Monthly Archives: May 2011

A Memorial Day Memory

Lt. Col. Matt Urban, the most decorated soldier of WWII.

Sometime in the early 90’s I had the chance to meet Lt. Col. Matt Urban. He is said to be the most decorated soldier of WWII. Long before Sunny and I were married, I was helping out at the family market in Pomona where Col. Urban walked in to buy a drink. We started talking and I asked him where he was from. That led to a tw0-hour conversation with a true American hero. Col. Urban was a soldier who knew the meaning of sacrifice, faithfulness, loyalty, and love. It wasn’t until years later that I would appreciate the impact of this great American soldier. He was staying at the Fairplex Sheraton while doing a national book tour, and yet, on that day, he stood there with me sharing his story and urging me to become a man worthy of respect and honor.

He had received seven purple hearts, and he was a recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor as well as numerous citations for valor in combat. As a man he was not very big. His gait wobbled by war wounds and his raspy bullet-scarred voice was not that easy to understand, but with all the seemingly physical limitations, it seemed that I was standing next to the biggest man I had ever met.

What I learned from this man among men were two lessons. First, a man is defined by his character not his accomplishments. Whether Colonel Urban or Audy Murphy, neither of these “heroes” of WWII had any intent of fighting for the sake of becoming a hero. Both of, but in particular, Col. Urban, because I met him personally, knew the importance of their character. I asked the Colonel “You know, sir, most men would have taken a purple heart and would have gone home. What made you return to the battlefield so many times? Why did you keep going back to fight?” His answer to me had a dramatic impact on my life. He said, “I loved those boys as my own brothers. I couldn’t leave them there to die. I figured since I led them into battle, and they were willing to follow me, I had to lead them out.” He had a distant look in his eyes as he said, “I couldn’t leave them there.”

The second lesson I learned was that love is a sacrfice. As a captain in the US Army, Matt Urban loved his men–probably, and hopefully, more than he hated the war. At the time, I remember wishing “I want to know that kind of love.” Of course, I had known it. It was evidenced on the cross. It’s the kind of love that is very rare in this modern techno world with soft men who know nothing of such devotion to God, family, country, friends… So few men in our society understand the commitment and sacrifice that love entails.

It has been my persistent prayer that God would make of me a man of love and a man of character. I am grateful that I was privileged to spend a couple of hours in conversation with one of the great men of the United States–a soldier, a friend, a man. As it turns out Lt. Col. Matt Urban died in 1995, just a couple of years after I met him, but I feel that the lessons of his sacrifices are etched on my heart.

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Posted by on May 30, 2011 in Uncategorized


Mankind is Wired for Gossip

While listening to NPR this morning, I heard a “new” report regarding the subject of gossip. Apparently a study conducted by Lisa Feldman Barrett professor of Psychology at Northeastern University, and whose findings were published in the journal Science, has concluded that gossip is innate to human nature, and that it helped early human ancestors to get ahead.

Gossip helps to distinguish “friend or foe”, and helps us to determine how we feel about them. The study was conducted by pairing pictures of neutral expression faces with gossip about that person.

What was so interesting to me was the statement from Frank McAndrew, a professor of Psychology at Knox College who said, “For years, people like me have been saying that our intense interest in gossip is not really a character flaw. It’s part of who we are. It’s almost a biological event, and it exists for good evolutionary reasons.”

I’m glad that a leading evolutionary psychologist has come out and made that statement because it verifies a suspicion that I’ve had for a long time. Namely, that psychology as a discipline can be, and is, evolutionary at its core. (I know that there are “Christian Psychologists,” but let’s face it, the discipline itself is largely secular, and those said Christian Psychologists take those secular principles and tweak them to be more “Christian” friendly.)

The result of the study is that gossip is not wrong, but is in fact, very natural and beneficial. The effect of the study is that it redefines the nature of gossip, which has traditionally been seen as negative, and makes it positive. I have to wonder if the study was entered into in the first place to validate this value-shift.

What the Bible says about gossip

Proverbs 11:13 A gossip is a person who can’t be trusted. “A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret.”

Proverbs 16:28 A gossip will bring dissension among friends. “A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends.”

Proverbs 26:20 Gossip fuels quarrels. “Without wood a fire goes out; without a gossip a quarrel dies down.”

