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The Juggler’s Prayer

Dear Lord,

You are the great Juggler.
From the celestial bodies to our human bodies, you toss and weave every planet and molecule in a pattern of indescribable beauty.
We can manage only a handful of objects in the air at once.
We can manage only a limited amount of schedules, relationships, and responsibilities on this earth.
But you are the eternal, everlasting, all-powerful God, with no limit to your juggling prowess.
May we look to you for all our juggling strength, seeking to emulate the beauty of your patterns in the patterns we make.
We praise you, great Juggler, who is Father, Spirit, and Son – the One True God.

Amen.

Jesse Joyner

According to What Scriptures?

Image: “The Burial of Christ” by Gustave Dore, woodcut (19th Century)

This is the season of Lent, where Christians remember the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ during the 40 days (not counting Sundays) leading up to Easter. This morning, I read the first recorded Christian creed of the resurrection, which was written by Paul of Tarsus in the middle of the first century in his first letter to the Christians in Corinth: “…that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…” (1 Cor 15:3b-4).

This begs a question: Which “Scriptures” attested to this death, burial, and resurrection? Paul grew up as a very devout Jew, and knew his Jewish Scriptures very well, so he is certainly speaking of those sacred texts, which is what Christians today regard as the Old Testament. The New Testament was far from its final form (indeed, some texts were not yet written) as of Paul writing this creed. So Paul is not referring to the death, burial, and resurrection accounts found in the first century biographies of Jesus written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

While the “suffering servant” songs of Isaiah (i.e. Isaiah 53) and Psalm 22 foreshadow the death and suffering of Christ, there is still the question as to which Jewish texts point to the resurrection of Christ. There are few particular passages to which Paul could be referring:

1. Psalm 16:10-11: “because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay” (this is especially interesting when you read Peter’s sermon in Luke’s Acts of the Apostles (Acts 2:22-36).

2. Isaiah 53:11: “After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied” (interestingly enough, the phrase “of life” is not found in the Dead Sea Scrolls and the phrase “light of life” is not found in the Masoretic Text).

3. Hosea 6:2: “After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence” (remarkably, early Jewish rabbinical teachings from the 2nd Century view this passage as referring to resurrection; see also 2 Kings 20:5 for another “third day” restoration).

4. Jonah 1:17: “But the Lord provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights” (this should be seen as prophetic only as it relates to what Jesus says in Matthew 12:40: “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth”).

According to Gordon Fee, the most plausible explanation for Paul claiming that the Jewish Scriptures foreshadow the resurrection of Christ is that “‘on the third day’ was probably seen in terms of the variety of OT texts in which salvation or vindication took place on the third day” (Fee, NICNT: 1 Corinthians, 727f.).

I would like to reference two commentaries that helped in compiling this information: John N. Oswalt’s The NIV Application Commentary: Isaiah (2003, p. 587) and Gordon D. Fee’s The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The First Epistle to the Corinthians (1987, pp. 727f.).

Spiritual Shots in Richmond

Last night, Sarah and I went to Bottoms Up Pizza in the Shockhoe Slip area of downtown Richmond for something called “Spiritual Shots.” It is a forum for people to discuss matters of faith in a bar setting. Run by a Christian organization, Spiritual Shots features interesting topics each month such as “Suffering”, “Sex”, “Hell”, “Science and the Bible”, etc. The speaker is a local pastor (there are two that usually rotate back and forth) and they get 30 minutes at the mic with the topic. Then, the floor is completely open to questions, challenges, debating, and dialogue. Though many Christians come, there are also people who are not Christians and I’ll just say that sometimes, the discussions get pretty lively. Meanwhile, everyone is treated to complimentary pizza and water (you can purchase drinks and food for yourself at the bar beyond the complimentary stuff). If someone feels uncomfortable asking a question in front of everyone, then they can jot it down on cards provided and turn it in at the end. The speaker will then follow up with those questions via e-mail. The topic last night was about suffering. The issue discussed was the atheist claim that so much injustice and violence has been done in the name of religion. Instead of writing about it here, I’ll let you listen yourself. You can hear some of the messages (not the Q/A afterwards, unfortunately) at the following website: http://www.spiritualshots.com/spiritual_shots.html#audio

