Archive for July, 2014

I have discovered podcasts.

“What?” you ask. “How could you not know about them?”

Let me clarify. I’ve known about podcasts for years but I never listened to them. Why would I? And when? I’m too busy at work, and in the evening I usually watch video.

But I discovered a great time to listen to them – when I’m walking to work. For you see, it takes me between 25 and 30 minutes to walk to work each day which means I have around 50-60 minutes of just walking. It turns out that is the perfect time to listen to a podcast.

What I did was subscribe and download a bunch of them to my phone. I plug in a pair of headphones and on the way in, I listen to an episode and on the way home I listen to the rest of the episode. It really passes the time.

I also used it when I went hiking this past weekend. It also helps to break up the fatigue of moving uphill.

Man, why did I never think of this before?

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If you haven’t noticed the various posts on my Facebook feed, we now have a mural on our wall next to the dining room. It’s a picture of the Charles St Bridge in Prague in the Czech Republic.


I really liked the city of Prague – I was intrigued by its multiple types of architecture: Renaissance, Gothic, and Baroque. In the picture above, you can clearly make out Gothic and Baroque.

What’s the difference? Well, Baroque devices from the French term “tromp l’oeil” which means to “trick the eye.” That style is not reflected above although it is everywhere in Prague. Instead, another part of Baroque style are the ice-cream cone-style roofs on some of the ceilings. If you look in the distance you’ll see them.

Gothic, by contrast, is characterized by its long spires and ash-colored roofs. That’s the central focus of the bridge and even the clock tower on the right. I like that style of building.

But I also liked the bridge especially for its religious significance. The Charles St bridge has carvings of Christian saints all along the side of it, and Gothic churches have a history behind them in that their layout is intended to tell the gospel story; it was how it was told to pre-literate societies. For example, the churches are laid out in the shape of a cross, they are oriented a particular direction, and the spires signify being close to God. The Czech Republic has one of the highest rates of atheism in Europe but it was not always this way, as demonstrated by its architecture and carvings.

I’ve wanted a mural on the wall for a couple of years now. I had several ideas in mind but ultimately settled on Prague after I bought a painting on the street but couldn’t find a frame that fit for it. Rather than spending $100 on a frame (no exaggeration), I decided to spend money on the wall.

I don’t regret it at all.

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The wife is currently out of town in Colorado meaning that if I want to go on a hike, I either go alone or I find a friend. Both friends I would normally go with couldn’t make it, so I went alone. I can’t go with new people because they move too slowly for me. I used to be a slow hiker but I can keep up a reasonably good pace.

Anyhow, last weekend I did Alta Mountain which is about 20 miles off of Interstate-90 around 60 miles from Seattle.

Alta Mountain is a long hike and gains 3500 feet. The first 3 miles I walked, I thought I got to the wrong place because the signs were not obvious what I was hiking. The hike was also more-or-less flat which is a boring hike. I wanted something difficult! Flattish hikes are not challenging.

Anyhow, at the 3 mile mark the hike started getting more difficult. I realized I was probably at Alta Mountain after all. But more than once I went the wrong way, including going to a lake. And I nearly got lost several times on this hike due to the trail being so poorly marked. And I had a GPS!

After I got to the lake, I realized I had gone the wrong way. But I had already walked a long distance on a hot day and I was getting tired. I trudged back 20 minutes to the junction where I found the direction I should have gone. At this point I had already walked 7.5 miles; did I want to walk another difficult part?

I took five minutes to decide and did it. I continued upwards. I hate going up after I’ve already mentally committed that’s all downhill. And it was a tough slog. Multiple times I almost gave up.

But I didn’t. I kept going. I almost turned around 3 times, but in the end I made it to the top.

I only stayed five minutes. I wanted to come down. But, I made it.




So that’s what I did last Saturday.

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Last week, I had my first dental appointment follow up. I was in and out in 30 minutes. It hurt, though. Probably worse than getting them put on.

Since I’ve had my braces put on, my teeth haven’t stopped aching. For the first three days, every tooth hurt when I bit down on food. Then the back ones felt better, then some more on the side, and finally the front ones.

But, my teeth have always hurt at some point. My front tooth will ache for a few days and then get better, but then another one will hurt. This rotation happens again and again. There’s always one that is in pain when I bite, and usually a front one. They take turns.

I have been taking picture of my teeth every couple of days, and I have noticed that one of my front teeth has straightened (or moved) into position. So, I guess that these braces have done something so far.

I only have 688 more days to go until I get them off. That means I am 5.7% finished. Hooray!

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On Facebook, I have many friends who are religious and friends who are completely irreligious. I have noticed that the irreligious ones are far more prone to posting religious rants than the religious ones. For not believing in a higher power, they sure can be preachy sometimes.

But that’s not what I want to talk about today.

