Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn: God’s Handiwork

Five years ago we bought a cheap telescope, but never got it to work well on anything other than the moon.  It was basically a waste.  We stored in our living room, which made our family appear rather intelligent (“You have a telescope!”), but the only thing it was good for was collecting dust.  We weren’t intelligent enough to make it work.

Noah and TelescopeLast month we just got a new telescope, an 8” Dobsonian from Orion, a high school graduation present for my son Noah who loves astronomy.  (It looks like a cannon.)  Over the course of the weekend, Noah and I put it together.  But for the next 10 days it seemed like every night was cloudy or rainy, so we couldn’t take it out at night.

When we finally did have a clear night, it was difficult to find a spot to see anything because of the houses and trees (we have five enormous pin oaks in our backyard).  We also had a hard time getting the image in focus, and we weren’t able to use the View-Finder properly.  When we thought we were looking at a Saturn, there weren’t rings because we were looking at a star.

Another telescope disappointment.

We persisted.  We adjusted our View-Finder during the day time (“Oh, that’s why everything was off!”).  We figured out the best place to get a clear view of the sky.  And God finally cooperated with a clear sky.

We decided to try to see Venus in the west just after sunset.  It’s hard to miss Venus, it’s the brightest object in the sky after the sun and the moon, although, you can only see before dawn or after dusk.

We got it lined up, and there it was—a Venus CrescentAmazing.  After our family and some of the neighbors saw Venus we turned to our next object.

It wasn’t nearly as bright as Venus, but it was nearby, also in the west near the horizon.  As it slowly came into view, we located it through the View-Finder and there is was—a Jupiter Ball.  But it got better, as slowly tiny pinpricks of light on either side of Jupiter appeared until we could see all four of the big ones (Ganymede, Io, Europa, and Callisto).  Wow.  Unfortunately, we missed the Venus & Jupiter conjunction at the end of June, where they were right next to each other.

After Venus and Jupiter moved closer to the horizon and were blocked by distant trees and houses, we turned to our final object.  Noah lined it up, then said, “Dad, check it out” and he signed “Shush.”  I looked through the lens—A Ringed SaturnIncredible.  Noah wanted me to keep quiet, but I couldn’t.

Our experience of seeing Venus, Jupiter and Saturn reminds me of Psalm 19,

The heavens declare the glory of God,
And the firmament proclaims his handiwork” (Psa. 19:1).

I connect to God through his creation, as I experience his amazing handiwork.  I’m humbled by the work on his fingers (see Psalm 8:4).

Half Moon July 2015If you live locally and would like to be humbled and look at a few planets with us, come over about 8:00 Saturday night (tomorrow, July 25, 2015).  It’s supposed to be clear.  Let us know you’re coming.

This image of a half-moon was taken last night as I held my cell phone camera over the lens.

Malestrom by Carolyn Custis James

In her latest book, Malestrom: Manhood Swept into the Currents of a Changing World (2015), Carolyn Custis James challenges the perception that our world is characterized by a zero-sum game, where gains for women must come at a loss for men.  The source of her highly compelling alternate vision for men and women is the Bible.

While many find Scripture to be sexist, James discovers many stories of men who transcended the patriarchy of the biblical world.  The examples of these men and the women they empower and bless point back to the garden, and point forward to the cross.  She retells the stories of Adam, Abraham, Judah, Barak, Boaz, Matthew, Joseph (the carpenter), and Jesus.  While none of these men, except the last, were without faults (Abraham used Sarah twice to protect himself in a foreign land; Judah slept with his daughter-in-law Tamar), each of them took a bold and courageous stand against the domination of patriarchy.

As a white male, who has experienced many of the privileges that come with my demographic, I found her vision of manhood not as a threat, but as a blessing, a reminder of God’s original design for his sons and daughters as modeled by our savior.  “Jesus’ definition of manhood is every man’s true identity and calling—his birthright” (p. 182).

I felt particularly challenged by her discussion of Joseph (p. 155-172), husband of Mary, and adoptive father of Jesus.  Joseph is often ignored, but Matthew’s gospel calls him righteous.  Instead of following the cultural mandate of patriarchy, he is sensitive to angelic guidance, marrying a woman already pregnant by another father, and agreeing not to consummate the marriage until after Jesus’ birth.  Patriarchy would demand shaming her for betraying his trust.  For the sake of his wife and son, he quit his job, to move to Egypt—not a good career move.  Then he moved again, this time to Galilee, for the sake of his family.  As a husband who’s made my family move for my career multiple times, Joseph’s example is humbling.

Rarely do I find authors writing on biblical stories that I’m familiar with giving as many unnoticed insights into the biblical text as James.  Her examination of the story of Tamar in Lost Women of the Bible influenced my discussion of Tamar in Prostitutes and Polygamists (which James endorses).

I would hope that anyone, male or female, would welcome her message, since it would lead to more husbands empowering wives, and fathers empowering daughters.  We need more men who, like Jesus, use power to bless women and men.

What biblical examples of men empowering women that you find compelling?

Art and Bikes: An Unlikely Combination

Drew Phil Bryan Lauren Orange Korner ArtsThe faculty of Biblical Theological Seminary (BTS) went on a tour in North Philly recently to visit the area that surrounds our Hunting Park extension site.

You will never guess what we found there.

To read more check out my blog on the BTS website here.

Here are the links to the three ministries we visited:

Simple Cycle.

Orange Korner Arts.

Esperanza Health Center.

Bathsheba and the Wife of Cain

Bathsheba bathingSo, did Cain really marry his sister?  What happened between David and Bathsheba–was it adultery or rape?

In my next book, Prostitutes and Polygamists: A Look at Love, Old Testament Style, I discuss the wife of Cain in my discussion of incest and the sexual encounter between David and Bathsheba in my discussion of rape and adultery.  (I think it was rape, not adultery.)

As I was perusing the Society of Biblical Literature blogs today, I came across two highly relevant blogs on these two women. These blogs are written by Old Testament scholars who are able to take some of their research and express it in language that is easily understandable to all readers of the Old Testament. If you’re interested in these women, check these two blogs:

Bathsheba by Sara Koenig

Whom Did Cain Marry? by Eva Mroczek

Painting, “Bathsheba Bathing” by Jean Bourdichon (1457-1521).