Life Without a Driveway

When you live in an urban setting with no personal driveway, I guess you’re in for life’s unexpected surprises – like getting towed when your car is parked as normal in front of your apartment. The funny thing is that I was in my apartment, a mere 30 yards from my car, which was parked on the block where I usually park it. It just happened to be the bi-annual (or whatever) street cleaning day. The last time I messed up on this one, they just slapped a ticket on my car and drove around it with the street cleaner. This time, they decided they wanted to babysit the Corolla in their “pound” for a day or two. Now, I get to go to the sitters and pay them $60 to get Chamby (named so for her Champagne color) back. Ahh, what a life.

25 Random Things About Me

This is a repeat of my response to this immensely networked question on Facebook.

1. A perpetual habit I have is running my fingernails through the seams and edges of blankets, clothing, and sheets of paper. I certainly got this habit from my childhood, when I naturally did the exact same thing with my precious “blankie.”
2. I have spent the night in a homeless shelter.
3. I have never been skiing, even though my wife is from Denver, Colorado.
4. I have been working on Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables for over two years – and I’m only halfway through it!
5. My blood type is B positive. I always thought of myself as an optimistic person.
6. My wife and I do not own a TV, which caught the door-to-door cable saleswoman off guard when she came by last year.
7. Speaking of door-to-door salespeople, I used to be one.
8. I’m in the process of collecting all the state quarters (from both mints). I’m only missing three from the Philadelphia mint and a handful from the Denver mint.
9. I am currently reading through John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion – and loving it (despite being a graduate of Asbury Theological Seminary).
10. Since the day I got my driver’s license 12 years ago, I have never gotten a moving violation of any sort.
11. I’m allergic to cheese, but I love pizza.
12. I am a chainsaw juggler.
13. When I was first dating Sarah, we were in different states for a summer, and I mailed her a handwritten letter every day of the summer except for one day. Her responses were not quite as frequent, but she still ended up marrying me.
14. I once got Sarah a clothes-drying racks as a Christmas present. I quickly learned that such practical gifts are not her type for Christmas and moved on to more sentimental things.
15. I have never broken a bone in my body.
16. I am left-handed, along with Reagan, Bush Sr., Clinton, and Obama.
17. I would rather spend 45 minutes alone in a room with 1,000 elementary schoolers than with 10 “too-cool-for-school” teenagers.
18. As I write this, my wife is feeding me freshly cut grapefruit.
19. I am very picky when it comes to board games and card games. I tend to like ones that require more strategy and less chance.
20. I am a lifelong Mac user.
21. When I played little league baseball, I once played on a team with some players that had just returned from the Little League World Series in Williamsport, PA.
22. I have lived for at least 3 months in 8 different states (MA, RI, PA, VA, IN, KY, OH, TX). The year 2008 was the first year in a decade where I resided in only one state for the whole year (that made state taxes much more simple).
23. When I lived in Israel, I got to attend a Shabbat Dinner, a Ramadan meal (after sundown, of course), and help out with a Christian food charity.
24. I sometimes call my sister Sarah and my wife Rachael (it’s really the other way around).
25. My wife sometimes calls me Josh and her brother Jesse.

John Calvin’s Institutes

A friend of mine and I are reading through Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion this year. I got the book (which is two volumes in one) from my Dad for Christmas. We get together on Wednesday mornings at Starbucks and discuss what we’ve been reading. It looked overwhelming at first, but we use a daily reading guide from Princeton Seminary that breaks it up into bite-sized chunks (http://www2.ptsem.edu/ConEd/Calvin/).

If you don’t own the book, you can read it online (and/or listen to it if you like). As my friend and I are reading it, I’m realizing that John Calvin was indeed a great thinker and theologian. The topics on which he writes are extremely relevant for any generation, including ours. We just finished a section where Calvin was defending the authority of the Bible (good stuff). Today’s reading was about idolatry and God’s jealousy.