Romans 1:29 God’s wrath is being revealed from heaven against such things (1:18, cf. 1:29). “They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips”

The wrath of God is revealed because human beings have given up the knowledge of God and are living a life of depravity, and the implications are:

1) They are thankless and cannot give glorify God (v.21),

2) they became fools and practice idolatry (v.22),

3) they practice homosexuality (vv.24-27),

4) they have become filled with every form of wickedness, evil, greed, and depravity, of which gossip is a manifestation (vv.28-32).

2 Corinthians 12:20 Gossip among Christians is condemned as an expression of a carnal church. “I fear that there may be discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder.”

My Conclusion

Lisa Feldman Barrett has concluded correctly that gossip is 1. natural, and 2. beneficial. However, that is true for those who are living according to what the nature desires, for the acts of the sinful nature are obvious (Galatians 5:19-21). However, we have the inward move of the Holy Spirit who transforms us from living a “natural” life to a supernatural life that counteracts the influence of this sin nature. This can only be true because we are changed positionally–that is that we are justified by Christ, and adopted by God, through the Holy Spirit–but more than that, we are being changed practically by the power of the Holy Spirit.

While the godless might find gossip beneficial, we embrace a higher standard that says, “rather than seek my own good, I will seek the good of others by refusing to participate in any form of gossip that may hurt others of their reputation.” It is exactly the opposite of the evolutionary life which seeks its own good at the expense of others.

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Posted by on May 20, 2011 in Uncategorized


Observations on Psalm 2

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This psalm is traditionally counted as a coronation psalm. The King of YHWH’s anointing is set up over and against the nations and their kings and rulers (v.2b, 6, 9).

Conspiracy of the Nations (vv.1-3)

The psalm begins with a question of incredulity toward the kings and rulers of the nations. Kings are rulers, but rulers are not necessarily kings. Whether they are tribal leaders, religious leaders, etc., all their “plotting” is “against” YHWH—though as fruitless as it may be (v.1). They conspire (NIV, RSV), or as the ESV says, “rage” against YHWH and against His Anointed One. The word seems heavily charged with emotions as YHWH makes this accusation against the conspiring kings and rulers.

Who is the Anointed One?

The Hebrew doesn’t make a distinction between the “Anointed One” or “anointed one.” Therefore, commentators have a hard time deciding if this psalm should be taken as a Messianic Psalm. However, according to the context of the psalm it seems clear that the Anointed One is the Messiah. We recall that at the time of David’s coronation, there was an attempt to rival his throne by Saul’s military leader Abner to install Saul’s son, Ish-Bosheth as king (2 Samuel 2:8-11), which could serve as the backdrop for this psalm. While it can be said that this psalm is more historical than messianic, the Anointed One is portrayed as a co-ruler with YHWH (v.2). He is the King of YHWH’s choosing (v.6). “Installed” is the thought that YHWH has placed His king on the throne already, rather than a future event. Furthermore, the Anointed One is God’s Son (v.7). Furthermore, based on verse 7, the apostles understood the proclamation, “You are my son, today I have become your father” to be messianic as referring to Jesus Christ (Acts 13:33; Hebrews 1:5; Hebrews 5:5).

1)      2 Samuel 7:14 is YHWH’s promise to David “I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with the rod of men, with floggings inflicted by men.” This promise of YHWH is often interpreted as God’s blessing to David to install Solomon as King. However, YHWH says that David’s descendant will be YHWH’s own Son, and that this Son will punished for others. It is not that YHWH’s Son has done wrong, but that the sins of men have been imputed to Him.

2)      Acts 13:33 Authorship of the Psalm is given to David, and is said that this is the promise given to David, and is applied to God’s Son, Jesus the Christ. Therefore, the Apostle Paul begins describing the relationship of God the Son to God the Father with “We tell you the good news” (Ac. 13:32). The Gospel is not simply that Jesus forgives sin, but primarily He himself is the Gospel. The resurrection of Christ is validation of His person. He is the chosen Son of God.

3)      Hebrews 1:5 Here the Christ is the one who through whom God made the universe (v.2), the effulgence of God’s glory (v.3), exact representation of His being (v.3), sustainer of all things (v.3). These characteristics are ascribing deity to the Son who is “superior to the angels,” and has inherited a superior name to theirs (v.4). It is without a doubt that the writer of Hebrews, who is understood to be a Hebrew himself, interprets this and the messianic promise of 2 Samuel 7:14 to be referring to Jesus.

