Tuesday, July 29, 2003
THE INDIAN CASINOS
Well, today was pretty interesting. I decided to make the short road trip down south near San Diego and check out a couple of Casino's. IN particular, I had heard that Harrah's Rincon-San Diego Resort and Casino was offering craps. Now that is interesting because in California, because of its irrational fear of being like Nevada, the standard Las Vegas craps is illegal. For table games, the outcome that determines a payoff must be based on playing cards, so how did they do this? You throw out the playing cards are see where they land? Well, the dice are still there, but there is a twist. Near where the boxman sits (in the middle of the table on the side that faces the pit) are two rows, one aqua and one pink, of six playing cards drawings in the table. The dealer (no boxman) deals six cards to both rows from two seperate decks. Each row has the numbers one through six. The player throws two different collered dice, one aqua and one pink, and whatever numbers come up on the dice, those cards are turned over to determine the outcome. The cards are then reshuffled before the next throw.Aside from the cards, all the other standard payoffs and bets in craps are also accepted here.
It was a pretty interesting game, and mathematically, the percentages are the same as they are in Las Vegas, so I may not need to drive all the way to Las Vegas to play craps...but who am I kidding...I'll still go back to Las Vegas.
The only bad thing is that I lost money at Harrah's playign Let It Ride. I have no idea why I keep playing that game because wins are usually few and far between. Even though the house percentage is about 2.5%. That's not bad, and it's playable. The problem is that the actual wins are few and far between. The object of the game is to be get a pair of tens of better. Anything less is a loser. Anything more is paid off according to different odds. Deal yourself 5 cards, and see if you get at least a pair of tens. Then shuffle and do it again....there won't be many winners, but when they do hit, the payoffs can be big.
So, I then went to Pala. They have a game there called Crazy 4 Poker, and it's a pretty fun game. The object of the game is to beat the dealer in poker. Everyone is dealt five cards, and each tries to make the best four card poker hand. There are four seperate bets. The ante, which is stndard, the super bet, which wins if you have at least a straight but pushes if you beat or tie the dealer; the Queens Up, which is an optional bet and you win if your hand is at least a pair of Queens; and the Play bet, which is a bet you make if you think you can beat the dealers hand. If you hold at least a pair of aces, your Play bet can be three times as much as the Ante. If you don't think you can beat the dealer, you fold and lose all your bets except the play bet (because you will not have made it). If the dealer has at least a King high hand, he qualifies and if you beat him, the ante and Play are paid at 1-1. If he does not qualify, your ante bet automatically wins. If the Super bet and queens up are winners, they are paid regardless if your hand wins or loses.
Well, I played the game, and I had a run of very good cards. I pulled about three or four flushes, and about three or four three-of-a-kinds. I went in there with $145, down about $50 from my disaterous Let-it-Ride session at Harrah's. When I left, I left with $290. Yes, a good day indeed. :) I thank God for the small win, and I know I need to tithe the differnece on Sunday. That has been my week point in my walk, among others.
Than, I came home. Not a bad day. :)
Monday, July 28, 2003
REMEMBERING THE LAW
I have on this page quoted Psalm 19:7-8 because of it's succint statement made about the Law. In today's society, especially among Evangelical Christians, the Old Testamnet, and of course, the Law in particular, is not very well received. Some have dismissed it as a relic of ancient Israel. Sometimes, it's dismissed with the cavalier, and quite frankly, arrogant attitude, "Well, that was the Old Testamnet times. We live in the New Covenant." Although this is true that we no longer live under the Old Covenant dispensation, this does not mean that Law can be dismissed so easily.