Decadent Chocolate-Chip Cupcakes

Here is a recipe for Chocolate-Chip cupcakes that is AMAZING. First of all, I used the Nestle-Tollhouse chocolate chip cookie recipe as my base, then I innovated from there. Secondly, there are NO BUTTER cupcakes – and they come out amazing. What do I use instead of butter? Not margarine….not shortening (yuk)….but I use apple sauce. And no, they do not taste like apple sauce when they come out of the oven. In fact, there is no trace of apple flavor in these cupcakes. It is all yummy chocolate chip cookie flavor in a caky consistency that is perfecto for cupcakes.

2 and 1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup apple sauce (or 3 medium apples blended in a high powered blender like a vitamix)
1 and 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or 1 inch of real vanilla bean if you have a high powered blender)
2 large eggs
1 regular package of chocolate chips (I like to use Ghiradelli dark morsels, and just a little less than the whole bag)

Preheat oven to 375

In one container, mix flour, baking soda and salt
Using a separate container, mix apple sauce, sugar, vanilla, and eggs

Use a mixer while adding the contents of container #1 (flour, baking soda, salt) to container #2 (apple sauce, sugar, vanilla, eggs)

Mix in chocolate chips (or blueberries or whatever you want in these muffins)

Chill in fridge or freezer for an hour or more if desired (helps the ingredients blend together)

Fill your cupcake tins with cupcake cups (or else grease the tins very well) and fill the cups to just under the level where the cup hole is even with the tin

Bake for about 10-15 minutes, depending on your oven. Check to see if they’re done by sticking a cupcake with a knife or fork. The knife/fork should go in and out without any resistance and come up clean of any sticky dough (except for maybe the top part, if you like them that way).

Enjoy!

Other names: No Butter Chocolate Chip Cupcakes, Apple Sauce Chocolate Chip Cookies, Death by Cupcake, Low Fat Cupcakes, Healthy Cupcakes, etc.

Magazine Review – Bible Study Magazine

I agreed to write a review for the brand new “Bible Study Magazine” in exchange for a copy of their inaugural issue. I’m not one for long reviews in prose form, so I will put what I see as pros and cons about the magazine in list format:

PROS:
1. The articles are both scholarly and readable at the same time. One does not have to be a Greek or Hebrew geek to get a lot out of this magazine.

2. The content covers a wide range of theological topics, including, but not limited to things like apologetics, archaeology, and marriage.

3. With 50 pages of magazine, only 14 are given to advertising (when adding the sum total of ad space), which I see as a low percentage. It is nice to have magazines that come across as being rich in content as opposed to an ad catalogue with a few articles to give it credence.

4. Of all the theological magazines out there, this is the first one I have seen that is devoted to “Bible Study.” There are plenty of specialized theological journals and publications, but this one seems to find a good niche that is very important to the life of the Church.

CONS:
1. By looking at the cover of this copy and the preview cover for the next issue, I do not like the really big headshot of the featured writer/contributor. This first issue has Josh McDowell staring you down, with a big smile on his face, like your friend’s Dad talking to you too closely and breathing heavily near your nose. You can even see the layout of his teeth. Next month, Kay Arthur has the exact same smiling headshot on the cover. In my opinion, zoom out a little, or take a picture of something else.

2. This magazine is put out by the Logos Bible Software company. I am an avid Accordance fan, and I know that Logos just came out with their Mac version, but I am still not going to switch. Maybe I’m prejudiced, but I hope this magazine does not turn into a large ad for Logos over time.

3. By glancing at the contributors and their backgrounds, I sense that there is a heavy representation of Conservative Baptists (a la DTS) running the show here. Now, I love the Baptists, and I love their focus on the Word (which is what this magazine is all about). But I hope to see a more broad representation of ideas from within the Evangelical community, such as the Pentecostals, the Wesleyans, the Emergent/Missional community, the Calvinists, etc. Perhaps that is already in their plans, but I just had that gut feeling about this first issue (footnote: I understand there is plenty of blurry crossover in the aforementioned groups).

