“God orders what we cannot do, that we may know what we ought to ask of him.” -Augustine of Hippo
If you’re familiar with the inside back-cover of Consumer Reports, then you know about their ongoing column of the humor and irony often found in a company’s attempt at advertising.
For example, I saw a used car dealership ad the other day that boasted, “Brand Spanking Pre-Owned!” vehicles. Now, something about that phrase sounds out of place.
Anyway, above is a photo of a clipping from the Richmond, VA Public Utilities newsletter that comes monthly with my gas bill. They have this little giveaway where you have to look for your utility account number in the newsletter. And if you’re one of the lucky two people with their number hidden in the newsletter. Then you get $25.
The humor here is the stack of bills presented in the image next to the prize explanation. Even if all the other bills (other than the $20) were ones (the smallest bill denomination in our present time), that wad would be way more than $25. So, do you win $25, or what’s in the picture?
“The young do not know enough to be prudent, and therefore they attempt the impossible-and achieve it, generation after generation.” – Pearl Buck
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.
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.).
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
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.
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.
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.
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).
Other names: No Butter Chocolate Chip Cupcakes, Apple Sauce Chocolate Chip Cookies, Death by Cupcake, Low Fat Cupcakes, Healthy Cupcakes, etc.