One person I know once said that the law converts no one. In a sense, that it true if one believes that on their own they can merit and earn conversion from God. It is absurd, however, to say that this is what the Psalmist was getting at when he penned these words. However, make no mistake. The law is said to be "perfect, reviving the soul." Some translations, such as, I believe, the NASB use the word convert; the main point is still made. The Law does something to the soul; it rejoices the heart. So yes, it does convert and revive the soul, not by making the Law an invitation for all to attempt to merit. No, the gives good news to men, but especially the Jews, since they were "entrusted with the oracles of God." (Rom. 3:2)
What did the law consist of? Yes, there were the 10 Commandments, and the other rules and regulations that God had given the Israelites. Is this what revives the soul? Does the prohibition against adultery revive the soul? It would seem that it would not do that. However, what the Law does point is to one very important attribute of God: his redemptive character. The ceremonial laws of the Old Testament were not there to be a burden to the covenant people of Israel. As one prominent author once said, they were not there to tease the people and make them think that they could keep the law, but in reality it is not. The law is a reflection of God's grace. It shows that He has provided a way towards reconciliation. It is the way that God himself has proscribed, and that by following those precepts faithfully, they can be assured that God has forgiven them of their sins.
Wait a second, someone would say. Was there really forgiveness of sins? How can animals be an appropriate sacrifice to cleanse sins? That is a good question, because this is something that the author of Hebrews seems to argue against. In fact, the passage that is frequently given to advance this case is Hebrews 10:4 ("For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.") Forgiveness of sins does seem to be the same as taking away of sins, and if this is true, then is the author saying that there was no forgiveness through the Law? No, I don't believe so.
Let us coinsider the two passages in their own context. The Law, the first five books of the Old Testament, was given to Israel as God's grace to them. Consider the father's answer to the young son when he asks about the meaning of the rules and statutes. It was not something given to the Israelites so that they may merit a good relationship with God. No, they already had that relationship when he saved them from Egypt and kept his promise that he made to Abraham and Issac and Jacob. And the law was given to them "to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as we are this day. And it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to do all this commandment before the LORD our God, as he commanded us." (Deut. 6:24-25). Consider Leviticus, and this example can be multiplied many more times, "If anyone commits a breach of faith...he shall bring...a ram...for a guilt offering...and the priest shall make atonement for him with the ram of the guilt offering, and he shall be forgiven. (Lev. 5:15-16). On a surface level reading of Hebrews 10:4, however, this cannot be.
Is God lying, then? Is he tricking the Israelites by saying there is forgiveness, but in reality, there was not until the advent of Jesus Christ? No, it is relatively quite simple, but only if one does not view the Law as a meritous vehicle for forgiveness, which unfortunately, most Christians today seem to do. A repentent man, who knows he violated the law of God, and who is truly repentant, if he hears this words and faithfully trusts God and does all that he commanded, he really will be forgiven. He may not know the intricacies that the Law is a shadow of the work of Jesus Christ, and how this is done, and how God can do this, but if he truly has faith in God, and he really believes in his heart the word of God, as it says, "he will be forgiven." Here's a bad word today: a work is involved. The person must sctually get a ram, go to the priest, and offer it. Is this nullifying the faith that the man has? Absolutely not. As mentioned earlier, this is not a meritous work. It is something that God has commanded and required, not something that man made up thinking that he can approach God. If God, on his own accord and for other reason other than his good graces, shows a path to reconciliation and sets down conditions to that path (such as strict requirements for the preist, the sacrifice, etc), that is not being arrogant. It is being thankful to the merciful God who will forgive sins. "Blessed is the one whose ransgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity." (Psa. 32:1-2). This was written by David, and one would hope that he would know what it is to be forgiven, or else, he should have just written, "Blessed is the man whose sins are forgiven....it's just too bad I don't know what that feels like."
So what of Hebrews 10:4? Well, the letter is an exortation and a warning (Heb. 13:22) to Jewish Christians to not go back to the Jewish ceremonies because there is nothing to them now that Christ has come. Remember, he said, "Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days, he has spoken to us by his son, whom he appointed the heir of all things." (Heb. 1:1-2) The implication is (and he does go on to prove it) that Jesus Christ, and everything associated with him (his priesthood, sacrifice, and the new covenant) is by far superior to anything that had come before. This inculdes Moses (Heb. 3:1-6) even though God talked to him face-to-face. Moses was not like Christ because "Moses was faithful in all God's house as a servant to things that were to be spoken later, but Christ is faithful over God's house as a son." (Heb 3:5) Furthermore, this includes the ceremonial law only. Consider that in Hebrews 7, when the author writes about a change in the law, he is talking about one law in particular: the priesthood. Christ could never be an earthly priest legally because he was from the tribe of Judah and not of Levi, and then in particular, not of Aaron. His priesthood was from Melchizadek, a far superior preisthood than the Levitical priesthood (Heb. 7:23-28, by direct inference). As such, the covenant that Christ mediates must be different superior to the Mosaic covenant (Hebrews 8:6, 13), and therefore, since every priest must present a sacrifice (Heb. 8:3), whatever sacrifice Christ had (i.e. Himself) must also be far superior to the Mosaic sacrifices (Heb. 9:13-14, by a fortiori argumentation).
