Steve Jobs and Our Finitude


AP File Photo

Steve Jobs just resigned hours ago. My computer is presently a Macbook Pro and honestly, I’ve been so happy with this piece of Steve Jobs. I admire what Steve Jobs has done with Apple. Somehow, the world over, Apple has transformed computing.

I’m still a PC user but I am now a Mac Convert since around two years ago. I don’t think the Apple hierarchy welcomed Jobs’ resignation.  However, Steve has to resign because of his battle with pancreatic cancer.

I wouldn’t want Steve to resign. I have no stakes in Apple, mind you. But the things that happened during his tenure were remarkable. If that is my feeling, I know much more so Steve Jobs, not to mention the Apple geeks. (Except perhaps the beneficiaries of Jobs’ resignation).

What has become apparent in all of these is that what we want is not really what happens most of the time. We can plan, we can act, we can dream, we can work our souls out, but in the end, it’s all in God’s hands. God can thwart all our grand plans and topple them, YES, even if you worked all your means to make sure it goes well.

If you don’t believe that, then let me remind you: Did you ever have a diarrhea during an important event in your life? Diarrhea can maim even an athlete so ready for his competition.

And that’s just diarrhea. I’ve even not started on pancreatic cancer yet.

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Asking Without Receiving

On commenting on 2 Corinthians 12:8, John Calvin meditates on Paul not receiving his prayer request.

Here is the August 24 Reading excerpt from the book 365 Days with Calvin: A Unique Collection of 365 Readings from the Writings of John Calvin (356 Days with)

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Asking without Receiving
For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. 2 Corinthians 12:8
suggested further reading: Mark 14:32–42

It may seem from this text that Paul has not prayed in faith, for we read everywhere in Scripture that we shall obtain whatever we ask in faith. Paul prays, and does not obtain what he asks for.

I address this problem by saying that as there are different ways of asking, so there are different ways of obtaining. We ask in simple terms for those things for which we have an express promise. For example, we ask for the perfecting of God’s kingdom, the hallowing of his name (Matt. 6:9), the remission of our sins, and everything that is advantageous to us. But when we think that the kingdom of God can, indeed, must be advanced in this particular manner or in that, and what is necessary for the hallowing of his name, we are often mistaken in our opinion.

In like manner, we often commit a serious mistake about asking for what tends to promote our own welfare. We ask for things confidently and without reservation, while we do not have the right to prescribe the means for receiving them. If, however, we specify the means, we always have an implied condition, even though we don’t express it.

Paul was not ignorant about this. Hence, as to the object of his prayer, there can be no doubt that he was heard, though he met with a refusal as to the express form of that answer. By this we are admonished not to give way to despondency in thinking our prayers are lost labor when God does not gratify or comply with our wishes. Rather, we must be satisfied with his grace in not forsaking us. For the reason why God sometimes mercifully refuses to give his own people what in his wrath he grants to the wicked is that he better foresees what is expedient for us than our understanding is able to apprehend.

for meditation: Even with the knowledge that God knows best, it is difficult to submit to his will when our prayers seem to go unanswered. We must pray for the grace to will what God wills and to leave it to his wisdom how he brings his will about. Are you trusting him with all your current concerns?

Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin: A Unique Collection of 365 Readings from the Writings of John Calvin (356 Days with)(page 255). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

Hannah’s Prayer 02

Continuing the interest triggered by Hannah’s prayer, I read some commentaries on it and here are interesting insights.

We start with Charles Spurgeon:

Her deliverance seemed to her to be a type and symbol of the way in which God delivers all his people, so she rejoiced in that great salvation which he works out for his people as a whole.

Charles H. Spurgeon, vol. 57, Spurgeon’s Sermons: Volume 57, electronic ed., Logos Library System; Spurgeon’s Sermons (Albany, OR: Ages Software, 1998).

The theme of reversal is also emphasized in Hannah’s prayer.

The birth stories of John and Jesus belong to the long tradition of birth stories in the OT and in Jewish literature… Prominent among these stories is the motif of barrenness. This appears in the stories of Sarah (Gen. 18), Rebekah (Gen. 25), Rachel (Gen. 30), the mother of Samson (Judg. 13), and Hannah (1 Sam. 1–2). Not only are these stories concerned with the reversal of the fortune of the individual barren women, but also the births of the heroes are linked with the fulfillment of God’s covenantal promises to Israel. The presence of God for his people is therefore the underlying theme behind these narratives.

G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson, Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, 255 (Grand Rapids, MI; Nottingham, UK: Baker Academic; Apollos, 2007).

Davis in his commentary on Samuel gave this insight.