I do have some Christian friends that like to post pictures or articles countering a particular viewpoint about Jesus in the New Testament and how he isn’t like Personality Trait A, B, or C. Instead, we should believe in Jesus as he really is. This isn’t just something on Facebook, though. There are numerous books and videos that make the same points – the modern church interprets Jesus that best fits our current lifestyles, and not what he really taught which would make us much less comfortable.

I think that everybody has their own particular interpretation of religion, and consequently, who Jesus is and what he stood for. When people hear a particular religious belief, they articulate it in their own words when they repeat it to others, but also when they repeat it to themselves. Thus, I don’t hold it against anyone when they interpret the message of Jesus in the light of their own personal experience.

But there is one thing I do take issue with – when my Facebook friends or other Christians post articles claiming that Jesus wasn’t a political revolutionary and that he was more interested in matters of the “heart” (i.e., how people relate to one another and how we relate to God) rather than matters of politics.

To support this view, people often quote Mark 12:17 (and its parallel passage in Matthew 22:21 and Luke 20:25). If you’re a Christian, you know the story. Jesus is in Jerusalem and a group of Pharisees try to trap him by asking him “Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar?”

If Jesus answers yes, then the religious leaders can say he’s perfectly okay with the foreign occupiers of Rome occupying the Holy Land. But if he says no, then the religious leaders can say that Jesus is advocating not paying taxes to Rome which they can take to the Romans so they can arrest Jesus as a revolutionary.

Instead, Jesus asks for a Roman coin and asks whose sigil is on it. Why, it’s Caesar’s. Jesus then replies “Give back to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.”

Many people take this as clear evidence that Jesus was okay with the government of the day. Furthermore, my Facebook friends use it as further evidence that Christians should not get involved as politics. Just as Jesus advocated that it was right to pay taxes to Caesar (by giving him that which is his, i.e., taxes decreed by legislation), we should give to God the things that are his since those are more important. After all, if Jesus wanted to say we should rise up against the government, that was his chance to do so!

Ergo, Jesus was not a political revolutionary in any sense. And neither should we be.

Except that I think that interpretation is completely wrong. Indeed, I think that this verse does show that Jesus was a political revolutionary, the exact opposite of what some (most?) think it does.

The gospels are pretty clear that Jesus taught about the coming kingdom of God, its arrival was imminent, and the foreign powers would be booted out. For example:

  • John the Baptist was a fiery preacher that preached that the Kingdom of God was at hand, and Jesus was a follower of John the Baptist for a time. The Jews believed this Kingdom was a literal kingdom on earth.

  • Jesus tells his disciples that they would sit on 12 thrones judging the 12 tribes of Israel (Matt 19:28).

  • Jesus tells his disciples that some of them would not taste death until they saw the Kingdom of God come with power (Mark 9:1).

  • During his trial, Pilate asks Jesus if he is the king of the Jews, and Jesus answers in the affirmative (Mark 15:2).

  • Jesus entered Jerusalem the week before his crucifixion while the crowds proclaimed him the Messiah (Matt 21:1-11).

It is while Jesus was in Jerusalem (after bullet point 5) that he cleanses the Temple by overturning tables, and then has the Caesar/taxes showdown with the religious leaders.

These verses above, and many of the rest of the passages in Matthew, Mark and Luke, show that Jesus taught a literal kingdom of God on earth, not “merely” in heaven (just like in the Lord’s prayer, as it is on earth in heaven). A literal kingdom of God on earth meant that there was no room for Rome. Indeed, Rome would be booted out when God meted out justice.

So where does this leave Matthew 22:21?

According to the Greek, the words “render unto” means to give back because it’s theirs. They are entitled to receive because they are the rightful owner of the thing being paid. In other words, Caesar is entitled to receive back his coin because it’s his picture on the coin. He can have it.

But God is entitled to get back the land because it’s His land; the Romans are occupying it (“the land is mine”, says the Lord in Leviticus 25:23).

I paraphrase it this way – Give Caesar his coin back. God gets his land back.

That is the exact opposite of the interpretation that Jesus is perfectly fine with paying taxes to the occupying government. Instead, this passage is saying that it’s not okay to pay taxes to a government that is against God, and instead we should strive to ensure that God’s will is done if it means kicking that government out!

Lest you disagree with this interpretation, the Pharisees used this as evidence to get Jesus arrested, and Rome executed Jesus because they believed he was an insurrectionist – that he was going to lead (or was leading) an uprising that would try to usurp Rome.

That doesn’t mean I agree with my Christian friends who are all about mobilizing voters and pushing through legislation that supports their causes. Modern day America is quite far removed from first-century Palestine.

Instead, I use this story to say that I definitely disagree that Jesus’s message was apolitical in nature as demonstrated by this passage, because it wasn’t.

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