The readers know all this, and now they want to go back? They want to go back to the things that were the pointers to Christ? If the building is finally complete, what use is there for the scaffolding? To continue in the ways of the ceremonial law is no longer an act of faith in God's promises: it is an insult. Everything that the animals and the blood rituals were pointing to has finally come; they are now useless and as such, will become obsolete (Heb. 8:13).
One thing should be noted. Various secular philosophers have used Hebrews 9 to "prove" that there are Platonic influences in the Bible, and that (at least the New Testamnet) is Hellenistic in origin than Jewish. It is easy to see how this is the case because the author talks about the earthly and the heavenly things and contrasts them (mimicking Plato (so they say) and his view of the ideals and the material world, and the inherent filthiness (my term) of the material world). One day I plan to write on the "Platonic"influences of Christianity. In many ways, these claims are justified, but not in the Bible. They are justified in the Christian application. The Bible doesn't have a Platonic (or Aristotelean, or Kantian, or Humean, or Stoic) bone in its body: it is the word of God.
So again, the whole point is that the Law does convert the soul, but not through any meritorious acts. It converts the soul because it leads us to God, and for our society today, it leads us to Jesus Christ, the only way by whom anyone could ever hope to be reconciled back to God. Blessed is the man whose God is the LORD! (Psa 33:12)
Friday, July 25, 2003
I read something that I saw kind of interesting as I was reading N.T. Wright's "Paul for Everyone." He points out that in Galatians 4:7, Paul, who has been addressing the church in the second person plural throughout the epistle, switches suddenly to the second person singular. This is a distinction that is not fairly obvious in modern English since the second person plural and singular are represented by the same word ("you"), unless, of course, one lives in the south. As Rev. Steve Wilkins has said in many sermons, you have "you" for singular, and "y'all" for plural. Well, I checked other translations of the Bible that I have in different languages that I know, and yes indeed, at least in Spanish and French, it does change.
This reminded me of what Rev. John Barach said during one of his lectures at the 2002 Auburn Avenue Pastor's Conference. He stated that Paul was addressing the entire church, and in particular, called all the church the elect of God, just as God had called Israel of old a chosen people and his prized possession. As such, the individuals were expected to apply those covenental promises to themselves as individuals as an expression of their faith. That is being faithful to God: trusting in the promises of God and living by every word that comes from Him. Paul tells the Galatians that they are sons of God, and as such, the individual Galatians are to think of themselves as sons of God as individuals and not as a formless group. It seems, then, that Paul is re-iterating this when he switches to the second person singular. He now is talking to them, for a very short while, as individual covenant members. You, the hearer, are no longer a slave, but you are a son, and if you are a son, then you are an heir through God. By modus tollens, then, you, the individual, are an heir through God. It's a good way to ram a point home: "Yes, I'm talking to you all in the church, but now I'm talking to you, person to person...you're a son of God, each and every one of you." Since this is a covenant promise to the church, and Paul clearly applies it to individuals, it should come as no surprise, then, that we should consider the covenant warnings sent to the Galatian church should be strongly heeded by the individual as well.
Thursday, July 24, 2003
OK, so it's been nearly 5 months since my last blog. Well, I'm glad blogger hasn't deleted this account. :) It's been a pretty hectic year with school and work and with the budget crisis affecting where I work, so I haven't found too much time to do any blogging at all. However. I'm going to *try* to resume blogging. It'll be tough suring school, but given many recent events, maybe just writing and letting stuff out might be a good thing. :)
It's about 12:30 am right now, so I won't write much more beyond this; but I will be blogging more. Thanks