What Yahweh has done for Hannah simply reflects the tendency of his ways. When John Calvin had suffered the death of his wife Idelette, he wrote his friend William Farel: “May the Lord Jesus … support me … under this heavy affliction, which would certainly have overcome me, had not He, who raises up the prostrate, strengthens the weak, and refreshes the weary, stretched forth His hand from heaven to me.” Calvin was saying he would surely have been crushed but he knew a Lord who raises up the prostrate, strengthens the weak, and refreshes the weary—and that Lord had again acted in character in Calvin’s grief. That is what Hannah is saying here. I was ready to fall and Yahweh gave me strength; I was barren and he made me fruitful; I was poor and he made me rich. But that is not really surprising, for that is just the way Yahweh is (vv. 4–8)!

Dale Ralph Davis, 1 Samuel: Looking on the Heart, Focus on the Bible Commentary, 23 (Scotland: Christian Focus

Publications, 2000).

And finally, the Lutheran study Bible brings this to the fore:
Hannah exults that God has fulfilled His Word. Her prayer stands as a warning to us when we are tempted to trust in our own strength, beauty, wealth, or intelligence. Her prayer also gives us encouragement to look to God for every good thing that we need in life, confident that He will fulfill our deepest desires in eternity through His Anointed One, Jesus Christ.

A World Stuck on Feelings

Slowly but surely for so many times now, I’m realizing the truth of something  warned by the books I read: We have become a culture that puts priority on feelings. Truth is secondary. People are secondary. Virtues are secondary. What is all-important is feelings. Feelings generate money.

I remember a marketing guru, who asked, “Do you want to sell a product? Then, be ready to create demand.” It’s not necessary if the demand is real. At least it must be perceived. Whether true or not is secondary. “And then what really would sell it is the feeling of exclusivity, of the superiority of owning it….THAT would sell the product.”

This may be an effect of entertainment. Yesterday, I saw a program in TV detailing the life of a matinee idol who was riding a Jaguar attending to his restaurant businesses. He came from a poor family. It’s a blessing to see a rags-to-riches story. But I wonder how many rags can accomplish a story like his? And then when you think deeper, his business success was fueled by his role as an actor. Entertainment! The money maker of today. What buys a Jaguar? Businesses that pay commercial spots on soap operas, sports, films, and TV programs that stimulate our feelings.

I remember reading a book by Neil Postman long time ago titled, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business

It might have been decades since I read that, but I remember him saying in effect: TV has made an entire world dumber.

Which is very sobering because, we all know it: when we are dumb, our refuge are our feelings.

And as if that is not enough, now there is Facebook. It makes us dumb and dumber as a lot of articles say.

We have become narcissists; loving all that is inside of us. Feelings, thoughts, image. Mostly, feelings. That is why Facebook is successful. That is why I have my facebook page.  I too, am in love with myself. In all my years of reading, I have come to the conclusion that the enemy of man is himself. That deep within us is a drive to destroy ourselves. To kick the goads. Never mind if it wounds me, as long as it feels good. In the medical circles, we call that masochism. Everybody does it. Sometimes though, the good news is, some people wake up from it. But as far as me observing the world, all of us are in a stupor. We revert into it most often. We are, most of the time professional sleepwalkers.

Sometimes even, I’ve been asked to speak about Christ and Christianity, there is still residual rebellion to the idea that my life is not really mine. I mean, just from stating the idea alone: My life is not mine, is like an oxymoron. But you know, when you believe there is a God, you have to accept that He created you and being a created being, the Creator must have a purpose. And this hurts: Sometimes His purpose is not what you really want.

Most of our society’s impulse is to believe we are made to enjoy the world. That is in a way true. The first article in the Westminster Confession ask: What is the chief end of man? And it answers: To glorify God and enjoy Him forever. One way to enjoy God is to enjoy His creation – enjoy nature, enjoy the company of creation, enjoy the taste of food and enjoy the opposite sex as a partner. And then with a thankfulness, we eventually love the Lord all the more. What happened is that we stopped at the point of enjoying creation and its produce. God is left in a cathedral waiting for us every Sunday. We even have corrupted our enjoyments. We have become excessive. And as if that is not enough, we have come to the point of perverting even how nature should be appreciated by us. (It has come to the point even that saying two males should never cross their swords in bed is considered politically incorrect.)

And this is all because we don’t want to have our enjoyments meddled by a God with whom we should be accountable. We just want the ride, man. Forget about buying the ticket. We don’t want a God who wants to be King. We don’t want a God who will say, What I want should happen, not yours turkey. We want a God who respects us. Who gives us want we want. We don’t exactly want a Santa Claus, we want a Butler Santa Claus. One who would make us feel good, not do good. To do His bidding, and not the other way around.

And all of us would prefer dozing off. Entertainment pumps our adrenalin but it soporifizes (to put to sleep, ooohh I love highlighting my first use of it) thinking.

Oh, I better stop. This doesn’t feel good at all.

