
  • Caution: Shoots rubber bands”– on a product called “Rubber Band Shooter.”
  • Warning! This is not underwear! Do not attempt to put in pants”– on the packaging for a wristwatch. (I must say that I find this one quite disturbing)
  • Caution: Hot beverages are hot!” – on a coffee cup.

This last one was the result of a lawsuit, “Liebeck v. McDonald’s Restaurants” here in Albuqueque back in 1994.  The jury awarded the plaintiff $2.86 million for third-degree burns suffered in 1992 (she placed the cup of coffee between her legs in the car and the rest, as we say, is history.  Somewhat wisely, the judge reduced the amount to $640K and the matter was settled for, presumably, less than that amount.  This lawsuit is considered by many to be the most frivolous of all time—that is, until today.  Note the headlines:

Homeless man sues parents for “too little love

The story in The New York Post is of Bernard Anderson Bey, a homeless man, 32 years old, from Brooklyn, NY, who “…claims he never got enough affection or support from parents Vickie and Bernard Manley” and is suing them for $200,000.  Specifically, he is asking the court to force his parents to mortgage their home, buy a Domino Pizza franchise, and hire him and his five younger siblings.  A sister claims he is “crazy” and “a pathological liar.”  His father doesn’t claim him—at all (says he is his stepson, not his real son).  Sad.  This is so wrong on so many counts I don’t know where to begin!  Hopefully the jury in this case—assuming it gets to trial and is not summarily dismissed, as it should—will be stricken with a case of common sense.  You can check out the story @ http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/unloved_son_bid_for_cold_heart_49Qs0N4J1b9BmYLwcOoy3N?utm_medium=rss&utm_content=Local.

God bless!

CalvinCuban

PS: Both Mr. Bey and Mr. Manley should be sentenced to eating 12 large “everything” Domino’s pizzas (each) in a period of five minutes; that should cure Mr. Bey's appetite for pizza and afford Mr. Manley some bonding time with his son.  Yes, he is his real son; when he married his mother he became his dad, too.  Had he given him some fatherly love” perhaps the kid wouldn't have turned out so rotten.

 

 

 

Whenever we think of worldwide shortages, commodities such as fossil fuels, food, water, medicines and such come to mind.  But a shortage of “XX”?  Yes, we most definitely have a worldwide shortage of “XX,” especially in India and China.  By “XX” I mean the homogametic sex chromosomes found in human females.  By contrast, males have two distinct chromosomes, “XY,” technically referred to as the heterogametic sex chromosomes.  It all reminds of Genesis 1.27-28,

27God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28God blessed them; and God said to them, Be fruitful and multiply…” (Genesis 1.27-28a)

In other words, God created us in His own image but in two distinctively different dimensions of His image, male and female—down to the molecular level!  And He gave us the ability to multiply, producing cute little baby “XX’s” and “XY’s” here and there, both of whom are necessary in order to continue to “Be fruitful and multiply…” as He commanded. 

And then the narrator of the creation story concludes that,

31God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. (Genesis 1.31a)

Yes, very good, indeed, a genuine expression not only of God’s absolute power and genius but also His love for His creation; as it says in I John 4.8,16, “God is love.”  Amen to that! 

The normal human sex ratio at birth is anywhere from 105-101 boys (depending on who you ask) to 100 girls.  In effect, it’s a statistical dead heat.  And in order to maintain this virtual—and essential—1:1 ratio the best thing humanity should do is to procreate w/o interfering with the natural (or divine, I would say) process of sex selection.  Makes sense, no?

But…  Sin entered into the world before any procreation took place, and ever since man has been adversely affecting this natural 1:1, XY/XX (girl/boy) ratio in a variety of diabolical schemes, the most obvious—and lethal—of which is war, of course, which disproportionately kills more men than women.  Famine, disease and natural disasters are fairly unbiased when it comes to exterminating a particular sex.

In most ancient cultures infanticide was practiced for a variety of purposes (none of them good, of course).  There were the pagan rituals of the Canaanites mentioned in 2 Kings 16, 17 & 21, the disposal of “defective” children practiced by the Greeks and the Romans (finally made a crime by Emperor Constantine around 318 AD throughout the Roman Empire after two centuries of protests by Christians), population control, and in the Far East in particular, sex selection.  Sadly, the practice continued, albeit discreetly, well into the Middle Ages and began to eclipse when churches started building orphanages to care for unwanted children.  And to be fair, Judaism and Islam have traditionally opposed infanticide for any reason. 

