Merry Christmas (A Review)

So did you have a good Christmas? If the plumb line for a good Christmas is gifts received, then I had a pretty good one.

I got this:

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I’m not a big fan of bumper sticker theology but this one pretty much sums up much of how I feel about America and the Gospel.

I also got this:

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This is something I have wanted to try for some time. It is the first commercial hopped cider I have tried. I am a BIG fan of making my own dry-hopped cider. I think I’ll keep it that way. It smells like beer and tastes like a cheap beer. Tastes like…I’m not sure. We’ll see if it grows on me.

Then this happened:

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Yes. That is John Calvin’s mug on a pint glass. If that doesn’t make me cool, I don’t know what will.

 

Rum Balls (Gluten Free)

I will be traveling a lot during the next few weeks so the postings will be sporadic.

I made rum balls yesterday. I’ve never made them before (and I don’t think I’ve ever had them before) but I wanted to give it a shot.

This is the recipe I worked with:

4 c. vanilla wafer crumbs
1 1/4 c. Baker Angel Flake coconut
1 c. finely chopped nuts
1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 c. rum
Confectioners’ sugar

Combine crumbs, coconut, and nuts in bowl. Stir in condensed milk and rum, mixing well. Shape into 1 inch balls and roll in confectioners’ sugar to coat. Cover and store in refrigerator. Roll again in sugar, just before serving.

So I knew I was going to have to change things to make it gluten free. I bought a package of Schar Hazelnut Wafers and I had a bunch of these delicious almond cookies and I figured between the two I’d get enough cups to cover the vanilla wafer crumbs and finely chopped nuts. I was wrong.

My wafers gave me less than 1 cup. My almond cookies gave me 2 cups. So I used a combination of vanilla and chocolate chexs to make up the difference.

The result?

Well, we’ll see how people react. The flavor profile is definitely unique. With so many different flavors: hazelnut, chocolate, vanilla and almonds in the balls each bite is different. But the rum really dominates the flavor. Almost too much so. I’m not sure if that is because I used gluten free ingredients or if that is normally how they taste. But either way, I did successfully make gluten free rum balls so if you want to, you can too

Bad Santa

Well, Christmas is nearly upon us. The music has been playing in stores and on the radio for some time, Christmas specials and shopping sprees, Christmas cookie exchanges, the tree, presents….all of the things that go into making this holiday have become an integral part of our life. But the interesting thing about Christmas is it is a shared holiday. That is, two religions claim Christmas.

The first religion that claims Christmas are the Christians. The ones who celebrate the birth of their Savior on Christmas Eve/Christmas Day. The other religion is that of the American secular society that celebrates Christmas Eve/Day as the day when Santa Claus delivers presents to children all over the world.

I’m not a fan of Santa. In fact, I’d prefer to not have Santa involved in the discussions of Christmas with our children. I lost that battle. But, nevertheless, I still think Christians make a mistake when they buy all-in to the Santa Claus story. You see Santa and his mythology, is the anti-gospel.

Don’t get me wrong: it is the perfect story. Somewhere in the frozen tundra, specifically somewhere in the North Pole, there lies a magical land inhabited by elves, flying reindeer and a Tolkien-like creature named Santa Claus who is ancient but frozen in time. This creature known as Santa is all powerful:

He sees you when you’re sleeping

He knows when you’re awake

He knows if you’ve been bad or good

So be good for goodness sake. 

Santa is, in effect, omniscient and omnipresent. He is a god. Not only does he know everything about everyone everywhere, but in one night he is able to visit every household on earth, enter, deliver toys and depart undetected. It is a fun story. One that I’d probably enjoy reading any other time of day.

But it has been turned into a religion. The religion now has hymns, poetry, movies, decorations, employees. The government endorses it; the media encourages, corporations push it and consumers joyfully buy into it.

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My problem is focused on the central story of Santa Claus, the theology of pseud0-Christmas. It is a works-based salvation. If you behave, you are rewarded by god. If you are bad, then you are punished by god. Parents encourage their children to be on their best behavior throughout the year, because if they don’t, they might get coal for Christmas. This is the antithesis of the gospel. And unfortunately, we celebrate this lie on the very night we are supposed to be celebrating the good news of great joy known as the gospel, which is inaugurated with the birth of Jesus Christ.

The gospel starts from a similar place. There is a God who exists, and this God is indeed omniscient and omnipresent. But instead of rewarding us for good works, he rewards us because of the work of His Son, Jesus Christ. Our reward is a free gift of grace, not something we can earn and not something we can lose. As Paul put it in Ephesians 2.8-10: For it is by grace you have been saved,through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.  For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

So this Christmas remember, there are two religions and they are in opposition to one another. One teaches a gospel of works, one teaches a gospel of grace.

Religion in a Secular Society

In 2007 I spent a brief period of time at L’Abri in Massachusetts. While there, I was introduced to the teaching of Tim Keller, pastor at Redeemer Presbyterian in NYC. His teachings on grace, which I was there to study, changed my life. I have nothing but admiration for the work he has done and aspire to be like him. The Wall Street Journal has done a profile of him that is quite interesting. Stop on by their website and check it out.

Beam me up!

The future is now. We have replicators now. Did you know that? They have a different name. We call them 3D printers, but a rose by any other name…they are replicators. And recently, an astronaut on the International Space Station needed a tool that they didn’t have on board. So what did they do? They e-mailed him one. That is, they e-mailed him the codes to print one in the 3D printer.

These are great times to be living in.

Wrestling with Kierkegaard

Have I mentioned how brilliant The Hyperion Cantos is? I’m nearly finished with the Scholar’s tale. It is a retelling of Abraham and Isaac. Throughout the second half, the scholar is wrestling with the ethics of Kierkegaarde. Then it hit me: Kierkegaarde’s teleological suspension of ethics! Fear and Trembling! The Hyperion Cantos may be one of the most nuanced books I’ve ever read.  If you aren’t well read, you’ll miss so much!  I wonder how much I’ve already missed?

Best books of 2014

Tim Challies reads a lot of books. Probably the only person I know of who reads more books than Challies is this guy. So when I saw that Challies.com had posted the Best Books of 2014, I thought I’d share it with you. I must confess, I was a bit surprised by two things:

1) I haven’t read any of those books

2) I haven’t heard of many of them.

What about you? What are your best books of 2014?