4)      Hebrews 5:5 Jesus is not only the Kingly Son of God, but he is also the Priestly Son of God. To indicate that He is a royal priest (2 Peter 2:9). This is proven by reference not only to the Son of David, but also to the Melchizedek priesthood. Melchizedek, was the priestly king of Salem. Therefore, Christ is foreshadowed in Genesis in the person of Melchizedek.

The purpose of the above Scriptures is to tie in the Bible’s understanding of the “Anointed One” of Psalm 2. The Old Testament does not oppose the New Testament, and the New Testament does not enlighten the Old. By approaching both testaments as inspired Scriptures, we see a unifying theme of biblical Messiology. The Old Testament as well as the New portray that YHWH’s King is the Messiah (Hebrew) Christ (Greek). The Purpose of the New Testament is to identify that person of the OT Messiah with a name and a face in the person of Jesus Christ.

That the Messiah is in view is further clarified by the blessings that the Father YHWH pronounces over the Son (Ps. 2:8-9).

  1. I will make the nations your inheritance
  2. The ends of the earth your possession
  3. You will rule over them with an iron scepter
  4. You will dash them to pieces like clay.

 Warning and Appeal (Ps. 2:10-12)

  1. To be wise is to heed the warning, and acknowledge YHWH and His Son as King. It appeals to the wayward and conspiring kings and rulers to repent of their conspiracy by giving proper obeisance.
  2. First, serve the Lord with fear (2:11)
  3. Second, kiss the Son, lest he be angry (2:12).

Clearly both YHWH and His Son are duly worthy of obeisance because of their mutual sovereignty over all earthly kings who rule over all the nations.

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Posted by on May 19, 2011 in Uncategorized


Observations on Psalm 1

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This psalm belongs to the category of the Wisdom Psalms which leads us to believe that it was not so much intended to be used in public worship as it was for private instruction (Klein, Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, pp. 289-290). Therefore, this psalm is intended to be an instruction on godly living.

This psalm is celebration of the life of the godly person in comparison to the ungodly. In it the psalmist contrasts the righteous and the wicked in 1) Their Ways (vv.1-2), Their Fruit (vv.3-4), and Their End (vv.5-6). The righteous are blessed of the Lord. Derek Kidner believes that this Psalm is written “as an introduction to the whole Psalter” (Tyndale’s Old Testament Commentaries, vol. 1, p.47).

Notice however, that the intent of the psalmist is not just to imply that the way of the righteous is merely antithetical to the wicked, but it far outweighs the life of the wicked. The way of the righteous is more delightful (v.2) more fruitful (vv.3, 4), and it is more rewarding (vv.5-6).

In contrast, the way of the wicked delights in the company of the wicked (vv.1-2), the fruit of his ways are but chaff (v.4), and by consequence of an ungodly life, he will perish (v.6).

The movement of the psalm takes us from the presence of the wicked, to the streams of life, and then to the congregation of the righteous. It is an ever increasing walk of coming closer to YHWH and to YHWH’s people.

The Way of the Righteous is decidedly different from the wicked in two ways. First, the righteous are distinguished negatively by what he does not do. He does not walk, stand, or sit. These verbs seem to denote a digressive downfall of the wicked of which the righteous will not take part. The righteous can never define their lives by what they don’t do. Therefore, the positive element is contrasted against what the righteous will not do. We must always ask the question, if we don’t do these, then what do we do? The righteous continually “delight” and “meditate” on YHWH’s law. The Law is the moral guiding force in the life of the righteous. It is because of his desire for YHWH that the righteous internalizes His law.

The Fruit of the Righteous is seen in 3-4. He is like a tree; this is a metaphor of stability contrasted against the instability of the wicked that are like chaff blown by the wind. The stability of the righteous is seen in the words planted, yields, and prospers. It may be inferred that because his way is pleasing to YHWH, that YHWH has caused his ways to be prosperous.

The Reward of the Righteous is seen in that his ways are known by YHWH, but the way of the wicked are absent from the judgment of the righteous, the congregation of the righteous, and ultimately he himself will perish. Each man’s fruit will be shown for what it is, and each will receive his due reward. However, those who stand on YHWH’s word will ultimately stand with YHWH and with His people.

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Posted by on May 12, 2011 in Uncategorized


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