By the latter part of the 20th century, an unholy alliance of…

  • eastern preference for male babies (this goes back centuries),
  • “advancements” in medical procedures (I am sarcastically referring to abortion),
  • medical technology (I refer to ultrasound which can determine the unborn’s sex),
  • immigration policies (primarily the case in Middle Eastern countries), and
  • Chinese politics (that is, the infamous “one child” law)

has resulted in a skewed XY:XX ratio in some countries, primarily India and China, where girls are aborted at a higher rate than boys.  Consider the following table (remember, up to 105:100, XY:XX is considered “normal”):

Country

Birth

XY:XX

0 - 15

XY:XX

15 - 64

XY:XX

Primary Reasons (if skewed)

USA

105:100

104:100

100:100

 

Canada

105:100

105:100

102:100

 

Mexico

105:100

104:100

94:100

 

Bahrain

105:100

102:100

133:100

Immigration policy favoring men

China

119:100

117:100

106:100

“One child rule” & abortion of girls

India

108:100

113:100

107:100

Abortion & infanticide of girls

Source: The World Factbook.

The following video is trailer for a video which will be shown to the UN Commission on the Status of Women:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=ISme5-9orR0

In India it is estimated that 50 million girls have been killed over the past 100 years.  In China it is estimated that by the year 2020 30 million Chinese men will be unable to find spouses.  Imagine what it will be like in these countries when men are forced to compete for the significantly fewer women who are available (picture in your head two bucks fighting over a doe).  Higher male to female sex ratios are linked with increases in trafficking, rape, prostitution, and overall crime (China’s crime rate has nearly doubled in the last 20 years).

God warned the Israelites that,

15See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, and death and adversity; 16in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, that you may live and multiply, and that the Lord your God may bless you in the land where you are entering to possess it. 19I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants.” (Deuteronomy 30.15,16,19)

There is a price to pay for not loving God and for not obeying God (the two are symbiotic, see John 14.15).  May God have mercy on us and forgive us of our sins; may Christ return before we make a bigger mess of things!

God bless!

CalvinCuban

Habemus Papam, “we have a pope!”  Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina was just elected pope and has taken the name Francis.  He is the first Latin American pope (albeit the son of Italian immigrants), the first Jesuit pope, and the first pope named Francis. 

So, why should an evangelical with reformed leanings such as myself care?  Several reasons (in increasing order of importance)…

  1. I’m a Latin American;
  2. I’m a former Catholic;
  3. I’m a former student of Jesuits (who educated me quite well);
  4. The Catholic Church got me out of Cuba;
  5. The Catholic Church is part of the Christian Church; and
  6. The Catholic Church introduced me to Christ.

Don’t know which is more important, #5 or #6.  Regardless, I do consider Roman Catholicism to be a part of orthodox Christianity.  And yes, I left it—first because I became disinterested in religion, and later because I agreed with the 15th century Reformers, Luther and Calvin in particular, with regards to “grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, according to the Scriptures alone, and all for the glory of God alone” (the five solas or “alones” of the Reformation). 

Still, Roman Catholicism is not heresy, although I disagree with many of its doctrines.  What’s most important is that we agree on the Nicene Creed, which is my benchmark for orthodoxy.  Even more important, I believe that when Christ said that,

18I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.(Matthew 16.18)

He was not establishing Peter as the first pope (only Roman Catholics believe that) but rather Peter’s confession that “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (v. 16) as the “rock,” the foundation on which the Christian Church is built.  More importantly, Jesus said that the Church would overrun hell itself, and that Church includes Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Anglicans, and Protestants of all persuasions.  In other words, the Church—all who call on the name of Christ for salvation—will be triumphant.

Oh, I do have a couple of things I’d like to ask Pope Francis to consider doing or continue doing.  Pope Francis, please…

  1. Clean up the mess in the Catholic Church (not just the sex scandals but the financial mess as well) as it reflects badly on all of us Christians;
  2. Continue promoting the rights of the poor and the oppressed throughout the world;
  3. Related to #2, speak out against governments which persecute Christians (e.g., Iran, North Korea) and which promote abortion, immorality, and all forms of godless hedonism (e.g., U.S.A);
  4. Allow priests to marry (this is silly, sir, you have a shortage of priests and a surplus of wayward ones; this will help alleviate both problems);
  5. Recognize that Protestants are just as much Christian as Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and Anglicans—it’s time to work together as one “Catholic” (i.e., “universal”) Church.

Pope Francis, I wish you well.  May God bless you, sir, you and all of my Roman Catholic brothers and sisters.

God bless!

CalvinCuban