My 3 year-old and A Man Named Pelagius

On the way home from church last Sunday, my wife whispered to my daughter, “Sophie, do you know that you’re a sinner?” I was not at all surprised at my wife’s theological question to my 3-year old daughter. She brought her a creamy cup of sundae and warm fries. You can ask any theological question to a 3 year old when you do that. I think you can even ask that to a 2 year-old in a right day.

“No! Don’t say that, mom. I’m not a sinner!”

“No, Sophie. We all are. We are all sinners,” her mom said.

“Noooo. Hindi ako sinner.”

My wife and I both laughed. My wife told me, “I would remember this day.”

I laughed because immediately I was reminded of a Roger Nicole quote: “We are all born Pelagians.”

The Pocket Dictionary of Apologetics & Philosophy of Religion: 300 Terms & Thinkers Clearly & Concisely Defined has this entry:

Pelagianism. The view that the human will has not been totally ruined by original sin and that it is therefore possible for humans to achieve moral sanctity by human effort. This view is sometimes associated with the view that original sin is transmitted through environmental or cultural means and therefore can be lessened through social improvements. Pelagian views of sin are attributed to Pelagius (c. 345-c. 425), a British monk who was strongly opposed by Augustine.
Evans, C. S. (2002). Pocket Dictionary of Apologetics & Philosophy of Religion: 300 Terms & Thinkers Clearly & Concisely Defined(page 90). Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press.

Man’s refusal to admit he’s a sinner unworthy of God’s saving grace is really not unique in theologians like Pelagius. My daughter has proven to us it’s innate. As far as I know, she has no friends who talks theology to her. None of her friends is named Pelagius or Arminius.

And yet, there she is. She’s an amateur theologian with a stand against the total depravity of man – something we all refuse the first time we hear it. Something refuse to accept it even if you have been bought sundae and ice cream by the one who says it.

“None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands; no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”
(Rom 3:10-12 ESV)

Hannah’s Prayer and The Power of God

In today’s Bible Reading, I came upon the prayer of Hannah in 1 Samuel 2. I will let the whole prayer speak for itself. It’s a handcuff. It makes you stay in your corner, tapes your mouth and forces you to think.

1 Samuel 2:1 And Hannah prayed and said, “My heart exults in the LORD; my strength is exalted in the LORD. My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in your salvation.
2 “There is none holy like the LORD; there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God.
3 Talk no more so very proudly, let not arrogance come from your mouth; for the LORD is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed.
4 The bows of the mighty are broken, but the feeble bind on strength.
5 Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread, but those who were hungry have ceased to hunger. The barren has borne seven, but she who has many children is forlorn.
6 The LORD kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up.
7 The LORD makes poor and makes rich; he brings low and he exalts.
8 He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor. For the pillars of the earth are the LORD’s, and on them he has set the world.
9 “He will guard the feet of his faithful ones, but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness, for not by might shall a man prevail.
10 The adversaries of the LORD shall be broken to pieces; against them he will thunder in heaven. The LORD will judge the ends of the earth; he will give strength to his king and exalt the power of his anointed.”

(1Sa 2:1-10 ESV)

Reflect, my friend. More on this tomorrow.

On Writing

I was browsing thru my library and then I saw an old copy of Stephen King’s On Writing: 10th Anniversary Edition: A Memoir of the Craft.

The flap of the book says this:

“If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write.”
 
In 1999, Stephen King began to write about his craft–and his life. By midyear, a widely reported accident jeopardized the survival of both. And in his months of recovery, the link between writing and living became more crucial than ever.

Rarely has a book on writing been so clear, so useful, and so revealing. On Writing begins with a mesmerizing account of King’s childhood and his uncannily early focus on writing to tell a story. A series of vivid memories from adolescence, college, and the struggling years that led up to his first novel,Carrie, will afford readers a fresh and often very funny perspective on the formation of a writer. King next turns to the basic tools of his trade–how to sharpen and multiply them through use, and how the writer must always have them close at hand. He takes the reader through crucial aspects of the writer’s art and life, offering practical and inspiring advice on everything from plot and character development to work habits and rejection.

Serialized in the New Yorker to vivid acclaim, On Writing culminates with a profoundly moving account of how King’s overwhelming need to write spurred him toward recovery, and brought him back to his life.

Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, On Writing will empower–and entertain–everyone who reads it.

I decided to read it. Fiction can sometimes be salvation. In a recent blog by Russell Moore, he says:

I think fiction is good, necessary, and God-glorifying. I teach my theology students to read good fiction for the sake of their preaching, if for no other reason. Those without the imagination to read fiction usually lack the imagination to hear the rhythm and contours of Scripture, much less to peer into the mysteries of the human heart.

I heartfully agree. There is something in fiction that is liberating. Also, as an ever-failing aspiring writer that I am, creative writing is closest to creation. Sort of being a god of sorts. The only problem when you write is that, you later realize that you are as ruined as the characters you set.

And so goes the little theology to it.