There you have it. It is not a very scholarly review, but thanks to BSM for giving me my free copy. I love the chart in the back about the different canonical traditions within the Church (Protestant, Catholic, Ethiopian, Syriac, Orthodox, Hebrew, Samaritan)

-Jesse Joyner

10 Ways to Save Money This Christmas

Since we’re in an economic recession, it might be nice to look at some ways to save money this Christmas. We can all still have a very meaningful Christmas season and show love to our friends and families without having to slaughter our own personal finances. Here are ten ideas:

1. The Christmas Card Trick – Take Christmas cards from last year, neatly cut off the half with writing on it. Now you have a fresh new Christmas card.
2. Shop Online – This saves gas and (sometimes) time. Unfortunately, you could find yourself surfing the web for as long as it would take you to go out and buy it at the store. But you can find the best deals on products using web features like “Google Shopping.” That saves the time of going from one store to another during the busy traffic season.
3. Bonus Points – Do you get bonus rewards for your credit/debit cards or sky miles from your airlines? Use some or all of those bonus points towards getting gifts for others this Christmas.
4. Thrift Stores – This is where some of us need to swallow our pride. I just went to four thrift stores here in Richmond, Virginia last week in search for a few small items (computer speakers, a shirt, etc.). While perusing one of the stores, I noticed that they had just received a donation of what appeared to be boxloads of brand new, unopened children’s toys. Perhaps Target got a damaged pallet and just brought the whole thing to the thrift store, even though most of the products inside were just fine. It can be like searching for gold at some of these stores, but the gold is there – even new stuff.
5. Ask Your Family and Friends for Wish Lists – This might be another issue of pride – as you do not want to give the impression that you “don’t know” your friends and family well enough if you have to ask for a list. Some people are good at knowing the perfect gift without asking, but I’m not. My wife and I exchange lists so that each one of us has some idea as to what would be worth while to purchase. If you try to guess what someone wants and then you’re wrong – then that money is pretty much wasted (unless you consider that “it’s the thought that counts”). Make your money go further by getting people what they really want and need.
6. Try to Avoid Gift Cards – This is not a universal law, but a general suggestion. Gift cards can be good sometimes, but for the most part, they are not the best “bang for the buck.” I heard that there is about a 20% profit for businesses when they sell gift cards. Now that does not make sense, but it is true. Companies love to sell gift cards because they know that not all the money will be spent. For every $100 in gift cards a company sells, only $80 will be redeemed. That’s because people forget to use their cards or they use part but not all the card in a purchase. Then the remaining $1.83 goes unspent and expires at some point in time. Furthermore, you could buy a gift card for someone and then the company goes belly up in two months. All of a sudden, the gift card is no longer good because the company went bankrupt or out of business. And it’s not just small companies that go bankrupt, as we all know too well.
7. The “Priceless” Gifts – A few years ago, my wife and I sang a song for her uncle as a Christmas gift to him. He loves the song “O Holy Night.” We printed the lyrics with a nice font and framed the lyrics, which did not cost us much. Then we gave him the framed lyrics and sat at his piano and sang it to him. There are TONS of things we can do for other people that require little or no money. You can write a song, a poem, or a short story. Get some low-cost materials and make sometime (like a craft or woodwork or a painting). You can offer a coupon redeemable for services rendered or simply for time spent together. You could cook a meal or dessert for someone. Use your skills, talents, and hobbies to give people those unique gifts that they will never forget.
8. Give Money, Time, or Skills to a Charity – This might seem counterintuitive. But this is what Christmas is all about – selfless gfits. Just the act of giving without any hope of getting anything in return will put us in the right attitude during Christmastime. When we are in the right attitude of giving, then somehow we do not succumb to the pressure to SPEND, SPEND, SPEND at all the retail stores. Compassion is the opposite of consumerism. Furthermore, God has a way of rewarding cheerful givers (in whichever way He so chooses).
9. Do Not Spend More Money Than You Have in Your Bank Account – This might sound like simple math, but this is why our country is in so much turmoil right now – because of debt-based spending. Putting that DVD player for Uncle Bob on credit and then paying interest on it until late 2009 is NOT a good use of money. Save yourself the interest payments by only buying Christmas presents with “cash on hand.”
10. Potluck Christmas Parties – You do not have to host a Christmas party and spend tons of money on food for people to enjoy themselves. People come for the friends and family, not the food (well…I come for all three, but that is beside the point). If you put on a big production Christmas party, save some money by toning down the caviar and shrimp. Either simplify the menu or have a potluck. Or you could have people bring ingredients and then you all bake and cook together.

I hope these ten things help. For a website the combines numbers 7 and 8 in the list above, check out www.adventconspiracy.org